Sep 27, 2018 - Sale 2486

Sale 2486 - Lot 254

Price Realized: $ 1,040
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
(CIVIL WAR--CONFEDERATE.) Photographs of Robert E. Lee's plantation overseer John S. McQuinn and family. 6 tintypes and ambrotypes, various sizes and conditions, covers detached or missing, with early labels pasted to three of the inner cases and somewhat later labels pasted on five outer cases. [Virginia], circa early 1860s

Additional Details

John S. McQuinn (born 1832) served as an overseer at Robert E. Lee's plantation, Arlington House, in what was then Alexandria County, VA. He is listed there in the 1860 census with his family (wife Elizabeth and daughters Caroline, Georgia and Lucy) immediately adjacent to General Lee's own family. His role as overseer is discussed briefly in Elizabeth Brown Pryor's "Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through His Private Letters," page 270, noting an 1859 incident in which the overseer helped tie down a group of escaped slaves for punishment, but refused to whip them, and Lee called in a constable to administer the whipping in a particularly brutal manner. See the testimony of one of the slaves, Wesley Norris, who describes the overseer as "Mr. Gwin." McQuinn's name appears in Lee's account books as an overseer at Arlington.
Offered here are a group of 6 cased images, 5 of them with early identification labels: Mr. Jno S McQuinn, Mrs. J.S. McQuinn born in 1832, George S. McQuinn born in 1853, Lucy A. McQuinn born in 1856, and Ella R. McQuinn born in 1861. These match up nicely with the 1860 census record, with the exception that George was apparently recorded incorrectly in the census as a girl named Georgia. Lucy's label reads "Lucy Ann McQuinn, born Christmas Eve 1856, on Genl. R.E. Lee's farm, Arlington, Virginia." We have little doubt the John S. McQuinn pictured here was General Lee's overseer. We can find no record of him after the war; his children survived but were apparently scattered by 1870.