Civil War Art

The Brush Harrow 1865

Boys without fathers … some heroic men come home broken or not at all. Some battlefields are revisited from one year to the next. Veterans tease new recruits on spring campaigns with the bones of men left to winter over in thick forests.

About 625,000 men died in the Civil War. That’s more Americans than died in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined. This amounted to 2 percent of the population at the time, which would be the equivalent to about 6 million Americans dying today. Battles weren’t as deadly as disease, however..

An estimated 40% of the dead were never identified.”[1]

A Visit from the Old Mistress 1876

Slavery is a human condition we have not come even close to eradicating. Sex trafficking in children is alive and well.  Where are the abolitionists now? There are some brave souls but mostly we are just as ignorant of human suffering as we ever were. Willfully so.

Civil War Art

The picture above is so ambiguous. Are the former slaves happy to see their former mistress? Are they ashamed that with freedom not much seems to have changed for them?  Were any of them house slaves who saw themselves as superior to field hands?

And what of the mistress? Is she visiting old friends? Is she discussing payment for field work? Did they once pray together? Are they all victims of a world system they did not create? I’ve often heard that impoverished people enjoy life more. I think people are people. We live in a spiritually impoverished world.

Cotton Pickers 1864

There is a war somewhere out there. There is a war in our hearts right here. Freedom is a wonderful but scary thing. Is this beautiful woman brooding about her present? Is she anxious about her future? Is she bitter? Will she forgive life’s unfairness? Choices we all must make.

prisoners from the front winslow homer
Prisoners from the Front 1866

Surrender. Surrender is not about giving up. At war are powers greater than humans can usually perceive. We are all slaves to a master. We choose the master no matter our place in this material world. Sometimes we are victims, but if we are honest with ourselves, we realize we are so often making war with others for our own selfish desires and out of a place of fear.

“There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18








19 responses to “Civil War Art”

  1. Adrienne, a brilliant post, raising so many questions about not only historical matters but about us today. The figures for the number dead in the civil war is shocking. The pictures accompanying your words evocative and thought-provoking. I was hooked by the video clip at the end … fantastic acting, emotions and common understanding between soldiers with diametrically opposed opinions.


    • While some people like to diminish the role that slavery played in the Civil War in order to take away the heroism of the people who fought against it, the issue saturated every national decision made from the time of America’s founding until the war.

      It’s as if some people believe that slavery was invented in the US when in reality only a tiny percentage of people (white, black and native) owned slaves. And though it took about 100 years to free them that’s pretty quick in the grand scheme of things (not to diminish the suffering that took place at all for the people unlucky enough to be born then). And it was Protestant Christianity (despite Christianity’s many flaws) that was the driving force behind ending slavery.

      And of course slavery has always existed and still does in vast numbers even today.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, was shocked by the numbers, and appreciated the video. “Why are you fighting this war” could be asked of all combatants today, and more importantly, of the leaders who send out the soldiers


  3. WOW I love the homage to Homer that the filmmakers did. I wrote a thing on Gods and Generals a while ago and a lot of their stills were nearly direct replicas of Mort Kunstler paintings, which sort of made up for the overall mediocrity of the film itself.


    • I had a really hard time sitting through Gods and Generals despite my passion for the time period. But I enjoyed Gettysburg a bit more (though still didn’t love it). But Homer is GREAT!!!

      I loved Glory as a film–so beautifully filmed and the soundtrack was fantastic.


  4. Not an easy situation to grasp in a few paragraphs, but everything I’ve read indicates that African Americans remain deeply resentful of the historical circumstances that colonized nearly all of Africa and shipped their ancestors here – and other places – to build this country. Skin color was everything then and still is today. A sad commentary on how little we’ve changed.


    • Sadly, slavery is common throughout history–I think of the Barbary pirates taking slaves from the coastal towns of Europe, of the Muslims taking Christians into slavery in Spain, of the Egyptians enslaving the Israelites, Africans selling other Africans and the forgotten people’s of today trapped in slavery of all kinds (in insane numbers).

      As long as we continue to put people in separate boxes we blind ourselves to the common depravity and beauty of humanity as a whole.

      The problem with resentment is that it poisons the person holding on to it. I see us as a human family. A person can only move forward in a positive way once they forgive their parents. Past generations of people (black, white, brown etc) are all of our flawed parents.

      The key to freedom and joy is when you realize that forgiving doesn’t mean the past is erased or that trauma wasn’t real but that when you forgive you give the situation to God (because the truth is that the past is far too complex for us to really ever understand–even when it comes to our biological parents).

      Bitterness and hate are destroyers fashioned after the ultimate spirit of destruction. The commandments to love and forgive are so radical and counter intuitive–yet so life affirming!

      I believe in the satanic forces that love to see people mired in self-pity and anger. I also believe that we choose to be enslaved by the past. As you pointed out in a recent post, many of the great men and women of history chose to love their enemies. Some even died to redeem others.

      A few of my ancestors died to end slavery with no gain to themselves or their families. Only love can inspire.

      That’s how I see it anyway. Thanks for making me think this morning, Shari!

      Liked by 1 person

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