Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son

Part 3 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

is so great that I cannot refrain from expressing it to Your Excellency.
I cannot see how we can operate with our present supplies. Any
derangement in their arrival or disaster to the railroad would render
it impossible for me to keep the army together, and might force a
retreat to North Carolina. Thee is nothing to be had in this section
for men or animals. We have rations for the troops to-day and
to-morrow. I hope a new supply arrived last night, but I have not yet
had a report. Every exertion should be made to supply the depots at
Richmond and at other points. All pleasure travel should cease, and
everything be devoted to necessary wants.

"I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

"R. E. Lee, General."

In a letter written to our cousin, Margaret Stuart, of whom he was
very fond, dated March 29th, he says:

"...The indications at present are that we shall have a hard struggle.
General Grant is with the Army of the Potomac. All the officer's
wives, sick, etc., have been sent to Washington. No ingress into or
egress from the lines is now permitted and no papers are allowed to
come out--they claim to be assembling a large force...."

Again, April 28th, he writes to this same young cousin:

"...I dislike to send letters within reach of the enemy, as they might
serve, if captured, to bring distress on others. But you must sometimes
cast your thoughts on the Army of Northern Virginia, and never forget
it in your prayers. It is preparing for a great struggle, but I pray
and trust that the great God, mighty to deliver, will spread over it
His almighty arms, and drive its enemies before it...."

One perceives from these letters how clearly my father foresaw the
storm that was so soon to burst upon him. He used every means within
his power to increase and strengthen his army to meet it, and he
continually urged the authorities at Richmond to make preparations
in the way of supplies of ammunition, rations, and clothing.

I shall not attempt to describe any part of this campaign except in a
very general way. It has been well written up by both sides, and what
was done by the Army of Northern Virginia we all know. I saw my father
only once or twice, to speak to him, during the thirty odd days from
the Wilderness to Petersburg, but, in common with all his soldiers,
I felt that he was ever near, that he could be entirely trusted with
the care of us, that he would not fail us, that it would all end well.
The feeling of trust that we had in him was simply sublime. When I
say "we," I mean the men of my age and standing, officers and privates
alike. Older heads may have begun to see the "beginning of the end"
when they saw that slaughter and defeat did not deter our enemy, but
made him the more determined in his "hammering" process; but it never
occurred to me, and to thousands and thousands like me, that there
was any occasion for uneasiness. We firmly believed that "Marse
Robert," as his soldiers lovingly called him, would bring us out of
this trouble all right.

When Grant reached Spottsylvania Court House, he sent all of his
cavalry, under Sheridan, to break our communications. They were met
at Yellow Tavern, six miles from Richmond, by General Stuart, with
three brigades of Confederate cavalry, and were attacked so fiercely
that they were held there nearly all day, giving time for the troops
around Richmond to concentrate for the defense of the city.

In this fight General Stuart fell mortally wounded, and he died the
next day in Richmond. The death of our noted cavalry leader was a
great blow to our cause--a loss second only to that of Jackson.

Captain W. Gordon McCabe writes me:

"I was sitting on my horse very near to General Lee, who was talking
to my colonel, William Johnson Pegram, when a courier galloped up
with the despatch announcing that Stuart had been mortally wounded
and was dying. General Lee was evidently greatly affected, and said
slowly, as he folded up the despatch, 'General Stuart has been mortally
wounded: a most valuable and able officer.' Then, after a moment,
he added in a voice of deep feeling 'HE NEVER BROUGHT ME A PIECE OF
FALSE INFORMATION'--turned and looked away. What praise dearer to a
soldier's heart could fall from the lips of the commanding general
touching his Chief of Cavalry! These simple words of Lee constitute,
I think, the fittest inscription for the monument that is soon to be
erected to the memory of the great cavalry leader of the 'Army of
Northern Virginia.'"

In a letter from my father to my mother, dated Spottsylvania Court
House, May 16th, he says:

"...As I write I am expecting the sound of the guns every moment. I
grieve over the loss of our gallant officers and men, and miss their
aid and sympathy. A more zealous, ardent, brave, and devoted soldier
than Stuart the Confederacy cannot have. Praise be to God for having
sustained us so far. I have thought of you very often in these eventful
days. God bless and preserve you."

General Lee, in his order announcing the death of Stuart, thus speaks
of him:

"...Among the gallant soldiers who have fallen in this war, General
Stuart was second to none in valour, in zeal, and in unflinching
devotion to his country. His achievements form a conspicuous part of
the history of this army, with which his name and services will be
forever associated. To military capacity of a high order and to the
noble virtues of the soldier he added the brighter graces of a pure
life, guided and sustained by the Christian's faith and hope. The
mysterious hand of an all-wise God has removed him from the scene of
his usefulness and fame. His grateful countrymen will mourn his loss
and cherish his memory. To his comrades in arms he has left the proud
recollections of his deeds and the inspiring influence of his example."

Speaking of the operations around Spottsylvania Court House, Swinton,
the historian of the Army of the Potomac, says:

"Before the lines of Spottsylvania, the Army of the Potomac had for
twelve days and nights engaged in a fierce wrestle in which it had
done all that valour may do to carry a position by nature and art
impregnable. In this contest, unparalleled in its continuous fury,
and swelling to the proportions of a campaign, language is inadequate
to convey an impression of the labours, fatigues, and sufferings of the
troops, who fought by day, only to march by night, from point to point
of the long line, and renew the fight on the morrow. Above forty
thousand men had already fallen in the bloody encounters of the
Wilderness and Spottsylvania, and the exhausted army began to lose
its spirits. It was with joy, therefore, that it at length turned
its back upon the lines of Spottsylvania."

General Long, in his "Memoirs of General Lee," speaking of our army
at this time, says:

"In no previous operations did the Army of Northern Virginia display
higher soldierly qualities. Regardless of numbers, every breach was
filled, and, with unparalleled stubbornness, its lines were maintained.
The soldiers of that army not only gratified their countrymen, but by
their gallantry and vigour won the admiration of their enemies.
Whenever the men in blue appeared they were met by those in gray, and
muzzle to muzzle and point to point they measured their foeman's

When we learned that General Lee was ill--confined for a day or two
to his tent, at the time he was confronting General Grant on the North
Anna--this terrible thought forced itself upon us: Suppose disease
should disable him, even for a time, or, worse, should take him forever
from the front of his men! It could not be! It was too awful to
consider! And we banished any such possibility from our minds. When
we saw him out again, on the lines, riding Traveller as usual, it was
as if some great crushing weight had been suddenly lifted from our
hearts. Colonel Walter H. Taylor, his adjutant-general, says:

"The indisposition of General Lee...was more serious than was generally
supposed. Those near him were very apprehensive lest he should be
compelled to give up."

General Early also writes of this circumstance:

"One of his three corps commanders [Longstreet] had been disabled by
wounds at the Wilderness, and another was too unwell to command his
corps [A. P. Hill], while he (General Lee) was suffering from a most
annoying and weakening disease. In fact, nothing but his own determined
will enabled him to keep the field at all; and it was then rendered
more manifest than ever that he was the head and front, the very life
and soul of the army."

Chapter VII
Fronting the Army of the Potomac

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

From the North Anna River the Federal Army moved by its left flank,
seeking to find its adversary unprepared, but the Army of Northern
Virginia steadily confronted it, ever ready to receive any attack.
At Cold Harbour they paused, facing each other, and General Grant,
having received sixteen thousand men from Butler by way of Yorktown
on June 1st, made an attack, but found our lines immovable. In his
"Memoirs" he writes:

"June 2d was spent in getting troops into position for attack on the
3d. On June 3d, we again assaulted the enemy's works in the hope of
driving him from his position. In this attempt our loss was heavy,
while that of the enemy, I have reason to believe, was comparatively

This assault was repelled along the whole line, with the most terrible
slaughter yet recorded in our war. Yet in a few hours these beaten
men were ordered to move up to our lines again. Swinton, the historian
of the Army of the Potomac, thus describes what happened when this
order was sent to the men:

"The order was issued through these officers" (the corps commanders)
"To their subordinate commanders, and from them descended through the
wonted channels; but no man stirred, and the immobile lines pronounced
a verdict, silent, yet emphatic, against further slaughter. The loss
on the Union side in this sanguinary action was more than thirteen
thousand, while on the part of the Confederates it is doubtful whether
it reached that many hundreds."

