Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Thomas Le Mere at the Mathew Brady Studio
Albumen silver print

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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All quiet along the Potomac”

Mathew Brady’s cameraman, Thomas Le Mere, thought that a standing pose of the president would be popular. Lincoln wondered if it could be accomplished in one shot, and this is the successful result. It was taken on April 17, 1863, an interregnum after an eventful winter that saw the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1 and a further reshuffling of the command of the Army of the Potomac following the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.


Joseph Hooker replaced the hapless Ambrose Burnside, refitted the army, and prepared to move south. Striking Lee at Chancellorsville on May 1, Hooker obtained a strong initial advantage but was undone by Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson’s audacious flank attack on the Union right, just as the sun set on the battle’s first day. Demoralized, Hooker withdrew, allowing Lee to invade the North for the second time.

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