Grant Writing Telegram That the Army Had Crossed the Rapidan
The new Union general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant writes a telegram to inform U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and the secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, that the Army of the Potomac had crossed the Rapidan River, marking the beginning of the spring campaign in 1864. Officers stand nearby, one appearing to read a newspaper, while the ghostly trace of the marching columns can be seen in the background.
The London-born artist Alfred R. Waud, who worked for Harper's Weekly, made the sketch at an important moment during the war in the Eastern Theater. Grant was about to confront Confederate general Robert E. Lee at the Battle of the Wilderness. Although the two armies fought to a draw, Grant refused to regroup or retreat as his predecessors had done. Instead, he kept maneuvering south, clashing with Lee at Spotsylvania Court House, along the North Anna River, at Cold Harbor, and finally at Petersburg, where the Union army laid siege for nine and a half months. Just a week after Petersburg fell in April 1865, Lee was forced to surrender.