Mount Vernon, a Georgian mansion overlooking the Potomac River near Alexandria, Virginia, was the slave plantation home of the first president of the United States, George Washington (1732–1799). After Washington's death, the condition of the property deteriorated drasticallyãas evidenced by the exposed and warped porch column depicted in this painting. In 1858, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union purchased the mansion and surrounding land for $200,000 and founded the nation's first historic house museum.
Prior to the Civil War (1861–1865), the national conflict over slavery was epitomized by differing interpretations of George Washington and Mount Vernon. While Northerners revered Washington as the founding father of the Union, Southerners claimed Washington as a slave owner and placed his image on the official seal of the Confederate States of America. Consequently, both the Union and Confederate armies allowed Mount Vernon to remain neutral territory during the Civil War.