Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
Original Author: Thure de Thulstrup, artist; L. Prang & Co., publisher
Created: 1887
Medium: Chromolithograph
Publisher: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (Painting)

An 1887 chromolithograph by well-known contemporary illustrator Thure de Thulstrup depicts a bayonet charge by Union forces during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. That bloody battle took place in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, over the course of nearly two weeks in May 1864, and resulted in more than 18,000 dead, wounded, captured, or missing Union soldiers, and more than 12,000 casualties on the Confederate side. During the fighting, a young West Point–educated Union colonel named Emory Upton concluded that attacking the Confederates' well-constructed earth-and-log works required a new mode of attack. Rather than advancing in long lines of infantry that halted in the open in order to exchange fire with a well-protected enemy behind earthworks, Upton argued for storming columns that never stopped to open fire, but instead advanced right up to the earthworks, engaging the enemy with the bayonet. He tested his new tactics as part of an all-out attack on the evening of May 10; its initial success impressed the Union commander Ulysses S. Grant, who duplicated the maneuver on a larger scale.

Thulstrip was a Swedish-born artist and magazine illustrator who specialized in military scenes. The print was published by L. Prang and Company in Boston, Massachusetts, a firm known for producing scenes from the Civil War, and for pioneering the sale of Christmas cards in the United States. The owner of the company, Louis Prang—a native of Prussia who emigrated to Boston in 1850–-has been referred to as the "father of the American Christmas card."