The Smithsonian
Slavery & Abolition
Abraham Lincoln
First Blood
Life & Culture
Winslow Homer
Mathew Brady
Site Index





Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations

The oath of allegiance to the United States was a serious matter for secessionists in areas occupied by Union troops. For instance in Alexandria, Virginia, which fell under Union control at the start of the war, citizens were required to take the oath before they were permitted such fundamental liberties as leaving town. A pass was required either to leave or enter the city, and the oath had to be taken to secure a pass. In other instances, the oath had to be taken before obtaining a business permit to operate a store or before voting. Sometimes citizens were affected randomly as in the case of jury duty. Selected jurors had to take the oath or face fines and imprisonment. And one distraught father in Alexandria was refused the burial of his young child in the local cemetery until he had taken the oath.

This plaster sculpture of a mother and her young son, titled Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations, by John Rogers, poignantly illustrated yet another instance for which taking the oath was a necessity—the receiving of food stuffs for sustenance. Between 1859 and 1892, Rogers sculpted and patented approximately eighty sculpted vignettes of everyday life and of literary characters. He sold thousands of cast copies for twenty dollars or less. Modeled in 1865 and patented in 1866, Taking the Oath was one of his “most genuinely admired” sculptures, and the one he acknowledged being “his best work.” Its sympathetic treatment found favor with both Northerners and Southerners.

John Rogers (1829–1904)
Painted plaster, modeled 1865, patented 1866
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Rogers and Son


Home SI