Lee at Fredericksburg
Princess Anne Street, 9:40 a.m., November 20, 1862
In Mort Künstler's Own Words:
"I had wanted to do a painting of Fredericksburg for some time. Not only was it a very important battle of the Civil War, but it is a beautiful city. When I learned that no artist had ever painted Lee and Longstreet at Fredericksburg, that was the extra impetus that I needed to begin the project.
Walking through Fredericksburg, Virginia, the appeal and beauty of the city are apparent . The steeples of Princess Anne Street pulled me to them like a magnet. Once I had walked this main street of the city, I knew this was where my painting would take place.
By facing north, near Mason's Hall, I was able to get all three steeples into my view. On the right is the brick courthouse steeple. Further down the street and in the center of the painting is the towering steeple of St. George's Episcopal Church, virtually unchanged since the War. In the far distance, one sees the Baptist Church steeple. The building on the extreme left was a residence at the time and still exists, almost the same as it was in 1862.
I felt the best moment to depict would be the one showing Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet together. I learned that on the morning of November 20th, both Generals rode down Princess Anne Street with their entourages. The citizenry made up primarily of women, children and old men were surprised and delighted to see the famous legend in person and felt their savior had arrived.
The center of interest is, of course, Robert E. Lee, riding on Traveller. To his right is General Longstreet, whom he had ordered to join him in Fredericksburg. Immediately behind them is a trooper carrying a Confederate battle flag. Directly under the flag is Col. Charles Marshall, Lee's aide de camp throughout the war. In back of the flag, between Marshall and Lee is Col. James Corley, Chief Quartermaster. To the left of the clock on the St. George's steeple is Lee's Medical Director, Surgeon Lafayette Guild. Riding in front of him and to the left of the steeple is Major Charles Venable. To his left and tipping his hat to a group of young female admirers is Col. Walter Taylor. To his right and directly behind him is Col. Briscoe Baldwin, Chief of Ordnance. Other officers of both staffs and escort troopers follow.
The mood of the civilians changed dramatically in the next forty eight hours. General Sumner of the Union forces, encamped on the other side of the Rappahannock, sent an ultimatum to the civilian population to evacuate the city or suffer the consequences of shelling. Lee suggested that the imminent battle might make it advisable for the citizens to seek safety. On the night of November 22nd, during a freezing sleet storm, the civilian population evacuated the city. On the morning of December 11th, the first Union shells crashed into the houses and shops of the colonial city.
Fredericksburg would never be the same."