Archive for the ‘Social Relevance’ Category

On a recent visit to the US Army War College , I joined David Birdwell, Instructional Systems Specialist for a tour of their vast collection of 21st century Civil War art.  This afforded a unique look at a dynamic collection as well as the US Government’s recognition of the importance of past battles.  Birdwell also pointed out the many similarities between Civil War soldiers, tactics, and logistical undertakings that are still used in training our elite troops.  

This video gives you some perspective of the US Army War College collection, the passion and learning that fills the hallways.


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One of the most distinguished names in Civil War history, Dr. Robertson was Executive Director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission and worked with Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson in marking the war’s 100th anniversary.  He has educated the young minds at Virginia Tech for years and has recently retired as Professor of History.  Dr. Robertson also serves as charter member appointed by Senate, for the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

Professor Robertson is the author or editor of more than twenty books that include such award-winning studies as Civil War! America Becomes One Nation, General A.P. Hill, and Soldiers Blue and Gray. His massive biography of Stonewall Jackson won eight national awards and was used as the basis for the movie “Gods and Generals.” Robertson was chief historical consultant for the film. Professor Robertson is the recipient of every major award in his field, and is a popular and renowned lecturer on the Civil War. He is retiring as Alumni Distinguished Professor, one of ten such honorees among 2,200 faculty members at Virginia Tech. He is also Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, created in 1999.

The video below contains excerpts from my interview with Dr. Robertson

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Gilbert Ouderkirk has made the annual eight-hour pilgrimage from Ontario, Canada to Gettysburg, Pa.  A welcomed face in the Dale Gallon Historical Art Gallery, Ouderkirk made his first trip to Gettysburg years ago with his wife after reading about the Civil War.  Being Canadian, Ouderkirk found the American Civil War fascinating and started ferociously reading accounts of battles, events, and turning-points of the Civil War.

“Mostly I collect the South, I’m not here to say who is right or who is wrong, I’m just here because it was an interesting and in many cases sad war, but very interesting to study.”

General James Longstreet Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 1862 General James Longstreet holding the horses for his staff while they worked Miller’s Battery of the Washington Artillery, September 17, 1862, Sharpsburg, MD. The Commanders Series

Ouderkirk has over a dozen Dale Gallon Commanders Series pieces that he proudly displays in his home.  Among his favorites are anything with Gen. Longstreet and Gen. Lee.  He does have a mixture of Confederate and Union pieces but admits his eye is mostly drawn to the South.

As he toured around the gallery he admitted, “I’m mostly just trying to find room to put these paintings in my house, you can’t just put them in a closet, eh?” he cheerfully said.

He points out the social relevance might be stronger with American’s but admits when he has guests over he always shows them his collection.  “It’s great that you can come here [Gettysburg] and something you tour every time you come well there’s a painting of it,” he said.

His extensive collection usually elicits a, ‘Wow, what’s that all about?’ and ‘What the heck ever got you interested in the Civil War?’  when he has visitors to his house and feels that a picture is worth a thousand words.  “They might not know a lot about the Civil War but when they see a painting, it sticks with them.”

Ouderkirk finds himself stopping at different paintings he has had for years and sees new elements in them each time.  “The paintings are a window to the past.  When you look at it [painting], well there it is and there you are,” he said.

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This summer the Randolph County Community Arts Center is hosting a museum quality exhibit of Civil War art.  The collection which features the artists mentioned below, represents the best of Civil War art, painstakingly crafted using historical documentation.  Doreen Hall, a founding member of the art center board and gallery coordinator worked tirelessly on obtaining a museum-quality collection for the community.