Colonel Walter H. Taylor, in his "Four Years with General Lee," says:

"Soon after this, he (Grant) abandoned his chosen line of operations,
and moved his army to the south side of the James River. The struggle
from Wilderness to this point covers a period of about one month,
during which time there had been an almost daily encounter of hostile
arms, and the Army of Northern Virginia had placed hors de combat of
the army under General Grant a number equal to its entire numerical
strength at the commencement of the campaign, and, notwithstanding
its own heavy losses and the reinforcements received by the enemy,
still presented an impregnable front to its opponent, and constituted
and insuperable barrier to General Grant's 'On to Richmond.'"

Thus after thirty days of marching, starving, fighting, and with a
loss of more than sixty thousand men, General Grant reached the James
River, near Petersburg, which he could have done at any time he so
desired without the loss of a single man. The baffling of our
determined foe so successfully raised the spirits of our rank and file,
and their confidence in their commander knew no bounds.

The two armies now commenced a contest which could end only one way.
If General Lee had been permitted to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond,
to fall back upon some interior point, nearer supplies for man and beast
and within supporting distance of the remaining forces of the
Confederacy, the surrender would certainly have been put off--possibly
never have taken place--and the result of the war changed. The Army
of the Potomac placed itself on the James, through whose channel it had
easy access to the wide world whence to secure for itself an unlimited
supply of men and munitions of war. General Lee, with a line thirty
miles long to defend and with only 35,000 men to hold it, with no chance
of reinforcements, no reserves with which to fill up the ranks lessened
daily by death in battle and by disease, had to sit still and see his
army, on half rations or less, melt away because it was deemed advisable
by his government, for political and other purposes, to hold Richmond,
the Confederacy's capital.

In an article by Lord Wolseley, in "Macmillan's Magazine," he says:

"Lee was opposed to the final defense of Richmond that was urged upon
him for political, not military reasons. It was a great strategic
error. General Grant's large army of men was easily fed, and its daily
losses easily recruited from a near base; whereas, if it had been
drawn into the interior after the little army with which Lee
endeavoured to protect Richmond, its fighting strength would have been
largely reduced by the detachments required to guard a long line of
communications through a hostile country."

During the nine months the siege of Petersburg lasted, I saw my father
but seldom. His headquarters were near the town, my command was on
the extreme right of the army, and during the winter, in order to get
forage, we were moved still further away, close to the border of North
Carolina. During this summer, I had occasion, once or twice, to report
to him at his headquarters, once about July 1st by his special order.
I remember how we all racked our brains to account for this order,
which was for me to report "at once to the commanding general," and
many wild guesses were made by my young companions as to what was to
become of me. Their surmises extended from my being shot for unlawful
foraging to my being sent on a mission abroad to solicit the recognition
of our independence. I reported at once, and found my father expecting
me, with a bed prepared. It was characteristic of him that he never
said a word about what I was wanted for until he was ready with full
instructions. I was fed at once, for I was still hungry, my bed was
shown me, and I was told to rest and sleep well, as he wanted me in
the morning, and that I would need all my strength.

The next morning he gave me a letter to General Early, who, with his
command, was at that time in Maryland, threatening Washington. My
mission was to carry this letter to him. As Early had cut loose from
his communications with Virginia, and as there was a chance of any
messenger being caught by raiding parties, my father gave me verbally
the contents of his letter, and told me that if I saw any chance of
my capture to destroy it, then, if I did reach the General, I should
be able to tell him what he had written. He cautioned me to keep my
own counsel, and to say nothing to any one as to my destination. Orders
for a relay of horses from Staunton, where the railroad terminated, to
the Potomac had been telegraphed, and I was to start at once. This I
did, seeing my sisters and mother in Richmond while waiting for the
train to Staunton, and having very great difficulty in keeping from
them my destination. But I did, and, riding night and day, came up
with General Early at a point in Maryland some miles beyond the old
battlefield of Sharpsburg. I delivered the letter to him, returned
to Petersburg, and reported to my father. Much gratified by the evident
pleasure of the General at my diligence and at the news I had brought
from Early and his men, after a night's rest and two good meals I
returned to my command, never telling my comrades until long afterward
what had been done to me by the commanding general.

My father's relations with the citizens of Petersburg were of the
kindest description. The ladies were ever trying to make him more
comfortable, sending him of their scanty fare more than they could
well spare. He always tried to prevent them, and when he could do
so without hurting their feelings he would turn over to the hospitals
the dainties sent him--much to the disgust of his mess-steward, Bryan.
Bryan was an Irishman, perfectly devoted to my father, and, in his
opinion, there was nothing in the eatable line which was too good for
the General. He was an excellent caterer, a good forager, and, but
for my father's frowning down anything approaching lavishness, the
headquarter's table would have made a much better show. During this
period of the war, Bryan was so handicapped by the universal scarcity
of all sorts of provisions that his talents were almost entirely hidden.
The ladies not only were anxious to feed the General, but also to
clothe him. From Camp Petersburg he writes to my mother, June 24th:

"...The ladies of Petersburg have sent me a nice set of shirts. They
were given to me by Mrs. James R. Branch and her mother, Mrs. Thomas
Branch. In fact, they have given me everything, which I fear they
cannot spare--vegetables, bread, milk, ice-cream. To-day one of them
sent me a nice peach--the first one I think I have seen for two years.
I sent it to Mrs. Shippen [an invalid lady, in the yard of whose
country place ("Violet Bank") Lee's tents were pitched]. Mr. Platt
had services again to-day under the trees near my camp. We had quite
a large congregation of citizens, ladies and gentlemen, and our usual
number of soldiers. During the services, I constantly heard the shells
crashing among the houses of Petersburg. Tell 'Life' [his pet name
for my sister Mildred] I send her a song composed by a French soldier.
As she is so learned in the language, I want he to send my a reply
in verse."

June 30, 1864, the anniversary of his wedding day, he thus writes to
my mother:

"...I was very glad to receive your letter yesterday, and to hear that
you were better. I trust that you will continue to improve and soon
be as well as usual. God grant that you may be entirely restored in
His own good time. Do you recollect what a happy day thirty-three
years ago this was? How many hopes and pleasures it gave birth to!
God has been very merciful and kind to us, and how thankless and
sinful I have been. I pray that He may continue His mercies and
blessings to us, and give us a little peace and rest together in this
world, and finally gather us and all He has given us around His throne
in the world to come. The President has just arrived, and I must
bring my letter to a close."

My mother had been quite ill that summer, and my father's anxiety for
her comfort and welfare, his desire to be with her to help her, was
very great. The sick in the Confederacy at this period of universal
scarcity suffered for want of the simplest medicines. All that could
be had were given to hospitals. To his youngest daughter the General
writes, and sends to Mrs. Lee what little he could find in the way
of fruit:

"...I received this morning by your brother your note of the 3d, and
am glad to hear that your mother is better. I sent out immediately
to try to find some lemons, but could only procure two, sent to me
by a kind lady, Mrs. Kirkland, in Petersburg. These were gathered
from her own trees. There are none to be purchased. I found one
in my valise, dried up, which I also send, as it may prove of some
value. I also put up some early apples which you can roast for your
mother, and one pear. This is all the fruit I can get. You must
go to the market every morning and see if you cannot find some fruit
for her. There are no lemons to be had. Tell her lemonade is not as
palatable or digestible as buttermilk. Try to get some good buttermilk
for her. With ice, it is delicious and very nutritious."

My sister Mildred had a pet squirrel which ran about the house in
Richmond. She had named it "Custis Morgan," after her brother Custis,
and General John Morgan, the great cavalry leader of the western army.
He ventured out one day to see the city, and never returned. In a
letter to Mildred, July 10th, my father alludes to his escape, and
apparently considers it a blessing:

"...I was pleased on the arrival of my little courier to learn that
you were better, and that 'Custis Morgan' was still among the missing.
I think the farther he gets from you the better you will be. The shells
scattered the poor inhabitants of Petersburg so that many of the churches
are closed. Indeed, they have been visited by the enemy's shells.
Mr. Platt, pastor of the principal Episcopal church, had services at
my headquarters to-day. The services were under the trees, and the
discourse on the subject of salvation...."

