Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

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Robert E. Lee

Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee


Published by Good Press, 2022

goodpress@okpublishing.info

EAN 4057664116659

Table of Contents

Chapter I Services in the United States Army Captain Lee, of the

Chapter II The Confederate General Resigns from Colonelcy of First

Chapter III Letters to Wife and Daughters From Camp on Sewell’s

Chapter IV Army Life of Robert the Younger Volunteer in Rockbridge

Chapter V The Army of Northern Virginia The General’s sympathy for

Chapter VI The Winter of 1863-4 The Lee family in Richmond—The

Chapter VII Fronting the Army of the Potomac Battle of Cold

Chapter VIII The Surrender Fort Fisher captured—Lee made

Chapter IX A Private Citizen Lee’s conception of the part—His influence

Chapter X President of Washington College Patriotic motives for

Chapter XI The Idol of the South Photographs and autographs in

Chapter XII Lee’s Opinion upon the Late War His intention to write

Chapter XIII Family Affairs The General writes to his sons—To his wife

Chapter XIV An Ideal Father Letters to Mildred Lee—To Robert—To

Chapter XV Mountain Rides An incident about “Traveller”—The General’s

Chapter XVI An Advisor of Young Men Lee’s policy as college

Chapter XVII The Reconstruction Period The General believes in

Chapter XVIII Mrs. R. E. Lee Goes to Warm Springs for rheumatism—Her

Chapter XIX Lee’s Letters to His Sons The building of Robert’s

Chapter XX The New Home in Lexington Numerous guests—Further sojourns

Chapter XXI Failing Health The General declines lucrative positions

Chapter XXII The Southern Trip Letters to Mrs. Lee from Richmond and

Chapter XXIII A Round of Visits Baltimore—Alexandria—A war-talk with

Chapter XXIV Last Days Letter to his wife—To Mr. Tagart—Obituary

Chapter I — Services in the United States Army

Chapter II — The Confederate General

Chapter III — Letters to Wife and Daughters

Chapter IV — Army Life of Robert the Younger

Chapter V — The Army of Northern Virginia

Chapter VI — The Winter of 1863-4

Chapter VII — Fronting the Army of the Potomac

Chapter VIII — The Surrender

Chapter IX — A Private Citizen

Chapter X — President of Washington College

Chapter XI — The Idol of the South

Chapter XII — Lee’s Opinion upon the Late War

Chapter XIII — Family Affairs

Chapter XIV — An Ideal Father

Chapter XV — Mountain Rides

Chapter XVI — An Advisor of Young Men

Chapter XVII — The Reconstruction Period

Chapter XVIII — Mrs. R. E. Lee

Chapter XIX — Lee’s Letters to His Sons

Chapter XX — The New Home in Lexington

Chapter XXI — Failing Health

Chapter XXII — The Southern Trip

Chapter XXIII — A Round of Visits

Chapter XXIV — Last Days

Chapter I Services in the United States Army Captain Lee, of the

Table of Contents

Engineers, a hero to his child—The family pets—Home from the Mexican War—Three years in Baltimore—Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy—Lieutenant-Colonel of Second Cavalry—Supresses “John Brown Raid” at Harper’s Ferry—Commands the Department of Taxes.............. 3




Chapter II The Confederate General Resigns from Colonelcy of First

Table of Contents

United States Cavalry—Motives for this step—Chosen to command Virginia forces—Anxiety about his wife, family, and possessions—Chief advisor to President Davis—Battle of Manassas—Military operations in West Virginia—Letter to State Governor......................... 24




Chapter III Letters to Wife and Daughters From Camp on Sewell’s

Table of Contents

Mountain—Quotation from Colonel Taylor’s book—From Professor Wm. P. Trent—From Mr. Davis’s Memorial Address—Defense of Southern ports—Christmas, 1861—The General visits his father’s grave—Commands, under the President, all the armies of the Confederate States ................. 48




