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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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Scenes of the Civil War

[ Battles & Events | Currier & Ives and contemporaries | Kurz & Allison | Prang & Co. | Winslow Homer | Small illustrations ]


Battles & Events:

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Battle of Rich Mountain
Hennessy. "The Battle of Rich Mountain, Virginia, July 13, 1861." From Harper's Weekly: July 27, 1861. Wood engraving. 9 x 13 3/4. Slight crease down center. Otherwise, very good condition.

The images from illustrated newspapers, like Harper's Weekly were often based on first-hand drawings, making them some of the accurate images of battles and other events. They were also published very quickly after the events depicted; this image appeared just two weeks after the battle shown. $45
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Darley: March to the Sea
F[elix] O[ctavius] C[arr] Darley. N.A. "On the March to the Sea." Other credits read, "Engraved by A.H. Ritchie" and published by L. Stebbins according to copyright notice of 1868 in the District Court of the United States for Connecticut. Steel engraving. 25 x 40 1/4 (image) plus margins. A vignette bust portrait of W.T. Sherman is in the lower title area. Significant accordion type ten inch tear extending from top into sky. Short margins right and left but sufficient for framing. Print has been professionally conserved. Else, good condition. $600

Darley's dramatic and well drawn depiction of William Tecumseh Sherman's famous "March to the Sea" shows a scene from a campaign that had been a deciding factor in the closing days of the Civil War. Grant was facing stalemate on the eastern front, and as the battlefield deaths mounted, the re-election of Lincoln was in danger due to war weariness. Once Sherman's western army captured Atlanta, Lincoln's leadership of the Republican Party was no longer seriously questioned. An aggressive campaign to take Savannah as quickly as possible instead of Augusta or Charleston became the famous "March to the Sea" in which a wide swath of destruction was made to terrorize the southern citizens as well as destroy the ability to wage war.

This picture focuses on Union troops destroying the railroad tracks with hearty expertise while around them freed slaves flee in terror and buildings burn. In the background a burning bridge is probably the Oconee River passage that was destroyed by Gen. Slocum prior to the convergence of the two main columns on Milledgeville. Such a depiction is one part of a controversy that carries on among historians to this day. The ferocity of Sherman's campaign has been condemned and defended. This print was issued at a time when Sherman was being considered as a presidential candidate for the election of 1868. His superior officer, U.S. Grant, gained the nomination, but this piece of historical Americana illustrates the strong emotions that supported Sherman at that time. Many still consider Sherman the very best strategist of the Civil War. Regional differences will always play a part in that consideration.

Sherman's Foragers
James E. Taylor. "Sherman's Foragers on a Georgia Plantation." Pencil and wash drawing signed at bottom right "James E. Taylor 1888." 14 1/4 x 24 1/4. Probably drawn in New York. Excellent condition. Reproduced in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, IV: p. 674.

During the American Civil War James Earl Taylor (1839-1901) was a battlefront artist working for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Magazine. He made a reputation for himself during the war and afterwards went west to continue doing illustrations of events and landscapes. He left Leslie's in 1883 to become an independent illustrator and was soon after contacted by the publishers of The Century to provide scenes of the recent Civil War from his memories. A series of articles about the war had appeared in The Century Magazine and were very popular, so the editors decided to gather those articles and more along with vivid illustrations for a set of four volumes which became the classic Battles and Leaders of the Civil War.

This drawing was used to illustrate an article by Capt. Daniel Oakey of the Second Massachusetts Volunteers who wrote in the middle of an article titled "Marching through Georgia and the Carolinas" that "Sometimes in the midday halt a stray pig that had cunningly evaded the foragers would venture forth in the belief of having escaped 'the cruel war,' and would find his error, alas! too late, by encountering our column." (IV: 675) The slaughter of the pig is the main focus, but Taylor also included pictures of other acts by foragers, a detailed vignette of slaves looking on with fright, and depictions of buildings that include a large cotton press. There is much emotional history in this portrayal. This is a superb, historical illustration.

Interestingly, Taylor used essentially the same foreground for an illustration in a 1900 manuscript With Sheridan Up the Shenandoah Valley in 1864: Leaves from a Special Artist's Sketch Book and Diary, recounting the campaign of General Philip Sheridan. Although assembled in the 1890s, The James E. Taylor Sketchbook was not published until 1989, by the Western Reserve Historical Society which owns the original. In that much smaller illustration (p. 272), "Disregarding the Cavalryman's prior claim the Dough boy throws himself on the Porker," far fewer human figures are shown than in this Sherman one, and the plantation structures such as the cotton press are replaced by a representation of the "Selden Barn." That barn remains today, south of Charles Town, West Virginia, and very near the cave where Col. George Washington reportedly had presided over the first Masonic ceremonies west of the Blue Ridge and which Taylor visited on 29 August 1864. Modern maps locating the site and a photograph of the barn accompany the print. $2,400

Surrender of Genl. Lee
Currier & Ives. "Surrender of Genl. Lee, at Appomattox C.H. Va. April 9th. 1865." Small folio. 11 15/16 x 8 7/8. Lithograph. Full margins. A few small spots. Conningham: 5909.

An iconic picture of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee at the surrender of Lee's army that was the major surrender among many that ended the Civil War. Grant is depicted as better groomed and combed than would have been seen in contemporary photographs. The McLean house where the surrender occurred is depicted with a rich carpet and very ornately framed pictures plus elegant wallpaper. An idealized picture of this momentous meeting. $650

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