Arts & Culture

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Mar 26, 2015 - Nov 29, 2015

Beard Wars

The American Civil War (1861-1865) coincided with a rise in the popularity of men’s full facial hair during the mid-19th century. Contemporary photography captured men’s experimentation with an endless variety of styles, including mustaches, muttonchops, underbeards and sideburns. President Abraham Lincoln embraced the widespread trend himself when he grew his iconic beard in 1860.

Now as then, facial hair conveys meaning regarding masculinity, class, religious belief, and social conformity. This type of self-expression is not only intensely personal but also tied to larger community values. One hundred fifty years since Civil War generals enhanced their wartime visages with whiskers, facial hair is back in a big way. Men’s fashion is seeing resurging interest in facial hair.

In Richmond, some residents give their beards and ‘staches a greater purpose. Founded in 2011, the RVA Beard League is a collection of facial hair aficionados who are committed not simply to style but to community involvement. Not limited to men, the organization includes the RVA Beard League Whiskerinas, female members who create artificial beards. The League’s more than 200 members serve as “RVAmbassadors,” who volunteer widely in the city and compete nationally. Its annual Mid-Atlantic Beard and ‘Stache Championships is a popular showdown that benefits a local charity.

In partnership with Richmond photographer Terry Brown and the RVA Beard League, Beard Wars faces off portraits of Civil War generals against those of League members. Although the Civil War has long since ended, Beard Wars unfolds today. You decide who wins!

Robere del Follicle
Brig. Gen. George B. Cosby

Robere del Follicle, elder lord, Lords of Heck

Born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey

 

Why did you select this Civil War general?

We clearly reflect one another: whispy moustache, the beginning of a notable mullet, and we are both known for unconditional surrender to the cause.

Brig. Gen. George B. Cosby

Born in Louisville, Kentucky (1830-1909)

 

Prior to joining the Confederate States Army, George B. Cosby was a cavalry instructor at West Point. During the war, he famously delivered the note of surrender of the Confederate-held Fort Donelson to General Ulysses S. Grant, a major turning point for the Union in the Western Theater (1862). Grant’s capture of the fort put Tennessee’s Cumberland River under Union control.

 

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General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant
Domenick Casuccio

General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant

Born in Point Pleasant, Ohio (1822-1885)

 

As a result of his decisive military victories in the West, Ulysses S. Grant was appointed general-in-chief of all Union armies in 1864. In this role, Grant oversaw the Overland Campaign (1864), the siege of Richmond (1865) and Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House (1865). Following the war, Grant served as 18th President of the United States (1869-1877).

 

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Domenick Casuccio, public relations and marketing director, The Valentine

Born in Fairmont, West Virginia

 

Why did you select this Civil War general?

I wrote a report on Ulysses S. Grant for my U.S. History class in grade school. He also had red hair and blue eyes.

General-in-chief Robert E. Lee
José DeJesús

General-in-chief Robert E. Lee

Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia (1807-1870)

 

Famously declining President Lincoln’s offer to command the Union armies in 1861, Robert E. Lee became the Confederacy’s most renowned general. Commanding the Army of Northern Virginia for most of the war, Lee became general-in-chief of all rebel armies in February 1865. Following his surrender at Appomattox Court House (1865), Lee served as president of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University.

 

Photograph by Vannerson, 1864, Cook Collection

José DeJesús, licensed physical therapy assistant

Born in Cayey, Puerto Rico

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

I was unable to grow a beard in the military. After I got out in 2012, I started growing my first “Freedom Beard.”

Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke
Jesse Carter

Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke

Born at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri (1833-1891)

 

A Harvard-trained engineer, John Rogers Cooke was the brother-in-law of fellow Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. He sustained serious injuries throughout the war during the battles of Antietam (1862), Fredericksburg (1862), Bristoe Station (1863) and Spotsylvania (1864). Following the war, Cooke became an active organizer among Confederate veterans and helped to found the Confederate Soldiers’ Home in Richmond.

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Jesse Carter, business development

Born in Lynchburg, Virginia

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

I started in college and since then I’ve always had a certain amount of “scruff.” It frames my face nicely and is easier than shaving daily.

Rear Adm. John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren
Sarah Willis

Rear Adm. John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1809-1870)

 

John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren headed the U.S. Navy’s ordnance department during the war. In this role, Dahlgren oversaw advances in naval weaponry that were employed throughout the conflict. Commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Dahlgren provided sea support to William Tecumseh Sherman’s capture of Savannah, Georgia, in 1864.

