Robert E. Lee and his staff

In April 1865, soon after the surrender at Appomattox, Mathew Brady went down to Richmond to take this portrait of Lee at the rented house where his family had spent the Civil War. Lee is posed on the veranda of the house, flanked by his son George Washington Custis Lee (right) and Colonel Walter Taylor (left).

The portrait is a punctuation to Lee’s heralded career as the South’s greatest general and serves as a summing up of an exemplary military career. Yet the portrait also looks forward to the role that Lee would fulfill in the defeated South: as the noble, honorable soldier who did his duty as he saw it in fighting for his state instead of for the Union. In the postwar period, Lee became a transcendental figure for the South, standing above party politics and individual interests to become the embodiment of all that was valuable in the so-called “Lost Cause.”


  • Title: General Robert E. Lee and Staff
  • Creator: Matthew B. Brady
  • Date Created: 1865
  • Type: Albumen silver print
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of staff of the museum, the estate of Marvin S. Sadik, and the Kappel Family in honor of Marvin S. Sadik, second director of the National Portrait Gallery
  • External Link: https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.2013.108
  • Classification: Photograph

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