Painting the Monkey's Tail
G ENERAL GEORGE PICKETT, the hero of Gettysburg, tried to sell insurance after the war. He was a poor agent. He felt that there was something vulgar and unseemly in asking a man to buy a policy. His company's representative in Petersburg told him, in the expressive new language of business, that he would have to unbuckle a few holes and thaw out if he wanted to paint the monkey's tail sky-blue. Sadly Pickett reflected that he could not paint and hated to associate with artists who could. He was nothing but a soldier. The war was over, and he was of no more account.1
The professional soldiers of the Confederacy faced a bleak situation at the war's end. Trained for one profession, they could not exercise their trade in the United States. Unless they had graduated from the engineer corps at West Point, their education did not fit them for employment in civilian society. Nor did the habits acquired during long years in the army prepare them to hold positions where they had to deal with civilians as equals or superiors.
Many of the Southern generals had to work at anything that would afford them a living. In some cases jobs were created for them. Insurance companies and other concerns, anxious to honor a war hero or to capitalize on his name, would appoint a general to a purely honorary or titular office. Most of the generals lived and died in modest economic circumstances; a few were almost penniless at their death. Of the prominent officers Beauregard was the only one to accumulate much property, the only one to become, by Southern standards, wealthy. As an engineer of reputation he found quick employment with railroad corporations. As a man of the world he was not embarrassed to associate with the artists who were painting the monkey's tail. He was a pretty fair man with a brush himself.____________________