This cartoon from Fun depicts President Abraham Lincoln as Mazeppa, a 17th-century Cossack general, being carried by a galloping horse “to the ruins.” Fun was a British humor magazine (1861-1901) favoring the Liberal Party. However, on the issue of the American Civil War it joined Conservative rival Punch to express sympathy for the Confederate cause and opposition to the Union war effort.
As punishment for having an affair with a Polish countess, Mazeppa was stripped of his clothing and tied to the back of a stallion, which ran loose across the countryside. The animal returned to its native Ukraine, where the people nursed the near-dead Mazeppa back to health. He then fought for his adopted land against the Russians, and was made a prince of Ukraine.
The romantic legend became the subject of numerous artistic works, including poems by Lord Byron (1819), Victor Hugo (1829), and Alexander Pushkin (1829), paintings by Theodore Gericault (1823) and Eugene Delacroix (1824), an etude by Franz Liszt, and an opera by Peter Tchaikovsky (1883). In the Russian version (Pushkin/Tchaikovsky), Mazeppa is portrayed as a traitor and tyrant. Likewise, the featured Fun cartoon ignores a heroic ending. The tale also inspired a popular stage production in the United States (1830), which remained a theatrical standard for decades. An 1861 production in New York caused a stir when actress Adah Isaacs Menchken played the title role and appeared in a flesh-colored body stocking while lashed to a horse. In 1872, Thomas Nast drew Liberal Republican presidential nominee Horace Greeley as “The Modern Mazeppa” for Harper’s Weekly.