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History, Military, Civil War, Surrender of General Lee, Antique Print, Philadelphia, 1865

$975

The Surrender of General Lee
John Smith, Philadelphia: 1865
T. Sinclair’s Lithography (lithographer)
Lithograph uncolored
21 x 26 inches overall
$975

Patriotic Civil War lithograph commemorating the surrender of Robert E. Lee, General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army, to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army, on April 9, 1865. This event, at the home of a man named Wilmer McLean in Appomattox, Virginia, marked the first major step in winding down the American Civil War if not its absolute conclusion. (Confederate president Jefferson Davis was not captured until May 10th, and there were a series of skirmishes and surrenders into the spring and summer before the war truly ended.) The surrender at Appomattox was a popular subject for prints in the aftermath of the war, and like this one, they burnished Grant’s image and celebrated the Union victory.

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Description

In this image, the artist took considerable license in portraying the event, showing the surrender taking place outdoors; the generals actually met inside a private home In the left foreground, Grant folds the document with the terms of surrender, while Lee extends a gloved hand toward him. They are each accompanied by a pair of aides who regard each other warily, and behind them Union and Confederate officers wait on horseback in the middle distance. Two long snaking line of thousands of soldiers stretch behind them into the distance, with the closest one, on the left, headed by a man carrying an American flag. In addition to this triumphant procession, the artist has added other symbolic propagandistic touches: the neatly groomed Union aides as apposed to the scruffy Confederates, and the scarred tree in the center, which is leafy on Grant’s side, but scraggly and missing most of its bark on Lee’s side. Indeed, according to the National Park Service, “there is no formal surrender document. The surrender was conducted through an exchange of two short letters. Grant’s was a mere five sentences long and Lee’s reply was only three very short, terse sentences. Aside from Grant and Lee, only Lt. Colonel Marshall and perhaps a half dozen of Grant’s staff officers were present for most of the meeting.”

Thomas S. Sinclair (c. 1805-1881) was a lithographer in Philadelphia. His firm issued separately issued topographical views, Civil War scenes, fashion plates, and fine color plates for book publishers. Sinclair was awarded prizes for his work by the Franklin Institute in 1848, 1849, and 1851, and in later years for chromolithography. Sinclair was born in Scotland and learned lithography in Edinburgh and other European cities, before arriving in America around 1830. He worked in New York City for a few years, and opened his company in Philadelphia in 1839. From about 1850 he was assisted by his sons William and Thomas Jr.; after 1870 the firm was known as T. Sinclair & Sons. After the elder Sinclair’s death in 1881, the firm continued operating until 1889 when it was sold to George S. Harris & Sons. Perhaps Sinclair’s best-known lithograph is the impressive large chromolithograph American Autumn, Starucca Valley, after a painting by the American landscape painter Jasper Crospey. Lithography historian Harry S. Peters observes, “there is a refreshing variety to all his work; also, it has a certain crisp touch that raises it above many.”

John Smith (act. 1860-1870) was a Philadelphia print publisher, gilder, painter, and looking glass and frame manufacturer. He published lithograph scenes with figures from American history such as the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, Pocahontas, Benjamin Franklin, Robert E. Lee, and  Ulysses S. Grant. His business was located at 804 Market Street in the early 1860s; 756 S. Fourth Street in the middle of the decade; and relocated to 710 Sansom Street in 1868.

Full title beneath image: “The Surrender of General Lee. And His Entire Army to Lieut. General Grant, April 9th 1865. This memorable event terminated the Great Rebellion.”

Full publication information: Pub’d by John Smith 756 So. 4th St. Phila. T. Sinclair’s Lith. Phil’a.

Condition:  Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, backed on supporting Japanese paper for support and to restore and close a few short marginal tears, now with light remaining toning, wear, handling, areas of minor discoloration, slight waviness of paper.

References:

Peters, Harry T. America on Stone. U.S.: Doubleday, Doran, 1931. pp. 368-369, 371, plates 139 and 140.

Servis, Joe. “The Surrender Meeting.” Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. 6 August 2020. https://www.nps.gov/apco/learn/historyculture/the-surrender-meeting.htm (5 April 2021).

Smith, John. The Library Company of Philadelphia. 2020. https://digital.librarycompany.org/islandora/object/digitool%3A79792 (5 April 2021).

“The Surrender of General Lee.” Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/2015647830/ (5 April 2021).

Additional information

Century

19th Century