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The Suspense Is Fearful


From Kevin Levin’s Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (2012):

Three years later [in 1869], John Elder—who was present in Petersburg at the time of the battle working as an aide in the field and as a mapmaker—released his dramatic oil painting of the battle, which highlighted the importance of [William] Mahone’s counterattack. Elder depicted the fighting at close range in all of its gruesome detail, but the observer’s eye is drawn to the advancing tide of Mahone’s men in the Twelfth Virginia Infantry, who are poised to sweep the area and put an end to any planned Union advance. One art critic left a colorful review: “The suspense in this portion of the scene is fearful; and one dreads that the reinforcements will arrive to[o] late. But they are hurrying on. With their wild, impulsive yell, so characteristic of the Southern army, regardless of rank or line, in double column, Mahone’s brigade comes pouring in.” The success of Elder’s painting helped to shape the popular belief that Confederate victory could be understood by focusing on the contributions of Virginians.

A review of the book’s introduction and first chapter can be read here.
IMAGE: Postcard from 1930 based on the Elder painting

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