The fellows pictured were both grandsons of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd President of the USA (among other things).
The elder, sporting the full beard was George Wythe Randolph, born in 1818 at Monticello (Jefferson’s well-known home and plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia; the Great Man himself died there July 4, 1826). He was the last of 12 kids had by Jefferson’s daughter Martha and her husband, the Governor of Virginia Thomas M. Randolph, Jr. They were among the aknowledged elite of Virginia.
At the time George was born, his half-uncle Eston Hemings–Jefferson’s son by his slave Sally Hemings and father to the one to the right wearing the long goatee–was just 10 years old. He lived at Monticello and would surely have known and probably taken care of his baby nephew. After Jefferson’s death in 1826 Sally and her sons were freed and moved to Charlottesville. Eston’s first-born son whom you see in the painting to the right, John Wayles Hemings was born there in 1835. He was the first of two direct male-line grandsons of Jefferson, and later his father and family took the last name Jefferson.
It’s possible, even likely, that George (above left) and his uncle Eston (father of the one on the right) shared some pleasant enough times playing as children at Monticello in the early 1820s. Four decades later the score would be rather different as they embodied like many other families in America the opposing sides of the Civil War.
George Randolph’s life was in Virginia as a lawyer. He served in the U.S. Navy briefly and later founded a militia unit which guarded John Brown during his trial. During the war he served the Confederacy–as artillery chief of the Confederate Army of the Peninsula, and also as Secretary of War.
John W. Jefferson’s father moved the family first to Ohio, then to Madison, Wisconsin, and there in 1861 when the war broke out, John joined the 8th Wisconsin Infanty, fighting as a Lt. Colonel for the Army of the United States of America.
Virginia was of course home to Thomas Jefferson, and he famously loved it dearly. It’s also known to breed fierce loyalty. But c’mon, ya gotta admit, it’s a little odd that his grandson decided to break away from the country he helped found and help lead a rebellion against it.