Geography and armies separated them, but Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, the generals of the opposing armies of the Civil War, had a lot in common. Though the Fourth of July is usually tied more to the Revolutionary War, it’s also the opening date for a new exhibit of portrait photography, documentary drawings and artists’ renderings of the two men during the final years of the Civil War that forever fixed them in history. “One Life: Grant and Lee” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will run through next spring’s 150th anniversary of their handshake at Appomattox Court House that ended the war. Here’s how they measured up.
Years between the births of Lee, in 1807, and Grant, in 1822.
Rank of Grant in the West Point class of 1843, which numbered 39. Lee finished second in the class of 1829 in a class of 45 and would go back to run the military academy for three years in 1852.
Generations separating Lee’s wife, Mary Custis, from her great-grandmother, Martha Washington.
Date of the earliest image in the exhibit, a tintype of Grant in uniform, minus beard.
Percent of all Virginian officers in the U.S. Army who remained loyal to the Union. Lee refused to draw his sword upon his home state, resigning from the Union Army in April 1861 to take up the command of Virginia state forces.
Total estimated casualties in the series of Civil War battles in Virginia in May and June 1864, known as the Overland Campaign. Grant’s Union forces suffered about 55,000 losses; Lee’s Confederate Army about 33,600, though it represented a higher percentage of its fighting force.
Days between Lee’s ending the Civil War by surrendering to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, and President Lincoln’s fatal shooting.
Grant’s age when he became president in 1869, the youngest to that date. He had never held elected office.
President. Grant served two terms and considered a third term, but decided against it. He was a leading candidate in the 1880 Republican convention, but James Garfield took the nomination and later won.
Years Lee served as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va., his only postwar job. Upon his death, it was renamed Washington and Lee University. His body is buried on campus.
Age of both Grant and Lee when they died; Grant in 1885, Lee in 1870.
Death masks in the exhibit, one of each man.
States — Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi — that celebrate Lee’s birthday on the same date as Martin Luther King Day.
Dollar bill, the denomination on which Grant’s face has appeared for 101 years.
One Life: Grant and Lee Opens Friday, July 4, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, 8th & F Streets NW, and runs through May 31, 2005. Call 202-633-1000 or visit npg.si.edu.
Catlin is a freelance writer.