Battle of Wilson's Creek


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 1893 chromolithograph depicts the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, fought on August 10, 1861, as part of the larger struggle over control of the state of Missouri, which was officially neutral at the start of the war. The Confederacy won the battle, but ultimately failed to establish dominance in Missouri. In the print, General Nathaniel Lyon leads the men of the First Iowa out of a forest to engage the Confederate Army in a clearing. At center, General Lyon’s horse rears as he falls back mortally wound from a gunshot to the heart. Several wounded men lie in the foreground amongst the charging troops.

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: 1893

Associated Name: Lyon, NathanielMaker: Kurz & Allison-Art StudioKurz & Allison

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Illinois, Chicago

Related Event: Battle of Wilson's CreekCivil War

Subject: Horses, Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols, Civil War, Uniforms, Military, Music

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.60.2626Catalog Number: 60.2626Accession 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_324934

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