Image Gallery (116 total)

Alfred Thompson Bricher
Terra Foundation for American Art

Remembering President Lincoln and his Deeds

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, only days after the war ended, illustrators, painters, and sculptors rushed to produce artworks of him. In fact, vastly more images were made of Lincoln after his death than during his life. He remained an important subject in art for years after his death. Artists almost always made scenes from Lincoln’s life look more spectacular than they really had been. Most thought it was their duty to make Lincoln’s life and...

"The Civil War in Art: Teaching and Learning through Chicago Collections" is intended to help teachers and students learn about the Civil War—its causes and effects—and connect to the issues, events, and people of the era through works of art. The website was initiated, funded, and developed by the Chicago-based Terra Foundation for American Art in acknowledgement of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (1861–1865). From 2010 to 2012, the Terra Foundation collaborated with six Chicago cultural organizations on the project....


I’ll tell you what I heard that day:
I heard the great guns far away,
Boom after boom. Their sullen sound
Shook all the shuddering air around,
And shook, ah me! my shrinking ear,
And downward shook the hanging tear

The classroom projects presented here were developed and tested by Chicago-area teachers. Sign up for the mailing list or follow the website on Facebook to receive updates and notifications about new content. Announcement: The winners of the Civil War in Art 2012 Lesson Plan Contest have been announced! Click here for more details. Portraits of Unlikely, Everyday Soldiers: ‘Questions for’ John F. P. Robie, J. L. Balldwin, and Kady Brownell Winner: 1st place, 2012 Civil War in Art Lesson Plan Contest

Grades: 9-12

War as a Catalyst for Freedom

From the beginning, military conflict disrupted slavery—wherever the Union armies moved in the South, slaveholders found it harder to control their slaves. Many slaves fled to Union military lines, hoping to find freedom and a chance to fight in the war, a war they firmly believed was a battle against slavery. Their exodus was quite moving to many civilians in the North, including artist David Gilmour Blythe, whose ironically titled 1864 painting Old Virginia Home emphasizes the hostility of “home”...

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c. 1861
Unknown Artist
Chicago History Museum

Remembering Those Who Served

After the war families and towns began commissioning artists to make monuments to soldiers who had fought and died, a practice that continued through the end of the nineteenth century. In addition, the United States government established national memorial cemeteries at the sites of major Civil War battles, such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. These cemeteries are full of monuments and sculptures honoring those who served, both well-known and regular soldiers.

Untitled Document ANNOUNCING THE 2012 LESSON PLAN CONTEST WINNERS! Congratulations to the winners of the 2012 Civil War in Art Lesson Plan Contest: First place: “Portraits of Unlikely, Everyday Soldiers: ‘Questions for’ John F. P. Robie, J. L. Balldwin, and Kady Brownell” by Gregory Bonsignore, reading specialist, Chicago Public Schools, and Kristan Hanson, adjunct museum educator, The Art Institute of Chicago Second place: "Causes of the Civil War: The Role of Westward Expansion and the Abolition Movement in the 1850s" by John Duckhorn, Dwight D. Eisenhower High School, Blue Island, IL Third place: “The Second American Revolution, Presented Frame by Frame” by...

Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Alexander Phimister Proctor
Chicago Park District

Camp and Hospital Life

Much of a soldier’s time and energy was spent trying to make himself comfortable in camp—getting enough sleep, building huts for long winter encampments, finding food and improvising meals, writing letters home, and anxiously awaiting news from families and friends. Artist Winslow Homer played an important role in documenting and explaining the nature of soldiers’ camp life for Northerners back home.


But this war will not consent to be viewed simply as a physical contest. It is not for this that the nation is in solemn procession about the graves of its patriotic sons today. It was not a fight between rapacious birds and ferocious beasts, a mere display of brute courage and endurance, but it was a war between men, men of thought as well as action, and in dead earnest for something beyond the battlefield.

--Frederick Douglass, “Speech...


Are we that wait – sufficient worth –
That such Enormous Pearl
As life – dissolved be – for Us –
In Battle’s –  horrid Bowl?
            – Emily Dickinson, Poem 444

It is natural to imagine the Civil War as a battlefield event. Americans still visit historical sites to learn about the military strategies, tactics, and fortunes of each side, and to imagine the action of battle. But it is equally important to...

New Ways of Work and Life

Because the homefront was responsible for supplying the Union army, the Civil War had dramatic effects on the growth of cities and industry in the North. Urban centers, railroads, and factories grew rapidly in response to the new demands to equip, move, and feed soldiers in the field. With these new needs came opportunities and change.

Women, in particular, took on new roles in response to the war. Some volunteered to sew flags and uniforms or took dangerous...

Incarceration and Death

Throughout the North, the Union army established prisoner-of-war camps to house captured Confederate soldiers and some Northern political prisoners. Chicago was home to one of the most important prisoner-of-war camps in the Union, depicted here in an 1864 painting, Camp Douglas, by soldier Albert E. Myers of Pennsylvania....

Sanford Robinson Gifford
Terra Foundation for American Art


Pay ransom to the owner,
And fill the bag to the brim.
Who is the owner? The slave is owner,
And ever was. Pay him.
        -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Boston Hymn”

Many Americans believe that the abolition of slavery was a primary goal of the North from the outset of the Civil War, but the situation was not this straightforward. Certainly, conflict between North and South arose from disagreements over the place of slavery in the Western...

Related Works

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Constant Mayer
The Art Institute of Chicago

Documenting Tragedy

During the Civil War, Lincoln ran for re-election in 1864, beating the Democratic candidate, General George B. McClellan, in the fall of that year. The photograph Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., April 10, 1865, was taken by Alexander Gardner one day after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, which ended the war.

Albert Bierstadt
The Art Institute of Chicago

Commemorating Lincoln

As the country recovered from the Civil War, Lincoln’s achievements—emancipating the slaves and restoring the Union—became central to his growing image as the savior of the country. Many supporters in the North and former slaves placed images of the slain president in their homes. Sculpture played a particularly prominent role in commemorations of Lincoln. Commissioning a large statue of him was a sign of civic pride, and a way of giving him a presence in important town sites. Many of these...

Louis Kurz and the Chicago Lithographing Company
Chicago History Museum

Capturing the Nature of Battle

The majority of weapons used during the Civil War were crude and cruel, even by today’s standards. Rifles shot enormous bullets made of soft lead, which produced extremely large wounds, and cannon shells killed and maimed several soldiers at a time. Although there were new military technologies, like the rifled musket (a more accurate firearm) and submarines, old ways of war co-existed with the new. Mounted units rode horses into battle, and officers still carried (and sometimes fought using) swords....

Winslow Homer
Terra Foundation for American Art

Photography and the War

The Civil War was not the first war to be photographed, but it was the first in which the camera played an important role. Photography was invented in the late 1830s in Europe, and introduced in America in the 1840s. The medium was only twenty years old when the Civil War began. Because it produced vivid records of camp life and battlegrounds, it forever changed the way people thought about what soldiers were going through. Interestingly, it was not images of...