The complex scene centers on a figure of Columbia, a popular personification of the United States in the 19th century, especially during the Civil War (also sometimes called Liberty). She wears a Phrygian cap secured by laurel leaves, holds a large American flag, and is accompanied by an eagle. She is guarded on the left by a figure of Justice holding scales and brandishing a sword. At Columbia’s feet are broken chains and shackles, signifying the abolition of slavery. The other figures on the left side are those the artist holds responsible for causing the war. Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens stand beneath a hissing snake wrapped around a tree, apparently a reference to the serpent in images of the Fall of Adam and Eve. In front of them, Buchanan sleeps, while his Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, who was accused of misappropriation of government funds, rakes coins into a bag. Confederate soldiers in the foreground tear the Union flag from the hands of other soldiers, and in the background are battle scenes. On the right, representing the Union side, General Winfield Scott stands behind Abraham Lincoln as the sun rises over distant mountains as an image of hope. In the foreground men, women and children surge forward to assist the Union cause, including a young man holding up a rifle and an older man pouring out a bag of coins.
Christopher Kimmel was an engraver, lithographer and printer in New York City during the third quarter of the 19th century. He was born in Germany around 1830 and began working in New York in 1850. From 1853 to at least 1862, he published prints with British-born engraver Samuel Capewell as Capewell & Kimmel, producing primarily portrait and historical engravings. From 1865 to 1871, he partnered with Thomas Forster as Kimmel & Forster. They mainly produced engravings, though they did publish some lithographs including Birds-Eye View of Washington, D.C. and Environs, 1865 and a pair of allegorical Civil War prints, The Outbreak of the Rebellion in the United States 1861 and The End of the Rebellion in the United States 1865 (1865).
Full publication information: “Kimmel & Forster, N.Y. Entered according to Act of Congress AD 1865, by Kimmel & Forster in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York. New York Published by Kimmel & Forster, 254 & 256 Canal St.”
Details shown left:
Jefferson Davis (standing above the crowd, right) with Alexander Stephens behind him on the left.
From left, Justice, Columbia, Abraham Lincoln and General Winfield Scott.
President Buchanan’s Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, who was accused of misappropriation of government funds.
Berg, Ellen. “Hail, Columbia!” New York Times. 2 July 2011. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/hail-columbia/ (31 January 2014).
Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press: 1989. Item 799 (re: Kimmel & Forster).
Groce, George C. and Wallace, David H. The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. pp. 108 and 370.
“The Outbreak of the Rebellion in the United States 1861.” Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004665366/ (29 January 2014).