HAMMOND | The newest South Shore Line poster connects the region's rich Civil War past with present and future generations seeking to learn its lessons, the artist who painted it says.
South Shore Line artist Mitch Markovitz unveiled his latest work in the collector's series Thursday — a poster featuring the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail.
The poster unveiling came during a launch and reception of the trail's 2014 Region United, Nation Divided: Following Lincoln exhibit.
The new poster, influenced by Americana artist Norman Rockwell, depicts two uniformed Civil War soldiers gathered behind a veteran headstone at Crown Point's Historic Maplewood Cemetery, telling wartime stories to a modern region family more than 150 years after the war.
Maplewood, home to dozens of Northwest Indiana Civil War veteran graves, is one of several sites listed on the memorial trail, a listing of veteran graves, local museums and architectural icons with Civil War ties.
In the past three years, trail volunteers have replaced more than 80 worn, broken or missing Civil War veteran headstones with new government-issued or privately purchased markers across nine cemeteries in Lake and Porter counties.
The real grave site upon which the poster image is based is that of Crown Point's Pvt. Albert Kale, a volunteer in the 20th Indiana Infantry who died of typhoid fever during the war's first year.
The inspiration for the two vets in the painting were Charlie Wheeler, the living great-great-grandson of Crown Point Union Army Col. John Wheeler, and Michael Miller, a local re-enactor who portrays Col. Wheeler in the 20th Indiana Infantry Company B living history group.
Col. Wheeler, who commanded the 20th Indiana, was killed on the second day of the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of America's bloodiest war.
"I believe anything of a historical nature is of great value," Markovitz said of his involvement in the project. "I feel any historical message should be of great value to the community and should be told and understood."
About 90 people visited Hammond's Indiana Welcome Center on Thursday to see the new poster and exhibit.
The unveiling came as the trail opened its exhibit celebrating Northwest Indiana's role in the Civil War. A similar exhibit last year, Region United, Nation Divided: Civil War in the South Shore, attracted more than 8,000 visitors and more than a dozen school field trips.
This year's exhibit, which runs through April 30, focuses on the volunteer fighting units from Northwest Indiana and the local men who answered President Abraham Lincoln's call for Union Army volunteers for the 1861-1865 war.
The new poster, commissioned by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, will be available for purchase at the Welcome Center gift store during and after the exhibit. Posters are $30 unsigned and $50 signed by the artist. Proceeds support Civil War veteran grave preservation and educational efforts.