 

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Sarah Willis, scientist

Born in Richmond, Virginia

 

What is your preferred facial hair style?

I really enjoy making beards out of unusual materials. Full beards pose so many challenges – it’s fun! For this look, I went with a ‘stache and chops similar to Dahlgren’s. I chose bells and metallic beads because I like shiny things and felt it would photograph well.

Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart
Gordon Glover

Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart

Born in Patrick County, Virginia (1833-1864) 

 

Beginning in 1862, J.E.B. Stuart served as chief of cavalry for the Army of Northern Virginia. Stuart was the tactical eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee, notable for his intelligence-seeking “rides around McClellan” during the Peninsular Campaign (1862) and at Chambersburg (1862). Known for his bravado, Stuart was fatally wounded during the Battle of Yellow Tavern (1864).

 

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Gordon Glover, systems administrator

Born in Chester, Virginia

 

What is your preferred facial hair style?

I prefer the full beard myself. I have experimented with many different types, and this look definitely suits me.

Maj. Gen. William Mahone
Chad Roberts

Maj. Gen. William Mahone

Born in Southampton County, Virginia (1826-1895)  

 

Nicknamed “Little Billy” for his small frame, William Mahone received recognition for his performance at the Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg (1864). General Lee identified Mahone as one of his best young generals. During Reconstruction, Mahone was a leader within Virginia’s Readjuster Party, a biracial political coalition. He served as Virginia’s U.S. senator from 1881 to 1887.

 

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Chad Roberts, IT engineer

Born in Willamette Valley, Oregon

 

Why did you join the RVA Beard League?

I founded the RVA Beard League in 2011 as a way to help bring together the people of Richmond. We act as facial hair ambassadors in the community with the mission of putting a new face on the outdated, negative stereotypes associated with beards and mustaches.

Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge
Herb Hill

Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge

Born near Lexington, Kentucky (1821-1875) 

 

The Democratic challenger to Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860, John C. Breckinridge served as Confederate Secretary of War (1865) following years of Confederate military service. In this role, Breckinridge oversaw the transfer of Richmond to Union troops in April 1865. Exiling himself after the surrender, Breckinridge returned to the United States in 1868 under amnesty offered by President Andrew Johnson.

 

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Herb Hill, managing director, policy, planning and research

Raised in Richmond, Virginia

 

Why did you join the RVA Beard League?

Good, clean fun! The group is made up of great people who are socially committed to improving our community. They are continually giving of their time and resources to a number of well-deserving social causes. Also, a wide variety of facial hair styles is both encouraged and accommodated. The RVA Beard League is recognized as one of the best – if not the best – organizations of its type in the country.

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock
Ed H.

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock

Born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (1824-1886)

 

Hailed for repulsing Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg (1863), Winfield Scott Hancock became a wartime Union hero. At Gettysburg, he was severely wounded in his thigh, a lifelong injury that challenged his mobility. Following the war, Hancock unsuccessfully ran as the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 1880, losing to James Garfield.

 

Cook Collection

Ed H., global IT systems manager

Born in Hopewell, Virginia

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

Current facial hair configuration began more than 15 years ago. I have had some variation of facial hair since I was 16.

Lieut. Gen. James E. Longstreet
Phil Weinman

Lieut. Gen. James E. Longstreet

Born in Edgefield District, South Carolina (1821-1904)

 

A highly regarded corps commander, James Longstreet’s reliability and talents aided Confederate victories at the Second Battle of Bull Run (1862), Fredericksburg (1862), and Chickamauga (1863). However, Longstreet’s record was overshadowed by his public disagreement with and criticism of General Lee’s offensive strategy at Gettysburg (1863). Following the war, Longstreet was an active Republican supporter of Reconstruction, further complicating Confederate memory of his wartime service.

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Phil Weinman, business consultant

Born in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia

 

Why did you select this Civil War general?

I chose General Longstreet, who is closest in appearance to my current look. I’m a good, old southern boy, raised on a farm, huntin’, fishin’ as long as I can remember. I am a Southerner through and through.

Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan
Kevin Orlosky

Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan

Born in Albany, New York (1831-1888)

 

Philip H. Sheridan was the Union’s premier cavalry general, best-known for the Shenandoah Valley Campaign (1864). Following General Grant’s order to leave the valley a “barren waste,” Sheridan destroyed the Confederacy’s ability to provide sustenance to its armies. After the war, Sheridan received promotion to General of the Army (1888), a rank that retired with his death.

 

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Kevin Orlosky, co-founder/director of programs, Art on Wheels

Born in Hershey, Pennsylvania

 

Why did you join the RVA Beard League?

