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Scarce “Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg” Magnus Hand Colored View
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[GETTYSBURG]. CHARLES MAGNUS. “Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3rd 1863. The Third Day,” color print. New York: Charles Magnus, 1863. 23 x 17 ½ in.

Inventory #24699       Price: $2,500

Historical Background

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1-3, 1863, was the largest land battle ever fought in North America. With over 157,000 soldiers engaged and more than 51,000 casualties, it was the costliest battle of the Civil War.

After two days of fierce fighting, the Union army formed a fishhook defensive line along Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill south of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Having earlier attacked both ends of the Union line, Confederate General Robert E. Lee determined to attack the center of the Union line where he thought it weak along Cemetery Ridge. At 1 p.m., more than 150 Confederate cannon began the largest artillery bombardment of the war, which lasted for two hours but made little impact on the Union position. At 3 p.m., more than 12,000 Confederate soldiers advanced three-quarters of a mile across open ground toward the Union center. Nearly half of the attackers did not return to their own lines. Pickett’s Charge became the “high-water mark of the Confederacy,” as the Confederacy never came as close again to achieving independence through military victory.

The perspective of this print is from behind the Union lines showing advancing Confederates in the distance. In the center, a Union officer, perhaps General George G. Meade, dispatches a messenger with orders, while a Union gun crew fires on distant Confederates. Dead and dying men and horses also fill the foreground, as Union troops march from the right carrying a tattered American flag to join the ranks and repel the Confederates.

Charles Magnus (1826-1900) was born in Germany and emigrated to New York City in 1848, possibly due to his family’s opposition to Emperor William IV. He and his brother founded a German-language newspaper, “Deutsche Schnellposte.” After selling that, he began publishing maps. During the Civil War, he specialized in battlefield maps with inset pictures of the battlefield. He also published patriotic song sheets, stationery and envelopes, and bird’s-eye views of American and Canadian cities. He was reportedly one of the few people with permission to go to any Union camp or battlefield site.

Charles Magnus produced fewer varieties of prints than competitor Currier and Ives, but he employed superior printing and coloring techniques. From steel, copper, and stone engraved plates, his single-color printings often used uncommon colors, such as bronze or silver. Multicolor printings were done by hand, with employees applying a single color each, sometimes with a stencil. Magnus himself often hand-colored the more elaborate works. As was typical at that time, his designs were mainly adapted from already published items.

After the war, Magnus expanded his work to include prints, games, reward of merit cards, and advertising and custom printing. He continued to use the lithographic process and hand coloring after most printers had turned to photomechanical processes.


Illustrated article on Magnus’ work.

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