John Bernt Graff (b. 1839)
Oil on panel, period but not original frame
29.25” x 26”
The three Zouave soldiers in this painting were taken from a print published in Harper’s Weekly July 28, 1860. The artist, John Graff added the landscape of Battery Park in New York City, including the Crystal Gardens building to the background. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Chicago Zouaves were disbanded and Freeman Conner (left) and Edward Knox (right) later served as lieutenants in the New York Fire Zouaves and as field officers in the 44th New York, “The People’s Ellsworth Regiment”, named after Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the original organizer of the Chicago Zouave Drill Team. Another painting entitled The Chicago Zouaves at Utica by John Graff is in the collection of the Chicago History Museum.
The nationally famous Chicago Zouaves made an eastern tour in the summer months of 1860 challenging local militias to competitions as a form of public entertainment. The high point of the tour came in New York City, where tens of thousands gathered to watch the Zouaves drill in City Hall Park, and local journals were effusive in their praise. The pageantry ended abruptly with the onset of the Civil War the following year.
This painting depicts several Chicago Zouaves lounging at the waterfront on the West Battery in New York City. In the background is a round fort identified as Castle Gardens, located at the tip of lower Manhattan in Battery Park.