Chapter IV Army Life of Robert the Younger Volunteer in Rockbridge

Table of Contents

Artillery—“Four Years with General Lee” quoted—Meeting between father and son—Personal characteristics of the General—Death of his daughter Annie—His son Robert raised from the ranks—the horses, “Grace Darling” and “Traveller”—Fredricksburg—Freeing slaves .................. 69




Chapter V The Army of Northern Virginia The General’s sympathy for

Table of Contents

his suffering soldiers—Chancellorsville—Death of “Stonewall” Jackson—General Fitzhugh Lee wounded and captured—Escape of his brother Robert—Gettysburg—Religious revival—Infantry review—Unsatisfactory commissariat........................... 91




Chapter VI The Winter of 1863-4 The Lee family in Richmond—The

Table of Contents

General’s letters to them from Camps Rappahannock and Rapidan—Death of Mrs. Fitzhugh Lee—Preparations to meet General Grant—The Wilderness—Spottsylvania Court House—Death of General Stuart—General Lee’s illness ... 112

 



Chapter VII Fronting the Army of the Potomac Battle of Cold

Table of Contents

Harbour—Siege of Petersburg—The General intrusts a mission to his son Robert—Battle of the Crater—Grant crosses the James River—General Long’s pen-picture of Lee—Knitting socks for the soldiers—A Christmas dinner—Incidents of camp life... 128




Chapter VIII The Surrender Fort Fisher captured—Lee made

Table of Contents

Commander-in-Chief—Battle of Five Forks—The General’s farewell to his men—His reception in Richmond after the surrender—President Davis hears the news—Lee’s visitors—His son Robert turns farmer ........... 144




Chapter IX A Private Citizen Lee’s conception of the part—His influence

Table of Contents

exerted toward the restoration of Virginia—He visits old friends throughout the country—Receives offers of positions—Compares notes with the Union General Hunter—Longs for a country home—Finds one at “Derwent,” near Cartersville................... 162




Chapter X President of Washington College Patriotic motives for

Table of Contents

acceptance of trust—Condition of college—The General’s arrival at Lexington—He prepares for the removal of his family to that city—Advice to Robert Junior—Trip to “Bremo” on private canal-boat—Mrs. Lee’s invalidism........... 179




Chapter XI The Idol of the South Photographs and autographs in

Table of Contents

demand—The General’s interest in young people—His happy home life—Labours at Washington College—He gains financial aid for it—Worsley’s translation of Homer dedicated to him—Tributes from other English scholars...... 198




Chapter XII Lee’s Opinion upon the Late War His intention to write

Table of Contents

the history of his Virginia campaigns—Called before a committee of Congress—Preaches patience and silence in the South—Shuns controversy and publicity—Corresponds with an Englishman, Herbert C. Saunders ............. 218




Chapter XIII Family Affairs The General writes to his sons—To his wife

Table of Contents

at Rockbridge Baths—He joins her there about once a week—Distinguished and undistinguished callers at his Lexington home—He advocates early hours—His fondness for animals ................. 235




Chapter XIV An Ideal Father Letters to Mildred Lee—To Robert—To

Table of Contents

Fitzhugh—Interviewed by Swinton, historian of the Army of the Potomac—Improvement in grounds and buildings of Washington College—Punctuality a prominent trait of its President—A strong supporter of the Y.M.C.A.............................. 252




Chapter XV Mountain Rides An incident about “Traveller”—The General’s

Table of Contents

love for children—His friendship with Ex-President Davis—A ride with his daughter to the Peaks of Otter—Mildred Lee’s narrative—Mrs. Lee at the White Sulphur Springs—The great attention paid her husband there—His idea of life ..................... 264




Chapter XVI An Advisor of Young Men Lee’s policy as college

Table of Contents

president—His advice on agricultural matters—His affection for his prospective daughter-in-law—Fitzhugh’s wedding—The General’s ovation at Petersburg—his personal interest in the students under his care......... 280




