Artwork from the Western Front: Adolph Metzner Civil War Drawings

As an admirer of Civil War drawings, a recently digitized collection of drawings by Adolph G. Metzner piqued my interest. The difference in style from many other drawings of the time, along with the richness of color, drew me in to learn more about this man and his artwork.

Battle of Peach Tree Creek, Georgia, July 20, 1864. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1864. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51237

Battle of Peach Tree Creek, Georgia, July 20, 1864. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1864. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51237

Born August 13, 1834 in southwestern Germany, Adolph Metzner immigrated to the United States in 1856. Shortly after the start of the Civil War, Metzner joined the First German, Thirty-Second Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, fighting for three years on the western front of the war.

Adolph Metzner, Union officer in the 32nd Indiana Regiment, full-length portrait, standing, facing front. Photograph, between 1861 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c26232

Adolph Metzner, Union officer in the 32nd Indiana Regiment, full-length portrait, standing, facing front. Photograph, between 1861 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c26232

During the years with his regiment, Metzner sketched on any material available, drawing everything from portraits of his comrades to scenes of battle and death.

Captain Adolph Metzner, Lieutenant Louis von Trebra and Jacob Labinsky, Huntsville, Alabama, July 1862. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1862. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51211

Captain Adolph Metzner, Lieutenant Louis von Trebra and Jacob Labinsky, Huntsville, Alabama, July 1862. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1862. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51211

 

Lost on the field of Chickamauga. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1863. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51225

Lost on the field of Chickamauga. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1863. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51225

One of the reasons I enjoy Civil War drawings is they can be a better medium for capturing movement, action, or emotion as opposed to the photographs of the era. As an example, for me, the drawing below really gives the viewer a sense of the misery of marching in the mud and rain and how inglorious war can be.

Green River. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51236

Green River. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51236

Another aspect of these drawings that I find intriguing is how they complement the photograph album of Adolph Metzner that Helen Metzner gave to the Library of Congress 60 years before it acquired the drawings. The album consists photographic portraits of the 32nd Indiana Regiment collected by Metzner. With both the photo album and the drawings, the observer can get different perspectives of the men in the regiment. For example, I am tickled by the contrast between the formal photographic portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Karl Friedrich Heinrich von Trebra and the caricature drawn by Metzner.

Lieutenant Colonel Karl Friedrich Heinrich von Trebra, Union officer in the 32nd Indiana Regiment, half-length portrait, facing front. Photograph by Wilhelm Grundner, ca. 1850. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c23946

Lieutenant Colonel Karl Friedrich Heinrich von Trebra, Union officer in the 32nd Indiana Regiment, half-length portrait, facing front. Photograph by Wilhelm Grundner, ca. 1850. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c23946

Attention! Lieutenant Colonel Henry von Trebra August 26, 1861. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861 Aug 26. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51267

Attention! Lieutenant Colonel Henry von Trebra August 26, 1861. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861 Aug 26. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51267

As another example, the drawings give us a glimpse into the personalities of otherwise unknown people such as Private Jacob Labinsky who he labels in the drawing as “The Camp Comedian.”

Jacob Labinsky, Union private in the 32nd Indiana Regiment, full-length portrait, seated, facing front. Photograph, between 1861 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c29036

Jacob Labinsky, Union private in the 32nd Indiana Regiment, full-length portrait, seated, facing front. Photograph, between 1861 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c29036

Jacob Labinsky, Company A, 32nd Regiment, Indiana Volunteers "The Camp Comedian". Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51173

Jacob Labinsky, Company A, 32nd Regiment, Indiana Volunteers “The Camp Comedian”. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51173

Metzner’s 137 drawings constitute the largest collection of drawings from the Civil War’s western front campaigns so far in the Library of Congress collections. You can enjoy all 137 Adolph Metzner drawings with me as they are now digitized and currently available for viewing or downloading in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

Chicken thieves being disciplined by General Alexander McDowell McCook, Camp Nevin, Kentucky, November 1861. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861 Nov. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51208

Chicken thieves being disciplined by General Alexander McDowell McCook, Camp Nevin, Kentucky, November 1861. Drawing by Adolph Metzner, 1861 Nov. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.51208

Learn More:

  • Enjoy all of the Adolph Metzner Civil War Collection drawings. (There are 120 scans of the 137 drawings as in some cases, there is more than one drawing on the same surface.)
  • View all of the photographs from the Metzner photograph album.
  • Explore other Civil War drawings in the Prints and Photographs Division by different artists.
  • For more information about Metzner and his work, grab a copy of the book Blood Shed in this War: Civil War Illustrations by Captain Adolph Metzner (Indianapolis : Indiana Historical Society Press, 2010) [catalog record].

 

One Comment

  1. Anne Kenny
    July 5, 2017 at 11:11 am

    These are marvelous.

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