Sunday, December 29, 2013

Was Confederate General Robert E. Lee Dead In This Photograph?

I have seen this picture many times.  I love looking at old photographs, especially when it is of someone so famous.  This is Robert E. Lee, the most famous Confederate General of the Civil War.  There are many pictures of him out there.  This is reported to be the last picture of him in his Civil War Uniform.  I believe he was dead when this picture was taken..  You can see the stand behind his feet, also called a dead clamp, that may be holding him up.  I can't say for sure about it, but his hands are also clamped shut, which is another tell tale sign.  Opinions?  I find this practice fascinating and I look at old pictures a lot more closely now than I did before. 


Chris said...

Definitely appears to be a post mortem photograph - FOR SURE! Good eye :-) I find the practice of post mortem photography very intriguing as well Kimberly, and put my feelings out there on the subject (not too long ago) on my blog. I never took into consideration that "famous" people from that era would have been propped up for a final picture as well - now you're going to have me stuck on Google Images and Pinterest for the rest of the afternoon seeking some out - ha ha :-) Thanks for sharing! LOVE your blogs and videos by the way - I just came across everything you've put out there after searching for information on Gretchen's Lock ... and I'm real excited about discovering (from you) the Silver Crypt in Wellsville, Ohio! Great stuff - and I've definitely become a fan :-)

Thanks again,
~ Chris

Kimberly Mitchell said...

Thank you! I am fascinated by it as well. Let me know any time about the Silver Crypt. I love an adventure!

Jon Long said...

General Lee did not die until 12 October 1870, while president of Washington College (now Wash & Lee univ), in Lexington,VA, after a brief illness. The stand was used in period photos to hold the subject still during the long exposure time required to make an image. A great deal more structure would be needed to hold a dead man in a vertical position. The General reluctantly stood for this photo, well documented as having been taken by Brady, at the Richmond house that the Lees rented during the latter days of the war. But you may believe as you wish.

Kimberly Mitchell said...

The dead clamp was a simple mechanism that secured the body in a standing position. Here is a story I did about it earlier that shows the actual clamp and examples of people who have passed on being held up by them.
It occurred to me that they may be using it to help steady him however. But the practice was the raging fashion at the time and it is very possible it is a death photo.