image: 17 1/2 in x 25 1/8 in; 44.45 cm x 63.8175 cm
United States: Illinois, Chicago
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 chromolithograph depicts the Battle of Lookout Mountain, fought on November 24, 1863, which was part of the Chattanooga Campaign. After supplying the besieged Army of the Cumberland with supplies and reinforcements, he ordered an attack on the Confederate forces led by General Braxton Bragg. The Battle of Lookout Mountain collapsed the Confederate left flank, allowing the Union to claim victory in the Campaign. After its defeat, the Confederacy had lost its last significant hold on Tennessee, opening the South for further-reaching Union invasions. The print depicts Union forces climbing the mountain towards entrenched Confederate riflemen who fire down upon them. A number of Union soldiers already lay dead or wounded.
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.