Homer’s subject was inspired by a sentimental poem popular at the time, in which a Civil War soldier carves a wooden pipe and daydreams of the time when the conflict will end so that he can return home. The painting depicts two volunteers for the Union Army who sport their regiment’s highly colorful uniforms, a design soon discovered as impractical due to its ability to be spotted by sharpshooters. The Cleveland Museum of Art acquired this work during World War II. It seems likely that the painting’s imagery was viewed as especially significant for its wartime audience.
(Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art).