Diamondback Terrapin Drawing

Through the years, I’ve learned to look through every vintage piece I find. Quite often there’s some little gem tucked in between the pages of an otherwise unusable work. Books about war, murder and politics often have dated or otherwise unsuitable drawings in them. But, amid a tour guide of a Civil War fort, the author chose to include a charming sketch by a person far more well-known for his prowess on the battlefield.

The diamondback terrapin is a species of turtle native to the coastal swamps of the eastern United States. The terrapin, as they are often called, are thought to be the only species of turtle that lives in brackish water. These interesting animals were once almost hunted to extinction and are now considered threatened and endangered in many of the states where they can be found.

This diamondback terrapin drawing was attributed to someone who may have seen these turtles while growing up in eastern Virginia. He most likely also saw them while working on Cockspur Island (off the coast of Georgia) in the 1830s building the system of drainage and dikes for the island which would become home to Fort Pulaski. The sketch was done in 1831. He would later return as a brigadier general wearing the colors of the Confederacy.

Diamondback terrapin drawing by Robert E. Lee.

Diamondback terrapin drawing by Robert E. Lee.

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