Do You Know Who This Is?


And why are there no slaves working in the garden?  “Never Against Virginia” by John Paul Strain

30 comments… add one
  • Jim Apr 10, 2009 @ 5:42

    Please spell it out for me then as it can be easily miscontrued.

  • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2009 @ 5:26

    No I don’t Jim, but I never suggested that this was the case so your point is irrelevant. You missed the point of the post. Perhaps you think that this is an attack on Lee. It actually has very little to do with Lee if you were to get beyond your emotional response.

  • Jim Apr 10, 2009 @ 5:15

    Do you have documentation that says every square yard of property for every minute time was filled with slaves? That’s what I thought. The way you portray it, slaves would come out of his closets and drawers if you opened them.

    I don’t see why you would target this painting without putting it in the context of our other nation’s significant figures. Example: Here are the pilgrims…but where are the natives? This must have been right before they exterminated them.

    Simply unbelievable quality of discussion here.

  • Kevin Levin Feb 21, 2009 @ 4:23

    I just realized that Lee is wearing a “puffy shirt”. Any Seinfeld fans out there?

  • John Buchanan Feb 20, 2009 @ 6:47

    Out in California, BG A.S. Johnston enjoyed a last meal with his subordinates, Win Hancock and Lo Armistead, all the while wondering where his sword was located. Meanwhile, college president William T. Sherman looked out the window of his office at the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy and tried to figure out how quickly he could get back to Saint Louis.

  • Kevin Levin Feb 20, 2009 @ 1:03


    I’m not surprised by anything when it comes to this blog. It’s always nice to be able to laugh a bit given the nature of Civil War memory, which is often divisive and highly emotional. Than again, I am certain that some people out there are not laughing and think that this is just more evidence of my “carpetbagger” mentality. Wait…that’s pretty funny too.

  • Phil LeDuc Feb 19, 2009 @ 20:45

    Kevin, are you ever amused/bemused/surprised by the number of responses that a particular post will draw? I’m getting plenty of enjoyment (and some food for thought) from the reponses to this one. I find it really interesting how certain topics – often of a pop culture nature or the like – will often draw significantly more responses and comments than a posting regarding a more “heavyweight” subject. Civil War art always seems to be good for quite a few comments, as are a few other “hot-button” topics I’ve encountered over the last 2-3 years in the CW blogosphere (and those topics, like A-Rod’s cousin, shall be left nameless.)

    Continued success – and fun – in the classroom and with the blog.

  • Michael Lynch Feb 19, 2009 @ 16:55

    Indeed, not a bonded servant to be found. Maybe they should start selling these things with optional decals for those who want their art to mirror life. Just peel off the backing, and presto! A ragamuffin slave to stick right onto the canvas.

    Suggested word balloon to paste above Armistead’s head in a Pickett’s Charge print: “Forward, Virginians! But while we’re all here, let me take this opportunity to reiterate that this whole thing started over the extension of slavery into the territories!”

    And then we could have counter-decals for Lost Cause enthusiasts. “Holy crap, there are a lot of blacks fighting in this army.”

    Basically, I think these artists are just trying to make a buck selling pictures, and they’re smart enough to know that most people would rather fill that blank space above the fireplace with something dramatic or inspiring than use it to engage in serious history. You don’t see many paintings of bloated corpses sprawled in the Petersburg trenches, either, but I think it has more to do with taste than a concerted effort to sanitize war.


  • Greg Rowe Feb 19, 2009 @ 16:35

    I am finding all of this amazingly amusing…don’t have a heart attack, Kevin! Don’t look into the light! Check out my latest blog post and you’ll see why. 🙂

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 15:41

    Jackson surveyed the scene at Arlington, the profusion of flowers, and Lee in his tight black pants, velour vest, high black boots and open necked flowing pirate shirt. Jesus, that’s over the top, thought Lee’s trusted lieutenant, little realizing his own name would be forver linked with a milestone in the gay rights movment.

  • John Hoptak Feb 19, 2009 @ 15:27

    Looking at it again, maybe he’s prentending to strum out a few power chords on his guitar…er…sword; maybe that’s why he’s outside, his wife had enough of him playing “Guitar Hero” in the house?