Hall explains the social relevance of the Civil War in Elkins, West Virginia as profound, “everyone in the community has a connection to the Civil War because of our location and the events that took place here 150 years ago” she comments.  The Elkins area saw the first land battle of the Civil War in 1861.  This area was extremely important to the North and South because of the B&O Railroad.  During the 1800’s West Virginia was part of Virginia and the land within a 30 mile perimeter of Elkins saw ‘turf wars’ as General George B. McClellan (Union) moved 20,000+ troops to the area from Ohio and Indiana to control the railroad.  McClellan and his men were victorious and secured the location as a northern territory.  “Many outsiders forget what happened here in the Elkins area,” Hall explains, “We wanted to honor our history with visual representations.  Many people glass over this area and the fighting, we wanted to show it.”  The Randolph County Community Arts Center wanted to put a collection together for some time but struggled with ‘getting it right.’  She originally hoped the Community Art Center would obtain a slot for the traveling gallery of Mort Künstler’s works but the exhibit was booked from New York to Georgia, so she turned to the phones. With the assistance of sesquicentennial-celebration grant money, trustees, and persuasion, Hall started researching artists and cold-calling them to ask if they would loan a piece of artwork for display.  She said some were skeptical at first but when she shared with them her location, history, and followed each phone call with a letter explaining the importance of the area to the Civil War, they agreed.

Hall’s goal is to share with the people of her community, state, and country the importance of the Civil War and educate them about their own local history.  She believes the quality of the artwork stands as a reflection of the passion of individuals to preserve our American story.  The exhibit in Elkins has been extremely popular, drawing three displayed artists to various receptions held at the Center and inviting hundreds of visitors, free of charge, into the echoes of the past.


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So What?

The Civil War was a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.  Captured through thousands of still photographs, journal entries, sketches, first-hand accounts, oral history, newspaper reports, official reports, declarations, and telegrams, the war takes on a life of its own.  Thousands of reenactors and history buffs take to battlefields to draw connections with the past but this can also be achieved though a painting.

Historically accurate paintings of the Civil War allow for clear visual representation that not only is aesthetically pleasing but also teaches generations about their relatives and fellow countrymen.  The paintings themselves capture a period of time when America was divided, a novel idea to a child growing up in the 21st century.

It is through this art that education spawns.  When a museum, community center, school, or individual takes an interest in preserving the past, generations become educated about their own society and how the actions of the past helped shaped results in the future.   150 years ago, the North and the South fought and killed their geographical neighbors.  150 years later, we as a collective society gaze into the eyes of General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysses S. Grant, confederate and union soldiers and feel a connection.

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The rolling fields of Gettysburg come alive with reenactors, statues to Civil War legends and Dale Gallon’s art.  Gallon has a seeded love for the Civil War that comes from gingerly flipping through his father’s Civil War portrait books at Christmas time in Southern California.   Enamored by the vivid colorations and stately looks of Generals in battle, Gallon remained mystified by the action scenes and fields of Gettysburg where historical battles erupted.

Artist Dale Gallon

Artist: Dale Gallon

Birthplace: Southern California

Studio:  Gettysburg, Pa.

Education: Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles

Previous Occupations: McDonnell Douglas Corporation, educator at the University of California Long Beach, free-lance artist


I happen to live within a mile or two of where General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia into the pivotal battle of the War.  The battlefield is my office.  I don’t need much more inspiration.  I suspect people who collect my paintings feel that on the canvas. – Dale Gallon

Galleries/Museums: U.S. Army War College, the Pentagon, Fort Leonard Wood, MO, Tanenbaum Park & Guilford, Battleground in Greensboro, NC, Virginia Military Institute, Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, KS, Minnesota State Capitol, and  private collectors.


Dale and Anne Gallon


“That future generations understand what a great history our nation has and stimulates the thirst for historical knowledge for all Americans.”  – Dale Gallon


Painstaking research goes into every Gallon original and it’s not just Gallon alone that creates the final rendering.  He relies on a team of historians, professors, and Civil War experts to ensure an accurate glimpse into history.   On one of my visits to Gallon’s studio in Gettysburg, he explained to me the concept behind the painting and all of those involved in getting a final piece completed.

Here is his process…

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