Chapter XVII The Reconstruction Period The General believes in

Table of Contents

the enforcement of law and order—His moral influence in the college—Playful humour shown in his letters—His opinion of negro labour—Mr. Davis’s trial—Letter to Mrs. Fitzhugh Lee—Intercourse with Faculty ........... 299




Chapter XVIII Mrs. R. E. Lee Goes to Warm Springs for rheumatism—Her

Table of Contents

daughter Mildred takes typhoid there—Removes to Hot Springs—Her husband’s devotion—Visit of Fitzhugh and bride to Lexington—Miss Jones, a would-be benefactor of Washington College—Fate of Washington relics belonging to Mrs. Lee’s family.................. 318




Chapter XIX Lee’s Letters to His Sons The building of Robert’s

Table of Contents

house—The General as a railroad delegate—Lionised in Baltimore—Calls on President Grant—Visits Alexandria—Declines to be interviewed—Interested in his grandson—The Washington portraits................ 339




Chapter XX The New Home in Lexington Numerous guests—Further sojourns

Table of Contents

at different Baths—Death of the General’s brother, Smith Lee—Visits to “Ravensworth” and “The White House”—Meetings with interesting people at White Sulphur Springs—Death of Professor Preston ............... 357




Chapter XXI Failing Health The General declines lucrative positions

Table of Contents

in New York and Atlanta—He suffers from an obstinate cold—Local gossip—He is advised to go South in the spring of 1870—Desires to visit his daughter Annie’s grave .......................... 376




Chapter XXII The Southern Trip Letters to Mrs. Lee from Richmond and

Table of Contents

Savannah—From Brandon—Agnes Lee’s account of her father’s greetings from old friends and old soldiers—Wilmington and Norfolk do him honour—Visits to Fitzhugh and Robert in their homes................ 388




Chapter XXIII A Round of Visits Baltimore—Alexandria—A war-talk with

Table of Contents

Cousin Cassius Lee—“Ravensworth”—Letter to Doctor Buckler declining invitation to Europe—To General Cooper—To Mrs. Lee from the Hot Springs—Tired of public places—Preference for country life .......... 412




Chapter XXIV Last Days Letter to his wife—To Mr. Tagart—Obituary

Table of Contents

notice in “Personal Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee”—Mrs. Lee’s account of his death .............................. 431






Chapter I — Services in the United States Army

Table of Contents

Captain Lee, of the Engineers, a hero to his child—The family pets—Home from the Mexican War—Three years in Baltimore—Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy—Lieutenant-Colonel of Second Cavalry—Supresses “John Brown Raid” at Harper’s Ferry—Commands the Department of Taxes

The first vivid recollection I have of my father is his arrival at Arlington, after his return from the Mexican War. I can remember some events of which he seemed a part, when we lived at Fort Hamilton, New York, about 1846, but they are more like dreams, very indistinct and disconnected—naturally so, for I was at that time about three years old. But the day of his return to Arlington, after an absence of more than two years, I have always remembered. I had a frock or blouse of some light wash material, probably cotton, a blue ground dotted over with white diamond figures. Of this I was very proud, and wanted to wear it on this important occasion. Eliza, my “mammy,” objecting, we had a contest and I won. Clothed in this, my very best, and with my hair freshly curled in long golden ringlets, I went down into the larger hall where the whole household was assembled, eagerly greeting my father, who had just arrived on horseback from Washington, having missed in some way the carriage which had been sent for him.

There was visiting us at this time Mrs. Lippitt, a friend of my mother’s, with her little boy, Armistead, about my age and size, also with long curls. Whether he wore as handsome a suit as mine I cannot remember, but he and I were left together in the background, feeling rather frightened and awed. After a moment’s greeting to those surrounding him, my father pushed through the crowd, exclaiming:

“Where is my little boy?”

He then took up in his arms and kissed—not me, his own child in his best frock with clean face and well-arranged curls—but my little playmate, Armistead! I remember nothing more of any circumstances connected with that time, save that I was shocked and humiliated. I have no doubt that he was at once informed of his mistake and made ample amends to me.