About this time, the enemy, having been at work on a mine for nearly
a month, exploded it, and attacked our lines with a large force. The
ensuing contest was called the Battle of the Crater. General Lee,
having suspected that a mine was being run under his works, was
partly prepared for it, and the attack was repulsed very quickly with
great loss to the enemy. In the address of Capt. W. Gordon McCabe
before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia--November 2,
1876--speaking of this event, he says:

"From the mysterious paragraphs in the Northern papers, and from reports
of deserters, though those last were vague and contradictory, Lee and
Beauregard suspected that the enemy was mining in front of some one
of the three salients on Beauregard's front, and the latter officer
had in consequence directed counter-mines to be sunk from all three,
meanwhile constructing gorge-lines in the rear upon which the troops
might retire in case of surprise or disaster.... But the counter-
mining on the part of the Confederates was after a time discontinued,
owing to the lack of proper tools, the inexperience of the troops in
such work, and the arduous nature of their service in the trenches."

The mine was sprung July 30th. On the 31st, the General writes:

"...Yesterday morning the enemy sprung a mine under one of our batteries
on the line and got possession of a portion of our intrenchments. It
was the part defended by General Beauregard's troops, I sent General
Mahone with two brigades of Hill's corps, who charged them handsomely,
recapturing the intrenchments and guns, twelve stands of colours,
seventy-three officers, including General Bartlett, his staff, three
colonels, and eight hundred and fifty enlisted men. There were
upward of five hundred of his dead and unburied in the trenches,
among them many officers and blacks. He suffered severely. He has
withdrawn his troops from the north side of the James. I do not know
what he will attempt next. He is mining on other points along our line.
I trust he will not succeed in bettering his last attempt...."

Grant, by means of a pontoon bridge, permanently established across
the James, was able to move his troops very quickly from one side to
the other, and could attack either flank, while making a feint on
the opposite one. This occurred several times during the summer, but
General Lee seemed always to have anticipated the movement and to be
able to distinguish the feint from the real attack. On August 14th,
he speaks of one of these movements in a letter to my mother:

"...I have been kept from church to-day by the enemy's crossing to the
north side of the James River and the necessity of moving troops to
meet him. I do not know what his intentions are. He is said to be
cutting a canal across the Dutch Gap, a point in the river--but I
cannot, as yet, discover it. I was up there yesterday, and saw nothing
to indicate it. We shall ascertain in a day or two. I received to-day
a kind letter from Reverend Mr. Cole, of Culpeper Court House. He
is a most excellent man in all the relations of life. He says there
is not a church standing in all that country, within the lines formerly
occupied by the enemy. All are razed to the ground, and the materials
used often for the vilest purposes. Two of the churches at the Court
House barely escaped destruction. The pews were all taken out to make
seats for the theatre. The fact was reported to the commanding officer
by their own men of the Christian Commission, but he took no steps
to rebuke or arrest it. We must suffer patiently to the end, when
all things will be made right...."

To oppose this movement (of August 14th), which was in heavy force,
our cavalry division was moved over to the north side, together with
infantry and artillery, and we had a very lively time for several
days. In the engagement on the 15th of August I was shot in the arm
and disabled for about three weeks. The wound was a very simple one--
just severe enough to give me a furlough, which I enjoyed intensely.
Time heals all wounds, it is said. I remember it cured mine all too
soon, for, being on a wounded leave, provided it did not keep one in
bed, was the best luck a soldier could have. I got back the last of
September, and in passing stopped to see my father. I take from General
Long a pen-picture of him at this time, which accords with my own
recollection of his appearance:

"...General Lee continued in excellent health and bore his many cares
with his usual equanimity. He had aged somewhat in appearance since
the beginning of the war, but had rather gained than lost in physical
vigour, from the severe life he had led. His hair had grown gray, but
his face had the ruddy hue of health, and his eyes were as clear and
bright as ever. His dress was always a plain, gray uniform, with
cavalry boots reaching to his knees, and a broad-brimmed gray felt
hat. He seldom wore a weapon, and his only mark of rank was the stars
on his collar. Though always abstemious in diet, he seemed able to
bear any amount of fatigue, being capable of remaining in his saddle
all day and at his desk half the night."

I cannot refrain from further quoting from the same author this
beautiful description of the mutual love, respect, and esteem existing
between my father and his soldiers:

"No commander was ever more careful, and never had care for the comfort
of an army given rise to greater devotion. He was constantly calling
the attention of the authorities to the wants of his soldiers, making
every effort to provide them with food and clothing. The feeling for
him was one of love, not of awe and dread. They could approach him
with the assurance that they would be received with kindness and
consideration, and that any just complaint would receive proper
attention. There was no condescension in his manner, but he was ever
simple, kind, and sympathetic, and his men, while having unbounded faith
in him as a leader, almost worshipped him as a man. These relations
of affection and mutual confidence between the army and its commander
had much to do with the undaunted bravery displayed by the men, and
bore a due share in the many victories they gained."

Colonel Charles Marshall, in his address before the "Association of the
Army of Northern Virginia," also alludes to this "wonderful influence
over the troops under his command. I can best describe that influence
by saying that such was the love and veneration of the men for him that
they came to look upon the cause as General Lee's cause, and they
fought for it because they loved him. To them he represented cause,
country, and all."

All persons who were ever thrown into close relations with him had
somewhat these same feelings. How could they help it? Here is a letter
to his youngest daughter which shows his beautiful love and tenderness
for us all. Throughout the war, he constantly took the time from his
arduous labours to send to his wife and daughters such evidences of his
affection for them:

"Camp Petersburg, November 6, 1864.

"My Precious Life: This is the first day I have had leisure to answer
your letter. I enjoyed it very much at the time of its reception,
and have enjoyed it since, but I have often thought of you in the
meantime, and have seen you besides. Indeed, I may say, you are never
out of my thoughts. I hope you think of me often, and if you could
know how earnestly I desire your true happiness, how ardently I pray
you may be directed to every good and saved from every evil, you would
as sincerely strive for its accomplishment. Now in your youth you must
be careful to discipline your thoughts, words, and actions. Habituate
yourself to useful employment, regular improvement, and to the benefit
of all those around your. You have had some opportunity of learning
the rudiments of your education--not as good as I should have desired,
but I am much cheered by the belief that you availed yourself of it--
and I think you are now prepared by diligence and study to learn
whatever you desire. Do not allow yourself to forget what you have
spent so much time and labour acquiring, but increase it every day by
extended application. I hope you will embrace in your studies all
useful acquisitions. I was much pleased to hear that while at 'Bremo'
you passed much of your time in reading and music. All accomplishments
will enable you to give pleasure, and thus exert a wholesome influence.
Never neglect the means of making yourself useful in the world. I
think you will not have to complain of Rob again for neglecting your
schoolmates. He has equipped himself with a new uniform from top to
toe, and, with a new and handsome horse, is cultivating a marvellous
beard and preparing for conquest. I went down on the lines to the
right, Friday, beyond Rowanty Creek, and pitched my camp within six
miles of Fitzhugh's last night. Rob came up and spent the night with
me, and Fitzhugh appeared early in the morning. They rode with me
till late that day. I visited the battlefield in that quarter, and
General Hampton in describing it said there had not been during the
war a more spirited charge than Fitzhugh's division made that day up
the Boydton plank road, driving cavalry and infantry before him, in
which he was stopped by night. I did not know before that his horse
had been shot under him. Give a great deal of love to your dear mother,
and kiss your sisters for me. Tell them they must keep well, not talk
too much, and go to bed early.

"Ever your devoted father,

"R. E. Lee."

He refers in this letter to his coming down near our command, and my
brother's visit and mine to him. Everything was quiet, and we greatly
enjoyed seeing him and being with him. The weather, too, was fine,
and he seemed to delight in our ride with him along the lines. I
didn't think I saw him but once more until everything was over and we
met in Richmond. Some time before this, my mother, fearing for his
health under the great amount of exposure and work he had to do, wrote
to him and begged him to take better care of himself. In his reply,
he says:

"...But what care can a man give to himself in the time of war? It is
from no desire for exposure or hazard that I live in a tent, but from
necessity. I must be where I can, speedily, at all times attend to
the duties of my position, and be near or accessible to the officers
with whom I have to act. I have been offered rooms in the houses of
our citizens, but I could not turn the dwellings of my kind hosts into
a barrack where officers, couriers, distressed women, etc., would be
entering day and night...."

