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Lee, 1864

Lee, 1865

Lee and staff, 1865

Lee, 1978 cast after 1870 plaster

Robert E. Lee and His Generals, circa 1865



Robert E. Lee (1807–1870)

Drawn reluctantly into the war, Robert E. Lee went to the defense of his native state, as befit a man in his position. He was born a first-family Virginian, reared in the tradition of the Old South, and destined to observe its customs throughout his life. Placed in command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1862, Lee gave the Confederacy moments of hope with a succession of early victories. His army was always outnumbered, at times by as much as three to one, so it was a triumph that he managed to keep it on the field for the duration of the war. By 1864, however, time and resources were working against him, and in May U. S. Grant became his adversary.

Grant differed from those whom Lee had opposed earlier. Relentless in battle, he afterward gave pursuit. Moreover, Grant was unafraid of the legendary Lee. During the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant announced to a daunted staff officer that he was “heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do.”

The Richmond painter Edward Caledon Bruce claimed to have painted Lee from life in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1865. This head-and-shoulders study is believed to have been based upon Bruce’s now-unlocated full-length painting of Lee.

Edward Caledon Bruce (1825–1901)
Oil on canvas, 1864–1865
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution


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