Redeeming the Cyclorama: Why the century-old attraction is anything but a monument to the Confederacy

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#1
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In the fall of 1892, a series of advertisements appeared in the Atlanta Constitution promoting a colossal 360-degree painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta. The Cyclorama had won good reviews at its initial showings in the Midwest and drawn big crowds during its Georgia debut earlier that year. But ticket receipts had dwindled as the novelty faded. Anxious to rekindle interest, the attraction’s backers published a preposterous claim: “Only Confederate victory ever painted.”


In case anyone needed reminding, the men in gray were defeated at the Battle of Atlanta. On the afternoon of July 22, 1864, the Confederate army failed to break the Federal troops’ tightening chokehold, falling back with more than 5,000 casualties. Six weeks later, the Confederates evacuated and left the city to the mercies of General William T. Sherman.


“It’s crazy,” says Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center, where the restored and reinterpreted Cyclorama will open in a new building on February 22, exactly 127 years to the day after it first opened in Atlanta. “This is a painting of a Northern victory, painted in the North for Northern audiences, and then it gets orphaned in the South, and we start presenting it like we won or something.”


“The Cyclorama tells a story like no other artifact in the country about the use and misuse of Civil War memory.”

Conceived in Chicago, created in Milwaukee, and premiered in Minneapolis, the Cyclorama was meant to celebrate the Union’s great triumph in capturing Atlanta and hastening the end of the Civil War. But when the painting moved South after a five-year run up North, new audiences flipped its meaning, bastardizing the spectacle into a curio of Confederate identity and a testament to white Southern pride. For decades, it was a masterpiece of misinterpretation.


Why should a memorial that has, for most of its existence, ...
REST OF ARTICLE AND MORE PHOTOS:https://www.atlantamagazine.com/gre...s-anything-but-a-monument-to-the-confederacy/
 

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#2
Wasn't there a Second Manassas cyclorama done also??? That was a Confederate victory. I don't think it was ever finished and what remained of it has been lost. Maybe the membership here can refresh my memory on that
 

jgoodguy

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#3
Wasn't there a Second Manassas cyclorama done also??? That was a Confederate victory. I don't think it was ever finished and what remained of it has been lost. Maybe the membership here can refresh my memory on that
National Park Service internal memorandums indicate attempts to track down Mr. McConnell and his remaining paintings in 1939 and again in 1947, but these efforts evidently proved unsuccessful. However, in 1964, artist Joseph W. King of Winston-Salem, North Carolina found Mr. McConnell still alive at the age of 96 in a New York nursing home. Through Mr. McConnell's son, Mr. King was able to purchase the original cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg by Paul Phillippoteaux which was among the ten stored in the Chicago warehouse since 1933. (Note: A later rendition is now on exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park.) The identity of the other surviving paintings in the warehouse or their ultimate fate is not known. Evidence suggests the Manassas Panorama was not among them and may have been divested at an earlier date. In a letter to George H. Ayres, then owner of the battlefield's Stone House, Charles H. Ladd Johnston of Washington, D.C. wrote on February 7, 1929: "Through an antique dealer on 14th. Street N.W. named Heitmuller, I found out that the Cyclorama of the Battle of Manassas or Second Bull Run had been cut up and sold to various holders. It seems that a certain John W. Thompson held a mortgage on the property, and, as the interest had not been paid, he foreclosed and divided the canvas. A part (showing the attack on the railroad cut) was held by Heitmuller, who gave it to Stanford Macnider, Asst. Secty. of War who had it taken to the Soldiers Home." Further investigation by Johnston cast doubt on the last part of Heitmuller's story. No trace of the Manassas Panorama could be found at the Soldiers Home in Washington.​
While it would appear the entire Manassas Panorama is no more, parts of it may still be out there gracing somebody's wall or collecting dust in some attic. Manassas National Battlefield Park has an interest in finding what is left of this historic treasure and welcomes any information that might resolve this mystery. These photos of the Panorama's various scenes may help identify the lost artwork.​

paint03.jpg
paint06.jpg


paint05.jpg
 

Joshism

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#5
I knew surviving cycloramas were rare, but I didn't quite realize just how rare. I think it's great that it has gone to the Atlanta History Center which from my visit a couple years ago seemed like a top-notch organization.

