The Council of War

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The Council of War
c. 1873-1895
John Rogers
Painted cast plaster
24 x 15 x 13 In.
Chicago Public Library
Grand Army of the Republic Collection,
SPE GAR 72.608

Do you recognize these men? These were the three most powerful Civil War military leaders at the end of the war. Probably you know the seated man in the center (Abraham Lincoln), and possibly the standing man on the left (General Ulysses S. Grant). The third figure is Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Artist John Rogers created the work at the suggestion of Stanton and earned the praise of Robert Todd Lincoln for the likeness of his father. Rogers worked from photographs of the men and attempted to capture a signature gesture of those he portrayed. For example, Stanton is shown wiping dust from his spectacles. Lincoln is reviewing a map, while Grant points to it, explaining strategy.

Rogers was one of the first artists to make sculpture affordable for middle-class Americans. By casting the sculptures in plaster, rather than bronze, Rogers lowered the cost of the works considerably. The scultpures’ small size allowed people to display them in a typical home. Rogers’ work was extremely popular from 1860 to 1893, when he retired.

Rogers produced at least three different versions of this sculpture. They could be purchased in galleries or ordered from a catalog. Usually his work was finished in a matte buff color. At some point this copy was painted gold to make the work appear as if it was cast in metal.

For information about the images, please contact Special Collections at the Chicago Public Library (