Part 2 out of 8
some communication with you. I am thankful for the many among the
past that I have passed with you, and the remembrance of them fills
me with pleasure. For those on which we have been separated we must
not repine. Now we must be content with the many blessings we receive.
If we can only become sensible of our transgressions, so as to be fully
penitent and forgiven, that this heavy punishment under which we labour
may with justice be removed from us and the whole nation, what a
gracious consummation of all that we have endured it will be!
"I hope you had a pleasant visit to Richmond.... If you were to see
this place, I think you would have it, too. I am here but little
myself. The days I am not here I visit some point exposed to the
enemy, and after our dinner at early candle-light, am engaged in
writing till eleven or twelve o'clock at night.... AS to our old home,
if not destroyed, it will be difficult ever to be recognised. Even
if the enemy had wished to preserve it, it would almost have been
impossible. With the number of troops encamped around it, the change
of officers, etc., the want of fuel, shelter, etc., and all the dire
necessities of war, it is vain to think of its being in a habitable
condition. I fear, too, books, furniture, and the relics of Mount
Vernon will be gone. It is better to make up our minds to a general
loss. They cannot take away the remembrance of the spot, and the
memories of those that to us rendered it sacred. That will remain
to us as long as life will last, and that we can preserve. In the
absence of a home, I wish I could purchase 'Stratford.' That is the
only other place that I could go to, now accessible to us, that would
inspire me with feelings of pleasure and local love. You and the
girls could remain there in quiet. It is a poor place, but we could
make enough cornbread and bacon for our support, and the girls could
weave us clothes. I wonder if it is for sale and at how much. Ask
Fitzhugh to try to find out, when he gets to Fredericksburg. You must
not build your hopes on peace on account of the United States going
into a war with England [on account of the Trent affair]. She will
be very loath to do that, notwithstanding the bluster of the Northern
papers. Her rulers are not entirely mad, and if they find England is
in earnest, and that war or a restitution of their captives must be
the consequence, they will adopt the latter. We must make up our minds
to fight our battles and win our independence alone. No one will help
us. We require no extraneous aid, if true to ourselves. But we must
be patient. It is not a light achievement and cannot be accomplished
at once.... I wrote a few days since, giving you all the news, and
have now therefore nothing to relate. The enemy is still quiet and
increasing in strength. We grow in size slowly but are working hard.
I have had a day of labour instead of rest, and have written intervals
to some of the children. I hope they are with you, and inclose my
"Affectionately and truly,
"R. E. Lee."
In the next letter to my mother he describes a visit to the grave of
his father at Dungeness, on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Dungeness was
presented to General Nathaniel Green by the State of Georgia for
services rendered her in the Revolution. General Henry Lee, returning
from the West Indies, where he had been for some months on account
of his health, landed there, and in a few days died, March 15, 1818.
He was most kindly cared for by the daughter of his old commander,
and was buried there in the garden of Dungeness. At the time of my
father's visit the place belonged to a great-nephew of General Green,
"Coosawhatchie, South Carolina, January 18, 1862.
"On my return, day before yesterday, from Florida, dear Mary, I received
your letter of the 1st inst. I am very glad to find that you had a
pleasant family meeting Christmas, and that it was so large. I am
truly grateful for all the mercies we enjoy, notwithstanding the
miseries of war, and join heartily in the wish that the next year may
find us at peace with all the world. I am delighted to hear that our
little grandson [his first grandchild--son of my brother Fitzhugh. He
died in 1863] is improving so fast and is becoming such a perfect
gentleman. May his path be strewn with flowers and his life with
happiness. I am very glad to hear also that his dear papa is promoted.
It will be gratifying to him and increase, I hope, his means of
usefulness. Robert wrote me he saw him on his way through
Charlottesville with his squadron, and that he was well. While at
Fernandina I went over to Cumberland Island and walked up to
'Dungeness,' the former residence of General Green. It was my first
visit to the house, and I had the gratification at length of visiting
my father's grave. He died there, you may recollect, on his way from
the West Indies, and was interred in one corner of the family cemetery.
The spot is marked by a plain marble slab, with his name, age, and her
daughter, Mrs. Shaw, and her husband. The place is at present owned
by Mr. Nightingale, nephew of Mrs. Shaw, who married a daughter of
Mr. James King. The family have moved into the interior of Georgia,
leaving only a few servants and a white gardener on the place. The
garden was beautiful, inclosed by the finest hedge I have ever seen.
It was of the wild olive, which, in Mrs. Shaw's lifetime, during my
tour of duty in Savannah in early life, was so productive, had been
destroyed by an insect that has proved fatal to the orange on the coast
of Georgia and Florida. There was a fine grove of olives, from which,
I learn, Mr. Nightingale procures oil. The garden was filled with roses
and beautiful vines, the names of which I do not know. Among them
was the tomato-vine in full bearing, with the ripe fruit on it. There
has yet been no frost in that region of country this winter. I went
in the dining-room and parlour, in which the furniture still
remained.... The house has never been finished, but is a fine, large
one and beautifully located. A magnificent grove of live-oaks envelops
the road from the landing to the house.... Love to everybody and God
bless you all.
"Truly and faithfully yours,
"R. E. Lee."
From the same place there is another letter to my mother:
"Coosawhatchie, South Carolina, January 28, 1862.
"I have just returned from Charleston, and received your letter of
the 14th, dear Mary.... I was called to Charleston by the appearance
off the bar of a fleet of vessels the true character and intent of
which could not be discerned during the continuance of the storm which
obscured the view. Saturday, however, all doubt was dispelled, and
from the beach on Sullivan's Island the preparations for sinking them
were plainly seen. Twenty-one were visible the first day of my arrival,
but at the end of the storm, Saturday, only seventeen were seen. Five
of these were vessels of war: what became of the other four is not
known. The twelve old merchantmen were being stripped of their spars,
masts, etc., and by sunset seven were prepared apparently for sinking
across the mouth of the Maffitt Channel. they were placed in a line
about two hundred yards apart, about four miles from Fort Moultrie.
They will do but little harm to the channel, I think, but may deter
vessels from running out at night for fear of getting on them. There
now seem to be indications of a movement against Savannah. The enemy's
gunboats are pushing up the creek to cut off communication between
the city and Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island. Unless I have better
news, I must go there to-day. There are so many points of attack,
and so little means to meet them on the water, that there is but little
rest.... Perry and Meredith are well and send regards to everybody....
"Very truly and sincerely yours,
"R. E. Lee."
It was most important that the defenses of Charleston and Savannah
should be made as strong as possible. The difficulties in the way
were many and great, but General Lee's perseverance overcame most of
them. The result was that neither of those cities fell till the
close of the war, and a region of country was preserved to the
Confederacy necessary for the feeding of its armies. Of course all
of this was not accomplished by my father alone in the four months
he was there; but the plans of defense he laid down were successfully
While in Savannah, he writes to my mother:
"Savannah, February 8, 1862.
"I wrote to you, dear Mary, the day I left Coosawhatchie for this place.
I have been here ever since, endeavouring to push forward the work
for the defense of the city, which has lagged terribly and which ought
to have been finished. But it is difficult to arouse ourselves from
ease and comfort to labour and self-denial.
"Guns are scarce, as well as ammunition, and I shall have to break up
batteries on the coast to provide, I fear, for this city. Our enemies
are endeavouring to work their way through the creeks that traverse
the impassable marshes stretching along the interior of the coast
and communicating with the sounds and sea, through which the Savannah
flows, and thus avoid the entrance of the river commanded by Fort
Pulaski. Their boats require only seven feet of water to float them,
and the tide rises seven feet, so that at high water they can work
their way and rest on the mud at low. They are also provided with
dredges and appliancances for removing obstructions through the creeks
in question, which cannot be guarded by batteries. I hope, however,
we shall be able to stop them, and I daily pray to the Giver of all
victories to enable us to do so.... I trust you are all well and doing
well, and wish I could do anything to promote either. I have more here
than I can do, and more, I fear, than I can well accomplish. It is
so very hard to get anything done, and while all wish well and mean
well, it is so different to get them to act energetically and
promptly.... The news from Kentucky and Tennessee is not favourable,
but we must make up our minds to meet with reverses and overcome them.
I hope God will at last crown our efforts with success. But the contest
must be long and severe, and the whole country has to go through much
suffering. It is necessary we should be humbled and taught to be less
boastful, less selfish, and more devoted to right and justice to all
the world.... Always yours,
"R. E. Lee."
To my mother:
"Savannah, February 23, 1862.
"I have been wishing, dear Mary, to write to you for more than a week,
but every day and every hour seem so taken up that I have found it
impossible.... The news from Tennessee and North Carolina is not all
cheering, and disasters seem to be thickening around us. It calls
for renewed energies and redoubled strength on our part, and, I hope,
will produce it. I fear our soldiers have not realised the necessity
for the endurance and labour they are called upon to undergo, and that
it is better to sacrifice themselves than our cause. God, I hope,
will shield us and give us success. Here the enemy is progressing
slowly in his designs, and does not seem prepared, or to have determined
when or where to make his attack. His gunboats are pushing up all the
creeks and marshes of the Savannah, and have attained a position so
near the river as to shell the steamers navigating it. None have as
yet been struck. I am engaged in constructing a line of defense at
Fort Jackson which, if time permits and guns can be obtained, I hope
will keep them out. They can bring such overwhelming force in all
their movements that it has the effect to demoralise our new troops.
The accounts given in the papers of the quantity of cotton shipped to
New York are, of course, exaggerated. It is cotton in the seed and
dirt, and has to be ginned and cleaned after its arrival. It is
said that the negroes are employed in picking and collecting it, and
are paid a certain amount. But all these things are gathered from
rumour, and can only be believed as they appear probable, which this
seems to be.... I went yesterday to church, being the day appointed
for fasting and prayer. I wish I could have passed it more devoutly.
The bishop (Elliott) gave a most beautiful prayer for the President,
which I hope may be heard and answered.... Here the yellow jasmine,
red-bud, orange-tree, etc., perfume the whole woods, and the japonicas
and azaleas cover the garden. Perry and Meredith are well. May God
bless and keep you always is the constant prayer of your husband,
"R. E. Lee."
To his daughter Annie:
"Savannah, March 2, 1862.
"My Precious Annie: It has been a long time since I have written to
you, but you have been constantly in my thoughts. I think of you all,
separately and collectively, in the busy hours of the day and the
silent hours of the night, and the recollection of each and every one
whiles away the long night, in which my anxious thoughts drive away
sleep. But I always feel that you and Agnes at those times are sound
asleep, and that is immaterial to either where the blockaders are or
what their progress is in the river. I hope you are all well, and as
happy as you can be in these perilous times to our country. They look
dark at present, and it is plain we have not suffered enough, laboured
enough, repented enough, to deserve success. But they will brighten
after awhile, and I trust that a merciful God will arouse us to a sense
of our danger, bless our honest efforts, and drive back our enemies
to their homes. Our people have not been earnest enough, have thought
too much of themselves and their ease, and instead of turning out
to a man, have been content to nurse themselves and their dimes, and
leave the protection of themselves and families to others. To satisfy
their consciences, they have been clamorous in criticising what others
have done, and endeavoured to prove that they ought to do nothing.
