"Lee and his Generals" Photograph

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#21
What a weight to live with. All those orphaned children. I know George Washington’s tent was sold from Arlington to help support widows of the Confederacy.
I wouldn't be surprised if this photo has appeared here before, but I am unfamiliar with it. Taken, at White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, in August of 1869.
The men were meeting there to discuss aid for "the orphaned children of the Lost Cause". This is the only from life photograph of Lee with his Generals in existence, during the war or after.

Left to right standing: General James Conner, General Martin Witherspoon Gary, General John B. Magruder, General Robert D. Lilley, General P. G. T. Beauregard, General Alexander Lawton, General Henry A. Wise, General Joseph Lancaster Brent Left to right seated: Blacque Bey (Turkish Minister to the United States), General Robert E. Lee, Philanthropist George Peabody, Philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran, James Lyons (Virginia)
 

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byron ed

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#23
top dogs don't stand in the second row - they sit in the first
Since when has that been a thing? So, so many military units, sports teams, whatever -- say Supreme Court portraits even -- don't involve that logic at all. It's completely unique to each setting, there is no expected position of honor whatsoever. If you're seeing that in this photo, well ok.

You realize that, since the dark ages of group photography, the reason the front row has to be lower than the back row is so all can be seen, nothing particularly significant about the positions. For sports teams there is a bit of a preference for coaches to be left or right, but for fraternal or military unit photos it's all over the board.
 
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byron ed

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#25
it's not a schoolclass
?? -- it's a group of former military officers with a political notable.

If you perceive that being seated in this photo indicates higher status, well ok. There's no particular tradition for seated status even with military unit and service group poses. I'll mention GAR poses in this very era, since most of us have seen dozens. It's just not a thing.
 
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John Hartwell

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#26
But, it was very much "a thing." You mention GAR groups. OK, that is a group photo of general membership, in which rank is relatively unimportant. But, if it is 'General X and his staff,' for instance, Genl. X will be front and center (the place of honor)-- if he is not sitting, nobody will be. If there's only one chair, he will be in it. Look at any photos in which there is a definite "head honcho", he will be in front, often seated; with very rare exceptions.
upload_2018-7-1_21-44-43.jpeg
Major+General+Daniel+Sickles+and+his+staff+following+the+Battle+of+Gettysburg,+1863.jpg


f031ec53a073ece151a2cbec571e5a9f--civil-war-us-the-photo.jpg

And many, many more. Just check these out!
 
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#27
?? -- it's a group of former military officers with a political notable.

If you perceive that being seated in this photo indicates higher status, well ok. There's no particular tradition for seated status even with military unit and service group poses. I'll mention GAR poses in this very era, since most of us have seen dozens. It's just not a thing.
okay

2nd row: 8 generals, of which beauregard is definately the most important one. and there he is: smack in the middle on a soapbox flanked by by seven rather obscure ones.

1st row: in the middle the really rich guy (they needed cash right?), to his right side robert e lee (can't get any more topdoggy in the cs-army, can it?), to his left another rich guy. on the flanks: the turkish minister (probably to add some 'colour') and james lyons, a confederate politician (henry a wise is older but he's only a guy with a gun)

are you telling me that's coincidence? in a society that was anything but class-less? no way!
 

byron ed

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#30
...are you telling me that's coincidence? in a society that was anything but class-less? no way!
No, I only meant that seated is not the default position of honor for group photos of the period. For every photo found of it there are others not so. If you look only for what you're looking for you will find it -- that's a common approach of amateur historians, and I've been guilty of it myself so will not be effete about it.
 
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byron ed

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#31
But, it was very much "a thing." You mention GAR groups. OK, that is a group photo of general membership, in which rank is relatively unimportant.
This is a post-war photo of civilians meeting to discuss aid for orphaned children, where rank is not designated. This is not a photo of the genre "war time General X and his staff." It's a group of veterans promoting a public cause, so the better comparison is to that genre of photos; post-war GAR and the like.

You found some nice war-time photos of commanders and their staffs showing rank in the center and seated. Ok, an alternate topic to explore. But even there we see images that instead put rank at one end or the other and standing. There was no official military protocol on it during the war, let alone the period we're discussing here.

In any event this is nowhere near the level of a cause, imho.
 
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byron ed

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#33
I don't think there is the slightest possibility that Robert E. Lee was not considered the "big man," the focal point of that gathering, its most important figure
Yes I agree. There's no doubt Lee is the "big man" in the group, it's most important figure. But the point is that he is the focal point of the photo because of who he was --not for being seated and in the front row. That wasn't particularly de rigueur for such photos.

Lee could have been placed at either end and/or standing and no one then or now would find it unusual or inappropriate. In this instance I think the photographer made a good choice, but not to make more of it than that.
 
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