McCLELLAN'S ARMY continued its movement toward Richmond. The commanding general's overcautiousness, however, compounded by deep mud and brisk Confederate resistance, slowed the pace of the march to a crawl. The Federals fought their way so close to Richmond that they could hear the city's church bells, but retreated in haste when their commander erroneously concluded they were vastly outnumbered. The engagements of this failed campaign carved vivid images in Scott's memory, images that would later appear in paintings such as "Portrait Of General Hancock At Williamsburg." "The Battle of Goldings Farm" and "The Rear Guard At White Oak Swamp."
The retreating Union army retired to Harrison's Landing, on the James River at the head of the peninsula. There, Scott observed Independence Day as a nurse detailed to the camp hospital. When the Army of the Potomac evacuated the Peninsula in mid August 1862, he was detached from the 3d Vermont to serve as a nurse at the General Hospital on David's Island, in New York's Long Island Sound.
The unrelenting misery of the hospital took its toll on Scott. He tended to the spirits of men inside shattered bodies, toted slop buckets, changed clotted rags that adhered to wounds and lent his hand to a dying man's grasp. It was not long before he himself was a patient.
To amuse himself while he convalesced, Scott sketched scenes of hospital life. He was judged to have unusual talent and attracted the attention of Henry E. Clark, a prominent and influential philanthropist who visited the hospital frequently Clark supplied him with drawing materials and a warm friendship began, one that would be instrumental in Scott's development as an artist.
In spring 1863, Scott was discharged from the army on grounds of disability. Clark immediately secured him an enrollment at the National Academy of Design in New York City, and promised to pay all his expenses. His destiny now clear, the young artist dedicated himself enthusiastically to his vocation. Scott received instruction at the Academy, as well as private tutoring from prominent artists including Emmanuel Leutz, best known for his epic work, "Washington Cross the Delaware." Leutz was trained in the Dusseldorf School of Painting, and passed its virtues and vices along to his pupil as religion. One tenet of the school demanded that the artist become intimate with the subject he was to depict. This involved trips to the actual scene to be pictured and great attention to detail.