This is not the way to accomplish our independence. I have been doing
all I can with our small means and slow workmen to defend the cities
and coast here. Against ordinary numbers we are pretty strong, but
against the hosts our enemies seem able to bring everywhere there is
no calculating. But if our men will stand to their work, we shall
give them trouble and damage them yet. They have worked their way
across the marshes, with their dredges, under cover of their gunboats,
to the Savannah River, about Fort Pulaski. I presume they will
endeavour to reduce the fort and thus open a way for their vessels up
the river. But we have an interior line they must force before reaching
the city. It is on this line we are working, slowly to my anxious
mind, but as fast as I can drive them.... Good-bye, my dear child.
May God bless you and our poor country.
"Your devoted father,
"R. E. Lee."
Soon after this letter was written my father was recalled to Richmond,
"and was assigned on the 13th of March, under the direction of the
President, to the conduct of the military operations of all the armies
of the Confederate States" ["Four Years with General Lee"]. My mother
was still at the White House, my brother's place on the Pamunkey,
and there my father wrote to her:
"Richmond, March 14, 1862.
"My Dear Mary: I have been trying all the week to write to you, but
have not been able. I have been placed on duty here to conduct
operations under the direction of the President. It will give me great
pleasure to do anything I can to relieve him and serve the country,
but I do not see either advantage or pleasure in my duties. But I
will not complain, but do my best. I do not see at present either
that it will enable me to see much more of you. In the present
condition of affairs no one can foresee what may happen, nor in my
judgement is it advisable for any one to make arrangements with a
view to permanency or pleasure. The presence of some one at the
White House is necessary as long as practicable. How long it will
be practicable for you an Charlotte to remain there I cannot say.
The enemy is pushing us back in all directions, and how far he will
be successful depends much upon our efforts and the mercy of Providence.
I shall, in all human probability, soon have to take the field, so
for the present I think things had better remain as they are. Write
me your views. If you think it best for you to come to Richmond I
can soon make arrangements for your comfort and shall be very glad
of your company and presence. We have experienced a great affliction
both in our private and public relations. Our good and noble Bishop
Meade died last night. He was very anxious to see you, sent you his
love and kindest remembrances, and had I known in time yesterday I
should have sent expressly for you to come up. But I did not know
of his wish or condition till after the departure of the cars yesterday.
Between 6 and 7 P. M. yesterday he sent for me, said he wished to
bid me good-bye, and to give me his blessing, which he did in the
most affecting manner. Called me Robert and reverted to the time
I used to say the catechism to him. He invoked the blessing of God
upon me and the country. He spoke with difficulty and pain, but was
perfectly calm and clear. His hand was then cold and pulseless, yet
he shook mine warmly. 'I ne'er shall look upon his like again.' He
died during the night. I presume the papers of to-morrow will tell
"Very truly and sincerely,
"R. E. Lee."
The next day he again writes to my mother.
"Richmond, March 15, 1861.
"My Dear Mary: I wrote you yesterday by mail. On returning to my
quarters last night after 11 P. M. Custis informed me Robert had
arrived and had made up his mind to go into the army. He stayed at
the Spottswood, and this morning I went with him to get his overcoat,
blankets, etc. There is great difficulty in procuring what is good.
They all have to be made, and he has gone to the office of the adjutant-
general of Virginia to engage in the service. God grant it may be
for his good as He has permitted it. I must be resigned. I told him
of the exemption granted by the Secretary of War to the professors
and students of the university, but he expressed no desire to take
advantage of it. It would be useless for him to go, if he did not
improve himself, nor would I wish him to go merely for exemption. As
I have done all in the matter that seems proper and right, I must now
leave the rest in the hands of our merciful God. I hope our son will
do his duty and make a good soldier.... I had expected yesterday to
go to North Carolina this morning, but the President changed his mind.
I should like to go to see you to-morrow, but in the present condition
of things do not feel that I ought to be absent.... I may have to
go to North Carolina or Norfolk yet. New Berne, N. C., has fallen
into the hands of the enemy. In Arkansas our troops under Van Dorn
have had a hard battle, but nothing decisive gained. Four generals
killed--McIntosh, McCullogh, Herbert, and Slack. General Price wounded.
Loss on both sides said to be heavy....
"Very truly yours,
"R. E. Lee."
Army Life of Robert the Younger
Volunteer in Rockbridge 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--
Like all the students at the university, I was wild to go into the
army, and wrote my father that I was afraid the war would be over
before I had a chance to serve. His reply was that I need have no
fear of that contingency, that I must study hard and fit myself to
be useful to my country when I was old enough to be of real service
to her; so, very properly, I was not allowed to have my wish then.
In a letter to my mother written April, '61, he says:
"I wrote to Robert that I could not consent to take boys from their
schools and young men from their colleges and put them in the ranks
at the beginning of a war, when they are not wanted and when there
are men enough for that purpose. The war may last ten years. Where
are our ranks to be filled from then? I was willing for his company
to continue at their studies, to keep up its organisation, and to
perfect themselves in their military exercises, and to perform duty
at the college; but NOT to be called into the field. I therefore
wished him to remain. If the exercises at the college are suspended,
he can then come home...."
But in the spring of '62 he allowed me to volunteer, and I having
selected the company I wished to join, the Rockbridge Artillery, he
gave his approval, and wrote me to come to Richmond, where he would
give me my outfit. He was just as sweet and loving to me then as in
the old days. I had seen so little of him during the last six years
that I stood somewhat in awe of him. I soon found, however, that I
had no cause for such a feeling. He took great pains in getting what
was necessary for me. The baggage of a private in a Confederate battery
was not extensive. How little was needed my father, even at that time,
did not know, for though he was very careful in providing me with the
least amount he thought necessary, I soon found by experience that
he had given me a great deal too much. It was characteristic of his
consideration for others and the unselfishness of his nature, that
at this time, when weighed down, harassed and burdened by the cares
incident to bringing the untrained forces of the Confederacy into the
field, and preparing them for a struggle the seriousness of which he
knew better than any one, he should give his time and attention to
the minute details of fitting out his youngest son as a private soldier.
I think it worthy of note that the son of the commanding general
enlisting as a private in his army was not thought to be anything
remarkable or unusual. Neither my mother, my family, my friends nor
myself expected any other course, and I do not suppose it ever occurred
to my father to think of giving me an office, which he could easily
have done. I know it never occurred to me, nor did I ever hear, at
that time or afterwards, from anyone, that I might have been entitled
to better rank than that of a private because of my father's prominence
in Virginia and in the Confederacy. With the good advice to be obedient
to all authority, to do my duty in everything, great or small, he bade
me good-bye, and sent me off to the Valley of Virginia, where the
command in which I was about to enlist were serving under "Stonewall
Of my father's military duties at this time, Colonel Taylor, in his
"Four Years with General Lee," says:
"Exercising a constant supervision over the condition of affairs at
each important point, thoroughly informed as to the resources and
necessities of the several commanders of armies in the field, as well
as of the dangers which respectively threatened them, he was enabled
to give them wise counsel, to offer them valuable suggestions, and
to respond to their demands for assistance and support to such extent
as the limited resources of the government would permit. It was in
great measure due to his advice and encouragement that General Magruder
so stoutly and so gallantly held his lines on the Peninsula against
General McClellan until troops could be sent to his relief from General
Johnston's army. I recollect a telegraphic despatch received by
General Lee from General Magruder, in which he stated that a council
of war which he had convened had unanimously determined that his army
should retreat, in reply to which General Lee urged him to maintain
his lines, and to make as bold a front as possible, and encouraged
him with the prospect of being reinforced. No better illustration of
the nature and importance of the duty performed by General Lee, while
in this position, can be given than the following letter--one of a
number of similar import--written by him to General Jackson, the
'rough' or original draft of which is still in my possession:
"'Headquarters, Richmond, Virginia, April 29, 1862.
"'Major-General T. J. Jackson, commanding, etc., Swift Run Gap,
"'General: I have had the honour to receive your letter of yesterday's
date. From the reports that reach me that are entitled to credit,
the force of the enemy opposite Fredericksburg is represented as too
large to admit of any diminution whatever of our army in that vicinity
at present, as it might not only invite an attack on Richmond, but
jeopard the safety of the army in the Peninsula. I regret, therefore,
that your request to have five thousand men sent from that army to
reinforce you cannot be complied with. Can you not draw enough from
the command of General Edward Johnson to warrant you in attacking
Banks? The last return received from that army show a present force
of upward of thirty-five hundred, which, it is hoped, has since
increased by recruits and returned furloughs. As he does not appear
to be pressed, it is suggested that a portion of his force might be
temporarily removed from its present position and made available for
the movement in question. A decisive and successful blow at Banks's
column would be fraught with the happiest results, and I deeply regret
my inability to send you the reinforcements you ask. If, however, you
think the combined forces of Generals Ewell and Johnson, with your
own, inadequate for the move, General Ewell might, with the assistance
of General Anderson's army near Fredericksburg, strike at McDowell's
army between that city and Acquia, with much promise of success;
provided you feel sufficiently strong alone to hold Banks in check.
"'Very truly yours,
"'R. E. Lee.'
"The reader will observe that this letter bears the date 'April 29,
1862.' On May 5th or 6th, General Jackson formed a junction between
his own command and that of General Edward Johnson; on May 8th, he
defeated Milroy at McDowell. Soon thereafter, the command of General
Ewell was united to that already under Jackson, and on the 25th of
the same month Banks was defeated and put to flight. Other incidents
might be cited to illustrate this branch of the important service
rendered at this period by General Lee. The line of earthworks around
the city of Richmond, and other preparations for resisting an attack,
testified to the immense care and labour bestowed upon the defense
of the capital, so seriously threatened by the army of General
On May 31st, the battle of Seven Pines was fought, and General Joseph
E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, was severely wounded.
The next day, by order of the President, General Lee took command
of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The day after the battle of Cold Harbor, during the "Seven Days"
fighting around Richmond, was the first time I met my father after I
had joined General Jackson. The tremendous work Stonewall's men had
performed, including the rapid march from the Valley of Virginia, the
short rations, the bad water, and the great heat, had begun to tell
upon us, and I was pretty well worn out. On this particular morning,
my battery had not moved from its bivouac ground of the previous night,
but was parked in an open field all ready, waiting orders. Most of
the men were lying down, many sleeping, myself among the latter number.
To get some shade and to be out of the way, I had crawled under a
caisson, and was busy making up many lost hours of rest. Suddenly
I was rudely awakened by a comrade, prodding me with a sponge-staff
as I had failed to be aroused by his call, and was told to get up and
come out, that some one wished to see me. Half awake, I staggered
out, and found myself face to face with General Lee and his staff.
