C.B. has a quartet of engravings, dated 1864, a commemoration of four leaders, often called "The Peacemakers." These works on paper all have condition issues like water damage and foxing, which occurs when the backing of the paper is acidic wood or, worse yet, cardboard.
What a moniker for American Civil War generals, "peacemakers." The Southerners didn't think so. Take William Tecumseh Sherman, who’s quoted as saying "War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over."
One of the other "peacemakers," General Philip H. Sheridan, whose engraving is owned by C.B., said, "Reduction to poverty brings prayers for peace more surely and more quickly than does the destruction of human life."
Not to mention fellow "peacemaker" Ulysses S. Grant, who said, "Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."
C.B.'s quartet is completed with an engraving of a real peacemaker, Lincoln, with Union leaders, by John Chester Buttre (1821-93) and designed by William Momberger (1829); Barr and Young took the original photos. The engravings were published by JC Buttre at 48 Franklin St., New York City, in 1864. At the head of the titles are facsimile signatures of the four men.
Engravings of American Civil War personalities were popular after the war in Northern states, and the glorious battle scenes that adorn the borders of these portraits belie the slaughter that these generals engendered. Major General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of Tennessee converged on Vicksburg on the Mississippi, trapping the city and the Confederates under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton. The six-week campaign was waged for control of the great river. The Union victory, one of the most brilliant in the civil war, saw 37,273 dead (4,910 Union and 32,363 Confederate), 29,784 were wounded or captured and 110,000 forces were engaged. After the Vicksburg victory, the Confederacy was virtually split in half by the dominance of Union control of the Mississippi. Grant was appointed General in Chief of the Union armies. Later, his fame was his springboard into the presidency from 1869-1877.
The Confederate President Jefferson Davis' plantation was just south of Vicksburg; he must have winced when the Mississippi Fleet Naval Commander David D. Porter, Sherman and Grant toasted the Confederate surrender on the USS Blackhawk on July 4, 1863. For that reason, Vicksburg did not celebrate Independence Day for 81 years; the city of Vicksburg's ruined buildings forced civilians to live in caves for protection. However, beautiful scenes of Vicksburg decorate the borders of Grant's portrait. Such is the romantization of war.
In his engraving, Grant faces left in his uniform; Union troops fight on land top right, a naval battle is engraved top left. At bottom left, Confederate General John C. Pemberton and Grant discuss the terms of surrender while a white flag waves; on the right, troops move through the river terrain; overhead, a hot air balloon conducts surveillance. Tellingly, at the very bottom center we see two expired soldiers, out of the almost 40,000 dead.
Although C.B. has four "Peacemakers," the original suite would have been sold containing seven portraits: Lincoln and his Generals Porter, Farragut, Sherman, Thomas, Grant and Sheridan. Many versions of these seven Union luminaries were produced post-war and hung in parlors, but not Southern parlors. It would take a long time for the Southern states to even acknowledge Union victory let alone buy portraits of Union generals. Thus, C.B.'s relative who owned these was a Northerner for sure, and perhaps a New Yorker as this was the center of Buttre's publishing concern. Many of these, however, were ordered by mail as a subscription, and eagerly paid for over months.
Once highly prized, these portrait engravings are of little value as works of art. C.B. might try a civil war museum, however. Most single portraits of these generals sell for $100 to $150 each, but the condition of C.B.'s pieces is poor, so hers would fetch less.
John Chester Buttre's work as a steel plate engraver and lithographer extended to more than 3,000 American personalities, including a young and fetching Martha Washington in a billowing gown beneath a vine-covered tree. Buttre didn't stop with American portraits; he executed historical figures Mary Queen of Scots, William Shakespeare, as well as a few Confederate soldiers, like Jefferson Davis. In his day, he was revered, but today his engravings are seen as beneath the early photos of the greats he reproduced.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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