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George P. A. Healy
Oil on canvas
31½ x 39¼ in.
Chicago History Museum, Gift of Mr. Frank G. Hoyne
These men must be talking about something important. This painting by the Chicago artist George P. A. Healy captures a solemn meeting on March 27, 1865, between Abraham Lincoln, and, left to right, his generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, and Admiral David Porter, aboard the ship River Queen at City Point, Virginia. The River Queen was General Grant’s headquarters during the last months of the war, and this scene occurred as the war neared its end. General Sherman had just completed his devastating march from Savannah, Georgia, to North Carolina, defeating Confederate efforts to stop his onward progress. Union forces were also very close to victory in Virginia.
The leaders met to discuss next steps if what seemed likely—Union victory—actually occurred. Lincoln had called for mercy in his second inaugural address, delivered a few weeks before this meeting took place: “With malice toward none; with charity for all…let us strive…to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” In this meeting, he also set forward a policy of generous treatment for former Confederates. Completed three years after the war ended, Healy’s painting thus pays tribute to Lincoln and the military officers who won the war, but who also stood ready to put the Union back together again. Lincoln appears to be listening closely to the advice of Sherman, while General Grant and Admiral Porter look on. Do you see the rainbow behind Lincoln? The artist placed it there as a sign of peace and hope.
1. What is the overall effect or mood of the painting? Do these men look like they are close to winning the war?
2. Several people said Lincoln often struck this pose in real life. How would you describe it?
3. Why do you think Lincoln wanted to approach the post-war period in a peaceful way?
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