A letter from my father to his brother Captain S. S. Lee, United States Nave, dated “Arlington, June 30, 1848,” tells of his coming home:

“Here I am once again, my dear Smith, perfectly surrounded by Mary and her precious children, who seem to devote themselves to staring at the furrows in my face and the white hairs in my head. It is not surprising that I am hardly recognisable to some of the young eyes around me and perfectly unknown to the youngest. But some of the older ones gaze with astonishment and wonder at me, and seem at a loss to reconcile what they see and what was pictured in their imaginations. I find them, too, much grown, and all well, and I have much cause for thankfulness, and gratitude to that good God who has once more united us.”

My next recollection of my father is in Baltimore, while we were on a visit to his sister, Mrs. Marshall, the wife of Judge Marshall. I remember being down on the wharves, where my father had taken me to see the landing of a mustang pony which he had gotten for me in Mexico, and which had been shipped from Vera Cruz to Baltimore in a sailing vessel. I was all eyes for the pony, and a very miserable, sad-looking object he was. From his long voyage, cramped quarters and unavoidable lack of grooming, he was rather a disappointment to me, but I soon got over all that. As I grew older, and was able to ride and appreciate him, he became the joy and pride of my life. I was taught to ride on him by Jim Connally, the faithful Irish servant of my father, who had been with him in Mexico. Jim used to tell me, in his quizzical way, that he and “Santa Anna” (the pony’s name) were the first men on the walls of Chepultepec. This pony was pure white, five years old and about fourteen hands high. For his inches, he was as good a horse as I ever have seen. While we lived in Baltimore, he and “Grace Darling,” my father’s favourite mare, were members of our family.

 

Grace Darling was a chestnut of fine size and of great power, which he had bought in Texas on his way out to Mexico, her owner having died on the march out. She was with him during the entire campaign, and was shot seven times; at least, as a little fellow I used to brag about that number of bullets being in her, and since I could point out the scars of each one, I presume it was so. My father was very much attached to her and proud of her, always petting her and talking to her in a loving way, when he rode her or went to see her in her stall. Of her he wrote on his return home:

“I only arrived yesterday, after a long journey up the Mississippi, which route I was induced to take, for the better accommodation of my horse, as I wished to spare her as much annoyance and fatigue as possible, she already having undergone so much suffering in my service. I landed her at Wheeling and left her to come over with Jim.”

Santa Anna was found lying cold and dead in the park at Arlington one morning in the winter of ‘60-’61. Grace Darling was taken in the spring of ‘62 from the White House [My brother’s place on the Pamunkey River, where the mare had been sent for save keeping.”] by some Federal quartermaster, when McClellan occupied that place as his base of supplies during his attack on Richmond. When we lived in Baltimore, I was greatly struck one day by hearing two ladies who were visiting us saying:

“Everybody and everything—his family, his friends, his horse, and his dog—loves Colonel Lee.”

The dog referred to was a black-and-tan terrier named “Spec,” very bright and intelligent and really a member of the family, respected and beloved by ourselves and well known to all who knew us. My father picked up his mother in the “Narrows” while crossing from Fort Hamilton to the fortifications opposite on Staten Island. She had doubtless fallen overboard from some passing vessel and had drifted out of sight before her absence had been discovered. He rescued her and took her home, where she was welcomed by his children an made much of. She was a handsome little thing, with cropped ears and a short tail. My father named her “Dart.” She was a fine ratter, and with the assistance of a Maltese cat, also a member of the family, the many rats which infested the house and stables were driven away or destroyed. She and the cat were fed out of the same plate, but Dart was not allowed to begin the meal until the cat had finished.

