Any guesses? See the answer below. The mystery item is the painting titled Peace in Union, a representation of General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
|The original Peace in Union. I'm afraid my photograph doesn't|
do justice to this expansive and impressive piece.
In the early 1890s former Galena resident turned Chicago newspaperman Herman Kohlsaat commissioned artist Thomas Nast to paint Lee's surrender. Nast was a well-known 19th century illustrator, political cartoonist and artist who originated the images of Uncle Sam and Santa Claus.
After two years of research Thomas Nast presented his painting to the city of Galena on April 9, 1895, thirty years to the day after the end of the Civil War.
What sort of research went into this painting? Nast discovered the different personalities of Grant's Generals, and their reverence for Grant or disdain for Lee or for the proceedings is apparent in their expressions. Nast also knew that General Lee arrived at the courthouse nattily attired in his best uniform, while General Grant—true to form—sported scuffed boots and a worn jacket.
These details are easily evident on the massive and impressive original 9'x12' canvas.
Representatives from the Smithsonian Institution have visited Galena three times to try and convince the good citizens of Galena to sell this painting to the Smithsonian's American History Museum. But the museum's reps have been unable to put a price on this historic masterpiece, and Galena isn't selling.
After all, Peace in Union is without doubt the most famous representation of the most important moment in American history.
Upon entering the Galena and U.S. Grant Museum visitors are escorted into a room to view an introductory video. Life-size holographic images of Ulysses and Julia Grant appear on the screen to welcome patrons to the museum and to the town.
Throughout the presentation Julia affectionately refers to Ulysses as "Lyss". At the end of the video Ulysses turns to the audience and says:
“History doesn’t just happen, it’s made by people like you and me.” Yes, that may be true.
But some folks, “Lyss”, make a lot more history than others.