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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.



On To Richmond - limited edition print SOLD OUT
Grant in the Wilderness, May 7, 1864




This limited edition print is SOLD OUT

Limited Edition Print
Image Size: 16" x 22 5/8".
Overall Size: 22" x 27 5/8".
700 Class Edition Numbered and Signed.
1000 Public Edition Numbered and Signed.
50 Artist Proofs. 1700 Total Numbered and Signed.

Official Print for the 1991 Class of the U.S. Army War College.


Historical Information

The 1864 campaign opened with the Army of the Potomac crossing the Rapidan River, headed deep into Spotsylvania Country. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia struck the advancing columns in the tangled brush and trees of the vast forests just west of the old battlefield of Chancellorsville. For two days the armies had fought. Smoke from rifles and fires was so dense that opponents often stumbled upon each other only by chance. Stalemated by Lee, Grant decided to move Meade's army out of the Wilderness on the evening of May 7th.

The air was filled with gloom. Sullen and tired soldiers of General G. K. Warren's 5th Corps took the lead, quietly filing out their earthworks as the sun set. Deep inside, many believed that they had been beaten and were not the vanguard of a retreat. In the darkness they stumbled onto the Brock Road, parallel to the Union line. But instead of heading north, the column was directed south! A faint ray of hope in the dreary surroundings of the Wilderness suddenly gave life to the tired column. Each man realized that this march was to be different.

As Bruce Catton described in A Stillness at Appomattox, "just then there was a crowding at the edge of the road, and mounted aides were ordering: 'Give way to the right!' and a little cavalcade came riding by at an easy jingling trot – and there, just recognizable, was Grant riding in the lead, his staff following him, heading south. This army had known dramatic moments of inspiration in the past…grand and stirring. Now there was nothing more than a bent shadow in the night, a stoop-shouldered man who was saying nothing to anyone, methodically making his way to the head of the column – and all of a moment the tired column came alive…"

The veterans of the Wilderness knew that two days of bitter fighting was not in vain. This non-descriptive general on horseback was determined to finish what had been started so long ago, and there would be no recrossing of the Rapidan. Truly, this moment amongst the thick woods of the Wilderness could be called the turning point in the east, and perhaps in the war.


Mort Künstler's Comments

When the 1991 class of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle commissioned me to paint this subject, I was truly delighted. Not only did it give me chance to paint a scene that had never been painted before, but it gave me an opportunity to show the hero of the Union in one of his great moments of decision.

After two days of horrible fighting in dense woods with raging forest fires everywhere, Grant decided to march his men south instead of in retreat. The men, realizing their fighting and suffering had not been in vain, cheered Grant in a spontaneous and unexpected demonstration of support.

Because of all the fire, smoke, and night light, I decided the only way to make a dramatic picture would be to show Grant , on his famous black horse, "Cincinnati," up close in the foreground with General George Meade riding alongside. Directly to the right of Grant's head we see Meade's headquarters flag, well documented in American Military Equippage and described as "Solferino" colored. "Solferino" is described in the 1927 edition of The New Century Dictionary as a dye obtained from rosanaline, a vivid purplish ink (magenta). It had a 152271 eagle and silver wreath. Grant, who had no formal headquarters flag is said to have remarked on first seeing it, "What's this? Is Imperial Caesar anywhere about here?"

The troops, marching on the Brock Road, who gave way to the advancing Generals and their staffs, were from the 5th Corps and are the ones with the knapsacks. The infantryman on the extreme right, foreground, is wearing an identity pin of the 5th Corps on his chest. The men dug in behind the barricade without the knapsacks are from the 2nd Corps and can be identified by the "shamrock" corps badges on the hats of the two men on the extreme left in front, kneeling and sitting. They are from the 3rd division, indicated by the blue color of the corps badges on their caps. A knapsack from the 57th PA is in the background. The army had been dug in for more than 2 days and debris of war can be seen everywhere.

The men realized there was something different about this march. After years of being led into retreat by a succession of inept generals, they finally had a commander who would lead them to On to Richmond!



 

 
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 © 2001-2019. 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.