Genl. Lee to the Rear! The Wilderness May 1864
Original Author: W.L. Sheppard
Created: ca. 1866
Medium: Carte-de-visite photograph of a lithograph
Publisher: Virginia Historical Society

Genl. Lee to the Rear! The Wilderness May 1864

Common foot soldiers try to dissuade General Robert E. Lee from leading the charge across Widow Tapp's Field in a famous incident that took place during the Battle of the Wilderness. Lee was spurring on his horse Traveller when members of the Texas brigade around him noticed the general's foolhardy intention. Alarmed for his safety they began to shout along the line, "Lee to the rear!" and some of the men pleaded with him directly, saying, "Go back, General Lee, go back." A sergeant took hold of the horse's reins, and after conferring with another officer Lee thought better of his spontaneous urge to attack with the men. Lee turned back and rode off through cheering Confederate troops. "I thought him at that moment the grandest specimen of manhood I ever beheld," one soldier who witnessed the event later recounted, "He looked as though he ought to have been, and was, the monarch of the world."

The Confederate soldier-turned-artist William Ludwell Sheppard recreated the heroic scene as part of a set of lithographic cards featuring life during the Civil War. This carte-de-visite photograph of the original lithograph was mass produced around 1866. Virginia-born Sheppard had trained as an artist in New York and Paris before joining the Richmond Howitzers artillery in 1861. During much of the war he served with the Topographical Engineers Department of the Army of Northern Virginia. Sheppard became one of the most famous artists of the Lost Cause after the war, and in his work he often tried to capture the daily life of the Confederate soldier. In addition, he sculpted three Confederate monuments in Richmond.