IN 1870, as he was about to begin research for his painting of Cedar Creek, Scott married the daughter of the New York Post's proprietor - a union that could only provide a catalyst for his fledgling career by ensuring his name was in print regularly. The same year, he was accepted as an associate member of the National Academy of Design, an honor that signified acceptance into the established body of significant American artists. His wife gave birth to a daughter, Bessie, a year later, and Scott's life seemed full of promise. He showed his works with well-known artists of the day, among them Winslow Homer, E. Wood Perry, William Page and Homer D. Martin.
Moving from New York City to the quieter town of Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1875, Scott set up a studio on West Front street. With the coming of the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, Scott focused his talents on commemorating the generation that had fought for freedom from British rule. "Jersey Minute Men." "March Of The Prisoners From Saratoga On Their Way to Boston," and "On Guard, 1776." Were the works of a veteran who understood the value of his forebears sacrifices.
Over the next 15 years, Scott returned tot he Civil War for his artistic inspiration. He relished portraying untested recruits on guard duty and spooked by the rustling of dry leaves, men lounging around a tent waiting for their coffee to boil, and drummer boys playing cards. To Scott, war was never something to glamorize, and the sentimental representations in vogue in his day were an affront to his sensibilities.
As the years passed, the domestic tranquility of Plainfield began to wear thin for Scott, a restless man and an adventurer by nature. In 1890, he received a commission from President Benjamin Harrison to report on the condition of the Indians of the American Southwest during the 11th census survey. For the next three years, Scott traveled extensively throughout the West, studying the Commanche, Navajo, Wichita, Kiowa and Pueblo Indians. Filling the dual role of writer and artist, he was responsible for 80 percent of the illustrations that appeared in the census report and for a subsequent extra census bulletin.
Scott was sympathetic to the plight of the Indians and was regarded by them as a friend. He is said to have been initiated by the Hopi into their Antelope clan with all of the mysteries and rituals of the ceremony - an uncommon honor for a white man.
His work for the government complete, Scott went back to his home and studio, and returned to the theme that had been central to his career - the Civil War. Working through deteriorating health, he painted one of his most moving pictures in 1899, "The Sentinel." A lone Confederate soldier, wearing a threadbare uniform, stands guard over a bleak winter landscape. It is near the end of the war and the hopelessness of the situation is evident in the soldier's visage. He tugs at the collar of his great coat in a futile attempt to stave off the chill air.