Their fresh uniforms, bright equipments and well-groomed horses
contrasted so forcibly with the war-worn appearance of our command
that I was completely dazed. It took me a moment or two to realise
what it all meant, but when I saw my father's loving eyes and smile
it became clear to me that he had ridden by to see if I was safe and
to ask how I was getting along. I remember well how curiously those
with him gazed at me, and I am sure that it must have struck them as
very odd that such a dirty, ragged, unkempt youth could have been the
son of this grand-looking victorious commander.
I was introduced recently to a gentleman, now living in Washington,
who, when he found out my name, said he had met me once before and
that it was on this occasion. At that time he was a member of the
Tenth Virginia Infantry, Jackson's Division, and was camped near our
battery. Seeing General Lee and staff approach, he, with others, drew
near to have a look at them, and thus witnessed the meeting between
father and son. He also said that he had often told of this incident
as illustrating the peculiar composition of our army.
After McClellan's change of base to Harrison's Landing on James River,
the army lay inactive around Richmond. I had a short furlough on
account of sickness, and saw my father; also my mother and sisters,
who were then living in Richmond. He was the same loving father to
us all, as kind and thoughtful of my mother, who as an invalid, and
of us, his children, as if our comfort and happiness were all he had
to care for. His great victory did not elate him, so far as one could
see. In a letter of July 9th, to my mother, he says:
"...I have returned to my old quarters and am filled with gratitude
to our Heavenly Father for all the mercies He has extended to us.
Our success has not been so great or complete as we could have desired,
but God knows what is best for us. Our enemy met with a heavy loss,
from which it must take him some time to recover, before he can
recommence his operations...."
The honourable Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate
States, says of General Lee:
"What I had seen General lee to be at first--child-like in simplicity
and unselfish in his character--he remained, unspoiled by praise and
He was the same in victory or defeat, always calm and contained.
Jackson, having had a short rest, was now moved up to Gordonsville.
I rejoined my command and went with him, supplied with new clothes
and a fresh stock of health. In a letter to his three daughters who
were in North Carolina, dated Richmond, July 18, 1862, he writes
describing my condition:
"Rob came out to see me one afternoon. He had been much worn down by
his marching and fighting, and had gone to his mamma to get a little
rest. He was thin but well, but, not being able to get a clean shirt,
has not gone to see Miss Norvell. He has rejoined his company and
gone off with General Jackson, as good as new again, I hope, inasmuch
as your mother thought, by means of a bath and a profusion of soap,
she had cleansed the outward man considerably, and replenished his
From Gordonsville we were moved on to Orange County, and then commenced
that series of manoeuvres by the Army of Northern Virginia, beginning
with the battle of Cedar Mountain and ending with second Manassas.
When I again saw my father, he rode at the head of Longstreet's men
on the field of Manassas, and we of Jackson's corps, hard pressed for
two days, welcomed him and the divisions which followed him with great
cheers. Two rifle-guns from our battery had been detached and sent
to join Longstreet's advance artillery, under General Stephen D. Lee,
moving into action on our right. I was "Number 1" at one of these
guns. We advanced rapidly, from hill to hill, firing as fast as we
could, trying to keep ahead of our gallant comrades, just arrived.
As we were ordered to cease firing from the last position we took,
and the breathless cannoneers were leaning on their guns, General
Lee and staff galloped up, and from this point of vantage scanned
the movements of the enemy and of our forces. The general reined in
"Traveller" close by my gun, not fifteen feet from me. I looked at
them all some few minutes, and then went up and spoke to Captain Mason
of the staff, who had not the slightest idea who I was. When he found
me out he was greatly amused, and introduced me to several others whom
I already knew. My appearance was even less prepossessing that when
I had met my father at Cold Harbour, for I had been marching night
and day for four days, with no opportunity to wash myself or my clothes;
my face and hands were blackened with powder-sweat, and the few garments
I had on were ragged and stained with the red soil of that section.
When the General, after a moment or two, dropped his glass to his side,
and turned to his staff, Captain Mason said:
"General, here is some one who wants to speak to you."
The General, seeing a much-begrimed artillery-man, sponge-staff in
"Well, my many, what can I do for you?" I replied:
"Why, General, don't you know me?" and he, of course, at once recognised
me, and was very much amused at my appearance and most glad to see
that I was safe and well.
We, of the ranks, used to have our opinions on all subjects. The
armies, their generals, and their manoeuvres were freely discussed.
If there was one point on which the entire army was unanimous--I speak
of the rank and file--it was that we were not in the least afraid of
General Pope, but were perfectly sure of whipping him whenever we
could meet him. The passages I quote here from two of General Lee's
letters indicate that this feeling may possibly have extended to our
officers. In a letter to my mother, from near Richmond, dated July 28,
1862, he says:
"...When you write to Rob, tell him to catch Pope for me, and also
bring in his cousin, Louis Marshall, who, I am told, is on his staff.
I could forgive the latter's fighting against us, but not his joining
"...Johnny Lee [his nephew] saw Louis Marshall after Jackson's last
battle, who asked him kindly after his old uncle, and said his mother
was well. Johnny said Louis looked wretched himself. I am sorry he
is in such bad company, but I suppose he could not help it."
As one of the Army of Northern Virginia, I occasionally saw the
commander-in-chief, on the march, or passed the headquarters close
enough to recognise him and members of his staff, but as a private
soldier in Jackson's corps did not have much time, during that campaign,
for visiting, and until the battle of Sharpsburg I had no opportunity
of speaking to him. On that occasion our battery had been severely
handled, losing many men and horses. Having three guns disabled, we
were ordered to withdraw, and while moving back we passed General Lee
and several of his staff, grouped on a little knoll near the road.
Having no definite orders where to go, our captain, seeing the
commanding general, halted us and rode over to get some instructions.
Some others and myself went along to see and hear. General Lee was
dismounted with some of his staff around him, a courier holding his
horse. Captain Poague, commanding our battery, the Rockbridge
Artillery, saluted, reported our condition, and asked for instructions.
The General, listening patiently looked at us--his eyes passing over
me without any sign of recognition--and then ordered Captain Poague
to take the most serviceable horses and men, man the uninjured gun, send
the disabled part of his command back to refit, and report to the front
for duty. As Poague turned to go, I went up to speak to my father.
When he found out who I was, he congratulated me on being well and
unhurt. I then said:
"General, are you going to send us in again?"
"Yes, my son," he replied, with a smile; "you all must do what you can
to help drive these people back."
This meeting between General Lee and his son has been told very often
and in many different ways, but the above is what I remember of the
He was much on foot during this part of the campaign, and moved about
either in an ambulance or on horseback, with a courier leading his
horse. The accident which temporarily disabled him happened before
he left Virginia. He had dismounted, and was sitting on a fallen log,
with the bridle reins hung over his arm. Traveller, becoming frightened
at something, suddenly dashed away, threw him violently to the ground,
spraining both hands and breaking a small bone in one of them. A
letter written some weeks afterward to my mother alludes to this
meeting with his son, and to the condition of his hands:
"...I have not laid eyes on Rob since I saw him in the battle of
Sharpsburg--going in with a single gun of his for the second time, after
his company had been withdrawn in consequence of three of its guns
having been disabled. Custis has seen him and says he is very well,
and apparently happy and content. My hands are improving slowly,
and, with my left hand, I am able to dress and undress myself, which
is a great comfort. My right is becoming of some assistance, too,
thought it is still swollen and sometimes painful. The bandages have
been removed. I am now able to sign my name. It has been six weeks
to-day since I was injured, and I have at last discarded the sling."
After the army recrossed the Potomac into Virginia, we were camped for
some time in the vicinity of Winchester. One beautiful afternoon in
October, a courier from headquarters rode up to our camp, found me
out, and handed me a note from my father. It told me of the death
of my sister Annie. As I have lost this letter to me, I quote from
one to my mother about the same time. It was dated October 26, 1862:
"...I cannot express the anguish I feel at the death of our sweet Annie.
To know that I shall never see her again on earth, that her place in
our circle, which I always hoped one day to enjoy, is forever vacant,
is agonising in the extreme. But God in this, as in all things, has
mingled mercy with the blow, in selecting that one best prepared to
leave us. May you be able to join me in saying 'His will be done!'
...I know how much you will grieve and how much she will be mourned.
I wish I could give you any comfort, but beyond our hope in the great
mercy of God, and the belief that he takes her at the time and place
when it is best for her to go, there is none. May that same mercy
be extended to us all, and may we be prepared for His summons."
In a letter to my sister Mary, one month later, from "Camp near
"...The death of my dear Annie was, indeed, to me a bitter pang, but
'the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of
the Lord.' In the quiet hours of the night, when there is nothing
to lighten the full weight of my grief, I feel as if I should be
overwhelmed. I have always counted, if God should spare me a few days
after this Civil War has ended, that I should have her with me, but
year after year my hopes go out, and I must be resigned...."
To this daughter whose loss grieved him so he was specially devoted.
She died in North Carolina, at the Warren White Sulphur Springs. At
the close of the war, the citizens of the county erected over her grave
a handsome monument. General lee was invited to be present at the
ceremonies of the unveiling. In his reply, he says:
"...I have always cherished the intention of visiting the tomb of her
who never gave me aught but pleasure;... Though absent in person, my
heart will be with you, and my sorrow and devotions will be mingled
with yours.... I inclose, according to your request, the date of my
daughter's birth and the inscription proposed for the monument over
her tomb. The latter are the last lines of the hymn which she asked
for just before her death."
A visitor to her grave, some years after the war, thus describes it:
"In the beautiful and quiet graveyard near the Springs a plain shaft
of native granite marks the grave of this beloved daughter. On one
side is cut in the stone, 'Annie C. Lee, daughter of General R. E. Lee
and Mary C. Lee'--and on the opposite--'Born at Arlington, June 18,
1839, and died at White Sulphur Springs, Warren County, North Carolina,
Oct. 20, 1862.' On another side are the lines selected by her father,
"'Perfect and true are all His ways
Whom heaven adores and earth obeys.'"
That autumn I was offered the position of Lt. and A. D. C. on the staff
of my brother, W. H. F. Lee, just promoted from the colonelcy of the
9th Virginia Cavalry to the command of a brigade in the same arm of
the service. My father had told me when I joined the army to do my
whole duty faithfully, not to be rash about volunteering for any service
out of my regular line, and always to accept promotion. After
consulting him, it was decided that I should take the position offered,
and he presented me with a horse and one of his swords. My promotion
necessitated my having an honourable discharge as a private, from the
ranks, and this I obtained in the proper way from General "Stonewall"
Jackson, commanding the corps of which my company was a part, and was
thus introduced for the first time to that remarkable man. Having
served in his command since my enlistment, I had been seeing him daily.