General Fitz Lee, in his life of my father, says of him at this time:

"Self-possessed and calm, Lee struggled to solve the huge military
problem, and make the sum of smaller numbers equal to that of greater
numbers.... His thoughts ever turned upon the soldiers of his army,
the ragged gallant fellows around him--whose pinched cheeks told
hunger was their portion, and whose shivering forms denoted the absence
of proper clothing."

His letters to my mother during the winter tell how much his men were
in need. My mother was an invalid from rheumatism, confined to a
rolling-chair. To help the cause with her own hands as far as she
could, she was constantly occupied in knitting socks for the soldiers,
and induced all around her to do the same. She sent them directly to
my father, and he always acknowledged them. November 30th, he says:

"...I received yesterday your letter on the 27th and am glad to learn
your supply of socks is so large. If two or three hundred would send
an equal number, we should have a sufficiency. I will endeavour to
have them distributed to the most needy...."

And on December 17th:

"...I received day before yesterday the box with hats, gloves, and
socks; also the barrel of apples. You had better have kept the latter,
as it would have been more useful to you than to me, and I should have
enjoyed its consumption by you and the girls more than by me...."

His friends and admirers were constantly sending him presents; some,
simple mementos of their love and affection; others, substantial and
material comforts for the outer and inner man. The following letter,
from its date, is evidently an acknowledgement of Christmas gifts
sent him:

"December 30th.... The Lyons furs and fur robe have also arrived
safely, but I can learn nothing of the saddle of mutton. Bryan, of
whom I inquired as to its arrival, is greatly alarmed lest it has been
sent to the soldiers' dinner. If the soldiers get it, I shall be
content. I can do very well without it. In fact, I should rather
they should have it than I...."

The soldiers' "dinner" here referred to was a Christmas dinner, sent
by the entire country, as far as they could, to the poor starving men
in the trenches and camps along the lines. It would not be considered
much now, but when the conditions were such as my father describes
when he wrote the Secretary of War,

"The struggle now is to keep the army fed and clothed. Only fifty
men in some regiments have shoes, and bacon is only issued once in a
few days,"

anything besides the one-quarter of a pound of bacon and musty
corn-bread was a treat of great service, and might be construed as
"a Christmas dinner."

I have mentioned before my father's devotion to children. This
sentiment pervaded his whole nature. At any time the presence of a
little child would bring a brightness to his smile, a tender softness
to his glance, and drive away gloom or care. Here is his account of
a visit paid him, early in January, 1865, by three little women:

"...Yesterday afternoon three little girls walked into my room, each
with a small basket. The eldest carried some fresh eggs, laid by her
own hens; the second, some pickles made by her mother; the third, some
popcorn grown in her garden. They were accompanied by a young maid
with a block of soap made by her mother. They were the daughters of
a Mrs. Nottingham, a refugee from Northhampton County, who lived near
Eastville, not far from 'old Arlington.' The eldest of the girls,
whose age did not exceed eight years, had a small wheel on which she
spun for her mother, who wove all the cloth for her two brothers--boys
of twelve and fourteen years. I have not had so pleasant a visit
for a long time. I fortunately was able to fill their baskets with
apples, which distressed poor Bryan [his mess-steward], and I begged
them to bring me nothing but kisses and to keep the eggs, corn, etc.,
for themselves. I pray daily and almost hourly to our Heavenly
Father to come to the relief of you and our afflicted country. I know
He will order all things for our good, and we must be content."

Chapter VIII
The Surrender

Fort Fisher captured--Lee made Commander-in-Chief--Battle of Five
Forks--The General's farewell to his men--His reception in Richmond
after the surrender--President Davis hears the news--Lee's visitors--
His son Robert turns farmer

The year 1865 had now commenced. The strength of that thin gray line,
drawn out to less than one thousand men to the mile, which had repulsed
every attempt of the enemy to break through it, was daily becoming
less. The capture of Fort Fisher, our last open port, January 15th,
cut off all supplies and munitions from the outside world. Sherman
had reached Savannah in December, from which point he was ready to
unite with Grant at any time. From General Lee's letters, official
and private, one gets a clear view of the desperateness of his position.
He had been made commander-in-chief of all the military forces in the
Confederate States on February 6th. In his order issued on accepting
this command he says:

"...Deeply impressed with the difficulties and responsibilities of
the position, and humbly invoking the guidance of Almighty God, I rely
for success upon the courage and fortitude of the army, sustained by
the patriotism and firmness of the people, confident that their united
efforts under the blessing of Heaven will secure peace and

General Beauregard, who had so ably defended Petersburg when it was
first attacked, and who had assisted so materially in its subsequent
defense, had been sent to gather troops to try to check Sherman's
advance through the Carolinas. But Beauregard's health was now very
bad, and it was feared he would have to abandon the field. In a
letter to the Secretary of War, dated February 21, 1865, my father

"...In the event of the necessity of abandoning our position on James
River, I shall endeavour to unite the corps of the army about
Burkeville [junction of Southside and Danville Railroad], so as to
retain communication with the North and South as long as practicable,
and also with the West, I should think Lynchburg, or some point west,
the most advantageous place to which to remove stores from Richmond.
This, however, is a most difficult point at this time to decide, and
the place may have to be changed by circumstances. It was my intention
in my former letter to apply for General Joseph E. Johnston, that I
might assign him to duty, should circumstances permit. I have had
no official report of the condition of General Beauregard's health.
It is stated from many sources to be bad. If he should break down
entirely, it might be fatal. In that event, I should have no one
with whom to supply his place. I therefore respectfully request General
Johnston may be ordered to report to me, and that I may be informed
where he is."

In a letter to the Secretary of War, written the next day:

"...But you may expect Sheridan to move up the Valley, and Stoneman
from Knoxville, as Sherman draws near Roanoke. What then will become
of those sections of the country? I know of no other troops that
could be given to Beauregard. Bragg will be forced back by Schofield,
I fear, and, until I abandon James River, nothing can be sent from
this army. Grant, I think, is now preparing to draw out by his left
with the intent of enveloping me. He may wait till his other columns
approach nearer, or he may be preparing to anticipate my withdrawal.
I cannot tell yet.... Everything of value should be removed from
Richmond. It is of the first importance to save all powder. The
cavalry and artillery of the army are still scattered for want of
provender, and our supply and ammunition trains, which out to be
with the army in case of sudden movement, are absent collecting
provisions and forage--some in western Virginia and some in North
Carolina. You will see to what straits we are reduced; but I trust
to work out."

On the same day, in a letter to my mother, he writes:

"...After sending my note this morning, I received from the express
office a back of socks. You will have to send down your offerings as
soon as you can, and bring your work to a close, for I think General
Grant will move against us soon--within a week, if nothing prevents--
and no man can tell what may be the result; but trusting to a merciful
God, who does not always give the battle to the strong, I pray we may
not be overwhelmed. I shall, however, endeavour to do my duty and
fight to the last. Should it be necessary to abandon our position
to prevent being surrounded, what will you do? You must consider the
question, and make up your mind. It is a fearful condition, and we
must rely for guidance and protection upon a kind Providence...."

About this time, I saw my father for the last time until after the
surrender. We had been ordered up to the army from our camp nearly
forty miles away, reaching the vicinity of Petersburg the morning of
the attack of General Gordon on Fort Stedman, on March 25th. My
brother and I had ridden ahead of the division to report its presence,
when we met the General riding Traveller, almost alone, back from that
part of the lines opposite the fort. Since then I have often recalled
the sadness of his face, its careworn expression. When he caught
sight of his two sons, a bright smile at once lit up his countenance,
and he showed very plainly his pleasure at seeing us. He thanked my
brother for responding so promptly to his call upon him, and regretted
that events had so shaped themselves that the division would not then
be needed, as he had hoped it would be.

