Artist: Mort Kunstler Title: Order Out of Chaos - Nathan Bedford Forrest, Nashville, Tenn., February 22, 1862 Size: Image Size: 16” x 29 1/2” /Overall Size: 21” x 33 1/2” (Canvas 19" x 35")
Edition Medium:Artist Hand Signed and Numbered Limited Edition to 500 on Paper / Fine Art Giclee on Canvas to 100 About the Art: Nashville was in a panic. The Tennessee capital was a key Confederate rail link, supply depot and industrial center for the war’s Western theater. Despite Nashville’s importance, the Southern army defending it was withdrawn when Northern forces advanced on the city in February of 1862. The army’s commander, Brigadier General John B. Floyd, a hapless political officer who had already abandoned nearby Fort Donelson, hastily retreated from Nashville - leaving behind vast stores of desperately needed military equipment and supplies.
Left behind too, however, was a bold and decisive Confederate officer and his troops - Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest and his brigade of cavalry. The retreating commander had left Forrest to tidy up the evacuation and he took his orders seriously. Soon, Forrest restored order out of the chaos.
Forrest then commandeered wagons, and put his troops to work saving military supplies, equipment and ammunition - including more than 700 wagonloads of army rations. Not until Northern troops were entering Nashville in full strength on the evening of February 23, did Forrest suspend his disciplined salvage operation and retire from the city. By then, order had been restored, and Nashville’s mayor was able to surrender the capital - which was spared the fiery destruction that awaited other Southern cities. Forrest’s salvage operation had provided the stores necessary for Southern forces to fight again. The same daring and determination would soon make General Nathan Bedford Forrest famous - as the “Wizard of the Saddle.”
From the Artist: Military actions in the Western theater of the Civil War were dramatic and momentous, yet for some reason they are often overlooked. One of the most important cities in the South was Nashville, Tennessee - highlighted by a new capitol constructed in classical Greek style. Nashville’s capitol is well documented in period photography, and it made a stunning backdrop for Order Out of Chaos - a painting of one of the war’s most extraordinary figures: General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Nashville was the first Southern state capital to be captured, and it was occupied by Northern forces for most of the Civil War. However, it was a main industrial and railway center until its capture in 1862, and it was in Nashville that Forrest displayed the daring attitude that made him such an unforgettable historical figure. When the city was abandoned by Southern forces, Forrest was temporarily left in command - and, typically, he boldly took charge. He managed to restore order in the panic-stricken city, and saved a tremendous amount of military supplies with which he and others would use to defend their homeland.
The story is told in detail in historian Brian Wills’ biography: The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest. Another historian whose work was tremendously valuable to me in painting this scene was James Hoobler, curator at the Tennessee State Museum. His history of Civil War Nashville - Cities Under the Gun: Images of Occupied Nashville and Chattanooga - is an excellent photographic study. Order Out of Chaos portrays Forrest while he is directing operations in Nashville’s railroad yard. The impressive state capitol could be seen from almost everywhere in Nashville at that time, and very clearly from the viewpoint of the rail yard. Looking to the northeast, the viewer can see the capitol, spotlighted high on the hill. It appears here as it did during the Civil War.
The day of this event had begun with a morning rainfall, which enabled me to paint a dramatic post-storm sky with the orange light of a sun just beginning to set. To lead the viewer’s eyes to Forrest - the central character in the painting - I used the shapes of rails, railroad ties, and discarded equipment. The composition also highlights Forrest and the Confederate First National flag.
To me, Order Out of Chaos is a remarkable scene in many ways. It emphasizes the disorder and confusion that the war brought to a generation of Americans - with the classical beauty of Nashville’s capitol as a contrasting background. It also focuses on that generation’s incredible devotion to duty, which is typified by the historical figure who is the centerpiece of the painting - General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
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Inner Mat Antique White #251 Black #221 Brick #231 Burgundy #38 Charcoal #257 Creme #223 Dark Brown #106 Dark Mahogany #88 Dark Spruce #125 English Rose Pink #151 Gold #568 Khaki #92 Light Gray #82 Linen #128 Mauve #154 Midnight Blue #131 Mist Gray #112 Navy Blue #230 Pale Moss #253 Pineneedle Green #411 Putty #90 Royal Blue #142 Sage Green #247 Silver Mist #130 Spiced Brown #710 Storm Gray #114 Wedge Wood Blue #124
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