Image Gallery (116 total)

The United States Colored Troops

Despite its limitations, the Emancipation Proclamation opened the way for black men (both free and enslaved) to enlist as soldiers in the Union army. Free African Americans in the North had clamored for this opportunity from the beginning of the conflict (and in rare cases, had managed to get into local white regiments). Likewise, Union soldiers reported that the enslaved men they encountered in the South were deeply disappointed to be told that they could not enlist. The response from...

Art and African American History

Some of the works of art in this section date to a much later period than the war itself. These were created in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963, which occurred during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in America. As such, the artworks reflect an important effort to acknowledge and commemorate African American service in the Civil War. For instance, Jennie Scott Washington's 54th Massachusetts Volunteers depicts the assault by this unit on...

Thomas Moran
Terra Foundation for American Art


And the young were all elation
  Hearing Sumter's cannon roar,
And they thought how tame the Nation
  In the age that went before.
        -- Herman Melville, “Apathy and Enthusiasm,” 1861 Abraham Lincoln remarked in his Second Inaugural Address (1865) that “slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest” in the antebellum United States, adding that all Americans “knew this interest was, somehow, the cause” of the Civil War. Exactly how slavery figured into the political tension between the...

Westward Expansion

In the early decades of the nineteenth century, most white Northerners and Southerners agreed wholeheartedly that the Western territories should be settled by Americans, and that moving Indians to reservations and making their land available to white settlers was God’s plan, or the nation’s “manifest destiny.” This sense of entitlement is powerfully portrayed by William S. Jewett in his monumental 1850 painting The Promised Land—The Grayson Family, which also represents the optimism and aspirations of many Americans, Northern and Southern,...

The Election of 1860 and Secession

By 1860, the divisions in the country had reached a breaking point. Southerners were outraged over a plot by abolitionist John Brown to start a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1859, an event that garnered headlines in newspapers and magazines across the nation. The November 19, 1859, issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, for instance, led with the story The Harper’s Ferry Insurrection and an image of John Brown. Northern Republicans were equally angered by the recent Supreme...


Have you ever looked at a painting or sculpture and wondered, “Why was this created?” or “When was this made?” Questions like these remind us that works of art can tell powerful stories about the time and place in which they were made. Art made in response to the American Civil War (1861–1865) is no exception. This website allows us to explore a wide range of images and objects that depict or relate to the war between the Union and...

Image as News

The Civil War was one of the first American wars to be widely covered by artists and photographers. As artist Winslow Homer shows in his 1862 illustration News from the War, everyone, from soldiers to civilians, craved information about the conflict. During this period the images that artists created became a central part of people’s understanding of events. This was especially true for people in the North, who were far away from the battlefields. News publishers sent artists to join...

Image as Identity and Memory

As newspapers responded to the public’s desire for news of the war, other types of publishers and artists also reacted to the demand for war-related images, both during and after the war. From unique works of fine art, like paintings, to affordable, mass-produced artworks, like prints, virtually everyone in the United States possessed art in one form or another that related to the war. After the war, these images and objects acted as memorials that helped keep the thrill of...

Alexander Gardner
The Art Institute of Chicago

The Civil War in Art Website

Most of the artworks presented on this website were made and collected in the Northern states, so they depict the war from the point of view of the Union. Yet we can still learn about life in the Confederacy through many of them. For example, some images show the devastation for families everywhere who lost loved ones. Others show the scarred landscape or ruined buildings in the South, as seen in Dennis Malone Carter’s 1866 painting Lincoln’s Drive Through Richmond.

Timothy O'Sullivan
The Art Institute of Chicago

c. 1864-1866
Unknown Artist
Chicago History Museum

c. 1867-1868
Lilly Martin Spencer
Terra Foundation for American Art