Before coming to the United States in 1850, the German-born Kaufmann studied painting in Düsseldorf and Munich and fought in the 1848 popular uprisings in favor of national unity for Germany. As a Union soldier in the American Civil War, he may have seen retreating Confederate troops take their adult male slaves with them, leaving behind the women and children. Here, his portrayal of a group of fleeing figures suggests the lack of a clear route to liberty. They emerge from darkness into light but must traverse a rockstrewn path before arriving on the smooth road leading to the Stars and Stripes, which, however, remains frighteningly close to the ongoing battle.
Probably the collection of the artist, New York, died 1896; probably his widow, Mathilde Hitzfeld Kaufmann, New York, died 1905; their daughter, Marie Alice Kaufmann Gomez, Seville, died 1943; her estate; Frederick Golden, U.S.A., 1962-1979; with Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, 1972-1979; Frederick Golden (sale, Christie's, New York, May 23, 1979, no. 82); Erving Wolf, New York, 1979-1982. Gift of Erving and Joyce Wolf, 1982.