Charles Hoffbauer's murals are impressive. They are art; they are history; and they are healing.
Hoffbauer was already an internationally recognized artist when leaders of the Confederate Memorial Association decided to recruit him for their ambitious undertaking—large-scale paintings to memorialize and give honor to the South's role in the Civil War. Today, his paintings can be found in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the Museum of the City of New York, in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and in numerous other collections, both public and private.
The murals, beautiful to the eye, are full of history. The Summer Mural showing R. E. Lee and his generals offers accurate likenesses of each man. Though no such meeting ever took place, this imagined scene gives rich detail not likely to be found elsewhere. The Spring Mural of Stonewall Jackson invites discussion about the lessons learned from his brilliant Shenandoah Valley campaign. J.E.B. Stuart with his cavalrymen in the Autumn Mural are engaged in battle—pistols firing, sabers drawn, and horses charging toward peril and possible death. And there is the grim, sobering Winter Mural, replete with a fallen artilleryman and dead horses.
The flanking panels are also full of fascinating detail. One depicts the Coast Artillery and Confederate Marines. Many are surprised to hear that the Confederacy had Marines, possibly because they were so few in number. Another panel shows a hospital train. The doctor in the panel is Richmond sculptor, Edward Virginius Valentine; the African American man is not identified. Another panel shows the Confederate ironclad, Virginia, in battle with federal ships Cumberland and Congress.
The murals teach us how a large part of the population coped with the defeat, despair, and destruction of the South. The lessons of reconciliation, rebuilding, and union are also there. The pain of Hoffbauer's own war experience is evident in the murals. His experience wasn't the Civil War, but the Great War in Europe. In some ways, the paintings represent his personal journey through the loss and tragedy that are a part of all wars.
Sadly, a century of dirt and grime have dimmed the glory of these monumental paintings, and the lessons they teach stand imperiled. Restoring the murals is a priority. Time is not on our side, but I hope you will be.
Paul A. Levengood
President and CEO
p.s. Click here to select a special thank you for your gift of $1,000 or more.
p.p.s. Great news. The Alfred I. duPont Foundation is awarding funds toward this project. Your gift will help us match the Save America's Treasures grant and will also count toward this more recent challenge. That's a significant return on your investment.