Mort Künstler’s Comments:
In searching for a scene during the Battle of Chickamagua that would make an interesting and dramatic painting, I came across the accounts of General Patrick Cleburne in the action of the evening of September 18, 1863. When I reached the part where the fighting started in darkness and found it never before had been portrayed, I immediately decided this would be my Chickamagua painting. I had never seen a battle painting done in total darkness, with the only light coming from the firing of the guns, and felt that it would be very dramatic, and would look like no other Civil War painting I had seen,and would certainly be an artistic challenge.
Because of the smoke, the darkness, and the thickness of the woods around Chickamagua Creek, I realized I would have to come closer to the men than any other painting of a battle that I had done before . I naturally chose Cleburne as the center of interest and decided to fire two guns simultaneously to light him clearly. After the crossing of the Chickamagua, Cleburne's Division marched more than four miles through heavy woods to where the fight took place. It was obvious that Cleburne could not have remained on his horse at this point, so I showed him dismounted.
The flag near him, held by the standard bearer, is the "Full Moon" Hardee flag that was used by Cleburne's Division at Chickamagua. One peculiarity of this flag was the inverted crossed cannons in the center of the white circle. This "device" was usually painted in black and was on the infantry and artillery flags. Not all of the regiments had this on their flags, but surviving examples from the 1864 issue show that a large number did.
After fierce fighting in the dark, Cleburne and his Division overran Union positions and captured three guns. One of them, a bronze 12 pound "Napoleon" is in the foreground, with a dead Union artillerist pinned underneath.
After minutes of intense firing, and with neither side able to determine where the enemy was, the men fell exhausted, with the lines only yards apart, and slept amongst the dead and wounded. It was only an officer with the leadership qualities of a Patrick Cleburne that could demand and get the kind of devotion to duty that was shown on the night of September 18, 1863, alongside the Chickamagua Creek.
Image size: 23 x 17
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