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 14:52

    Johnson flailed wildly, but his prey easily eluded the bald general. Then he heard the quiet, but unmistakable words of command. “Bootsie! Mr. Whiskers!” The two felines immediately tumbled purring to Lee’s booted feet. “They obey only me, Joe” Lee said sternly. Johnson seethed at the catty insolence. Although by rights the senior general of the Confederacy, he realized that he would never be painted, or grace a calender.

    Well, he thought, neither will any of the thousands of black Confederates, or those fucking cats.

  • Ken Noe Feb 19, 2009 @ 13:11

    Angered that Winfield Scott’s dogs Hasty and Plate of Soup had injured his beloved cat and rabbit, Lee prepared to clobber them with George Washington’s sword. “I suppose I’ll have to resign after this,” he mused, “good thing Virginia seceded.” Meanwhile, at the front of the house, Nathan Bedford Forrest decided it was time to quietly lead his horse back to Tennessee, as the rabbit had put the skeer in him. He knew that at least he would appear in many more paintings.

  • Woodrowfan Feb 19, 2009 @ 12:58

    there’s something missing. Is this painting on black velvet. if it’s not, it should be….

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 12:42

    “Lee looked over his beloved Arlington as Mittens and YumYum played with the saber chain of his sword.” Tragically, Stonewall is allegic, the great gray chieftain mused. This war has cost us all so much.

  • Sara Bearss Feb 19, 2009 @ 12:30

    I understand the artist’s wish to depict dogs because of their iconic meaning of loyalty, but Lee was in fact a cat owner and lover. And his daughter Agnes kept pet rabbits and chickens. But I suppose it would look *really* silly to show Lee in the garden at Arlington, petting Tom Tita the cat, offering a carrot to the rabbit, and throwing corn to the chickens . . .

    • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2009 @ 12:34

      Hi Sara,

      Yeah, I just don’t see how a couple of cats would fit into that whole cavalier image thing that Lee’s got going on.

  • Tom Feb 19, 2009 @ 8:57

    The painting and the comments are hilarious. Thank you everyone. I really like the idea of the companion piece of Grant in his tannery. Actually, how about a set of trading cards showing ALL the Civil War Generals deciding where there allegiance belonged?

    And don’t leave out that other Virginian, George Thomas who had a decision to make about whether his loyalties were with his state or his country.

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:20

    Checking out Lee’s high, polished boots, disco era shirt and porn mustache. I would have said it was impossible to make Robert E. Lee look gay. I stand corrected.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:36

      It’s good to know that I will not be alone in hell.

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:18

    Is the guy way in the back with the minature ponies a slave?

    “Determined to resist the brutal hand of slavery, he quietly led the minature ponies, or possibly the pony shaped goats, to feast on the general’s beloved garden. Take that cruel oppressor!”

    • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:19


      I think you are having way too much fun with this. Please continue.

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:15

    With the high boots, big sleeved shirt and obvious toy sword, Lee looks determined to win the role of “Pirate King” at the local production of “Pirates of Penzance.”

  • matt mckeon Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:12

    Lee is playing fetch with the dog, using his sword?

    “I’ll never draw my sword against my native state. However I will toss it for my dog to bring back. I love my dogs.”

  • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2009 @ 7:05


    Thanks for the link. What I love about it is that it adds an extra layer of interpretation to the print that the author had no intention/interest in acknowledging.


    I think both John Paul Strain and Mort Kunstler are secretly in love with Thomas Kinkade.

  • Chris Evans Feb 19, 2009 @ 6:59

    I agree that the face and the eyes are really lifeless. I think that they should do a companion piece with Grant working in the tannery deciding to go to war. Those two paintings could hang proudly together in someone’s living room.

  • Chris Paysinger Feb 19, 2009 @ 6:44

    That looks as if Thomas Kinkade (I think that is the artist that does all of the flowery, overblown stuff) has taken up Civil War art. That may be one of the worst Lee renderings I’ve seen. I prefer the old Kurz and Allison prints to the new stuff.

  • Bill Bergen Feb 19, 2009 @ 6:17

    He is sitting in the rose garden very near the spot where US Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs purposely buried Union soldiers as part of an effort to ensure Lee would never again live at the house. Here is the NPS account:

    Unintentional irony seems to be a common ingredient in CW art . . .

  • John Hoptak Feb 19, 2009 @ 4:56

    Perhaps he’s about to send the dogs after them (as soon as the one wakes up), and he’ll be there, sword in hand, when they return?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2009 @ 5:02

      Jeez…and I’m the one who has the reputation of being anti-Lee. 🙂

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