Yankee Doodle

Spirit of '76

Spirit of '76

1875

Archibald Willard

Story Truth

By Nicole Levy


Spirit of '76, originally titled Yankee Doodle, depicts how in the American Revolution the soldiers marched patriotically and ever so courageously into the battle field. In the painting, the focal point is on the three men front and center, one playing what appears to be the piccolo, and two other playing the drums. This, while it did occur in several battles, this little ensemble of musicians would not have marched front and center in a battle field. As a matter of fact, they'd usually be found in the back for their own safety. Not only that, but in this painting, one of them has already been injured.... and is still playing. This is obviously meant to show some pretty extreme patriotism along with the dramatic display of the American flag in the background surrounded by smoke from gunshots. Although unrealistic, this painting has become rather well known throughout America. This painting carries a strong sense of what an American is supposed to be.

Happening Truth

By Megan Dowell


Willard's Spirit of '76 was inspired by a Town Square parade during the American Revolution. The man in the center is Archibald's late father, so he is depicted realistically in order to give him an accurate portrayal. In the background, one can see soldiers motioning to go to battle as well as smoke from the gunshots. This is an example of the happening truth because there would've actually been commotion in the background since the war was going on. The two musicians on the right are depicted more realistically than the one on the left; perhaps to contrast reality and the drama of the war. Overall, the setting is the biggest part of the happening truth due to the uneven ground, huge amounts of smoke, and armed troops in the background.

War Story

It's July 23rd, 1776. A warm summer day, just outside of Philadelphia. The army is ready to march into battle, following not George Washington, but instead an ensemble of musicians. Their music, a steady beat playing the song of the revolution. The soldiers feel it, as they have every other battle, but this time it's different. Their hats fly into the air, celebrating a previous victory and the pride they've acquired. No one makes notice of the fallen soldier in the foreground, he is a mere British soldier who means nothing. He has been defeated, one of few causalities in the war that incite happiness in the soldiers. Despite the death and killing of many innocents, the Americans maintain their pride. The flag-bearer thrusts up the glory of the colonies- a flag made initially by Betsy Ross. Everyone hoots with excitement- the fight for liberty has begun, and no American face is unhappy. This battle was the first of many in order to acquire there rights, which the King had taken for years: the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Painting Critique

By Alexis Tucker


The painting Spirit of ’76 was painted in 1875, ten years after the Civil War. It is a painting from Ohio, which sided with the North, meaning that Willard, the artist, would have a more positive outlook on the war. This is shown by his purpose: to incite patriotism in a newly united country that had been divided for nearly five years. You can see this message through the glorification of the drummer boy, as well as the American flag in the background seen to be parting the clouds in the back. The audience in this painting was the American public, which needed a boost after their split in the country and Civil War.

In the painting, the eye is immediately drawn to the white haired drummer boy. This figure is assumed to be the main image because he is brighter than the other figures, as well as having all other figures pointing and looking towards him. As has been previously mentioned, the American flag is being used to part the clouds, showing that as Americans move on, the spirit of happiness is coming with them. Ultimately, the speaker is showing that even in the worst of times, America stands together and this is shown through the army in the background following the drummer boy. Although the drummers are unarmed, they are still willing to guide the army and boost morale through a nice tune.

The Inside Scoop: Archibald McNeal Willard

By Lauren Finan


Archibald McNeal Willard was born in Bedford, Ohio in 1836. Later MacNeal and his family moved to Wellington, Ohio where he became an apprentice under E.S Tripp and gained professional artistic experience and training. He then enlisted in the 86th Ohio Infantry during the Civil War, where during combat he began to gain inspiration for his later works. Once the war ended, Willard moved to Cleveland and set up an apartment, the place he would later create his most famous piece which he called Yankee Doodle, now recognized as The Spirit of '86.