Long time gone

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.

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7 Responses to “Long time gone”

  1. Joe Reinhart Says:

    Mike Peake’s book is an important contribution to Civil War art and literature. I love the artwork and Mike’s narrative that accompanies it is excellent. Mike has been intensively researching the 32nd Indiana for almost 20 years and has a treasure trove of information on the regiment and its soldiers, so there is more to come on these gallant dutchmen Well done Mike.

  2. Dave Powell Says:

    Thanks, Joe. I saw you credited in the acknowledgements. It must have been really exciting to see the project for the first time.

  3. Michael A. Peake Says:

    Thank you Dave Powell for the wonderful review of “Blood Shed In This War, Civil War Illustrations By Captain Adolph Metzner, 32nd Indiana.” Thanks as well go out to Joe Reinhart for all of his support. This has truly been a labor of love, but I am reluctant to accept credit for this work without mentioning that had it not been for the vision of Indiana Historical Society President John A. Herbst, who recognized the importance of Metzner’s collection to our heritage, the book could still be another manuscript waiting for a publisher. I was very fortunate to have the considerable talents of I. H. S. Designer Mr. Stacy Simmer on this project.
    Spatial restrictions in this volume prevented the inclusion of complete narratives developed for each image, but I look forward to telling “the rest of the story” in my ongoing 32nd Indiana projects. There remains much to be revealed. For example, I am absolutely convinced that the Battle of Chickamauga image on page 37 of the book is actually Metzner’s self-portrait depicting his wounding during the fist day of battle. He took a bullet through the lower right leg above the ankle that killed his mount, which then fell to the left, rolling completely over him. Broken left ribs punctured a lung and he suffered from the injury for the remainder of his life. Close examination of the sketch shows both horse and rider in obvious distress, and the rider happens to have the general appearance of Metzner. The German inscription at bottom left reads Gestern noch auf stolzen Rossen!—Yesterday, Still Proud On Horseback! This is actually part of the second stanza of an old German soldiers’ song titled Morgenrot, Morgenrot, Leuchtest Mir Zum Frühen Tod?—Morning Sun, Rising Red, Are You Shining For My Early Death? This translation may vary, but as explained to me by a native German, Morgenrot is one of those conceptual words that have several meanings. Given the translation of the drawing inscription, I believe this image shows a personal experience, and Metzner placed himself in several samples. Coincidently, the next line of the song, Heute Durch Die Brust Geschossen, translates as “Today, Shot Through The Breast.”
    Another important aspect of this art collection is the relevance of individual images to the local history of more than a dozen communities across five States. As an example, the only known war period image showing the Nation’s oldest surviving Civil War monument in place at Munfordville, Kentucky comes courtesy of Metzner’s hand. His art carries you to Bowling Green, Kentucky and across the Cumberland River into Nashville. Metzner created samples that follow the route the Army of the Ohio took to Pittsburg Landing and the battlefield of Shiloh. Along the way, he sketched St. John’s Episcopal Church located on Mount Pleasant Pike south of Columbia in Maury County, Tennessee. Built in 1839 on land donated by Leonidas Polk (a future Confederate lieutenant general), this house of worship became the first Episcopal Church built west of the Alleghenies and is still active today.
    One of the interesting stories related to St. John’s Church occurred in late November 1864, as the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General John B. Hood, passed by the little church on the way to face Federal troops at Franklin and Nashville. As a group of officers rode by, Major General Patrick Cleburne, one of Hood’s division commanders, commented to his aide, Captain Irving A. Buck, “This is the most beautiful and peaceful spot I ever beheld…It is almost worth dying to be buried in such a beautiful spot.” After the battle of Franklin, within days of Cleburne’s comment, he and fellow Generals Hiram Granbury and Otho F. Strahl, were buried in St. John’s Cemetery.
    Near Waynesboro, Tennessee, Metzner created two images of the Wayne Furnace, built east of town in 1835. In the region around Waynesboro, the iron industry began in 1817, taking advantage of 200 square miles of fine quality iron ore beds. After taking over the site in 1856, the Pointer brothers erected a forty-two foot furnace stack. A current topographical map shows the historic site of the furnace ruins with the same terrain features as shown in Metzner’s drawings. This is typical of his art. Historic sites are portrayed in Corinth, Mississippi and Florence, Alabama that have histories predating the Civil War. Some did not survive the war. I could go on and on, and seems I have to a degree. I must say that I am humbled to have the honor of working with this rare collection.

    Mike Peake

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Mike,

      I’m delighted you stopped by. Again, the book is outstanding, and I thank you getting it done. Do you have any images that can be posted, either here on your own website? A sample would be great.

  4. Michael A. Peake Says:

    Dave, there is nothing I would rather do right now than to post them on my site, or yours, and provide the story behind each image, but when Metzner’s great grandson entrusted me with the art, I vowed to protect the usage as outlined by the owner. I would like to make you aware of the Adolph Metzner Collection of Photographs that I have posted on my site though. These are all men who served in our theater of interest, and there remain nineteen who need to be identified. Images from this collection are available for download from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs web page. Type in a search for Metzner and five pages should pop up. Then click on any given thumbnail image. I worked on this collection for a period correcting the inventory of the fifty-three identified men, and with the help of others, including Joe Reinhart, we have identified seven of the twenty-six unidentified images. I donated biographical notes on all of the known men to L. of C., but that information is not available on their site. I have provided condensed biographical narratives for each one on my site. I would ask you and your associates to help put names to the unknown. Perhaps you could also prevent people from being deceived as well. I’ve seen copies from this collection being sold online, and they are available at no cost from the L. of C. site I mentioned.

    Mike Peake

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Mike, I understand about the artwork. No problem. I wasn’t thinking about anything more than a sample. I have noticed the photographs. I hope to explore them further when I get the chance.

  5. Chris Evans Says:

    For those interested some of Metzner’s artwork can be sampled in Time Life’s ‘Voices of the Civil War’ series on the Battle of Chickamauga and the Battle of Chattanooga.

    About a half dozen of Metzner’s works are contained in those two excellent books.

    Chris

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