I really had no idea that this was the kind of thing I was missing at Civil War reenactments. This image was pulled from a new photography book on the fascinating world of reenacting titled, Whistling Dixie by Anderson Scott. You can find additional images at the Wired article.
So, is this part of the courting practices of the antebellum South that is being depicted here? I don’t remember ever seeing anything close to this in Gone With the Wind or a Mort Kunstler print.
It’s been some time since we had fun with Civil War artists. This is Mort Kunstler’s newest print, titled “Lee’s Great Decision.” I’ve been looking at this for the past 15 minutes and I finally figured out what is bothering me. Given the angle at which Kunstler painted this scene, the wall mirror should be reflecting the furniture It just doesn’t work. The perspective is all out of whack. The other thing I don’t quite get is the placement of Lee’s sword on the chair. I find it difficult to imagine that he would walk into such a room and place it there as if were a coat.
Finally, where are the Confederate flags?
Mort Kunstler’s latest print beautifully captures a crucial moment in the life of the Army of Northern Virginia. The scene takes place in Orange County, Virginia following the army’s defeat at Gettysburg. Kunstler vividly depicts the men in the army marching down main street, while Lee, Longstreet, and A.P. Hill discuss something. As you can see, this is the exact moment in the war when both Lee and Hill simultaneously gestured with their right arms. Longstreet, as usual, looks befuddled. It’s hard to believe that this is the first print to depict this moment in the war. If you are in the area you can meet Kunstler in person on Saturday at the Orange County Courthouse.
The two seem to go perfect together, but why? Well, I guess in Fredericksburg it is the proximity of the famous battle to the holiday season that makes for such an easy connection. Joyce Smith, a parishioner at Cornerstone Baptist Church, has written a Christmas Civil War drama titled “My Friend, the Enemy” which is based on the Mort Kunstler print by the same name.
According to the news story, Smith “studied the picture for months.” I’m not quite sure what there is to study that would keep one occupied for months, but it culminated in a play that essentially reenacts a meeting between four soldiers on Christmas Day 1862. Stories of Civil War soldiers meeting to trade and talk are powerful narrative threads in our continued obsession with the Reconciliationist Narrative of the war. They make the war palatable. I can only imagine the dialog: (1) What the war is about; (2) Why must we be enemies?; (3) Family and Home… The play ends with a meeting between two soldiers on Christmas Day 30 years after the end of the war followed by the singing of Christmas Carols.
Americans need to believe that their civil war was special, that the violence did not overshadow our faith in “Good Will Toward Men.” I tend to think that we emphasize these stories to make ourselves feel better about what happened and why. It give us a reason not to look too closely at ourselves and our collective past. Our civil war needs to fit neatly under the Christmas tree. When we cross the Rapphannock River we want to see two soldiers peacefully engaged rather than thousands of men crossing on the eve of a bloody battle or fugitive slaves crossing to their freedom. So be it. Take the family to see this one and remember to bring plenty of good cheer and egg nog.
Image: Mort Kunster’s “My Friend, the Enemy”
New Release: “Duty, Honor, and Tears” by Mort Kunstler – Yep, I’ve definitely seen this before. Click here, here, here, here, and here.