I met several of the Beard League members on the film set of Lincoln (2012), and they encouraged me to join. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet new people. The League has a lot of great people who love to volunteer and help to better the community.

Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett
Dan Kanach

Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett

Born in Richmond, Virginia (1825-1875) 

 

George E. Pickett led the infamous charge against Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg (1863), a costly Confederate failure. Pickett failed to redeem himself militarily following Gettysburg and fled to Canada in the war’s aftermath. He returned in 1866 and settled with his wife Sallie in Norfolk, Virginia. Both are buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.

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Dan Kanach, animator

Born in Annandale, Virginia

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

In 2010, I was working freelance video and no longer had to follow more conservative maintenance styles. My kids and wife love it and won’t let me trim it too much.

Brig. Gen. Patrick T. Moore
Patrick Quinn

Brig. Gen. Patrick T. Moore

Born in Galway, Ireland (1821-1883)

 

At the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford (1861), Patrick T. Moore was severely wounded and did not hold field service for the remainder of the war. Rather, Moore served as aide-de-camp to both Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Lieutenant General James Longstreet, in addition to serving as judge advocate general. Moore is buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond.

 

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Patrick Quinn, construction

Born in Powhatan, Virginia

 

Why did you select this Civil War general?

I loved General Moore’s personal story and Friendly Mutton Chops, which is a beard without hair on the chin but with a mustache. Almost three years ago right before St. Patrick’s Day, my wife asked if I would shave my beard because it scratched her chin. I shaved my chin and ended up with the Friendly Mutton Chops.

Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside
Amy Roberts

Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside

Born in Liberty, Indiana (1824-1881)

 

After President Lincoln removed George B. McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac, Ambrose E. Burnside took on the leadership role with hesitation. Lacking military experience, Burnside suffered disastrous defeats and was removed in 1863. He served as both the governor of and U.S. senator from Rhode Island after the war. His distinctive facial hair style coined the term “sideburn.”

Cook Collection

Amy Roberts, pastry chef

Born in Hampton, Virginia

 

Why did you select this Civil War general?

My parents are Yankees, and I knew I wanted a Union general. Plus, I thought crafting chops like Burnside’s would be fun! I started crafting beards when we held our first competition locally. It was so much fun, and all the women who compete are awesome!

Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays
Joshua Watts

Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays

Born in Wilson County, Tennessee (1820-1876)

 

Harry T. Hays commanded the “Louisiana Tigers” brigade known for their fearlessness and lack of discipline. Notably, Hays led the brigade in a twilight assault against Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg (1863). As the Confederacy unraveled in May 1865, Hays was recommended to major general, though the promotion was never approved.

 

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Joshua Watts, senior network engineer

Born in Great Mills, Maryland

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

A girl who I was very fond of in college said that I would look good with a beard.

Lieut. Gen. Wade Hampton 

Lieut. Gen. Wade Hampton

Born in Charleston, South Carolina (1818-1902)

 

The son of wealthy South Carolinian plantation owners, Wade Hampton raised his own military unit, Hampton’s Legion, at the outbreak of the war. Following J.E.B. Stuart’s death at the Battle of Yellow Tavern (1864), Hampton assumed Stuart’s command of the cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Hampton served as governor of and U.S. senator from South Carolina after the war.

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Dave Hall, logistics coordinator

Born in Radford, Virginia

 

Why did you join the RVA Beard League?

I moved to Richmond two years ago and was looking for a way to meet like-minded people. The Beard League was perfect: a group that has a social as well as a charitable agenda…and loves beer to boot!

Maj. Gen. George G. Meade
Wes McQuillen

Maj. Gen. George G. Meade

Born in Cadiz, Spain (1815-1872) 

 

Civil engineer George G. Meade was a talented topographer known for his ability to predict troop movements. Meade received command of the Army of the Potomac days prior to facing off against and defeating Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg (1863). During the war’s final campaigns, General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant largely overshadowed Meade’s command by directly managing the Army of the Potomac.

Cook Collection

Wes McQuillen, marketing management

Born in Newport News, Virginia

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

I started when I was 15, but finally stopped shaving and embraced my facial hair back in early 2012 as I began to transition so that people would read me correctly. Competing on stage at the First Annual Mid-Atlantic Beard and Mustache Competition was a pretty public way to come out, and that's where I met the RVA Beard League.

