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Return to previous pagePast Exhibition

One Life: Grant and Lee: “It is well that war is so terrible. . .”
Exhibited July 4 through May 25, 2015


This special installation of “One Life” considered two lives that were intertwined during the Civil War. The rivalry between generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee was one of the most memorable in American military history. Lee was a polished and seemingly invincible Confederate commander who encountered Grant, a rough-hewn upstart, in the Virginia campaigns of 1864 and 1865. Grant and Lee both stand alone as genuine world historical individuals in their impact on America, but they were also are the product of their relationship to each other.

In the way that each embodied the society for which they fought; their clash became a harbinger of the evolution of warfare in the 20th century. Ultimately, the Union would prevail, in part with the adoption of a total war philosophy of destroying both armies and resources.

The curator of this exhibition was National Portrait Gallery senior historian David C. Ward.


Lee Surrendering to Grant at Appomattox / Alonzo Chappel (1828 - 1887) / c. 1870 / Oil on paperboard / Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Nancy L. Ross in memory of Patricia Firestone Chatham


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