The Old Print Shop

John B. Bachelder


Col. John Badger Bachelder was an American painter, lithographer, photographer and historian. Although a passionate artist, Bachelder is best remembered for his dedication to the preservation and memorialization of the Battlefield of Gettysburg, where the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War was fought July 1-3, 1863. It is estimated around 51,000 men died in the multi-day battle, of which roughly 23,000 were from the Union forces and 28,000 were from the Confederate (more than one-third of the Robert E. Lee's army).

John Badger Bachelder was born on September 29, 1825 in Gilmanton, NH, and was educated at Captain Alden Partridge’s Military School, and at the Gilmanton Academy. After graduating, he took up teaching, working at various schools in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, including the Pennsylvania Military Institute. He was appointed colonel in 1852 while involved with the Pennsylvania state militia.

His artistic career began sometime after marrying Elizabeth Barber Stevens in 1853. He set up a studio in Manchester, NH, and began to produce landscapes and town views, the latter of which was a popular subject at the time. His town views were published by lithographic studios in both Boston and New York. 

During the American Civil War, Bachelder affiliated himself with the Army of the Potomac in order to document the war. He followed them until the fateful Battle of Gettysburg. In its aftermath, Bachelder remained at the scene to interview officers and injured soldiers from both sides, and to sketch the terrain, eventually producing an isometric map of the battlefield. He would eventually be able to document where each unit had fought during the conflict and used that knowledge years later when he organized reunions for veterans.

His drawings and paintings of the battlefield were turned into a number of prints in the years that followed, including "The Repulse of Longstreet’s Assault at the Battle of Gettysburg", which Bachelder was noted for having consulted officers from both sides to ensure its accuracy. Confederate General James Longstreet himself was one of them and he reportedly commended its accuracy in a letter to the artist. Bachelder also designed the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion” monument, which was erected and dedicated at the battlefield site in 1892.

Regarded as one of the foremost historians on the Battle of Gettysburg during his lifetime, Bachelder was granted $50,000 in 1880 by President Rutherford B. Hayes to write a detailed history about the battle. 

He served as the Superintendent of Tablets and Legends for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association from 1883 to 1887, and was a founding member of the Hyde Park Historical Society in 1887, serving as its Vice President at one time.