Antietam - Inventory Number: PRI 131
This chromolithograph depicts the terror and confusion of an advancing Union regiment, crowned by the Union flag, during the Battle of Antietam. This chromolithograph depicts the chaos and terror of the battle of Antietam, referred to as the battle of 'Sharpsburg' in the South and the battle of 'Antietam' in the North. Probably more United States flags flew in combat during the American Civil War than any other conflict, but their use was not merely to identify the nationality of the combatants. They also served a very functional role. In the smoke and din of battle, these large military colors were often all that could be seen on the battlefield. They provided the focal point for guiding a military unit; if the flag advanced, so did the regiment; if the flag fell back, the unit fell back and rallied upon it. Because these flags were important communication tools, they drew an inordinate amount of hostile fire, as testified by the oft-shredded remains that have been deposited in state houses throughout the North after the Civil War.
Louis Prang was the 'father of the American Christmas card'. Prang was a German immigrant who rose to fame after establishing a successful printing and lithography company in Boston during the late 19th century producing all manner of commercial, artistic and even documentary images (Prang became well known for his Civil War battle maps printed in then contemporary newspapers).
Prang emphasized the care he had taken over the printing: "Each picture is a combination of over 300 colors and shades ... the flags and uniforms of the officers and troops are vividly reproduced, the fire and smoke of battle graphically portrayed, and all the surrounding represented in colors of nature and of actual war." This was a grand-scale project and one of Prang's masterpieces: McLinton rightly calls this series "some of the most interesting pictures of the civil war" (p.151) and Prang himself thought so highly of the images that he chose these prints to represent his work when he exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. They were very well received, drawing praise from many quarters including a letter from David Porter, the Secretary of the Navy.
"Prang made every effort to produce chromos that would appeal to print-buying veterans of all branches of the military and all theaters of the war.
Measures 23” x 17”
Inventory Number: PRI 131