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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / The Civil War

Here you will find a pictorial chronicle of the drama and excitement of American History. These paintings give the viewer an insight into the tumultuous life of this young nation that mere words cannot achieve.



God Be With You - limited edition print
Lee and Longstreet, Berryville, Virginia June 21, 1863


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LIMITED EDITION PRINTS


Paper Prints
Reproduction technique: Fine offset lithography on neutral pH archival quality paper using the finest fade-resistant inks.
Each print is numbered and signed by the artist and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.


Image Size: 16 1/2" x 30" • Overall Size: 22 1/2" x 35"
Signed & Numbered • Edition Size: 1150
Berryville Edition Signed & Numbered • Edition Size: 150
Signed Artist's Proofs • Edition Size: 100



Historical Information

It was a fleeting interlude of peace on the road to war.

In long columns of gray and butternut, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia tramped northward in late June of 1863. Victorious and confident following the spectacular Southern success at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee’s troops were bound for Pennsylvania—where General Lee hoped to fight a mighty and decisive battle that would end the Civil War’s unprecedented bloodshed and produce Southern nationhood. Shadowing his army and readying itself for battle was the Army of the Potomac, whose soldiers were equally determined to win a Northern victory and preserve the Union.

Lee’s route of march took him and a large portion of his army through the tiny Shenandoah Valley village of Berryville, Virginia. Central landmarks in the hamlet were the county courthouse and Grace Episcopal Church. It was Sunday morning, June 21, 1863, and General Lee took the opportunity to halt and attend Sunday morning services at the church. Among the officers accompanying him was General James Longstreet – who Lee fondly called his “Old War Horse.” Throughout his army on this day, Lee’s chaplains held services and countless battle-tested sons of the South — like their leader — paused and prayed in worship.

The quiet time soon ended and Lee emerged from the church, gave a respectful greeting to the assembled citizens of Berryville and parted with General Longstreet. In a few days, the two leaders would meet again at Gettysburg, where they would wage a futile fight to win the greatest battle of America’s bloodiest war. Ahead lay defeat, the destruction of dreams, and the road to eventual surrender. For the moment, however, Gettysburg’s fields of fire were distant and undetermined. Lee left church at Berryville prepared to face a fierce and uncertain future. “God be with you,” was the era’s common benediction to believers. Lee and his Southern soldiers advanced — toward disappointment, defeat, eventual surrender, and — in the years that would follow — a remarkable reconciliation with their brothers from the North as Americans all. “God be with you,” would become the soldier’s benediction to old enemies. “God be with you.”



Mort Künstler’s Comments

While visiting Winchester, Virginia, Jerry Van Voorhis of Shenandoah University encouraged me to consider nearby Berryville—which is rich in Civil War history—as a setting for one of my paintings. The next time I was in the area, I visited the town for the first time and was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the town’s residents. I was also impressed by Berryville’s history and beauty.

The Reverend Dwight Brown showed me the Grace Episcopal Church, which is in excellent condition and today appears much as it did during the Civil War. I also learned that during the Gettysburg Campaign, when elements of the Army of Northern Virginia passed through Berryville, Generals Lee and Longstreet paused at Grace Episcopal Church to worship. The date was Sunday morning, June 21, 1863. The Reverend Henderson Suter presided over the services, and General William N. Pendleton, Lee’s chief of artillery, delivered the sermon. When he emerged from the service, Lee was greeted by the citizens of Berryville, who gathered in the street to catch a glimpse of the great Southern general.

My visit to Berryville occurred during the same time of year — in June — and during the same time of day. Weather conditions were almost identical to that morning 148 years earlier. The Clarke County Courthouse, which was located near the church, also dates from the Civil War and it too remains almost unchanged. When I looked at those historical structures under almost identical conditions and considered the appeal of the historical event, I knew I had my painting!

The saddle seen on Traveller in the painting is based on the one in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. The sun shines brightly on Lee’s headquarters flag with its unusual star arrangement, which some historians believe may have been designed by Lee’s wife. Many people in Berryville helped me research this painting: I wish I could thank all of them. I received wonderful cooperation from John Sours of the Clarke County Economic Development Office. The Clarke County Historical Association’s archivist, Mary Thomason-Morris, was invaluable in supplying me with the myriad details necessary to make the painting as authentic as possible.

This would be the last time that Lee would have the opportunity to worship in a church before his fateful date with destiny at Gettysburg. I like to think that his brief moment of worship and prayer in Berryville helped give Lee the strength to face the ordeal that lay ahead.


 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2018. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.