Lieut. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

Lieut. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

Born in Clarksburg, Virginia present-day West Virginia (1824-1863) 

 

Thomas J. Jackson’s imposing defensive stand during the First Battle of Bull Run (1861) earned him the nickname “Stonewall.” His leadership and military successes earned him a level of celebrity second only to Robert E. Lee. Jackson was wounded during a scouting mission at Chancellorsville (1863) and died of pneumonia days later. Speaking of Jackson’s passing, Lee remarked, “I know not how to replace him.”

Photograph by Minnis & Cowell, 1863, V.52.01.73

Shawn Morgan, donut decorator, Sugar Shack Donuts

Born in Richmond, Virginia

 

What is your preferred facial hair style?

I condition it in the shower and comb it afterwards. I like leaving my beard wild and untamed.

Lieut. Gen. Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill
Rusty Horner

Lieut. Gen. Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill

Born in Culpeper, Virginia (1825-1865)

 

A.P. Hill’s division was known as “the Light Division” for their speed and agility. He was frequently ill throughout the war, which affected his military leadership. Following the fall of Petersburg (1865), Hill was killed after confronting two Union stragglers. He is the only general in Richmond buried beneath his own monument, located at the intersection of Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road.

 

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Rusty Horner, programmer

Born in Richmond, Virginia

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

April 1, and no, it wasn’t an April Fools joke. I started growing my beard because I never let it get long before and wanted to see how it would look. I didn’t like it at first, but it’s growing on me (ba-dum!).

Lieut. Gen. Richard Stoddert Ewell
Jimmy Thomson

Lieut. Gen. Richard Stoddert Ewell

Born in Georgetown, near Washington, D.C. (1817-1872)

 

Richard Stoddert Ewell was a well-regarded senior commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. Yet his critics targeted Ewell’s inaction and indecisiveness as contributing to Confederate defeats at the battles of Gettysburg (1863) and Spotsylvania Court House (1864). After Richmond fell to Union troops (1865), Ewell and his men fled and were captured at Sayler’s Creek near Farmville, Virginia.

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Jimmy Thomson, maintenance technician

Born in Chesapeake, Virginia

 

When did you first grow facial hair?

Puberty. I hate shaving. Hate.

Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas
Paul Murphy

Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas

Born in Southampton County, Virginia (1816-1870) 

 

Disowned by his Virginian family for remaining loyal to the Union, George H. Thomas became a Union hero for his defensive action at the Battle of Chickamauga (1863), the war’s second bloodiest engagement. Thereafter known as “The Rock of Chickamauga,” Thomas is credited with saving a Union position in the Western Theater. During Reconstruction, Thomas was an outspoken defender of freedmen.

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Paul Murphy, marine mechanic

Born in Providence, Rhode Island

 

What is your preferred facial hair style?

I like a full beard, and when it gets really long it’s like a pet. Of course my wife likes it shorter!

Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Mike Killelea

Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

Born in Lancaster, Ohio (1820-1891)

 

William Tecumseh Sherman’s destructive Atlanta Campaign (1864) and March to the Sea (1864) earned him a reputation as both a revered and reviled military strategist. During these campaigns, Sherman employed “total war” tactics that emphasized destroying enemy property and weakening Confederate morale. Succeeding Ulysses S. Grant, he served as General of the Army from 1869 to 1883.

Cook Collection

Mike Killelea, head brewer, Center of the Universe Brewing Co.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts

 

What is your preferred facial hair style?

I keep a relatively short beard. I have a photo of my father when he was a young man in the Navy. I’ve always loved that photo of him, and my beard is almost a carbon copy of his beard.

Maj. Gen. James L. Kemper
Josh Black

Maj. Gen. James L. Kemper

Born in Madison County, Virginia (1823-1895)

 

While serving in the Confederate States Army, James L. Kemper was also Virginia’s Speaker of the House of Delegates from 1861 to 1863. Wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg during Pickett’s Charge (1863), he was taken as a prisoner of war. Kemper’s injuries resulted in permanent paralysis in his left leg. He later served as Governor of Virginia (1874-1878).

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Josh Black, software and training specialist, PieTech, Inc.

Born in Glen Allen, Virginia

 

What is your preferred facial hair style?

Whatever works best for the individual. I’m impatient with mine and can’t wait to have a longer beard. It’s a statement – a conversation starter – and a tool to be able to do things in the community.

Credits: Exhibit

Sponsors — Tom and Wendy Rosenthal 
Photographer — Terry Brown
Exhibition
Curator — Meg Hughes, Curator of Archives
Intern — Katie Jennings
Intern — Andrew Lunney
Special Thanks to — RVA Beard League; Candela Books and Gallery

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.