"Old Jack," at a distance, was as familiar to me as one of the battery
guns, but I had never met him, and felt much awe at being ushered into
his presence. This feeling, however, was groundless, for he was
seemingly so much embarrassed by the interview that I really felt sorry
for him before he dismissed me with my discharge papers, properly made
out and signed.
I had received a letter from my father telling me to come to him as
soon as I had gotten my discharge from my company, so I proceeded at
once to his headquarters, which were situated near Orange Court House,
on a wooded hill just east of the village. I found there the horse
which he gave me. She was a daughter of his mare, "Grace Darling,"
and, though not so handsome as her mother, she inherited many of her
good qualities and carried me well until the end of the war and for
thirteen years afterward. She was four years old, a solid bay, and
never failed me a single day during three years' hard work. The General
was on the point of moving his headquarters down to Fredericksburg,
some of the army having already gone forward to that city. I think
the camp was struck the day after I arrived, and as the General's hands
were not yet entirely well, he allowed me, as a great favour, to ride
his horse "Traveller." Amongst the soldiers this horse was as well
known as was his master. He was a handsome iron-gray with black
points--mane and tail very dark--sixteen hands high, and five years
old. He was born near the White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and
attracted the notice of my father when he was in that part of the
State in 1861. He was never known to tire, and, though quiet and
sensible in general and afraid of nothing, yet if not regularly
exercised, he fretted a good deal especially in a crowd of horses.
But there can be no better description of this famous horse than the
one given by his master. It was dictated to his daughter Agnes at
Lexington, Virginia, after the war, in response to some artist who
had asked for a description, and was corrected in his own handwriting:
"If I were an artist like you I would draw a true picture of Traveller--
representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest and
short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead,
delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such
a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his
worth and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat, cold,
and the dangers and sufferings through which he passed. He could
dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response
to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts, through
the long night marches and days of battle through which he has passed.
But I am no artist; I can only say he is a Confederate gray. I
purchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the autumn of 1861, and
he has been my patient follower ever since--to Georgia, the Carolinas,
and back to Virginia. He carried me through the Seven Days battle
around Richmond, the second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg,
the last day at Chancellorsville, to Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, and
back to the Rappahannock. From the commencement of the campaign in
1864 at Orange, till its close around Petersburg, the saddle was
scarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wilderness,
Spottsylvania, Cold Harbour, and across the James River. He was almost
in daily requisition in the winter of 1864-65 on the long line of
defenses from Chickahominy, north of Richmond, to Hatcher's Run, south
of the Appomattox. In the campaign of 1865, he bore me from Petersburg
to the final days at Appomattox Court House. You must know the comfort
he is to me in my present retirement. He is well supplied with
equipments. Two sets have been sent to him from England, one from
the ladies of Baltimore, and one was made for him in Richmond; but I
think his favourite is the American saddle from St. Louis. Of all
his companions in toil, 'Richmond,' 'Brown Roan,' 'Ajax,' and quiet
'Lucy Long,' he is the only one that retained his vigour. The first
two expired under their onerous burden, and the last two failed. You
can, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait."
The general had the strongest affection for Traveller, which he showed
on all occasions, and his allowing me to ride him on this long march
was a great compliment. Possibly he wanted to give me a good hammering
before he turned me over to the cavalry. During my soldier life, so
far, I had been on foot, having backed nothing more lively than a
tired artillery horse; so I mounted with some misgivings, though I
was very proud of my steed. My misgivings were fully realised, for
Traveller would not walk a step. He took a short, high trot--a buck-
trot, as compared with a buck-jump--and kept it up to Fredericksburg,
some thirty miles. Though young, strong, and tough, I was glad when
the journey ended. This was my first introduction to the cavalry
service. I think I am safe in saying that I could have walked the
distance with much less discomfort and fatigue. My father having thus
given me a horse and presented me with one of his swords, also supplied
my purse so that I could get myself an outfit suitable to my new
position, and he sent me on to join my command, stationed not far away
on the Rappahannock, southward from Fredericksburg.
As an officer in the cavalry on the staff, I had more frequent
opportunities of seeing my father than as a private in the artillery.
In the course of duty, I was sometimes sent to him to report the
condition of affairs at the front, or on the flank of the army, and
I also, occasionally, paid him a visit. At these times, he would
take me into his tent, talk to me about my mother and sisters, about
my horse and myself, or the people and the country where my command
happened to be stationed. I think my presence was very grateful to
him, and he seemed to brighten up when I came. I remember, he always
took it as a matter of course that I must be hungry (and I was for
three years), so he invariably made his mess-steward, Bryan, give me
something to eat, if I did not have time to wait for the regular meal.
His headquarters at this time, just before the battle of Fredericksburg
and after, were at a point on the road between Fredericksburg and
Hamilton's Crossing, selected on account of its accessibility.
Notwithstanding there was near-by a good house vacant, he lived in his
tents. His quarters were very unpretentious, consisting of three or
four "wall-tents" and several more common ones. They were pitched on
the edge of an old pine field, near a grove of forest trees from which
he drew his supply of fire-wood, while the pines helped to shelter
his tents and horses from the cold winds. Though from the outside
they were rather dismal, especially through the dreary winter time,
within they were cheerful, and the surroundings as neat and comfortable
as possible under the circumstances.
On November 24, 1862, in a letter to his daughter Mary, he writes:
"...General Burnside's whole army is apparently opposite Fredericksburg
and stretches from the Rappahannock to the Potomac. What his intentions
are he has not yet disclosed. I am sorry he is in position to oppress
our friends and citizens of the Northern Neck. He threatens to bombard
Fredericksburg, and the noble spirit displayed by its citizens,
particularly the women and children, has elicited my highest admiration.
They have been abandoning their homes, night and day, during all this
inclement weather, cheerfully and uncomplainingly, with only such
assistance as our wagons and ambulances could afford, women, girls,
children, trudging through the mud and bivouacking in the open fields."
How the battle of Fredericksburg was fought and won all the world has
heard, and I shall not attempt to describe it. On December 11th, the
day Burnside commenced his attack, General Lee wrote to my mother:
"...The enemy, after bombarding the town of Fredericksburg, setting
fire to many houses and knocking down nearly all those along the river,
crossed over a large force about dark, and now occupies the town. We
hold the hills commanding it, and hope we shall be able to damage him
yet. His position and heavy guns command the town entirely."
On December 16th, in another letter to my mother, he tells of the
recrossing of the Federals:
"I had supposed they were just preparing for battle, and was saving
our men for the conflict. Their hosts crown the hill and plain beyond
the river, and their numbers to me are unknown. Still I felt the
confidence we could stand the shock, and was anxious for the blow that
is to fall on some point, and was prepared to meet it here. Yesterday
evening I had my suspicions that they might return during the night,
but could not believe they would relinquish their hopes after all their
boasting and preparation, and when I say that the latter is equal to
the former you will have some idea of the magnitude. This morning they
were all safe on the north side of the Rappahannock. They went as they
came--in the night. They suffered heavily as far as the battle went,
but it did not go far enough to satisfy me. Our loss was comparatively
slight, and I think will not exceed two thousand. The contest will
have now to be renewed, but on what field I cannot say."
I did not see my father at any time during the fighting. some days
after it was all over, I saw him, as calm and composed as if nothing
unusual had happened, and he never referred to his great victory, except
to deplore the loss of his brave officers and soldiers or the sufferings
of the sick and wounded. He repeatedly referred to the hardships so
bravely endured by the inhabitants of Fredericksburg, who had been
obliged to flee from the town, the women and children, the old and the
feeble, whose sufferings cut him to the heart. On Christmas Day he
writes to his youngest daughter, Mildred, who was at school in North
"...I cannot tell you how I long to see you when a little quiet occurs.
My thoughts revert to you, your sisters, and your mother; my heart
aches for our reunion. Your brothers I see occasionally. This morning
Fitzhugh rode by with his young aide-de-camp (Rob) at the head of
his brigade, on his way up the Rappahannock. You must study hard,
gain knowledge, and learn your duty to God and your neighbour: that
is the great object of life. I have no news, confined constantly to
camp, and my thoughts occupied with its necessities and duties. I am,
however, happy in the knowledge that General Burnside and army will
not eat their promised Christmas dinner in Richmond to-day."
On the next day he writes as follows to his daughter Agnes, who was
with her mother in Richmond:
"Camp Fredericksburg, December 26, 1862.
"My Precious Little Agnes: I have not heard of you for a long time.
I wish you were with me, for always solitary, I am sometimes weary,
and long for the reunion of my family once again. But I will not
speak of myself, but of you.... I have seen the ladies in this vicinity
only when flying from the enemy, and it caused me acute grief to
witness their exposure and suffering. But a more noble spirit was
never displayed anywhere. The faces of old and young were wreathed
with smiles, and glowed with happiness at their sacrifices for the good
of their country. Many have lost EVERYTHING. What the fire and shells
of the enemy spared, their pillagers destroyed. But God will shelter
them, I know. So much heroism will not be unregarded. I can only
hold oral communication with your sister [His daughter Mary, in King
George county, within the lines of the enemy], and have forbidden the
scouts to bring any writing, and have taken some back that I had
given them for her. If caught, it would compromise them. They only
convey messages. I learn in that way she is well.
"Your devoted father,
"R. E. Lee."
I give another letter he wrote on Christmas Day, besides the one
quoted above, to his daughter, Mildred. It was written to his wife,
and is interesting as giving an insight into his private feelings
and views regarding this great victory:
"...I will commence this holy day by writing to you. My heart is filled
with gratitude to Almighty God for His unspeakable mercies with which
He has blessed us in this day, for those He has granted us from the
beginning of life, and particularly for those He has vouchsafed us
during the past year. What should have become of us without His
crowning help and protection? Oh, if our people would only recognise
it and cease from vain self-boasting and adulation, how strong would
be my belief in final success and happiness to our country! But what
a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends,
and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world;
to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and
to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on
this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better
thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace.
Our army was never in such good health and condition since I have been
attached to it. I believe they share with me my disappointment that
the enemy did not renew the combat on the 13th. I was holding back
all day and husbanding our strength and ammunition for the great
struggle, for which I thought I was preparing. Had I divined that was
to have been his only effort, he would have had more of it. My heart
bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men."
One marked characteristic of my father was his habit of attending to
all business matters promptly. He was never idle, and what he had to
do he performed with care and precision. Mr. Custis, my grandfather,
had made him executor of his will, wherein it was directed that all
the slaves belonging to the estate should be set free after the
expiration of so many years. The time had now arrived, and
notwithstanding the exacting duties of his position, the care of his
suffering soldiers, and his anxiety about their future, immediate and
distant, he proceeded according to the law of the land to carry out
the provisions of the will, and had delivered to every one of the
servants, where it was possible, their manumission papers. From his
letters written at this time I give a few extracts bearing on this
"...As regards the liberation of the people, I wish to progress in it
as far as I can. Those hired in Richmond can still find employment
there if they choose. Those in the country can do the same or remain
on the farms. I hope they will all do well and behave themselves. I
should like, if I could, to attend to their wants and see them placed
to the best advantage. But that is impossible. All that choose can
leave the State before the war closes....
