Siege of Vicksburg


Capitalizing on the success of Civil War-related artwork during the 1880s and 90s, the Chicago-based printmakers Louis Kurz and Alexander Allison published a series of 36 battle scenes commemorating famous engagements of the war. All displayed idealized, panoramic representations of the battles with statistics of the killed and wounded below each image. Kurz and Allison did not consult photography or Civil War historians when designing their prints, instead relying on Kurz’s own first-hand experience as a soldier during the conflict. They included historical inaccuracies and eschewed aesthetic realism to remain true to earlier, pre-photographic lithographic traditions, which preferred bold graphics, black outlines, and figures performing grand, exaggerated gestures.

This 1888 chromolithograph commemorates the 25th anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg, which took place on July 4, 1863 after a 47-day siege by Union forces commanded by General Grant. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, and its capture gave the Union control over the waterway, splitting the Confederacy in two. The Union victory at Vicksburg and General Lee’s surrender at Gettysburg on the same day are often considered the two most important turning points of the war. In this print, Union soldiers are stationed behind barricades at the base of a hill, looking up at entrenched Confederate troops. Artillery fire from ships commanded by Admiral Porter fall upon the Confederate positions. The Admiral’s ships are visible in the background on the right, sailing down the Mississippi. Grant, in the lower right, uses a telescope to survey the battle. An officer to his left guides his attention to a clump of trees, from which a group of Confederate soldiers are emerging, waving a white flag of surrender.

Louis Kurz was a mural and scene painter before the Civil War, explaining the mural-like format of the images. His illustrations also appear to have been inspired by cycloramas, which were popular at the time, such as Paul Philippoteaux’s Gettysburg Cyclorama. Kurz was an Austrian immigrant who settled in Chicago during the 1850s, where he formed a partnership with Henry Seifert of Milwaukee. He later fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the conflict, he co-founded the Chicago Lithographic Company. When the company’s assets were destroyed during the Chicago Fire of 1871, Kurz started a new business with his partner, financial backer, and business manager, Alexander Allison.

Date Made: 1888

Depicted: Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson)Maker: Kurz & Allison-Art Studio

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Illinois, Chicago

Subject: Architecture, Domestic BuildingsCivil WarUniforms, Military


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, American Civil War Prints, Art, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.60.2625Catalog Number: 60.2625Accession Number: 228146

Object Name: ChromolithographObject Type: Chromolithograph

Measurements: image: 17 1/2 in x 25 in; 44.45 cm x 63.5 cm


Record Id: nmah_324932

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