William Simpson, born in Glasgow, was one of the first part time students at the Glasgow School of Design in 1854. He moved to London in 1851, where he continued working as a lithographer. In 1854 he was sent overseas by Colnaghi, the publishers, as an artist-reporter. Simpson arrived in the Crimea in November 1854, two weeks after the Battle of Inkerman. This watercolour shows the graves of the British officers who died in that encounter. The site, overlooking the British position before Sebastopol, was named after one of the heroes of Inkerman, Sir George Cathcart, who died while rallying his troops after the Russians overan the British positions. W.H. Russell, correspondent for The Times in the Crimea described Inkerman as 'the bloodiest struggle witnessed since war cursed the earth.'
The watercolours Simpson sent back to London were lithographed by Day and Son and published by Colnaghi as The Seat of War in the East. The original watercolours were exhibited at Gambart's French Gallery in Pall Mall in 1856 and were subsequently shown in Manchester and Glasgow. Simpson returned to the Crimea thirteen years later, when the present watercolor was probably executed, when there were many more graves than in the image reproduced in The Seat of War in the East.
Another view of The Graves of the Officers in the Fort on Cathcart Hill is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.