"...I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and
returned it to him. I perceived that John Sawyer and James's names,
among the Arlington people, had been omitted, and inserted them. I
fear there are others among the White House lot which I did not
discover. As to the attacks of the Northern papers, I do not mind them,
and do not think it wise to make the publication you suggest. If all
the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not
embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary
deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled
to their freedom and I wish to give it to them. Those that have been
carried away, I hope are free and happy; I cannot get their papers to
them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call
for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit
The Army of Northern Virginia
The General's sympathy for 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
During this winter, which was a very severe one, the sufferings of
General Lee's soldiers on account of insufficient shelter and clothing,
the scant rations for man and beast, the increasing destitution
throughout the country, and his inability to better these conditions,
bore heavily upon him. But he was bright and cheerful to those around
him, never complaining of any one nor about anything and often indulging
in his quaint humour, especially with the younger officers, as when
he remarked to one of them, who complained of the tough biscuit at
"You ought not to mind that; they will stick by you the longer!"
His headquarters continued all the winter at the same place, and with
stove and fire-places in the tents, the General and his military family
managed to keep fairly comfortable. On February 6, 1863, he wrote to
his daughter, Agnes from this camp:
"Camp Fredericksburg, February 6, 1863.
"...I read yesterday, my precious daughter, your letter, and grieved
very much when last in Richmond at not seeing you. My movements are
so uncertain that I cannot be relied on for anything. The only place
I am to be found is in camp, and I am so cross now that I am not worth
seeing anywhere. Here you will have to take me with the three stools--
the snow, the rain, and the mud. The storm of the last twenty-four
hours has added to our stock of all, and we are now in a floating
condition. But the sun and the wind will carry all off in time, and
then we shall appreciate our relief. Our horses and mules suffer the
most. They have to bear the cold and rain, tug through the mud, and
suffer all the time with hunger. The roads are wretched, almost
impassable. I heard of Mag lately. One of our scouts brought me a
card of Margaret Stuart's with a pair of gauntlets directed to 'Cousin
Robert.'... I have no news. General Hooker is obliged to do something.
I do not know what it will be. He is playing the Chinese game, trying
what frightening will do. He runs out his guns, starts his wagons
and troops up and down the river, and creates an excitement generally.
Our men look on in wonder, give a cheer, and all again subsides in
statu quo ante bellum. I wish you were here with me to-day. You would
have to sit by this little stove, look out at the rain, and keep
yourself dry. But here come, in all the wet, the adjutants-general
with the papers. I must stop and go to work. See how kind God is;
we have plenty to do in good weather and bad...."
"Your devoted father,
"R. E. Lee."
On February 23d, he writes to Mrs. Lee:
"Camp Fredericksburg, February 23, 1863.
"The weather is now very hard upon our poor bushmen. This morning
the whole country is covered with a mantle of snow fully a foot deep.
It was nearly up to my knees as I stepped out this morning, and our
poor horses were enveloped. We have dug them out and opened our avenues
a little, but it will be terrible and the roads impassable. No cars
from Richmond yesterday. I fear our short rations for man and horse
will have to be curtailed. Our enemies have their troubles too. They
are very strong immediately in front, but have withdrawn their troops
above and below us back toward Acquia Creek. I owe Mr. F. J. Hooker
["Fighting Joe" was Hooker's most popular sobriquet in the Federal
army] no thanks for keeping me here. He ought to have made up his
mind long ago about what do to--24th. The cars have arrived and
brought me a young French officer, full of vivacity, and ardent for
service with me. I think the appearance of things will cool him. If
they do not, the night will, for he brought no blankets.
"R. E. Lee."
The dreary winter gradually passed away. Toward the last of April,
the two armies, which had been opposite each other for four months,
began to move, and, about the first of May, the greatest of Lee's
battles was fought. My command was on the extreme left, and, as Hooker
crossed the river, we followed a raiding party of the enemy's cavalry
over toward the James River above Richmond; so I did not see my father
at any time during the several day's fighting. The joy of our victory
at Chancellorsville was saddened by the death of "Stonewall" Jackson.
His loss was the heaviest blow the Army of Northern Virginia ever
sustained. To Jackson's note telling him he was wounded, my father
"I cannot express my regret at the occurance. Could I have directed
events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to have been
disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory, which is
due to your skill and energy."
Jackson said, when this was read to him,
"Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee."
Afterward, when it was reported that Jackson was doing well, General
Lee playfully sent him word:
"You are better off than I am, for while you have only lost your LEFT,
I have lost my RIGHT arm."
Then, hearing that he was worse, he said:
"Tell him that I am praying for him as I believe I have never prayed
After his death, General Lee writes to my mother, on May 11th:
"...In addition to the deaths of officers and friends consequent upon
the late battles, you will see that we have to mourn the loss of the
great and good Jackson. Any victory would be dear at such a price.
His remains go to Richmond to-day. I know not how to replace him.
God's will be done! I trust He will raise up some one in his place...."
Jones, in his Memoirs, says: "To one of his officers, after Jackson's
death, he [General Lee] said: 'I had such implicit confidence in
Jackson's skill and energy that I never troubled myself to give him
detailed instructions. The most general suggestions were all that he
To one of his aides, who came to his tent, April 29th, to inform him
that the enemy had crossed the Rappahannock River in heavy force,
General Lee made the playful reply:
"Well, I heard firing, and I was beginning to think it was time some
of you lazy young fellows were coming to tell me what it was all about.
Say to General Jackson that he knows just as well what to do with the
enemy as I do."
Jackson said of Lee, when it was intimated by some, at the time he
first took command, that he was slow:
"He is cautious. He ought to be. But he is NOT slow. Lee is a
phenomenon. He is the only man whom I would follow blindfold."
As the story of these great men year by year is made plainer to the
world, their love, trust, and respect for each other will be better
understood. As commander and lieutenant they were exactly suited.
When General Lee wanted a movement made and gave Jackson an outline
of his plans and the object to be gained, it was performed promptly,
well, and thoroughly, if it was possible for flesh and blood to do
At the end of May, the Army of Northern Virginia, rested and
strengthened, was ready for active operations. On May 31st General
Lee writes to Mrs. Lee:
"...General Hooker has been very daring this past week, and quite
active. He has not said what he intends to do, but is giving out by
his movements that he designs crossing the Rappahannock. I hope we
may be able to frustrate his plans, in part, if not in whole.... I
pray that our merciful Father in Heaven may protect and direct us!
In that case, I fear no odds and no numbers."
About June 5th most of the army was gathered around Culpeper. Its
efficiency, confidence, and MORALE were never better. On June 7th
the entire cavalry corps was reviewed on the plain near Brandy Station
in Culpeper by General Lee. We had been preparing ourselves for this
event for some days, cleaning, mending and polishing, and I remember
were very proud of our appearance. In fact, it was a grand sight--
about eight thousand well-mounted men riding by their beloved commander,
first passing by him in a walk and then a trot. He writes to my
mother next day--June 8, 1863:
"...I reviewed the cavalry in this section yesterday. It was a splendid
sight. The men and horses looked well. They have recuperated since
last fall. Stuart [J. E. B. Stuart, commanding cavalry corps.] was
in all his glory. Your sons and nephews [two sons and three nephews]
were well and flourishing. The country here looks very green and
pretty, notwithstanding the ravages of war. What a beautiful world
God, in His loving kindness to His creatures, has given us! What a
shame that men endowed with reason and knowledge of right should mar
The next day, June 9th, a large force of the enemy's cavalry, supported
by infantry, crossed the Rappahannock and attacked General Stuart.
The conflict lasted until dark, when
"The enemy was compelled to recross the river, with heavy loss, leaving
about five hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, and several
colours in our hands."
During the engagement, about 3 P. M., my brother, General W. H. F. Lee,
my commanding officer, was severely wounded. In a letter dated the
11th of the month, my father writes to my mother:
"...My supplications continue to ascend for you, my children, and my
country. When I last wrote I did not suppose that Fitzhugh would be
soon sent to the rear disabled, and I hope it will be for a short time.
I saw him the night after the battle--indeed, met him on the field
as they were bringing him from the front. He is young and healthy,
and I trust will soon be up again. He seemed to be more concerned
about his brave men and officers, who had fallen in the battle, than
It was decided, the next day, to send my brother to "Hickory Hill,"
the home of Mr. W. F. Wickham, in Hanover County, about twenty miles
from Richmond, and I was put in charge of him to take him there and
to be with him until his wound should heal. Thus it happened that I
did not meet my father again until after Gettysburg had been fought,
and the army had recrossed into Virginia, almost to the same place I
had left it. My father wrote my brother a note the morning after he
was wounded, before he left Culpeper. It shows his consideration and
"My Dear Son: I send you a dispatch, received from C. last night.
I hope you are comfortable this morning. I wish I could see you, but
I cannot. Take care of yourself, and make haste and get well and
return. Though I scarcely ever saw you, it was a great comfort to
know that you were near and with me. I could think of you and hope
to see you. May we yet meet in peace and happiness...."
In a letter to my brother's wife, written on the 11th, his love and
concern for both of them are plainly shown:
"I am so grieved, my dear daughter, to send Fitzhugh to you wounded.
But I am so grateful that his wound is of a character to give us full
hope of a speedy recovery. With his youth and strength to aid him,
and your tender care to nurse him, I trust he will soon be well again.
I know that you will unite with me in thanks to Almighty God, who has
so often sheltered him in the hour of danger, for his recent
deliverance, and lift up your whole heart in praise to Him for sparing
a life so dear to us, while enabling him to do his duty in the station
in which he had placed him. Ask him to join us in supplication that
He may always cover him with the shadow of His almighty arm, and teach
him that his only refuge is in Him, the greatness of whose mercy
reacheth unto the heavens, and His truth unto the clouds. As some good
is always mixed with the evil in this world, you will now have him with
you for a time, and I shall look to you to cure him soon and send him
back to me...."
My brother reached "Hickory Hill" quite comfortably, and his wound
commenced to heal finely. His wife joined him, my mother and sisters
came up from Richmond, and he had all the tender care he could wish.
He occupied "the office" in the yard, while I slept in the room
adjoining and became quite an expert nurse. About two weeks after our
arrival, one lovely morning as we all came out from the breakfast table,
stepping into the front porch with Mrs. Wickham, we were much surprised
to hear to or three shots down in the direction of the outer gate,
where there was a large grove of hickory trees. Mrs. Wickham said
some one must be after her squirrels, as there were many in those woods
and she asked me to run down and stop whoever was shooting them. I
got my hat, and at once started off to do her bidding. I had not
gone over a hundred yards toward the grove, when I saw, coming up at
a gallop to the gate I was making for, five or six Federal cavalrymen.
