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Another picture of Confederate general raises controversy in Culpeper-this time it's Gen. Robert E. Lee

 The Lee picture bears a handwritten dedication to the UDC from Edith Stearns Gray.
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Date published: 2/4/2011


Confederate Civil War generals just seem to stay in the news in Culpeper.

For nearly a decade, the portrait of Gen. A.P. Hill, a Culpeper native, has been a center of controversy. Now a picture--actually two pictures in a single frame--of Gen. Robert E. Lee have been brought into the fray.

In a terse letter to the Board of Supervisors, an attorney representing the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Warren Rifles Museum in Front Royal questioned the location of the Lee picture.

"Specifically, where is the General Robert Edward Lee portrait that was hung in the courthouse back in September of 1935?" Manassas attorney David Silek asked in his letter, dated Jan. 31.

The Lee picture was hung at about the same time that the UDC presented the Hill portrait to the county. The chapter reclaimed the Hill painting last year in a dispute over its display in the Culpeper museum; it now hangs in the Front Royal museum.

After the board received Silek's letter just before its Tuesday meeting, the hunt began for the Lee picture.

Historian George Bryson said he remembered seeing and cataloging the picture some years ago at the Museum of Culpeper History, but it seemed to have disappeared after that.

As it turns out, the Lee picture is safe and secure.

"We found it in the vault [Wednesday] night," museum curator Lee Langston-Harrison said yesterday afternoon.

Langston-Harrison, who had heard about Silek's letter just hours before, said she happened on the artifact while getting the museum ready for its spring opening today.

"I thought, 'Is this the picture that everyone's worried about?'" she said.

It was.

The frame contains a picture of Lee as a cadet during his days at West Point and another of the famed Confederate general during the Civil War. Beneath the first likeness is a piece of a Confederate battle flag.

The back bears the following handwritten inscription:

"Presented to the Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter, Culpeper, Virginia, January 18, 1934.

"In admiration for the greatest military leader of all time, who combined with his war-like genius a heart of gold tempered with understanding of the frailty of humanity."

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