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MARTIAL LAW.
   
Complete Explanation:
The Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham's eloquent but belated reprisal for, as the title continues, "the desolation of the border counties of Missouri, during the enforcement of military orders, issued by Brigadier General [Thomas] Ewing, of the Union Army, from his Head Quarters, Kansas City, Augt. 25th 1863." The action took place during the Civil War, amid the violence and strife which beset the Kansas and Nebraska territories during the conflict over slavery. In retaliation for a murderous raid on Lawrence, Kansas, by guerillas operating from Missouri, Union commander Ewing ordered the border counties of Missouri evacuated, displacing and inflicting extreme hardships on the civilian population there.

Ewing is the central figure in Bingham's portrayal. He stands gripping his revolver and confronting a distinguished, white-haired settler who stands defiantly before him. The settler's wife has fainted, and his son lies dead or unconscious on the ground. A younger woman implores the elderly man to break off the confrontation. Another young woman kneels in a supplicant pose before Ewing.

At left a large house is being emptied of its contents by soldiers. At right lines of refugees travel on foot and by wagon toward uncertain destinations. The smoke from their burning houses can be seen in the distance. A black man with his young son depart the scene at lower right, weeping.

The print was engraved from the second of two versions of the work, both painted about 1869 or 1870.


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