I knew what it meant at once, so I rushed back to the office and told
my brother. He immediately understood the situation and directed me
to get away--said I could do no good by staying, that the soldiers
could not and would not hurt him, and there was nothing to be gained
by my falling into their hands; but that, on the contrary, I might do
a great deal of good by eluding them, making my way to "North Wales,"
a plantation across the Pamunkey River, and saving our horses.
So I ran out, got over the fence and behind a thick hedge, just as I
heard the tramp and clank of quite a body of troopers riding up. Behind
this hedge I crept along until I reached a body of woods, were I was
perfectly safe. From a hill near by I ascertained that there was a
large raiding party of Federal cavalry in the main road, and the heavy
smoke ascending from the Court House, about three miles away, told me
that they were burning the railroad buildings at that place. After
waiting until I thought the coast was clear, I worked my way very
cautiously back to the vicinity of the house to find out what was going
on. Fortunately, I took advantage of the luxuriant shrubbery in the
old garden at the rear of the house, and when I looked out from the
last box bush that screened me, about twenty yards from the back porch,
I perceived that I was too soon, for there were standing, sitting
and walking about quite a number of the bluecoats. I jumped back
behind the group of box trees, and, flinging myself flat under a thick
fir, crawled close up to the trunk under the low-hanging branches, and
lay there for some hours.
I saw my brother brought out from the office on a mattress, and placed
in the "Hickory Hill" carriage, to which was hitched Mr. Wichkam's
horses, and then saw him driven away, a soldier on the box and a
mounted guard surrounding him. He was carried to the "White House"
in this way, and then sent by water to Fortress Monroe. This party
had been sent out especially to capture him, and he was held as a
hostage (for the safety of some Federal officers we had captured) for
nine long, weary months.
The next day I found out that all the horses but one had been saved
by the faithfulness of our servants. The one lost, my brother's
favourite and best horse, was ridden straight into the column by Scott,
a negro servant, who had him out for exercise. Before he knew our
enemies, he and the horse were prisoners. Scott watched for his
opportunity, and, not being guarded, soon got away. By crawling through
a culvert, under the road, while the cavalry was passing along, he
made his way into a deep ditch in the adjoining field, thence succeeded
in reaching the farm where the rest of the horses were, and hurried
them off to a safe place in the woods, just as the Federal cavalry
rode up to get them.
In a letter dated Culpeper, July 26th, to my brother's wife, my father
thus urges resignation:
"I received, last night, my darling daughter, your letter of the 18th
from 'Hickory Hill.'... You must not be sick while Fitzhugh is away,
or he will be more restless under his separation. Get strong and
hearty by his return, that he may the more rejoice at the sight of
you.... I can appreciate your distress at Fitzhugh's situation. I
deeply sympathise with it, and in the lone hours of the night I groan
in sorrow at his captivity and separation from you. But we must bear
it, exercise all our patience, and do nothing to aggravate the evil.
This, besides injuring ourselves, would rejoice our enemies and be
sinful in the eyes of God. In His own good time He will relieve us
and make all things work together for our good, if we give Him our
love and place in Him our trust. I can see no harm that can result
from Fitzhugh's capture, except his detention. I feel assured that he
will be well attended to. He will be in the hands of old army officers
and surgeons, most of whom are men of principle and humanity. His
wound, I understand, has not been injured by his removal, but is doing
well. Nothing would do him more harm than for him to learn that you
were sick and sad. How could he get well? So cheer up and prove
your fortitude and patriotism.... You may think of Fitzhugh and love
him as much as you please, but do not grieve over him or grow sad."
From Williamsport, to my mother, he thus writes of his son's capture:
"I have heard with great grief that Fitzhugh has been captured by the
enemy. Had not expected that he would be taken from his bed and carried
off, but we must bear this additional affliction with fortitude and
resignation, and not repine at the will of God. It will eventuate in
some good that we know not of now. We must bear our labours and
hardships manfully. Our noble men are cheerful and confident. I
constantly remember you in my thoughts and prayers."
On July 12th, from near Hagerstown, he writes again about him:
"The consequences of war are horrid enough at best, surrounded by all
the ameliorations of civilisation and Christianity. I am very sorry
for the injuries done the family at Hickory Hill, and particularly
that our dear old Uncle Williams, in his eightieth year, should be
subjected to such treatment. But we cannot help it, and must endure
it. You will, however, learn before this reaches you that our success
at Gettysburg was not so great as reported--in fact, that we failed
to drive the enemy from his position, and that our army withdrew to
the Potomac. Had the river not unexpectedly risen, all would have been
well with us; but God, in His all-wise providence, willed otherwise,
and our communications have been interrupted and almost cut off. The
waters have subsided to about four feet, and, if they continue, by
to-morrow, I hope, our communications will be open. I trust that a
merciful God, our only hope and refuge, will not desert us in this
hour of need, and will deliver us by His almighty hand, that the whole
world may recognise His power and all hearts be lifted up in adoration
and praise of His unbounded loving-kindness. We must, however, submit
to His almighty will, whatever that may be. May God guide and protect
us all is my constant prayer."
In 1868, in a letter to Major Wm. M. McDonald, of Berryville, Clarke
County, Virginia, who was intending to write a school history, and had
written to my father, asking for information about some of his great
battles, the following statement appears:
"As to the battle of Gettysburg, I must again refer you to the official
accounts. Its loss was occasioned by a combination of circumstances.
It was commenced in the absence of correct intelligence. It was
continued in the effort to overcome the difficulties by which we were
surrounded, and it would have been gained could one determined and
united blow have been delivered by our whole line. As it was, victory
trembled in the balance for three days, and the battle resulted in
the infliction of as great an amount of injury as was received and
in frustrating the Federal campaign for the season."
After my brother's capture I went to Richmond, taking with me his
horses and servants. After remaining there a short time, I mounted
my mare and started back to the army, which I found at its old camping-
ground in Culpeper. I stopped at first for a few days with my father.
He was very glad to see me and the could tell him all about my mother
and sisters, and many other friends whom I had just left in Richmond.
He appeared to be unchanged in manner and appearance. The
disappointment in the Gettysburg campaign, to which he alludes in his
letter to my mother, was not shown in anything he said or did. He
was calm and dignified with all, at times bright and cheerful, and
always had a pleasant word for those about him. The army lay inactive,
along the line of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan for two months,
watching the enemy, who was in our front. We were very anxious to
attack or to be attacked, but each general desired to fight on ground
of his won choosing.
During this period, and indeed at all times, my father was fully
employed. Besides the care of his own immediate command, he advised
with the President and Secretary of War as to the movements and
dispositions of the other armies in the Confederacy. In looking over
his correspondence one is astonished a the amount of it and at its
varied character. He always answered all letters addressed to him,
from whatever source, if it was possible. During this winter he
devoted himself especially to looking after the welfare of his troops,
their clothing, shoes, and rations, all three of which were becoming
very scarce. Often, indeed, his army had only a few days' rations
in sight. Here are some letters written to the authorities, showing
how he was hampered in his movements by the deficiencies existing in
the quartermaster's and commissary departments. To the Quartermaster-
General, at Richmond, he writes, October, 1863, after his movement
around General Meade's right, to Manassas:
"...The want of supplies of shoes, clothing and blankets is very great.
Nothing but my unwillingness to expose the men to the hardships that
would have resulted from moving them into Loudoun in their present
condition induced me to return to the Rappahannock. But I was averse
to marching them over the rough roads of that region, at a season, too
when frosts are certain and snow probable, unless they were better
provided to encounter them without suffering. I should, otherwise
have endeavoured to detain General Meade near the Potomac, if I could
not throw him to the north side."
In a letter of the same time to the Honourable James A. Seddon,
Secretary of War:
"...If General Meade is disposed to remain quiet where he is, it was
my intention, provided the army could be supplied with clothing, again
to advance and threaten his position. Nothing prevented my continuing
in his front but the destitute condition of the men, thousands of whom
are barefooted, a greater number partially shod, and nearly all without
overcoats, blankets, or warm clothing. I think the sublimest sight
of war was the cheerfulness and alacrity exhibited by this army in
the pursuit of the enemy under all the trial and privations to which
it was exposed...."
Later on, in January, when the sever weather commenced, he again
writes to the Quartermaster-General on the same subject:
"General: The want of shoes and blankets in this army continues to
cause much suffering and to impair its efficiency. In one regiment
I am informed that there are only fifty men with serviceable shoes,
and a brigade that recently went on picket was compelled to leave
several hundred men in camp, who were unable to bear the exposure of
duty, being destitute of shoes and blankets.... The supply, by running
the blockade, has become so precarious that I think we should turn
our attention chiefly to our own resources, and I should like to be
informed how far the latter can be counted upon.... I trust that no
efforts will be spared to develop our own resources of supply, as a
further dependence upon those from abroad can result in nothing but
increase of suffering and want. I am, with great respect,
"Your obedient servant,
"R. E. Lee, General."
There was at this time a great revival of religion in the army. My
father became much interested in it, and did what he could to promote
in his camps all sacred exercises. Reverend J. W. Jones, in his
"Personal Reminiscences of General R. E. Lee," says:
"General Lee's orders and reports always gratefully recognised 'The
Lord of Hosts' as the 'Giver of Victory,' and expressed an humble
dependence upon and trust in Him.'
All his correspondence shows the same devout feeling.
On August 13, 1863, he issued the following order:
"Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia, August 13, 1863.
"The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people,
appointed August 21st as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer.
A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and
soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are
absolutely necessary, will be suspended. The commanding officers of
brigades and regiments are requested to cause divine services, suitable
to the occasion, to be performed in their respective commands.
Soldiers! we have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His
signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful
spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause
should be pure in His eyes; that 'our times are in His hands,' and we
have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our
independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble
ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him
to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined
will; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and
sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place
among the nations of the earth.
"R. E. Lee, General."
His was a practical, every-day religion, which supported him all through
his life, enabled him to bear with equanimity every reverse of fortune,
and to accept her gifts without undue elation. During this period of
rest, so unusual to the Army of Northern Virginia, several reviews
were held before the commanding general. I remember being present
when that of the Third Army Corps, General A. P. Hill commanding, took
place. Some of us young cavalrymen, then stationed near the
Rappahannock, rode over to Orange Court House to see this grand military
pageant. From all parts of the army, officers and men who could get
leave came to look on, and from all the surrounding country the people,
old and young, ladies and children, came in every pattern of vehicle
and on horseback, to see twenty thousand of that "incomparable infantry"
of the Army of Northern Virginia pass in review before their great
The General was mounted on Traveller, looking very proud of his master,
who had on sash and sword, which he very rarely wore, a pair of new
cavalry gauntlets, and, I think, a new hat. At any rate, he looked
unusually fine, and sat his horse like a perfect picture of grace and
power. The infantry was drawn up in column by divisions, with their
bright muskets all glittering in the sun, their battle-flags standing
straight out before the breeze, and their bands playing, awaiting the
inspection of the General, before they broke into column by companies
and marched past him in review. When all was ready, General Hill and
staff rode up to General Lee, and the two generals, with their
respective staffs, galloped around front and rear of each of the three
divisions standing motionless on the plain. As the cavalcade reached
the head of each division, its commanding officer joined in and followed
as far as the next division, so that there was a continual infusion of
fresh groups into the original one all along the lines. Traveller
started with a long lope, and never changed his stride. His rider
sat erect and calm, not noticing anything but the gray lines of men
whom he knew so well. The pace was very fast, as there were nine
good miles to go, and the escort began to become less and less, dropping
out one by one from different causes as Traveller raced along without
check. When the General drew up, after this nine-mile gallop, under
the standard at the reviewing-stand, flushed with the exercise as
well as with pride in his brave men, he raised his hat and saluted.