Spec was born at Fort Hamilton and was the joy of us children, our pet and companion. My father would not allow his tail and ears to be cropped. When he grew up, he accompanied us everywhere and was in the habit of going into church with the family. As some of the little ones allowed their devotions to be disturbed by Spec’s presence, my father determined to leave him at home on those occasions. So the next Sunday morning, he was sent up to the front room of the second story. After the family had left for church he contented himself for awhile looking out of the window, which was open, it being summer time. Presently impatience overcame his judgement and he jumped to the ground, landed safely notwithstanding the distance, joined the family just as they reached the church, and went in with them as usual, much to the joy of the children. After that he was allowed to go to church whenever he wished. My father was very fond of him, and loved to talk to him and about him as if he were really one of us. In a letter to my mother, dated Fort Hamilton, January 18, 1846, when she and her children were on a visit to Arlington, he thus speaks of him:

“...I am very solitary, and my only company is my dogs and cats. But ‘Spec’ has become so jealous now that he will hardly let me look at the cats. He seems to be afraid that I am going off from him, and never lets me stir without him. Lies down in the office from eight to four without moving, and turns himself before the fire as the side from it becomes cold. I catch him sometimes sitting up looking at me so intently that I am for a moment startled...”

In a letter from Mexico written a year later—December 25, ‘46, to my mother, he says:

“...Can’t you cure poor ‘Spec.’ Cheer him up—take him to walk with you and tell the children to cheer him up...”

In another letter from Mexico to his eldest boy, just after the capture of Vera Cruz, he sends this message to Spec....

“Tell him I wish he was here with me. He would have been of great service in telling me when I was coming upon the Mexicans. When I was reconnoitering around Vera Cruz, their dogs frequently told me by barking when I was approaching them too nearly....”

When he returned to Arlington from Mexico, Spec was the first to recognise him, and the extravagance of his demonstrations of delight left no doubt that he knew at once his kind master and loving friend, though he had been absent three years. Sometime during our residence in Baltimore, Spec disappeared, and we never knew his fate.

From that early time I began to be impressed with my father’s character, as compared with other men. Every member of the household respected, revered and loved him as a matter of course, but it began to dawn on me that every one else with whom I was thrown held him high in their regard. At forty-five years of age he was active, strong, and as handsome as he had ever been. I never remember his being ill. I presume he was indisposed at times; but no impressions of that kind remain. He was always bright and gay with us little folk, romping, playing, and joking with us. With the older children, he was just as companionable, and the have seen him join my elder brothers and their friends when they would try their powers at a high jump put up in our yard. The two younger children he petted a great deal, and our greatest treat was to get into his bed in the morning and lie close to him, listening while he talked to us in his bright, entertaining way. This custom we kept up until I was ten years old and over. Although he was so joyous and familiar with us, he was very firm on all proper occasions, never indulged us in anything that was not good for us, and exacted the most implicit obedience. I always knew that it was impossible to disobey my father. I felt it in me, I never thought why, but was perfectly sure when he gave an order that it had to be obeyed. My mother I could sometimes circumvent, and at times took liberties with her orders, construing them to suit myself; but exact obedience to every mandate of my father was part of my life and being at that time. He was very fond of having his hands tickled, and, what was still more curious, it pleased and delighted him to take off his slippers and place his feet in our laps in order to have them tickled. Often, as little things, after romping all day, the enforced sitting would be too much for us, and our drowsiness would soon show itself in continued nods. Then, to arouse, us, he had a way of stirring us up with his foot—laughing heartily at and with us. He would often tell us the most delightful stories, and then there was no nodding. Sometimes, however, our interest in his wonderful tales became so engrossing that we would forget to do our duty—when he would declare, “No tickling, no story!” When we were a little older, our elder sister told us one winter the ever-delightful “Lady of the Lake.” Of course, she told it in prose and arranged it to suit our mental capacity. Our father was generally in his corner by the fire, most probably with a foot in either the lap of myself or youngest sister—the tickling going on briskly—and would come in at different points of the tale and repeat line after line of the poem—much to our disapproval—but to his great enjoyment.

