General Robert E. Lee Signed West Point Diploma, Dated June 17, 1853

This is a partly-printed vellum graduation diploma signed by Robert E. Lee, as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. The graduation diploma is presented to Nelson Bowman Sweitzer and is dated June 17, 1853. The diploma is signed "R E Lee" at bottom, and then is countersigned by 10 instructors, including Dennis Hart Mahan, George Washington Cullem, and George H. Thomas.

Nelson Bowman Sweitzer (1828-1898) graduated from United States Military Academy in June of 1858. He later commanded the 16th New York Cavalry. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Sweitzer and a battalion of his regiment were assigned to Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty and tasked with pursuing the John Wilkes Booth. 

Lee was appointed superintendent of West Point in 1852. During his three years there, he carried out many important changes in the academy. Under him as cadets were his son George Washington Custis Lee, his nephew, Fitzhugh Lee and Jeb Stuart, all of whom became general officers in the Civil War. Lee himself had attended West Point; he graduated second in the class of 1829.

The diploma is paired with a Confederate Army General Staff Officer's gilt button and lithographed portrait of Lee. The lithograph is a head and shoulder portico portrait of Lee as a General. It was lithographed by Marshall and published by Perine & Moore, New York. The Confederate button is fashioned with a high relief eagle. The design is completed with 11 stars along the perimeter, a lined field, and a raised border. 


Diploma: In good condition. Moderate fading to Lee signature, but still legible. Paper has deep folds, minor cockling at upper left. West Point, 17 June 1853. Document dimensions: 24 ½” H x 21”W.

Print: Black and white lithograph. Paper is healthy, very minor stains at bottom paper margin.

Button: Gilt intact, edges have minor edge scratches.

The diploma, button, and lithograph are artfully and archivally presented with black top mat, gold spandrels, and black and gold custom-built frame. Framed size:  34.5" H x 46" W x 2.5" D. 

Related Items