No good results followed Gordon's gallant attack. His supports did
not come up a the proper time, and our losses were very heavy, mostly
prisoners. Two days after this, Sheridan, with ten thousand mounted
men, joined Grant, having marched from the Valley of Virginia via
Staunton and Charlottesville. On the 28th, everything being ready,
General Grant commenced to turn our right, and having more than three
men to our one, he had no difficult task. On that very day my father
wrote to my mother:

"...I have received your note with a bag of socks. I return the bag
and receipt. The count is all right this time. I have put in the
bag General Scott's autobiography, which I thought you might like
to read. The General, of course, stands out prominently, and does
not hide his light under a bushel, but he appears the bold, sagacious,
truthful man that he is. I inclose a note from little Agnes. I shall
be very glad to see her to-morrow, but cannot recommend pleasure
trips now...."

On April 1st the Battle of Five Forks was fought, where about fifty
thousand infantry and cavalry--more men than were in our entire army--
attacked our extreme right and turned it, so that, to save our
communications, we had to abandon our lines at Petersburg, giving up
that city and Richmond. Form that time to April 9th the Army of
Northern Virginia struggled to get back to some position where it
could concentrate its forces and make a stand; but the whole world
knows of that six-days' retreat. I shall not attempt to describe it
in detail--indeed, I could not if I would, for I was not present all
the time--but will quote from those who have made it a study and who
are far better fitted to record it than I am. General Early, in his
address at Lexington, Virginia, January 19, 1872--General Lee's
birthday--eloquently and briefly describes these six days as follows:

"...The retreat from the lines of Richmond and Petersburg began in the
early days of April, and the remnant of the Army of Northern Virginia
fell back, more than one hundred miles, before its overpowering
antagonists, repeatedly presenting front to the latter and giving
battle so as to check his progress. Finally, from mere exhaustion,
less than eight thousand men with arms in their hands, of the noblest
army that ever fought 'in the tide of time,' were surrendered at
Appomattox to an army of 150,000 men; the sword of Robert E. Lee,
without a blemish on it, was sheathed forever; and the flag, to which
he had added such luster, was furled, to be, henceforth, embalmed
in the affectionate remembrance of those who remained faithful during
all our trials, and will do so to the end."

Colonel Archer Anderson, in his address at the unveiling of the Lee
monument in Richmond, Virginia, May 29, 1890, speaking of the siege
of Petersburg and of the surrender, utters these noble words:

"...Of the siege of Petersburg, I have only time to say that in it
for nine months the Confederate commander displayed every art by which
genius and courage can make good the lack of numbers and resources.
But the increasing misfortunes of the Confederate arms on other theatres
of the war gradually cut off the supply of men and means. The Army
of Northern Virginia ceased to be recruited, it ceased to be adequately
fed. It lived for months on less than one-third rations. It was
demoralised, not by the enemy in its front, but by the enemy in Georgia
and the Carolinas. It dwindled to 35,000 men, holding a front of
thirty-five miles; but over the enemy it still cast the shadow of its
great name. Again and again, by a bold offensive, it arrested the
Federal movement to fasten on its communications. At last, an
irresistible concentration of forces broke through its long thin line
of battle. Petersburg had to be abandoned. Richmond was evacuated.
Trains bearing supplies were intercepted, and a starving army, harassed
for seven days by incessant attacks on rear and flank, found itself
completely hemmed in by overwhelming masses. Nothing remained to it
but its stainless honour, its unbroken courage. In those last solemn
scenes, when strong men, losing all self-control, broke down and sobbed
like children, Lee stood forth as great as in the days of victory and
triumph. No disaster crushed his spirit, no extremity of danger
ruffled his bearing. In the agony of dissolution now invading that
proud army, which for four years had wrested victory from every peril,
in that blackness of utter darkness, he preserved the serene lucidity
of his mind. He looked the stubborn facts calmly in the face, and
when no military resource remained, when he recognised the impossibility
of making another march or fighting another battle, he bowed his head
in submission to that Power which makes and unmakes nations. The
surrender of the fragments of the Army of Northern Virginia closed
the imperishable record of his military life...."

From the London "Standard," at the time of his last illness, I quote
these words relative to this retreat:

"When the Army of Northern Virginia marched out of the lines around
Petersburg and Richmond, it still numbered some twenty-six thousand
men. After a retreat of six days, in the face of an overwhelming
enemy, with a crushing artillery--a retreat impeded by constant fighting
and harassed by countless hordes of cavalry--eight thousand were given
up by the capitulation at Appomattox Court House. Brilliant as were
General Lee's earlier triumphs, we believe that he gave higher proofs
of genius in his last campaign, and that hardly any of his victories
were so honourable to himself and his army as that of his six-days'

Swinton, in his "History of the Army of the Potomac," after justly
praising its deeds, thus speaks of its great opponent, the Army of
Northern Virginia:

"Nor can there fail to arise the image of that other army that was
the adversary of the Army of the Potomac, and--who that once looked
upon it can ever forget it?--that array of tattered uniforms and
bright muskets--that body of incomparable infantry, the Army of Northern
Virginia, which, for four years, carried the revolt on its bayonets,
opposing a constant front to the mighty concentration of power brought
against it; which, receiving terrible blows, did not fail to give the
like, and which, vital in all its parts, died only with its

General Long, in speaking of its hardships and struggles during the
retreat, thus describes how the army looked up to their commander and
trusted him to bring them through all their troubles:

"General Lee had never appeared more grandly heroic than on this
occasion. All eyes were raised to him for a deliverance which no
human seemed able to give. He alone was expected to provide food for
the starving army and rescue it from the attacks of a powerful and
eager enemy. Under the accumulation of difficulties, his courage
seemed to expand, and wherever he appeared his presence inspired
the weak and weary with renewed energy to continue the toilsome march.
During these trying scenes his countenance wore its habitual calm,
grave expression. Those who watched his face to catch a glimpse of
what was passing in his mind could gather thence no trace of his
inner sentiments."

No one can tell what he suffered. He did in all things what he
considered right. Self he absolutely abandoned. As he said, so he
believed, that "human virtue should equal human calamity." A day or
two before the surrender, he said to General Pendleton:

"...I have never believed we could, against the gigantic combination
for our subjugation, make good in the long run our independence unless
foreign powers should, directly or indirectly, assist us.... But such
considerations really made with me no difference. We had, I was
satisfied, sacred principles to maintain and rights to defend, for
which we were in duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in
the endeavour."

After his last attempt was made with Gordon and Fitz Lee to break
through the lines of the enemy in the early morning of the 9th, and
Colonel Veneble informed him that it was not possible, he said:

"Then there is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant."
When some one near him, hearing this, said:

"Oh, General, what will history say of the surrender of the army in
the field?" he replied:

"Yes, I know they will say hard things of us; they will not understand
how we were overwhelmed by numbers; but that is not the question,
Colonel; the question is, is it right to surrender this army? If it
is right, then I will take all the responsibility."

There had been some correspondence with Grant just before the
conversation with General Pendleton. After Gordon's attack failed, a
flag of truce was sent out, and, about eleven o'clock, General Lee
went to meet General Grant. The terms of surrender were agreed upon,
and then General Lee called attention to the pressing needs of his
men. He said:

"I have a thousand or more of your men and officers, whom we have
required to march along with us for several days. I shall be glad to
send them to your lines as soon as it can be arranged, for I have no
provisions for them. My own men have been living for the last few
days principally upon parched cord, and we are badly in need of both
rations and forage."

Grant said he would at once send him 25,000 rations. General Lee told
him that amount would be ample and a great relief. He then rode back
to his troops. The rations issued then to our army were the supplies
destined for us but captured at Amelia Court House. Had they reached
us in time, they would have given the half-starved troops that were
left strength enough to make a further struggle. General Long
graphically pictures the last scenes:

"It is impossible to describe the anguish of the troops when it was
known that the surrender of the army was inevitable. Of all their
trials, this was the greatest and hardest to endure. There was no
consciousness of shame; each heart could boast with honest pride that
its duty had been done to the end, and that still unsullied remained
its honour. When, after this interview with General Grant, General
Lee again appeared, a shout of welcome instinctively went up from the
army. But instantly recollecting the sad occasion that brought him
before them, their shouts sank into silence, every hat was raised,
and the bronzed faces of thousands of grim warriors were bathed in
tears. As he rode slowly along the lines, hundreds of his devoted
veterans pressed around the noble chief, trying to take his hand,
touch his person, or even lay their hands upon his horse, thus
exhibiting for him their great affection. The General then with head
bare, and tears flowing freely down his manly cheeks, bade adieu to
the army."

