Robert E. Lee and Son
Robert E. Lee, age 38, poses with his son, William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, 8, around the year 1845. At the time, Lee was twenty years into his military career having entered West Point in 1825, graduated second in his class, and earned a place in the Corps of Engineers. He was assigned to duty throughout the country, redirecting rivers, designing coastal fortifications, and surveying newly acquired territory. In the army Lee was known for his sociability and attention to detail, but called himself "an indifferent engineer." Opportunities for advancement were meager and the work required extended absences from his family. Lee considered leaving the service virtually every year. "I would advise no young man to enter the army," he regretfully admitted in a letter to his wife.
The historian Emory M. Thomas has suggested that "Lee is quite the fashion plate" in this image. "His long, large sideburns, striped trousers, counter–striped vest, and hand–in–coat pose all seem a bit more pretentious than Lee usually was." Thomas's desire to judge Lee's dress in the context of his character fits into a long tradition that includes Lost Cause biographers who saw his crisp Civil War–era attire as a reflection of "his modest humility, simplicity, and gentleness."
Lee's son, for a time nicknamed Rooney, ended the Civil War as second in command of the Confederate cavalry. He later served in the Senate of Virginia (1875–1878) and the United States House of Representatives (1887–1891).