Henry Shrady died before he finished the statue of Robert E. Lee and Traveler. Leo Lentelli completed the work, and it was dedicated in 1924. Shrady died in 1922 just weeks before the dedication of the Ulysses S. Grant memorial at the Capital in Washington DC. He worked on the Grant piece for 20 years. Some say his death was from stress and overwork.
Jerry Harlow is the President of the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation. He says the statue showed “Lee in defeat”. Lee was holding his hat in his right hand and was upright in the saddle. Traveler appeared to have his head bowed. Lee was looking down. It was a somber depiction.
Henry Merwin Shrady was born in New York. His father was one of the physicians who cared for Grant at the end of his life. Like Grant, he was a failed businessman. His first commissioned piece was George Washington at Valley Forge. This is an equestrian statue located at Continental Army Plaza in Brooklyn, New York.
It is true that Robert E. Lee is not erased from history by the barbarians who destroyed Shrady’s art. No, Robert E. Lee is too ingrained in the American psyche and too much a part of both 19th and 20th century Americana. What they have and are destroying is the history of great works of art and all the connections to those people of the 19th and 20th centuries and how they saw the country. That Virginians and New Yorkers were commissioning the same artists to memorialize the great men who shaped the country.
Future generations will look back on this history of ruin and wonder what happened. They will see the connections to other acts of savagery in history and wonder how Americans became like the French and Russians. The answer will be that average Americans did not understand what was happening and those who could have stopped it chose not to. Some say this is a precursor to worse. It does not have to be the “eve of destruction”.