A South Artist On The Civil War

PrintPrintEmailEmail

One of the most talented Civil War propagandists was a citizen of Baltimore named Adalbert Johann Volck, a German emigrant who made his living as a dentist but who was a gifted artist and engraver. In 1861 he passionately espoused the Confederate cause —as did many others in Baltimore—and he created a remarkable series of etchings which had both high emotional voltage and genuine artistic excellence. He attacked the Union and its leaders, from Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin Butler (a favorite object of scorn in the South, which nicknamed him “Beast” Butler), and he extolled the Confederacy and its people. The sketches he did, their emotional power still undiminished, speak of the passion and heat of that terrible period when brother fought against brother and the nation struggled with itself for survival and unity. On these pages, some of the most striking of Volck’s engravings are presented as a clue to the mystery of why embattled Southerners fought so long and with such effective fervor. We are indebted to Dr. W. B. Spinelli of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from whose collection these etchings come, for permission to reproduce them.

—Bruce Catton