Archive for April, 2011

Long time gone

April 16, 2011

I’ve been busy, and haven’t posted in a month or so, but I thought I would get back to work. First, thanks (belatedly) to all who attended the Study Group Seminar last month. It was a fine outing, blessed with fine weather. (Usually, our events are more…biblical, shall we say…in nature.) Next year’s ideas are all good topics, I just have to winnow them down and see what sounds best. More on those in the months ahead.

Harry Smeltzer passed on information about a book that, now that I have it, I cannot praise enough.

I’ve spoken of August Willich previously. Among other things,
Willich raised the 32nd Indiana Infantry, an ethnic German Regiment. Both Willich and the 32nd proved themselves on many a field, and they have always fascinated me. Both Willich and his men play a significant role at Chickamauga.

Now comes a very unusual ‘sketchbook diary’ from a member of the regiment. Captain Adolph Metzner’s drawings and painting are reproduced in Micheal Peake’s “Blood Shed In This War” Indiana Historical Society Press, 2010. In them, Metzner captured the spirit of the men, provides us with some remarkable portraits of other noted officers, and documents the scenes which the 32nd Witnessed in three years of war. Metzner worked with whatever materials were at hand, so his work runs the gamut from fully executed watercolors to pen and ink to hasty pencil sketches. In them he captures regimental life, the character of fellow soldiers, and combat.

The style of some work verges on caricature, especially those reflecting camp humor. Others are grimly gruesome, portraying battle dead in a starkly realistic manner. Willich and the other regimental officers are often pictured, and General Alexander McCook makes several appearances. McCook certainly lives up to his well-fed reputation in Metzner’s drawings.

This book is amazing, and brings the regiment to life more fully than any memoir I’ve read. There are several scenes of Chickamauga, as well as other fields where the 32nd fought. The battle sketches capture the immediacy and swirling action of the battlefield.

Apparently, he had his fill of war. He produced only one work, a detailed oil on canvas called “Advance of the Batteries” about the war after he returned home. A pharmacist by training, he eventually left medicine to pursue the creation and production of high-quality artistic ceramic tiles.

Thanks, Harry, for pointing this one out to me. It is easily one of my best purchases ever in the field of Civil War history.