In January, 1849, Captain Lee was one of a board of army officers appointed to examine the coasts of Florida and its defenses and to recommend locations for new fortifications. In April he was assigned to the duty of the construction of Fort Carroll, in the Patapsco River below Baltimore. He was there, I think, for three years, and lived in a house on Madison Street, three doors above Biddle. I used to go down with him to the Fort quite often. We went to the wharf in a “bus,” and there we were met by a boat with two oarsmen, who rowed us down to Sollers Point, where I was generally left under the care of the people who lived there, while my father went over to the Fort, a short distance out in the river. These days were happy ones for me. The wharves, the shipping, the river, the boat and oarsmen, and the country dinner we had at the house at Sollers Point, all made a strong impression on me; but above all I remember my father, his gentle, loving care of me, his bright talk, his stories, his maxims and teachings. I was very proud of him and of the evident respect for and trust in him every one showed. These impressions, obtained at that time, have never left me. He was a great favourite in Baltimore, as he was everywhere, especially with ladies and little children. When he and my mother went out in the evening to some entertainment, we were often allowed to sit up and see them off; my father, as I remember, always in full uniform, always ready and waiting for my mother, who was generally late. He would chide her gently, in a playful way and with a bright smile. He would then bid us good-bye, and I would go to sleep with this beautiful picture in my mind, the golden epaulets and all—chiefly the epaulets.

In Baltimore, I went to my first school, that of a Mr. Rollins on Mulberry Street, and I remember how interested my father was in my studies, my failures, and my little triumphs. Indeed, he was so always, as long as I was at school and college, and I only wish that all of the kind, sensible, useful letters he wrote me had been preserved.

My memory as to the move from Baltimore, which occurred in 1852, is very dim. I think the family went to Arlington to remain until my father had arranged for our removal to the new home at West Point.

My recollection of my father as Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy is much more distinct. He lived in the house which is still occupied by the Superintendent. It was built of stone, large and roomy, with gardens, stables, and pasture lots. We, the two youngest children, enjoyed it all. “Grace Darling” and “Santa Anna” were there with us, and many a fine ride did I have with my father in the afternoons, when, released from his office, he would mount his old mare and, with Santa Anna carrying me by his side, take a five or ten-mile trot. Though the pony cantered delightfully, he would make me keep him in a trot, saying playfully that the hammering sustained was good for me. We rode the dragoon-seat, no posting, and until I became accustomed to it I used to be very tired by the time I got back.

My father was the most punctual man I ever knew. He was always ready for family prayers, for meals, and met every engagement, social or business, at the moment. He expected all of us to be the same, and taught us the use and necessity of forming such habits for the convenience of all concerned. I never knew him late for Sunday service at the Post Chapel. He used to appear some minutes before the rest of us, in uniform, jokingly rallying my mother for being late, and for forgetting something at the last moment. When he could wait no longer for her, he would say that he was off and would march along to church by himself, or with any of the children who were ready. There he sat very straight—well up the middle aisle—and, as I remember, always became very sleepy, and sometimes even took a little nap during the sermon. At that time, this drowsiness of my father’s was something awful to me, inexplicable. I know it was very hard for me to keep awake, and frequently I did not; but why he, who to my mind could do everything right, without any effort, should sometimes be overcome, I could not understand, and did not try to do so.

It was against the rules that the cadets should go beyond certain limits without permission. Of course they did go sometimes, and when caught were given quite a number of “demerits.” My father was riding out one afternoon with me, and, while rounding a turn in the mountain road with a deep woody ravine on one side, we came suddenly upon three cadets far beyond the limits. They immediately leaped over a low wall on the side of the road and disappeared from our view.

We rode on for a minute in silence; then my father said: “Did you know those young men? But no; if you did, don’t say so. I wish boys would do what was right, it would be so much easier for all parties!”

He knew he would have to report them, but, not being sure of who they were, I presume he wished to give them the benefit of the doubt. At any rate, I never heard any more about it. One of the three asked me the next day if my father had recognised them, and I told him what had occurred.