When I visited Gettysburg it was after the cyclorama there had been restored and moved to the new visitor's center, which again is a top-notch museum and the perfect place for it. Rather than treating these as stand-alone tourist attractions they very much belong as part of a larger museum.
 

redbob

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#7
During the current restoration, several items that had been portrayed as Union, but changed to portray Confederates while the painting was in Atlanta were repainted to portray Union scenes again in order to be more historically accurate. Also, the locomotive Texas (of the great locomotive chase fame) has been restored to a more accurate period appearance and is also at the center.
 
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#8
How come when I left click on the images of the 2nd Manassas nothing happens??? Was this part of the website getting revamped? Or maybe my desktop PC is at fault. IIRC these three photos were in the Time Life series
 

19thGeorgia

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#9
View attachment 292686
In the fall of 1892, a series of advertisements appeared in the Atlanta Constitution promoting a colossal 360-degree painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta. The Cyclorama had won good reviews at its initial showings in the Midwest and drawn big crowds during its Georgia debut earlier that year. But ticket receipts had dwindled as the novelty faded. Anxious to rekindle interest, the attraction’s backers published a preposterous claim: “Only Confederate victory ever painted.”
Preposterous?
 

jgoodguy

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#15
Totally preposterous. First of all, I am sure there were plenty of paintings of Manassas and other Confederate victories. Second, the Battle of Atlanta was a clear Confederate defeat, rather than a victory.
There were alterations made to appeal to a Southern audience.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/hist...war-once-again-180970715/#cUxHqq5AbE3gxVkK.99
So Atkinson saw a problem with his new acquisition. Because the painting had been done originally for Northern vets, there were a few images that were obviously meant to tip the meaning of the entirety of the canvas. And there was one image in particular that would not jibe with the new Lost Cause view of things. It was that scene, just off from the counterattack, where one could see some Rebels in gray being taken prisoner. And in the hand of one of the Union soldiers was a humbled Confederate flag. POW’s, a captured flag—these are the emblems of weakness and dishonor.​
So, with some touches of blue paint, Atkinson turned a cowering band of Johnny Rebs into a pack of cowardly Billy Yanks, all running away from the fight. By the time the painting was moved to Atlanta in 1892, the newspaper made it even easier for everybody, announcing the arrival of the new Cyclorama and its depiction of the “only Confederate victory ever painted!” Still, ticket sales were tepid. Atkinson offloaded his mistake to one Atlanta investor who then pawned it off to another; in 1893, the painting was sold for a mere $937. Around the country, the cyclorama fad was over.​
Cyclorama were rather like roadside attractions meant for entertainment. They suffered for that until they became history.
 

19thGeorgia

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#16
Totally preposterous.
My grandmother (daughter of a Confederate soldier) told me it was a Confederate victory.

General Hardee did too: "The engagement of the 22nd of July, one of the most desperate and bloody of the war, and which won the only decided success achieved by the army at Atlanta."
 

jgoodguy

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#17
My grandmother (daughter of a Confederate soldier) told me it was a Confederate victory.

General Hardee did too: "The engagement of the 22nd of July, one of the most desperate and bloody of the war, and which won the only decided success achieved by the army at Atlanta."
I believe Davis said he was relieved not to have Richmond to defend, it left more resources to beat Grant.
 

Irishtom29

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#18
My grandmother (daughter of a Confederate soldier) told me it was a Confederate victory.

General Hardee did too: "The engagement of the 22nd of July, one of the most desperate and bloody of the war, and which won the only decided success achieved by the army at Atlanta."
I believe you, that those people said that.
 

JeffBrooks

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#19
My grandmother (daughter of a Confederate soldier) told me it was a Confederate victory.

General Hardee did too: "The engagement of the 22nd of July, one of the most desperate and bloody of the war, and which won the only decided success achieved by the army at Atlanta."
I guess that explains why the Confederates retreated back to the Atlanta defenses when the battle was over, having failed to crush the left flank of the Army of the Tennessee and having suffered 5,500 casualties to the Union 3,600 losses.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#20
Is it really worth distracting from a great story to get defensive about the battle? I'm a little smitten by the PT Barnum who re-painted the action. In the middle of the South, he didn't think anyone would notice? Those vets were wonderfully cranky over accuracy- best hour you can spend is reading their arguments with each other post war. No one knew battles better than vets. I'm sorry but don't see them being interested by something revamped no matter who won, perhaps why ticket sales were tepid.

Plus despite his own ticket sales ( and popular myth ) Barnum wasn't popular- yet another guy making a profit by fooling the public may not have gone down well.

Nice to see another piece of history saved, thanks for posting.
 



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