Is This What James Longstreet Meant?

"Forever Marching" by Ed MurinA historian friend of mine recently decided that he needs to add another 22 ft of shelf space to his library.  To achieve this he decided to unload some back issues of the old Civil War magazine and asked if I was interested.  Of course, I jumped at the offer and within a short period of time I found myself with issues going back to the mid-1980s.  I don’t remember the magazine when it was known as Civil War Quarterly, but I am quite impressed with the quality of the writing.  One issue in particular stood out, which featured an article on Lee at Gettysburg by Kent Masterson Brown and a painting of Lee that I have never seen before [Jan-Feb 1993].  The painting is titled, “Forever Marching” and was done by Ed Murin.  I tried to find some information about Murin, but came up short.  Since I couldn’t find an image Online I took one with my camera which you can see here.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this image of Lee.  I would place it on the extreme opposite end of those silly prints of Lee reading to a child or praying with Jackson. [How about the jigsaw puzzle version?]  As far as I can tell the closest image to Murin’s is L.M.D. Guillaume’s “Gen. Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville.”  Lee appears bloodthirsty as he sends his men into battle and over what appears to be the graves of their comrades.  What I find so striking is Lee’s eyes, which seem utterly lifeless.

Is this what James Longstreet meant when he noted in his memoir that at Gettysburg “Lee’s blood was up”?  And is this a side of Lee that we would rather not be reminded of?

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8 comments… add one
  • matt mckeon May 25, 2009

    Paintings not done from life may tell us more about the artist than the subject.

    If you suggest that Lee, in the heat of battle, became a dead eyed, soulless killing machine(zombie Lee), well maybe, I wasn’t there.

    Lee’s usual kindly, courtly image doesn’t capture his aggressiveness and desire to close with and destroy his opponents, or his acceptance of the heavy casualities his tactics entailed. All major Civil War commanders came to terms with the deaths their actions(let alone their mistakes) resulted in, and continued to function.* As noted by Gallenger and others, a guiding principle for Lee was the idea of self control, that if an officer couldn’t command others, if he couldn’t command himself.

    My two cents: Lee in battle was more intensely focused, more intensely present than at other times. Maybe the best image of Lee in battle was the Matthew Brady photo a few days after the war with Lee glaring at the camera.

    *the exception being McClellan

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2009


      You said: “Paintings not done from life may tell us more about the artist than the subject.”

      I completely agree. I am not referring to anything more than how the artist depicts Lee along with Longstreet’s postwar comment.

  • matt mckeon May 25, 2009

    The dominant colors are reds and blacks in the painting. The Soviet social realist style pictures(on sale in fine stores near you) in vogue currently emphasis greys and whites, the only patch of red being the battle flag, or rarely somebodies shirt. A surprising number at set in winter landscapes.

    Lee paintings I mean, Union themed painting have plenty of blues, zouave reds, flags etc.

  • Daniel May 26, 2009

    If you look really closely at the front three CS soldiers in the painting, I think they might be black Confederates. Perhaps this long lost painting might be the holy grail of black Confederate studies. Also, there are good reasons sometimes when a painting is forgotten.

  • Bill Hagan Jun 16, 2009

    The Ed Murin painting Forever Marching will be sold at public auction on june 20th at Sheehans Auction,Old Fort NC at 6pm along several other Murin paintings some on the Civil War. If intrested contact John Czeder at 828-668-9246 or Bill at 828-665-8432.

  • Sophia Murin Aug 5, 2010

    This painting was done by my FATHER!!!! RIght now I want to cry because my father is the greatest man I have ever known, so noble, hardworking and humble!!! To see this beautiful recognition written about him makes me so happy and I would love to put you in touch with him.. He and my mother live in a small little place just outside of Asheville North Carolina- This will bring so much joy to him just these kind words as he is a simple humble man- but like I said the greatest man I have ever known and artistic talent unbelievable!!! Thank you so warmly for writing those kind words about my father.


    Sophia Murin

  • Sophia Aug 31, 2012

    Ed murin is my father!!!! He’s a hard working wonderful man!

    • Kevin Levin Aug 31, 2012

      I’m sure he is. I love that image of Lee.

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