Interpreting Civil War Art: The Case of John Rogers’ The Council of War

One of my favorite pieces of Civil War sculpture is John Rogers’s The Council of War. It presents the trio of Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, and Ulysses S. Grant discussing what to do next in 1864-65. Stanton suggested the scene, and in the process implied a harmony that was not always there. Nor, as one learnsĀ from this eBay listing, was the statue a simple product from beginning to end.

Rogers was a commercial artist looking to sell his work to broader public. As such, he made adjustments to the image, and the one that is most apparent is the shifting portrayal of Stanton. Continue reading