Lincoln's Drive Through Richmond

Click image to enlarge

Lincoln’s Drive Through Richmond
Dennis Malone Carter
Oil on canvas
45 x 68 in.
Chicago History Museum, Gift of Mr. Philip K. Wrigley
1955.398, ICHi-52424

The artist Dennis Malone Carter captured one of the Civil War’s most dramatic events: Lincoln’s visit to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, on April 4, 1865. The day before, the city had fallen into Union army hands, signaling the end of the Civil War. Now, Lincoln wanted to visit the city and took along his youngest son, Tad.  Accompanied only by a few officers and sailors, Lincoln and Tad walked through the city streets to the White House of the Confederacy, once inhabited by President Jefferson Davis and his family, but now deserted. At first, only small crowds began to gather, mostly cheering African Americans whose freedom had been gained by the terrible war. After touring the home and meeting with the Union army officer in charge of the occupation, Lincoln drove through the city in an open-air carriage. This time, even larger crowds greeted him. Malone’s painting features this second part of the visit in a very respectful way. By surrounding Lincoln with light, Malone suggested a sacred quality to the president. In painting the crowd, the artist has included more white people than actually attended Lincoln’s ride. Though some whites loyal to the Union came out to see the president, the vast majority of those who gathered around his carriage were African American. Notice, as well, that although men are tossing their hats in the air to celebrate Lincoln’s arrival, the scene depicts the burned out buildings of heavily damaged Richmond, a somber reminder of war’s destructive powers.

1. How did the artist convey a sense of the crowd’s excitement and the excitement of the moment?

2. Why might Malone have included so many white people in the crowd?
3. Compare Malone’s painting with Gus Nall’s Lincoln Speaks to Freedmen on the Steps of the Capital at Richmond. How would you explain the differences in style and content in the paintings?

© Chicago History Museum
For information about reproducing collection images, please contact Rights and Reproductions at the Chicago History Museum.