Thursday, April 23, 2015



By Doc Lawrence

Mort Kunstler's Final Painting
LaGrange, Georgia-Brooklyn native Mort Kunstler, widely considered the most successful and admired Civil War artist, came to this lovely west Georgia city to unveil what would be announced as his last painting in a storied career. Almost 150 years ago to the day, a confrontation of local women armed like a military platoon met Union invaders led by Col. Oscar LaGrange, ready to do battle in an effort to spare the city from the atrocities of General Sherman’s total war that included the destruction of Atlanta and the March to the Sea.

Beautiful Downtown LaGrange
Mr. Kunstler’s oil on canvass painting magnificently interprets the dramatic event. The women weere organized as the Nancy Hart Militia paying homage to Ms. Hart, a Georgia girl who defended her east Georgia home during the American Revolution from pillage and destruction by British soldiers,

According to historical accounts, two LaGrange women, Nancy Morgan and Mary Heard recognizing their vulnerability with most able-bodied men away serving in the Confederate army, organized the militia and gave it the name.

The painting shows well-dressed  armed women (they wanted to have clothes to wear in the event their homes were looted and burned) ready to do battle with the battle-tested soldiers. Displaying admiration for them, Col. LaGrange assured them that their homes would be spared. As gratitude for his promise and in keeping with the finest traditions of the South, the Nancy Hart’s prepared and served dinner for the Union officers.

No participant was aware that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered days earlier at Appomattox.

Mr. Kunstler at Legacy Museum
Today, the spirit of the Nancy Hart Militia is evidenced. Many of the beautiful homes survived the Civil War and add to the stunning landscape. Perhaps inspired by their preservation efforts, LaGrange is a showcase of revitalization and prosperity. Restaurants and sidewalk cafes are positioned alongside retail shops and art galleries. Taste of Lemon, a popular family-style restaurant, occupies what was once a Methodist church. LaGrange College enjoys a national reputation for academic excellence while  Legacy Museum and the LaGrange Symphony are testaments to community support of the arts..

Just minutes from the city fountain with the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, Hills & Dales Estate, once home to business legend Fuller Callaway, welcomes visitors with a tour of the mansion and stunning gardens. Nearby West Point Lake is a top-rated fishing attraction and landmark Callaway Gardens is a short drive from downtown LaGrange.

Close proximity to Atlanta makes a day trip easy. Visitors are inspired to stay a little longer. Not surprisingly, they enjoy this magnificent Deep South city and its friendly folks. Walking around town, there’s a chance that the smiling lady passing by might be a descendant of the Nancy Hart Militia.

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