Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Upcoming article in Military Images

I received the exciting news recently that an article based upon a section of my new book Robert E. Lee in War and Peace will appear in the December issue of Military Images magazine. The article describes a Robert E. Lee photograph we were not supposed to see. Military Images magazine is a premier publication which for many years has been the unchallenged leader in its field. There is no better example of the quality of their work than the striking photograph on the cover of their upcoming issue.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Prints from Photographs, Part 2 of 2

During the Civil War there was at least one woodcut engraving of General Lee based on a drawing made in the field, rather than a photograph. In late 1862 or early 1863, Frank Vizetelly of the Illustrated London News sketched General Lee at his headquarters near Fredericksburg.

Engraving based on sketch by Frank Vizetelly for the
Illustrated London NewsFebruary 14, 1863.

It is quite possible (the author considers it likely) that Vizetelly’s drawing was made a few weeks before General Lee donned his dress uniform for the so-called “booted and spurred” photograph made by Daniel T. Cowell. General Lee was not known to have worn such formal military attire except on special occasions. A woodcut engraving derived from Minnis and Cowell’s “booted and spurred” photograph appeared on the front of Harper’s Weekly in July 1864. Oddly enough Lee’s middle name “Edward” was misspelled as “Edmund” in the caption of this illustration.

The Rebel General Robert Edmund Lee, Harper’s Weekly, July 2, 1864.
Examination of a well-known print of General Lee as a civilian shows him seated in a comfortable looking chair. It is obviously derived from the famous “clock” portrait made in early 1866 by Mathew Brady of Washington, D.C. For years, this sitting for Brady in Washington was deemed to have occurred in 1869. However, this print, published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, firmly establishes that the photograph was made before March 24, 1866.

Engraving based on Mathew Brady’s clock portrait of 1866 in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 24, 1866.

These printed engravings are quite interesting when compared alongside their corresponding photographs. Those printed in dated periodical publications can help determine the time period when the original photograph was taken.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Comments from my book publisher

Copies of my new book Robert E. Lee in War and Peace, published by Savas Beatie, arrived last week. Savas Beatie Managing Director Ted Savas posted some comments about the book on his blog recently. I am copying them below. Brings back a lot of memories for many of us.

Savas Beatie is collecting orders for personally signed copies, so please email sales@savasbeatie.com if you'd like a copy signed by me. Makes a great present.


A slew of new books arrived just yesterday, which as you can imagine is always a fun day at the office. Opening those boxes is a lot like Christmas--many times a year.

The Civil War Lover's Guide to New York City, by Bill Morgan;

Battle of Big Bethel: Crucial Clash in Early Civil War Virginia, by J. Michael Cobb, Edward B. Hicks, and Wythe Holt; and

Robert E. Lee in War and Peace: The Photographic History of a confederate and American Icon, by Donald A. Hopkins, M.D.

I am of course excited by all three, but the Lee book intrigues me for many reasons, and one in particular.

As a kid I spent hours laying on my bedroom floor studying Roy Meredith's The Face of Robert E. Lee in Life and Legend (1947). It simply fascinated me. I recall using a magnifying class to study the details (I used that same glass on the same floor to try and make sense of the ridiculously small map details in Murfin's Antietam study Gleam of Bayonets, which I loved, and still do to this day).

Meredith's study is now 60+ years old and as I discovered from Dr. Hopkins's work, loaded with mistakes and woefully incomplete. Little did I know that one day I would publish what I sincerely believe is the definitive book on this topic.

Hopkins's new tome has every known Lee image, with tons of info on the photography, Lee himself, his history, and much much more. It is also professionally designed inside on photo-matte paper by Mason City friend Jim Zach, who has done many of our jackets and the inside of several books). It is also oversize at 7 x 10.

I sincerely hope you enjoy it.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Prints from Photographs, Part 1 of 2

After reports of Robert E. Lee’s exploits during the Mexican War in 1846 began to appear in newspapers, his name became more and more familiar to the reading public. His renown increased even more in 1859 when he led U.S. Marines who captured John Brown during his attempted slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Editors and publishers noting Lee’s rising prominence in military matters, began to seek representative images of him for their readers, and over the next few years woodcuts and steel engravings began to appear in print in both the North and the South.

During the early 1800s, printmakers and engravers primarily based their work on paintings, drawings, or other artistic renderings, but after 1850, they increasingly based their work on photographs of their subject. Engravings of Lee that appeared in print in the U.S. during this time were no different.

The artist preparing an engraving usually “improved” or “enhanced” the original photographic presentation, sometimes extensively. Therefore, knowing when the engraved interpretation of a particular photograph was first published establishes for certain that the original photograph upon which it was based was made prior to that date.

Steel engraving by A. H. Ritchie based on “West Point” photograph. Published as a photograph in 1861.

An interesting woodcut engraving based on a fanciful steel engraving by A. H. Ritchie was published in the North in August 1861.  According to the publisher this woodcut engraving was derived from a photograph by Mathew Brady.

The Rebel General Lee, woodcut based on photograph by Mathew Brady, in Harper’s Weekly, August 24, 1861.