THE GATHERING STORMGeneral Robert E. Lee near Salem Church
Orange Plank Road, Virginia - November 20, 1862
Riding past the Salem Church along the Orange Plank Road towards the historic town of Fredericksburg Virginia, General Robert E. Lee felt the gathering of a storm. Reports from his scouts indicated that the Federal Army was massing across the Rappahannock River for another advance. As a northern front was soon to blow rain and then snow across the countryside, it was the job of General Lee commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, to somehow stop the new threat from the Federal Army.
General Robert E. Lee was up to the task. He was born the son of a Revolutionary War hero, General "Light Horse Harry" Lee, who was one of George Washington's cavalry commanders. Robert had been raised by his mother to revere and pattern his life after General Washington. He graduated at the top of his West Point class and distinguished himself in battle during the Mexican War. He had already successfully led his army in the Seven Days' Campaign, the Second Battle of Manassas, and the Battle of Sharpsburg.
As his mentor George Washington had led his country in a revolution for independence, General Lee believed it was his responsibility to do the same. General Washington wore three stars on his uniform signifying his rank, as did General Lee. Lee's horse Traveller was named for one of Washington's favorite mounts. It was said that Lee even packed one of General Washington's swords in his personal baggage for inspiration. As Washington seemed to have been protected during battle, receiving bullet holes in his uniform on a number of occasions, General Lee too never received a serious wound. On a personal reconnaissance to the front in the Second Battle of Manassas he returned with the mark of a Northern sharpshooter's bullet on his face. Most of his generals would either be seriously wounded or killed in the war.
It was now the plan of the Federal Army to mass 120,000 troops at Fredericksburg and overwhelm the Southern Army. But countering with 75,000 men, General Lee held the high ground. The audacity and brilliance of the commander of the southern revolution and his soldiers was about to be demonstrated. The battle of Fredericksburg would be General Robert E. Lee's and the Army of Northern Virginia's greatest victory.
I was excited to be able to feature the Salem Church in the background of my latest painting. So many battlefields and landmarks are being lost by development, it is great that the old church has been preserved as it was during the war and is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The Salem Church served during the battle of Fredericksburg as a refugee center for many civilians who fled the city. Following the Battle of Salem Church during the Chancellorsville campaign, the church was used as a hospital for both armies. In the painting I also portrayed a Confederate cavalry patrol riding along a path that intersects the Orange Plank Road.
This print may still be available on the secondary market.
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