Then arose a shout of applause and admiration from the entire
assemblage, the memory of which to this day moistens the eye of every
old soldier. The corps was then passed in review at a quick-step,
company front. It was a most imposing sight. After it was all over,
my father rode up to several carriages whose occupants he knew and
gladdened them by a smile, a word, or a shake of the hand. He found
several of us young officers with some pretty cousins of his from
Richmond, and he was very bright and cheerful, joking us young people
about each other. His letters to my mother and sister this summer and
fall help to give an insight into his thoughts and feelings. On July
15th, from Bunker Hill, in a letter to his wife, he says:
"...The army has returned to Virginia. Its return is rather sooner
than I had originally contemplated, but having accomplished much of
what I proposed on leaving the Rappahannock--namely, relieving the
valley of the presence of the enemy and drawing his army north of
the Potomac--I determined to recross the latter river. The enemy,
after centering his forces in our front, began to fortify himself
in his position and bring up his troops, militia, etc.--and those
around Washington and Alexandria. This gave him enormous odds. It
also circumscribed our limits for procuring subsistence for men and
animals, which, with the uncertain state of the river, rendered it
hazardous for us to continue on the north side. It has been raining
a great deal since we first crossed the Potomac, making the roads
horrid and embarrassing our operations. The night we recrossed it
rained terribly, yet we got all over safe, save such vehicles as broke
down on the road from the mud, rocks, etc. We are all well. I hope
we will yet be able to damage our adversaries when they meet us. That
it should be so, we must implore the forgiveness of God for our sins,
and the continuance of His blessings. There is nothing but His almighty
power that can sustain us. God bless you all...."
Later, July 26th, he writes from Camp Culpeper:
"...After crossing the Potomac, finding that the Shenandoah was six
feet above the fording-stage, and, having waited for a week for it to
fall, so that I might cross into Loudoun, fearing that the enemy might
take advantage of our position and move upon Richmond, I determined
to ascend the Valley and cross into Culpeper. Two corps are here
with me. The third passed Thornton's Gap, and I hope will be in
striking distance to-morrow. The army has laboured hard, endured much,
and behaved nobly. It has accomplished all that could be reasonably
expected. It ought not to have been expected to perform
impossibilities, or to have fulfilled the anticipations of the
thoughtless and unreasonable."
On August 2d, from the same camp, he again writes to my mother:
"...I have heard of some doctor having reached Richmond, who had seen
our son at Fortress Monroe. He said that his wound is improving,
and that he himself was well and walking about on crutches. The
exchange of prisoners that had been going on has, for some cause,
been suspended, owing to some crotchet or other, but I hope will soon
be resumed, and that we shall have him back soon. The armies are in
such close proximity that frequent collisions are common along the
outposts. Yesterday the enemy laid down two or three pontoon bridges
across the Rappahannock and crossed his cavalry, with a big force of
his infantry. It looked at first as if it were the advance of his
army, and, as I had not intended to deliver battle, I directed our
cavalry to retire slowly before them and to check their too rapid
pursuit. Finding, later in the day, that their army was not following,
I ordered out the infantry and drove them back to the river. I suppose
they intended to push on to Richmond by this or some other route. I
trust, however, they will never reach there...."
On August 23d, from the camp near Orange Court House, General Lee
writes to Mrs. Lee:
"...My camp is near Mr. Erasmus Taylor's house, who has been very kind
in contributing to our comfort. His wife sends us every day,
buttermilk, loaf bread, ice, and such vegetables as she has. I cannot
get her to desist, thought I have made two special visits to that
effect. All the brides have come on a visit to the army: Mrs. Ewell,
Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Heth, etc. General Meade's army is north of the
Rappahannock along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. He is very
"September 4, 1863.
"...You see I am still here. When I wrote last, the indications were
that the enemy would move against us any day; but this past week he
has been very quiet, and seems at present to continue so. I was
out looking at him yesterday, from Clarke's Mountain. He has spread
himself over a large surface and looks immense...."
And on September 18th, from the same camp:
"...The enemy state that they have heard of a great reduction in our
forces here, and are now going to drive us back to Richmond. I trust
they will not succeed; but our hope and our refuge is in our merciful
Father in Heaven...."
On October 9th, the Army of Northern Virginia was put in motion, and
wa pushed around Meade's right. Meade was gradually forced back to a
position near the old battlefield at Manassas. Although we had hard
marching, much skirmishing, and several severe fights between the
cavalry of both armies, nothing permanent was accomplished, and in
about ten days we were back on our old lines. In a letter of October
19, 1863, to his wife, my father says:
"...I have returned to the Rappahannock. I did not pursue with the
main army beyond Bristoe or Broad Run. Our advance went as far as
Bull Run, where the enemy was entrenched, extending his right as far
as 'Chantilly,' in the yard of which he was building a redoubt. I
could have thrown him farther back, but saw no chance of bringing
him to battle, and it would only have served to fatigue our troops
by advancing farther. I should certainly have endeavored to throw
them north of the Potomac; but thousands were barefooted, thousands
with fragments of shoes, and all without overcoats, blankets, or warm
clothing. I could not bear to expose them to certain suffering and
an uncertain issue...."
On October 25th, from "Camp Rappahannock," he writes again to my mother:
"...I moved yesterday into a nice pine thicket, and Perry is to-day
engaged in constructing a chimney in front of my tent, which will make
it warm and comfortable. I have no idea when Fitzhugh [his son,
Major General Fitzhugh Lee] will be exchanged. The Federal authorities
still resist all exchanges, because they think it is to our interest
to make them. Any desire expressed on our part for the exchange of
any individual magnifies the difficulty, as they at once think some
great benefit is to result to us from it. His detention is very
grievous to me, and, besides, I want his services. I am glad you have
some socks for the army. Send them to me. They will come safely.
Tell the girls [his daughters] to send all they can. I wish they could
make some shoes, too. We have thousands of barefooted men. There is
no news. General Meade, I believe, is repairing the railroad, and
I presume will come on again. If I could only get some shoes and
clothes for the men, I would save him the trouble...."
One can see from these letters of my father how deeply he felt for
the sufferings of his soldiers, and how his plans were hindered by
inadequate supplies of food and clothing. I heard him constantly
allude to these troubles; indeed, they seemed never absent from his
The Winter of 1863-4
The Lee family in Richmond--The 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
My mother had quite recently rented a house on Clay Street in Richmond
which, though small, gave her a roof of her own, and it also enabled
her at times to entertain some of her many friends. Of this new home,
and of a visit of a soldier's wife to him, the General thus writes:
"Camp Rappahannock, November 1, 1863.
"I received yesterday, dear Mary, your letter of the 29th, and am
very glad to learn that you find your new abode so comfortable and
so well arranged. The only fault I find in it is that it is not large
enough for you all, and that Charlotte, whom I fear requires much
attention, is by herself. Where is 'Life' to go, too, for I suppose
she is a very big personage? But you have never told me where it is
situated, or how I am to direct to you. Perhaps that may be the cause
of delay in my letters. I am sorry you find such difficulty in
procuring yarn for socks, etc. I fear my daughters have not taken to
the spinning-wheel and loom, as I have recommended. I shall not be
able to recommend them to the brave soldiers for wives. I had a visit
from a soldier's wife to-day, who was on a visit with her husband.
She was from Abbeville district, S. C. Said she had not seen her
husband for more than two years, and, as he had written to her for
clothes, she herself thought she would bring them on. It was the first
time she had travelled by railroad, but she got along very well by
herself. She brought an entire suit of her own manufacture for her
husband. She spun the yarn and made the clothes herself. She clad
her three young children in the same way, and had on a beautiful pair
of gloves she had made for herself. Her children she had left with
her sister. She said she had been here a week and must return
to-morrow, and thought she could not go back without seeing me. Her
husband accompanied her to my tent, in his nice gray suit. She was
very pleasing in her address and modest in her manner, and was clad
in a nice, new alpaca. I am certain she could not have made that.
Ask Misses Agnes and Sally Warwick what they think of that. They need
not ask me for permission to get married until they can do likewise.
She, in fact, was an admirable woman. Said she was willing to give
up everything she had in the world to attain our independence, and
the only complaint she made of the conduct of our enemies was their
arming our servants against us. Her greatest difficulty was to procure
shoes. She made them for herself and children of cloth with leather
soles. She sat with me about ten minutes and took her leave--another
mark of sense--and made no request for herself or husband. I wrote
you about my wants in my former letter. My rheumatism I hope is a
little better, but I have had to-day, and indeed always have, much
pain. I trust it will pass away.... I have just had a visit from
my nephews, Fitz, John, and Henry [General "Fitz" Lee, and his two
brothers, Major John Mason Lee and Captain Henry Carter Lee]. The
former is now on a little expedition. The latter accompanies him.
As soon as I was left alone, I committed them in a fervent prayer to
the care and guidance of our Heavenly Father.... I pray you may be
made whole and happy.
"Truly and devotedly yours,
"R. E. Lee."
Another letter from the same camp is interesting:
"Camp Rappahannock, November 5, 1863.
"I received last night, dear Mary, your letter of the 2d.... I am
glad to hear that Charlotte is better. I hope that she will get strong
and well, poor child. The visit of her 'grandpa' will cheer her up.
I trust, and I know, he gave her plenty of good advice. Tell Mrs.
Atkinson that her son Nelson is a very good scout and a good soldier.
I wish I had some way of promoting him. I received the bucket of butter
she was so kind as to send me, but have had no opportunity of returning
the vessel, which I hope to be able to do. I am sorry Smith does not
like your house. I have told you my only objection to it, and wish
it were large enough to hold Charlotte. It must have reminded you of
old times to have your brother Carter and Uncle Williams [Mr. Charles
Carter Lee, the General's brother; Mr. Williams Carter, the General's
uncle] to see you. I think my rheumatism is better to-day. I have
been through a great deal with comparatively little suffering. I have
been wanting to review the cavalry for some time, and appointed to-day
with fear and trembling. I had not been on horseback for five days
previously and feared I should not get through. The governor was
here and told me Mrs. Letcher had seen you recently. I saw all my
nephews looking very handsome, and Rob too. The latter says he has
written to you three times since he crossed the river. Tell "Chas."
