History In Ink®  Historical Autographs




Robert E. Lee

Lee signs a carte de visite by famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady

Robert Edward Lee, 1807–1870.  Confederate General, American Civil War.  2¼" x 4" carte de visite signed R. E. Lee.

This outstanding 1865 photograph of Lee is by the 19th Century's premier portrait photographer, Mathew Brady, whose iconic images of the Civil War and its leading personalities still captivate Americans.  The photo shows Lee in three-quarter profile in civilian clothing.  The imprint of M. B. Brady & Co. National Photographic Portrait Galleries is on the reverse.

This is a family heritage piece that has never before been offered on the autograph market.  It has been handed down through the generations from the person who originally obtained it.

Lee was and remains the principal defining Confederate character of the Civil War.  Lee's loyalty to his home state of Virginia, which caused him to resign his U.S. Army commission, was invaluable to the Confederate movement.  His brilliance as a military tactician, his gentlemanly demeanor, and his stately appearance gave him leadership qualities second to none.  One wonders how soon the war might have ended had Lee fought for the Union rather than the Confederacy.

Brady (1822–1896) and his staff photographed not only major characters of the Civil War on both sides but also the war itself.  In addition to Lee, his Confederate subjects included President Jefferson Davis and Generals Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, and P. G. T. Beauregard.  In 1861, Brady obtained permission from U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to travel to battlefield sites, at his own expense, to document the war.  He first photographed the battle of First Bull Run, where he was so close to the action that he was nearly captured.  His New York gallery's exhibition of “The Dead of Antietam,” which displayed graphic images of dead soldiers on the battlefield at Antietam, Maryland, the first major engagement fought on Union soil, brought the reality of the war home to Americans in a way that newspaper artists' images could not.  Brady's work documenting the war made him the father of modern photojournalism.

Lee has signed this photograph in fountain pen at the lower right beneath his image, as was his custom.  The photo itself is bold, as is the signature.  The image shows a bit of speckling, and there are a small bubble and a narrow tape stain at the top margin and a small corner bend at the lower right corner, all well removed from either the image or the signature.  Overall, the piece is in fine condition.




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