This painting is one of a group of three canvases (84.12a--c) said to have been inspired by the imagined narrative of an African American soldier in the Civil War. In "The Contraband," (84.12a) the newly emancipated slave, his belongings wrapped in an old kerchief, seeks enlistment in the Union army. Having been trained for service and wearing his uniform, he looks happy and proud in "The Recruit." In "The Veteran," (84.12c) he is an amputee returning to the same office to draw his back pay or pension. Wood used a slightly different palette and handling in each picture, suggesting that the works were not painted in quick succession.
Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York)