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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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The Civil War: Patriotic prints


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Flag Mania

The first battle of the Civil War took place with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April of 1861. The Confederates demanded the surrender of this fort in the mouth of the harbor at Charleston, S.C., but they were refused by the Union commander Major Robert Anderson. The Confederates opened fire on the fort on April 12, 1861, continuing to hail canon balls on Fort Sumter for 34 hours straight. The besieged garrison proudly flew the American flag over the fort throughout, until Anderson was forced to surrender at 2:30 on the 13th. The Union forces evacuated the fort, but Anderson saluted the flag as it was lowered and carried it with him as he left. It was later hoisted to the mast of their ship as they returned defeated, but unbowed to the North.

This attack on the United States and its flag caused a swell of patriotic fervor in the North which tended to focus on the flag as a symbol of the Union. As the editor of Harper's Weekly put it, "the flag of the United States is the symbol of the Government which secures and protects him in all his rights and interests..." (May 4, 1861, p. 274) Henry Ward Beecher gave a famous talk glorifying "The National Flag," in which he stated that "The stars upon it were to the pining nations like the bright morning stars of God, and the stripes upon it were beams of morning light." Printmakers in the North were quick to take advantage of these popular feelings by issuing a number of stirring patriotic prints featuring the flag. These prints were mostly published in the first months of the war, for they lost their appeal as the true horror of the Civil War became apparent to Americans both North and South.


Brave Volunteer
"The Brave Volunteer." Hartford: E.B. & E.C. Kellogg; New York: Phelps & Watson; and New York: Geo. Whiting, 1861. 12 1/2 x 9. Lithograph. Original hand color. Some scattered, tiny stains, but overall very good condition. Denver.

One of the earliest popular prints of the Civil War. When South Carolina succeeded on December 20, 1860 and then fired on Fort Sumter in April the following year, patriotic fever in the North burned bright, with Union supporters rallying around the nation's flag. This print shows the "brave volunteer" before an encampment and holding a rifle and the flag. The volunteer is shown trampling on the flag of South Carolina. That flag was first adopted on January 28, 1861 and the focus on just the first seceding state shows that this print was issued probably shortly thereafter. This print was likely the source copied by Currier & Ives for their print of the same title, which shows much the same image, though their print has the soldier stepping on the Confederate "Stars & Bars," an indication is came later than this rare and very early Civil War image. $575



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