I think F's old regiment, the 9th, made the best appearance in review.
"While on the ground, a man rode up to me and said he was just from
Alexandria and had been requested to give me a box, which he handed
me, but did not know who sent it. It contained a handsome pair of gilt
spurs. Good-night. May a kind heavenly Father guard you all.
"Truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee."
When our cavalry was reviewed the preceding summer, it happened that
we engaged the next day, June 9th, the enemy's entire force of that
arm, in the famous battle of Brandy Station. Since then there had
been a sort of superstition amongst us that if we wanted a fight all
that was necessary was to have a review. We were now on the same ground
we had occupied in June, and the enemy was in force just across the
river. As it happened, the fighting did take place, though the cavalry
was not alone engaged. Not the day after the review, but on November
7th, Meade advanced and crossed the Rappahannock, while our army fell
back and took up our position on the line of the Rapidan.
Before the two armies settled down into winter quarters, General Meade
tried once more to get at us, and on the 26th of November, with ten
days' rations and in light marching order, he crossed the Rapidan
and attempted to turn our right. But he was unable to do anything,
being met at every point by the Army of Northern Virginia, heavily
entrenched and anxious for an attack. Long says:
"Meade declared that the position could not be carried without the loss
of thirty thousand men. This contingency was too terrible to be
entertained--yet the rations of the men were nearly exhausted, and
nothing remained but retreat. This was safely accomplished on the
night of December 1st...."
Lee was more surprised at the retreat of Meade than he had been at his
advance, and his men, who had been in high spirits at the prospect
of obliterating the memory of Gettysburg, were sadly disappointed
at the loss of the opportunity. To my mother, General Lee wrote on
December 4th, from "Camp Rapidan":
"...You will probably have seen that General Meade has retired to his
old position on the Rappahannock, without giving us battle. I had
expected from his movements, and all that I had heard, that it was
his intention to do so, and after the first day, when I thought it
necessary to skirmish pretty sharply with him, on both flanks, to
ascertain his views, I waited, patiently, his attack. On Tuesday,
however, I thought he had changed his mind, and that night made
preparations to move around his left next morning and attack him. But
when day dawned he was nowhere to be seen. He had commenced to withdraw
at dark Tuesday evening. We pursued to the Rapidan, but he was over.
Owing to the nature of the ground, it was to our advantage to receive
rather than to make the attack. I am greatly disappointed at his
getting off with so little damage, but we do not know what is best
for us. I believe a kind God has ordered all things for our good...."
About this time the people of the City of Richmond, to show their
esteem for my father, desired to present him with a home. General
Lee, on hearing of it, thus wrote to the President of the Council:
"...I assure you, sir, that no want of appreciation of the honour
conferred upon me by this resolution--or insensibility to the kind
feelings which prompted it--induces me to ask, as I most respectfully
do, that no further proceedings be taken with reference to the subject.
The house is not necessary for the use of my family, and my own duties
will prevent my residence in Richmond. I should therefore be compelled
to decline the generous offer, and I trust that whatever means the
City Council may have to spare for this purpose may be devoted to
the relief of the families of our soldiers in the field, who are more
in want of assistance, and more deserving it, than myself...."
My brother was still in prison, and his detention gave my father great
concern. In a letter to my mother, written November 21st, he says:
"...I see by the papers that our son has been sent to Fort Lafayette.
Any place would be better than Fort Monroe, with Butler in command.
His long confinement is very grievous to me, yet it may all turn out
for the best...."
To his daughter-in-law my father was devoutedly attached. His love
for her was like that for his own children, and when her husband was
captured and thrown, wounded, into prison, his great tenderness for
her was shown on all occasions. Her death about this time, though
expected, was a great blow to him. When news came to Gen. W. H. F. Lee,
at Fortress Monroe, that his wife Charlotte was dying in Richmond,
he made application to General Butler, commanding that post, that he
be allowed to go to her for 48 hours, his brother Custis Lee, of equal
rank with himself, having formally volunteered in writing to take his
place, as a hostage, was curtly and peremptorily refused.
In his letter to my mother, of December 27th, my father says:
"...Custis's despatch which I received last night demolished all the
hopes, in which I had been indulging during the day, of dear Charlotte's
recovery. It has pleased God to take from us one exceedingly dear
to us, and we must be resigned to His holy will. She, I trust, will
enjoy peace and happiness forever, while we must patiently struggle
on under all the ills that may be in store for us. What a glorious
thought it is that she has joined her little cherubs and our angel
Annie [his second daughter] in Heaven. Thus is link by link the strong
chain broken that binds us to the earth, and our passage soothed to
another world. Oh, that we may be at last united in that heaven of
rest, where trouble and sorrow never enter, to join in an everlasting
chorus of praise and glory to our Lord and Saviour! I grieve for our
lost darling as a father only can grieve for a daughter, and my sorrow
is heightened by the thought of the anguish her death will cause our
dear son and the poignancy it will give to the bars of his prison.
May God in His mercy enable him to bear the blow He has so suddenly
dealt, and sanctify it to his everlasting happiness!"
After Meade's last move, the weather becoming wintry, the troops fixed
up for themselves winter quarters, and the cavalry and artillery were
sent back along the line of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, where
forage could be more easily obtained for their horses. On January 24,
1864, the General writes to my mother:
"...I have had to disperse the cavalry as much as possible, to obtain
forage for their horses, and it is that which causes trouble.
Provisions for the men, too, are very scarce, and, with very light diet
and light clothing, I fear they suffer, but still they are cheerful
and uncomplaining. I received a report from one division the other
day in which it stated that over four hundred men were barefooted and
over a thousand without blankets."
Lee was the idol of his men. Colonel Charles Marshall, who was his
A. D. C. and military secretary, illustrates this well in the following
"While the Army was on the Rapidan, in the winter of 1863-4, it became
necessary, as was often the case, to put the men on very short rations.
Their duty was hard, not only on the outposts during the winter, but
in the construction of roads, to facilitate communication between
the different parts of the army. One day General Lee received a letter
from a private soldier, whose name I do not now remember, informing
him of the work that he had to do, and stating that his rations were
not sufficient to enable him to undergo the fatigue. He said, however,
that if it was absolutely necessary to put him on such short allowance,
he would make the best of it, but that he and his comrades wanted to
know if General Lee was aware that his men were getting so little to
eat, because if he was aware of it he was sure there must be some
necessity for it. General Lee did not reply directly to the letter,
but issued a general order in which he informed the soldiers of his
efforts in their behalf, and that their privation was beyond his means
of present relief, but assured them that he was making every effort
to procure sufficient supplies. After that there was not a murmur
in the army, and the hungry men went cheerfully to their hard work."
When I returned to the army in the summer, I reported to my old brigade,
which was gallantly commanded by John R. Chambliss, colonel of the
13th Virginia Cavalry, the senior officer of the brigade. Later, I
had been assigned to duty with General Fitz Lee and was with him at
this time. My mother was anxious that I should be with my father,
thinking, I have no doubt, that my continued presence would be a comfort
to him. She must have written him to that effect, for in a letter to
her, dated February, 1864, he says:
"...In reference to Rob, his company would be a great pleasure and
comfort to me, and he would be extremely useful in various ways, but
I am opposed to officers surrounding themselves with their sons and
relatives. It is wrong in principle, and in that case selections would
be made from private and social relations, rather than for the public
good. There is the same objection to his going with Fitz Lee. I
should prefer Rob's being in the line, in an independent position,
where he could rise by his own merit and not through the recommendation
of his relatives. I expect him soon, when I can better see what he
himself thinks. The young men have no fondness for the society of
the old general. He is too heavy and sombre for them...."
If anything was said to me on this occasion by my father, I do not
remember it. I rather think that something prevented the interview,
for I cannot believe that it could have entirely escaped my memory.
At any rate, I remained with General Fitz Lee until my brother's return
from prison in April of that year. Fitz Lee's brigade camped near
Charlottesville, on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, in January, in
order that forage could be more readily obtained. The officers, to
amuse themselves and to return in part the courtesies and kindnesses
of the ladies of the town, gave a ball. It was a grand affair for
those times. Committees were appointed and printed invitations issued.
As a member of the invitation committee, I sent one to the general
commanding the army. Here is his opinion of it, in a letter to me:
"...I inclose a letter for you, which has been sent to my care. I
hope you are well and all around you are so. Tell Fitz I grieve over
the hardships and sufferings of his men, in their late expedition. I
should have preferred his waiting for more favourable weather. He
accomplished much under the circumstances, but would have done more
in better weather. I am afraid he was anxious to get back to the ball.
This is a bad time for such things. We have too grave subjects on
hand to engage in such trivial amusements. I would rather his officers
should entertain themselves in fattening their horses, healing their
men, and recruiting their regiments. There are too many Lees on the
committee. I like all to be present at the battles, but can excuse
them at balls. But the saying is, 'Children will be children.' I
think he had better move his camp farther from Charlottesville, and
perhaps he will get more work and less play. He and I are too old for
such assemblies. I want him to write me how his men are, his horses,
and what I can do to full up the ranks...."
In this winter and spring of 1864, every exertion possible was made
by my father to increase the strength of his army and to improve its
efficiency. He knew full well that the enemy was getting together
an enormous force, and that his vast resources would be put forth to
crush us in the spring. His letters at this time to President Davis
and the Secretary of War show how well he understood the difficulties
of his position.
"In none of them," General Long says, "does he show a symptom of despair
or breathe a thought of giving up the contest. To the last, he remained
full of resources, energetic and defiant, and ready to bear upon his
shoulders the whole burden of the conduct of the war."
In a letter to President Davis, written March, 1864, he says:
"Mr. President: Since my former letter on the subject, the indications
that operations in Virginia will be vigorously prosecuted by the enemy
are stronger than they then were. General Grant has returned from
the army in the West. He is, at present, with the Army of the Potomac,
which is being organised and recruited.... Every train brings recruits
and it is stated that every available regiment at the North is added
Their plans are not sufficiently developed to discover them, but I
think we can assume that, if General Grant is to direct operations
on this frontier, he will concentrate a large force on one or more
lines, and prudence dictates that we should make such preparations
as are in our power...."
On April 6th he again writes to the President:
"...All the information I receive tends to show that the great effort
of the enemy in this campaign will be made in Virginia....
Reinforcements are certainly daily arriving to the Army of the
Potomac.... The tone of the Northern papers, as well as the impression
prevailing in their armies, go to show that Grant with a large force
is to move against Richmond.... The movements and reports of the
enemy may be intended to mislead us, and should therefore be carefully
observed. But all the information that reaches me goes to strengthen
the belief that General Grant is preparing to move against Richmond."
The question of feeding his army was ever before him. To see his men
hungry and cold, and his horses ill fed, was a great pain to him. To
Mr. Davis he thus writes on this subject:
"Headquarters, April 12, 1864.
"Mr. President: My anxiety on the subject of provisions for the army