In a few words: "Men, we have fought through the war together; I
have done my best for you; my heart is too full to say more," he bade
them good-bye and told them to return to their homes and become good
citizens. The next day he issued his farewell address, the last
order published to the army:

"Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, April 10, 1865.

"After four years' of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage
and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to
yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the
survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast
to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust
of them; but, feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing
that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the
continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless
sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their
countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return
to their homes and remain there until exchanged. You will take with
you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty
faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will
extend to you his blessing and protection. With an increasing
admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a
grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself,
I bid you an affectionate farewell.

"R. E. Lee, General."

General Long says that General Meade called on General Lee on the 10th,
and in the course of conversation remarked:

"Now that the war may be considered over, I hope you will not deem it
improper for me to ask, for my personal information, the strength of
your army during the operations around Richmond and Petersburg."
General Lee replied:

"At no time did my force exceed 35,000 men; often it was less." With
a look of surprise, Meade answered:

"General, you amaze me; we always estimated your force at about seventy
thousand men."

General de Chanal, a French officer, who was present, states that
General Lee, who had been an associate of Meade's in the engineers in
the "old army," said to him pleasantly:

"Meade, years are telling on you; your hair is getting quite gray."

"Ah, General Lee," was Meade's prompt reply, "it is not the work of
years; YOU are responsible for my gray hairs!"

"Three days after the surrender," says Long, "the Army of Northern
Virginia had dispersed in every direction, and three weeks later the
veterans of a hundred battles had exchanged the musket and the sword
for the implements of husbandry. It is worthy of remark that never
before was there an army disbanded with less disorder. Thousands of
soldiers were set adrift on the world without a penny in their pockets
to enable them to reach their homes. Yet none of the scenes of riot
that often follow the disbanding of armies marked their course."

A day or two after the surrender, General Lee started for Richmond,
riding Traveller, who had carried him so well all through the war.
He was accompanied by some of his staff. On the way, he stopped at
the house of his eldest brother, Charles Carter Lee, who lived on the
Upper James in Powhatan County. He spent the evening in talking with
his brother, but when bedtime came, though begged by his host to take
the room and bed prepared for him, he insisted on going to his old
tent, pitched by the roadside, and passed the night in the quarters
he was accustomed to. On April 15th he arrived in Richmond. The
people there soon recognised him; men, women, and children crowded
around him, cheering and waving hats and handkerchiefs. It was more
like the welcome to a conqueror than to a defeated prisoner on parole.
He raised his hat in response to their greetings, and rode quietly to
his home on Franklin Street, where my mother and sisters were anxiously
awaiting him. Thus he returned to that private family life for which
he had always longed, and become what he always desired to be--a
peaceful citizen in a peaceful land.

In attempting to describe these last days of the Army of Northern
Virginia, I have quoted largely from Long, Jones, Taylor, and Fitz
Lee, all of whom have given more or less full accounts of the movements
of both armies.

It so happened that shortly after we left our lines, April 2d or 3d,
in one of the innumerable contests, my horse was shot, and in getting
him and myself off the field, having no choice of routes, the pursuing
Federal cavalry intervened between men and the rest of our command,
so I had to make my way around the head of Sheridan's advance squadrons
before I could rejoin our forces. This I did not succeed in
accomplishing until April 9th, the day of the surrender, for my wounded
horse had to be left with a farmer, who kindly gave me one in exchange,
saying I could send him back when I was able, or, if I was prevented,
that I could keep him and he would replace him with mine when he got

As I was riding toward Appomattox on the 9th, I met a body of our
cavalry with General T. H. Rosser at the head. He told me that General
Lee and his army had surrendered, and that this force had made its way
out, and was marching back to Lynchburg, expecting thence to reach
General Johnston's army. To say that I was surprised does not express
my feelings. I had never heard the word "surrender" mentioned, nor
even a suggested, in connection with our general or our army. I could
not believe it, and did not until I was positively assured by all my
friends who were with Rosser's column that it was absolutely so. Very
sadly I turned back and went to Lynchburg along with them. There I
found some wagons from our headquarters which had been sent back,
and with them the horses and servants of the staff. These I got
together, not believing for an instant that our struggle was over, and,
with several officers from our command and others, we made our way
to Greensboro, North Carolina. There I found Mr. Davis and his cabinet
and representatives of the Confederate departments from Richmond.
There was a great diversity of opinion amongst all present as to what
we should do. After waiting a couple of days, looking over the
situation from every point of view, consulting with my uncle, Commodore
S. S. Lee, of the Confederate Navy, and with many others, old friends
of my father and staunch adherents of the Southern cause, it was
determined to go back to Virginia to get our paroles, go home, and
go to work.

While at Greensboro I went to see President Davis, just before he
proceeded on his way further south. He was calm and dignified, and,
in his conversation with several officers of rank who were there,
seemed to think, and so expressed himself, that our cause was not lost,
though sorely stricken, and that we could rally our forces west of
the Mississippi and make good our fight. While I was in the room,
Mr. Davis received the first official communication from General Lee
of his surrender. Colonel John Taylor Woods, his aide-de-camp, had
taken me in to see the President, and he and I were standing by him
when the despatch from General Lee was brought to him. After reading
it, he handed it without comment to us; then, turning away, he silently
wept bitter tears. He seemed quite broken at the moment by this
tangible evidence of the loss of his army and the misfortune of its
general. All of us, respecting his great grief, silently withdrew,
leaving him with Colonel Wood. I never saw him again.

I started for Richmond, accompanied by several companions, with the
servants and horses belonging to our headquarters. These I had brought
down with me from Lynchburg, where I had found them after the surrender.
After two week of marching and resting, I arrived in Richmond and
found my father there, in the house on Franklin Street, now the rooms
of the "Virginia Historical Society," and also my mother, brother,
and sisters. They were all much relieved at my reappearance.

As well as I can recall my father at this time, he appeared to be very
well physically, though he looked older, grayer, more quiet and
reserved. He seemed very tired, and was always glad to talk of any
other subject than that of the war or anything pertaining thereto. We
all tried to cheer and help him. And the people of Richmond and of
the entire South were as kind and considerate as it was possible to
be. Indeed, I think their great kindness tired him. He appreciated
it all, was courteous, grateful, and polite, but he had been under
such a terrible strain for several years that he needed the time and
quiet to get back his strength of heart and mind. All sorts and
conditions of people came to see him: officers and soldiers from both
armies, statesmen, politicians, ministers of the Gospel, mothers and
wives to ask about husbands and sons of whom they had heard nothing.
To keep him from being overtaxed by this incessant stream of visitors,
we formed a sort of guard of the young men in the house, some of whom
took it by turns to keep the door and, if possible, turn strangers away.
My father was gentle, kind, and polite to all, and never willingly,
so far as I know, refused to see any one.

Dan lee, late of the Confederate States Navy, my first cousin, and
myself, one day had charge of the front door, when at it appeared a
Federal soldier, accompanied by a darkey carrying a large willow basket
filled to the brim with provisions of every kind. The man was Irish
all over, and showed by his uniform and carriage that he was a
"regular," and not a volunteer. On our asking him what he wanted, he
replied that he wanted to see General Lee, that he had heard down the
street the General and his family were suffering for lack of something
to eat, that he had been with "the Colonel" when he commanded the
Second Cavalry, and, as long as he had a cent, his old colonel should
not suffer. My father, who had stepped into another room as he heard
the bell ring, hearing something of the conversation, came out into
the hall. The old Irishman, as soon as he saw him, drew himself up
and saluted, and repeated to the General, with tears streaming down
his cheeks, what he had just said to us. My father was very much
touched, thanked him heartily for his kindness and generosity, but
told him that he did not need the things he had brought and could not
take them. This seemed to disappoint the old soldier greatly, and he
pleaded so hard to be allowed to present the supplies to his old
colonel, whom he believed to be in want of them, that at last my father
said that he would accept the basket and sent it to the hospital, for
the sick and wounded, who were really in great need. Though he was
not satisfied, he submitted to this compromise, and then to our surprise
and dismay, in bidding the General good-bye, threw his arms around him
and was attempting to kiss him, when "Dan" and I interfered. As he
was leaving, he said:

"Good-bye, Colonel! God bless ye! If I could have got over in time
I would have been with ye!"

A day or two after that, when "Dan" was doorkeeper, three Federal
officers, a colonel, a major, and a doctor, called and asked to see
General Lee. They were shown into the parlour, presented their cards,
and said they desired to pay their respects as officers of the United
States Army. When Dan went out with the three cards, he was told by
some one that my father was up stairs engaged with some other visitor,
so he returned and told them this and they departed. When my father
came down, was shown the cards and told of the three visitors, he
was quite put out at Dan's not having brought him the cards at the
time and that afternoon mounted him on one of his horses and sent him
over to Manchester, where they were camped, to look up the three
officers and to tell them he would be glad to see them at any time
they might be pleased to call. However, Dan failed to find them.

He had another visit at this time which affected him deeply. Two
Confederate soldiers in very dilapidated clothing, worn and emaciated
in body, came to see him. They said they had been selected from about
sixty other fellows, too ragged to come themselves, to offer him a home
in the mountains of Virginia. The home was a good house and farm,
and near by was a defile, in some rugged hills, from which they could
defy the entire Federal Army. They made this offer of a home and
their protection because there was a report that he was about to be
indicted for treason. The General had to decline to go with them, but
the tears came into his eyes at this hearty exhibition of loyalty.

After being in Richmond a few days, and by the advice of my father
getting my parole from the United States Provost Marshal there, the
question as to what I should do came up. My father told me that I
could go back to college if I desired and prepare myself for some
profession--that he had a little money which he would be willing and
glad to devote to the completion of my education. I think he was
strongly in favour of my going back to college. At the same time he
told me that, if I preferred it, I could take possession of my farm
land in King William County, which I had inherited from my grandfather,
Mr. Custis, and make my home there. As there was little left of the
farm but the land, he thought he could arrange to help me build a
house and purchase stock and machinery.

My brother, General W. H. F. Lee, had already gone down to his place,
"The White House" in New Kent County, with Major John Lee, our first
cousin, had erected a shanty, and gone to work, breaking up land for
a corn crop, putting their cavalry horses to the plow. As I thought
my father had use for any means he might have in caring for my mother
and sisters, and as I had this property, I determined to become a
farmer. However, I did not decide positively, and in the meantime
it was thought best that I should join my brother and cousin at the
White House and help them make their crop of corn. In returning to
Richmond, I had left at "Hickory Hill," General Wickham's place in
Hanover County, our horses and servants, taken with me from Lynchburg
to Greensboro and back. So bidding all my friends and family good-bye,
I went by rail to "Hickory Hill" and started the next day with three
servants and about eight horses for New Kent, stopping the first night
at "Pampatike." The next day I reached the White House, where the
reinforcements I brought with me were hailed with delight.

Though I have been a farmer from that day to this, I will say that the
crop of corn which we planted that summer, with ourselves and army
servants as laborers and our old cavalry horses as teams, and which
we did not finish planting until the 9th of June, was the best I ever

Chapter IX
A Private Citizen

Lee's conception of the part--His influence exerted toward the
restoration of Virginia--He visits old friends throughout the country--
Receives offers of positions--Compares notes with the Union General
Hunter--Longs for a country home--Finds one at "Derwent," near

My father remained quietly in Richmond with my mother and sisters.
He was now a private citizen for the first time in his life. As he
had always been a good soldier, so now he became a good citizen. My
father's advice to all his old officers and men was to submit to the
authority of the land and to stay at home, now that their native States
needed them more than ever. His advice and example had great influence
with all. In a letter to Colonel Walter Taylor [his old A. A. G.],
he speaks on this point:

"...I am sorry to hear that our returned soldiers cannot obtain
employment. Tell them they must all set to work, and if they cannot
do what they prefer, do what they can. Virginia wants all their aid,
all their support, and the presence of all her sons to sustain and
recuperate her. They must therefore put themselves in a position to
take part in her government, and not be deterred by obstacles in their
way. There is much to be done which they only can do...."

And in a letter, a month later, to an officer asking his opinion about
a decree of the Emperor of Mexico encouraging the emigration from
the South to that country:

"...I do not know how far their emigration to another land will conduce
to their prosperity. Although prospects may not now be cheering, I
have entertained the opinion that, unless prevented by circumstances
or necessity, it would be better for them and the country if they
remained at their homes and shared the fate of their respective

Again, in a letter to Governor Letcher [the "War Governor" of Virginia]:

"...The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit
of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects
of the war and to restore the blessing of peace. They should remain,
if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling, qualify
themselves to vote and elect to the State and general legislatures
wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests
of the country and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably
recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have
endeavoured to practise it myself...."

Also in a letter of still later date, to Captain Josiah Tatnall, of
the Confederate States Navy, he thus emphasises the same sentiment:

"...I believe it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration
of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony. These
considerations governed be in the counsels I gave to others, and
induced me on the 13th of June to make application to be included in
the terms of the amnesty proclamation...."

These letters and many more show plainly his conception of what was
right for all to do at this time. I have heard him repeatedly give
similar advice to relatives and friends and to strangers who sought
it. The following letters to General Grant and to President Johnson
show how he gave to the people of the South an example of quiet
submission to the government of the country:

"Richmond, Virginia, June 13, 1865.

"Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant, Commanding the

"Armies of the United States.

"General: Upon reading the President's proclamation of the 29th ult.,
I came to Richmond to ascertain what was proper or required of me to
do, when I learned that, with others, the was to be indicted for treason
by the grand jury at Norfolk. I had supposed that the officers and
men of the Army of Northern Virginia were, by the terms of their
surrender, protected by the United States Government from molestation
so long as they conformed to its conditions. I am ready to meet any
charges that may be preferred against me, and do not wish to avoid
trail; but, if I am correct as to the protection granted by my parole,
and am not to be prosecuted, I desire to comply with the provision
of the President's proclamation, and, therefore, inclose the required
application, which I request, in that event, may be acted on. I am
with great respect,

"Your obedient servant, R. E. Lee."

"Richmond, Virginia, June 13, 1865.

"His Excellency Andrew Johnson, President of the United States.

"Sir: Being excluded from the provisions of the amnesty and pardon
contained in the proclamation of the 29th ult., I hereby apply for
the benefits and full restoration of all rights as privileges extended
to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Military Academy
at West Point in June, 1829; resigned from the United States Army,
April, 1861; was a general in the Confederate Army, and included in
the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, April 9, 1865. I
have the honour to be, very respectfully,

"Your obedient servant, R. E. Lee."

Of this latter letter, my brother, Custis Lee, writes me:

"When General Lee requested me to make a copy of this letter, he
remarked it was but right for him to set an example of making a formal
submission to the civil authorities, and that he thought, by do doing,
he might possibly be in a better position to be of use to the
Confederates who were not protected by military paroles, especially
Mr. Davis"

Colonel Charles Marshall [a grandson of Chief Justice Marshall, and
Lee's military secretary] says:

"...He (General Lee) set to work to use his great influence to reconcile
the people of the South to the hard consequences of their defeat, to
inspire them with hope, to lead them to accept, freely and frankly,
the government that had been established by the result of the war,
and thus relieve them from the military rule.... The advice and example
of General Lee did more to incline the scale in favour of a frank and
manly adoption of that course of conduct which tended to the restoration
of peace and harmony than all the Federal garrisons in all the military

My father was at this time anxious to secure for himself and family
a house somewhere in the country. He had always had a desire to be
the owner of a small farm, where he could end his days in peace and
quiet. The life in Richmond was not suited to him. He wanted quiet
and rest, but could not get it there, for people were too attentive
to him. So in the first days of June he mounted old Traveller and,
unattended, rode down to "Pampatike"--some twenty-five miles--to pay
a visit of several days to his relations there. This is an old Carter
property, belonging then and now to Colonel Thomas H. Carter, who, but
lately returned from Appomattox Court House, was living there with his
wife and children. Colonel Carter, whose father was a first cousin
of General Lee's, entered the Army of Northern Virginia in the spring
of 1861, as captain of the "King William Battery," rose grade by grade
by his skill and gallantry, and surrendered in the spring of 1865, as
Colonel and Chief of Artillery of his corps at that time. He was
highly esteemed and much beloved by my father, and our families had
been intimate for a long time.

