Like most truly good art, the painting can be read on different levels. At first one simply sees the Confederates brought forward and the likelihood that the war will soon be over: this is shown in the handsome uniform of the Union officer as well as the ragged clothing of the Southern men. But when we delve deeper, we see other meaning encased in layers. The old man, for example, seems as if he may be a civilian, with no stake or participation in the war. Why has he been made a prisoner? The confidence of the Union officer sets him apart, not only from the prisoners, but even from the private who has brought them forward. One senses that reconciliation will be needed on several different levels.