On Easter Sunday 1865, the renowned Civil War photographer Mathew B. Brady set up his camera on the basement-level back porch of a house at 707 Franklin St. in Richmond. It was tense in the former Confederate capital. President Abraham Lincoln had died the day before at the hands of an assassin. The main Confederate army had surrendered the previous Sunday. And a huge fire had consumed much of the city April 3. Despite that, however, Brady was about to score one of the photographic scoops of his time.
Onto the brick walkway behind the house strode the man renting it, Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander of the vanquished rebel Army of Northern Virginia. He wore an elegant gray uniform and shined shoes and had a look of dignity and sublime sadness. Perhaps only Brady could have persuaded Lee to pose for a picture at such a time. Only Brady had the moxie to ask.
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Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation