Iron Plates & Belching Stacks: Marine Painting of the Civil War and Industrialization on the High Seas

  • George Schwartz


This paper explores the dawn of the modern United States navy as depicted in marine paintings of the Civil War period—an often forgotten, or glossed over, aspect of the War Between the States in contemporary popular and scholarly accounts. Union and Confederate artists, as well as established painters from the port of Liverpool, England, and the United States, not only depicted a new era of mechanized dominance of the seas, but also foreshadowed the coming industrial age in America. Using an already established visual vocabulary of marine painting to highlight a changing of the guard in naval technology, these artists painted canvases that were often more accurate in their portrayal of events than the romantic works created after the war.