Lee and Grant: Conflict and Careers

150 Years after the Civil War, an NEH-sponsored exhibition assesses the conflict through the lives and careers of the two generals

By the end of the Civil War, most Americans considered either Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant to be a hero. The reputations of the two generals, molded in part by a sectional bias that would enhance the achievements of one often to the detriment of the other, would wax and wane over the next 150 years.

Lee and Grant provides a major reassessment of the lives, careers, and historical impact of the generals. It also encourages audiences to move beyond the traditional mythology of both men and rediscover them within the context of their own time—based on their own words and those of their contemporaries. Lee and Grant presents photographs, paintings, prints, coins, reproduction clothing, accoutrements owned and carried by the two men, documents written in their own hands, and biographical and historical records to reveal each man in his historical and cultural context, allowing audiences to compare the ways each has been remembered to this day.

"This is a rare and wonderful opportunity for the northern California public to examine original documents and artifacts related to the Civil War’s two greatest military figures,” said Carl Guarneri, Ph.D., author and professor of history at Saint Mary’s College, who is serving as humanities scholar and adviser to the exhibition.  

A lecture by Dr. Guarneri, “Only a Question of Time and Patience': An Inside View of Grant's Campaign against Lee,”  will highlight opening day programs on Sunday, January 30, which will include displays by members of the National Civil War Association [NCWA] in period costume. A battlefield re-enactment, featuring nearly one hundred NCWA volunteers, is planned for Saturday, March 19, on the Saint Mary’s College campus. 

A display of original Civil War letters, and photographs, and the war diary of a Medal of Honor winner, will be on view in the College Library.  Contra Costa County Library branches will feature their considerable Civil War holdings for adult and youth reading, as well as offer a number of programs in 2011.

The exhibition is on view from Sunday, Jan. 30 through Sunday, Mar. 20.   The Hearst Art Gallery is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Adult admission is $4; admission is free for K-12th grade students and Hearst members. 

"Visitors will enjoy discovering similarities and differences between Lee and Grant that are rarely pointed out," said William M. S. Rasmussen, Ph.D., exhibition co-curator. "These generals have been explored by historians for decades, but Lee and Grant is the first exhibition to present the two men together so that visitors can make decisions about them, based on facts.”

Lee and Grant is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The exhibit was developed by the Virginia Historical Society, and co-curated by Dr. William M. S. Rasmussen, Lora M. Robins Curator of Art at the Virginia Historical Society and Dr. Robert S. Tilton, Chairman of the Department of English, University of Connecticut, Storrs. This exhibit is toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance through NEH on the Road. NEH on the Road offers an exciting opportunity for communities of all sizes to experience some of the best exhibitions funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Mid-America Arts Alliance was founded in 1972 and is the oldest regional nonprofit arts organization in the United States.