Private John F.
Gisch, Company A, 24th Alabama Infantry earned spending money during
his incarceration at the Rock Island Prison by painting war related pictures
and selling them to guards and civilians.
His painting of the
prison from the outside was apparently a favorite topic. A near-twin of the painting seen above on the left is in the Rock Island
Museum's collection. Note the colored
infantry guards in full uniform on the walls. This original water color is 10˝”
X 14” in size.
Gisch painted and
sold the other two paintings to prison guard Jacob Weise of the Veteran Reserve
Corp when he was assigned to Rock Island.
Pvt. Weise had previously served in Company C, 93rd Illinois
Infantry (note: Jacob’s last name is misspelled as both ‘Wise’ and ‘Weis’ in
the military records).
The first of these
(center above) is of Charleston Harbor during one of the Union ironclad fleet’s
assaults on Fort Sumter on April 7th, 1863. Gisch was temporarily transferred to the
Confederate Navy in August of 1863, and could have been in Charleston preparing
for that assignment.
The second (above
right) is of the Battle of Lookout Mountain the following November 24th. By that time, Gisch had rejoined the 24th
Alabama, but his unit was not on this part of the battlefield. Both the 24th Alabama and the 93rd
Illinois fought the next day on nearby Missionary Ridge. Since the Confederates got the worst of
Lookout Mountain and the painting is from the Union troops’ vantage point, it
is obvious that Gisch painted with a Northern customer in mind, and who better
than Pvt. Weise? Pvt. Gisch apparently
used a cover illustration from the Rock Island prison library's copy of
Harper’s Weekly to gain this battlefield perspective.