"Grant & Lee: In War and Peace" (Exhibit/N-Y Historical Society)

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The stories of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War should be well known to most school kids. But a new exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, "Grant & Lee: In War and Peace," explores their lives before and after the war.

The first thing you learn as you enter the temporary gallery is that Grant was a much better artist than Lee. Indeed, while Lee was able to go all four years at West Point without a single demerit and graduated second in his class, his artistic talents left something to be desired. On display here is a crude 1847 pencil sketch of Mexican soldiers trying to capture a farmer's pig for supper.

By contrast, Grant struggled to even graduate near the bottom of his class, but he was a talented watercolorist. One such work, from 1843 and on loan from the West Point Library, depicts Indians bartering for goods, while another, from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, is a beautiful pastoral landscape.

The New-York Historical Society, just 50 miles south of West Point, also reminds us that Lee, class of '29, and Grant, class of '43, were just two of the leading figures from a stellar generation of graduates. Other prominent West Pointers included Jubal Early, class of '37; Abner Doubleday and James Longstreet, class of '42; Stonewall Jackson, class of '46; and Phil Sheridan, class of '53. Along with portraits of these distinguished graduates are artifacts, such as Jackson's riding gloves and Grant's voluminous demerit book....

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