"Pampatike" is a large, old-fashioned plantation, lying along the
Pamunkey River, between the Piping Tree and New Castle ferries. Part
of the house is very old, and, from time to time, as more rooms were
needed, additions have been made, giving the whole a very quaint and
picturesque appearance. At the old-fashioned dinner hour of three
o'clock, my father, mounted on Traveller, unannounced, unexpected, and
alone, rode up to the door. The horse and rider were at once recognised
by Colonel Carter, and he was gladly welcomed by his kinsfolk. I am
sure the days passed here were the happiest he had spent for many years.
He was very weary of town, of the incessant unrest incident to his
position, of the crowds of persons of all sorts and conditions striving
to see him; so one can imagine the joy of master and horse when, after
a hot ride of over twenty miles, they reached this quiet resting-place.
My father, Colonel Carter tells me, enjoyed every moment of his stay.
There were three children in the house, the two youngest little girls
of five and three years old. These were his special delight, and he
followed them around, talking baby-talk to them and getting them to
talk to him. Every morning before he was up they went into his room,
at his special request, to pay him a visit. Another great pleasure
was to watch Traveller enjoy himself. He had him turned out on the
lawn, where the June grass was very fine, abundant, and at its prime,
and would allow no cord to be fed to him, saying he had had plenty
of that during the last four years, and that the grass and the liberty
were what he needed. He talked to Colonel Carter much about Mexico,
its people and climate; also about the old families living in that
neighbourhood and elsewhere in the State, with whom both Colonel
Carter and himself were connected; but he said very little about the
recent war, and only in answer to some direct question.

About six miles from "Pampatike," on the same river and close to its
banks, is "Chericoke," another old Virginia homestead, which had
belonged to the Braxtons for generations, and, at that time, was the
home of Corbin Braxton's widow. General Lee was invited to dine there,
and to meet him my brother, cousin, and I, from the White House, were
asked, besides General Rosser, who was staying in the neighbourhood,
and several others. This old Virginia house had long been noted for
its lavish hospitality and bountiful table. Mrs. Braxton had never
realised that the war should make any change in this respect, and
her table was still spread in those days of desolation as it had been
before the war, when there was plenty in the land. So we sat down to
a repast composed of all the good things for which that country was
famous. John and I did not seem to think there was too much in sight--
at any rate, it did not daunt us, and we did our best to lessen the
quantity, consuming, I think, our share and more! We had been for
so many years in the habit of being hungry that it was not strange
we continued to be so awhile yet. But my father took a different view
of the abundance displayed, and, during his drive back, said to Colonel

"Thomas, there was enough dinner to-day for twenty people. All this
will now have to be changed; you cannot afford it; we shall have to
practise economy."

In talking with Colonel Carter about the situation of farmers at that
time in the South, and of their prospects for the future, he urged
him to get rid of the negroes left on the farm--some ninety-odd in
number, principally women and children, with a few old men--saying
the government would provide for them, and advised him to secure white
labour. The Colonel told him he had to use, for immediate needs, such
force as he had, being unable at that time to get whites. Whereupon
General Lee remarked:

"I have always observed that wherever you find the negro, everything
is going down around him, and wherever you find a white man, you see
everything around him improving."

He was thinking strongly of taking a house in the country for himself
and family, and asked the Colonel whether he could not suggest some
part of the State that might suit him. Colonel Carter mentioned Clarke
County as representing the natural-grass section of Virginia, and
Gloucester County the salt-water. My father unhesitatingly pronounced
in favour of the grass-growing country. He told Mrs. Carter how pleased
he was to hear that she had received her husband in tears when he
returned from the surrender, as showing the true spirit, for, though
glad to see him, she wept because he could fight no more for the cause.
The day after this dinner he had to turn his back on those dear friends
and their sweet home.

When Traveller was brought up to the door for him to mount, he walked
all around him, looking carefully at the horse, saddle, and bridle.
Apparently the blanket was not arranged to suit him, for he held the
bridle while "Uncle Henry" took off the saddle. Then he took off
the blanket himself, spread it out on the grass, and, folding it to
suit his own idea of fitness, carefully placed it on Traveller's back,
and superintended closely the putting on and girthing of the saddle.
This being done, he bade everybody good-bye, and, mounting his horse,
rode away homeward--to Richmond. After crossing the Pamunkey at
Newcastle ferry, he rode into "Ingleside," about a mile from the river,
the lovely home of Mrs. Mary Braxton. Here he dismounted and paid his
respects to the mistress of the house and her daughters, who were also
cousins. That afternoon he reached Richmond, returning by the same
road he had travelled coming out. After his visit, which he had
enjoyed so much, he began looking about more than ever to find a country

The house he was occupying in Richmond belonged to Mr. John Stewart,
of "Brook Hill," who was noted for his devotion to the cause of the
South and his kindness to all those who had suffered in the conflict.
My brother Custis had rented it at the time he was appointed on Mr.
Davis's staff. A mess had been established there by my brother and
several other officers on duty in Richmond. In time, my mother and
sister had been made members of it, and it had been the headquarters
of all of the family during the war, when in town. My father was
desirous of making some settlement with his landlord for its long
use, but before he could take the final steps my mother received the
following note from Mr. Stewart:

"...I am not presuming on your good opinion, when I feel that you will
believe me, first, that you and yours are heartily welcome to the house
as long as your convenience leads you to stay in Richmond; and, next,
that you owe me nothing, but, if you insist on paying, that the payment
must be in Confederate currency, for which along it was rented to your
son. You do not know how much gratification it is, and will afford
me and my whole family during the remainder of our lives, to reflect
that we have been brought into contact, and to know and to appreciate
you and all that are dear to you."

My father had been offered, since the surrender, houses lands, and
money, as well as positions as president of business associations
and chartered corporations.

"An English nobleman," Long says, "desired him to accept a mansion and
an estate commensurate with his individual merits and the greatness
of an historic family."

He replied: "I am deeply grateful; I cannot desert my native State in
the hour of her adversity. I must abide her fortunes, and share her

Until his death, he was constantly in receipt of such offers, all of
which he thought proper to decline. He wrote to General Long:

"I am looking for some little, quiet home in the woods, where I can
procure shelter and my daily bread, if permitted by the victor. I
wish to get Mrs. Lee out of the city as soon as practical."

It so happened that nearly exactly what he was looking for was just
then offered to him. Mrs. Elizabeth Randolph Cocke, of Cumberland
County, a granddaughter of Edmund Randolph, had on her estate a small
cottage which, with the land attached, she placed at his disposal.
The retired situation of this little home, and the cordial way in
which Mrs. Cocke insisted on his coming, induced my father to accept
her invitation.

Captain Edmund Randolph Cocke [Mrs. Cocke's second son who lived with
his mother at Oakland] writes me the following:

"Oakland, Virginia, October 25, 1896.

"My mother, whose sympathies for everybody and everything connected
with our cause were the greatest and most enlarged of any one I ever
knew, thought it might be agreeable and acceptable to General Lee to
have a retired placed in which to rest. Having this little house
unoccupied, she invited him to accept it as a home as long as he might
find it pleasant to himself. The General came up with your mother
and sisters about the last of June, General Custis Lee having preceded
them a day or two on Traveller. At that time our mode of travel was
on the canal by horse-packet: leaving Richmond at a little before
sunset, the boat reached Pemberton, our landing, about sunrise.
General Custis and I went down to meet them, and we all reached home
in time for breakfast. That night on the boat the Captain had had
the most comfortable bed put up that he could command, which was offered
to your father. But he preferred to sleep on deck, which he did, with
his military cloak thrown over him. No doubt that was the last night
he ever spent under the open sky. After a week spent here, General
Lee removed, with his family, to "Derwent." There he spent several
months of quiet and rest, only interrupted by the calls of those who
came in all honesty and sincerity to pay their respects to him. Old
soldiers, citizens, men and women, all came without parade or ceremony.
During this time he rode on Traveller daily, taking sometimes long
trips--once I recall, going to his brother's, Mr. Carter Lee's, about
twenty miles, and at another time to Bremo, about thirty miles. During
the month of August he was visited by Judge Brockenborough, of
Lexington, who, as Rector of the Board of Trustees of Washington
College, tendered him, on behalf of the Board, the presidency of the
college. After considering the matter for several weeks, he decided
to accept this position.

"...During that summer he was a regular attendant at the various
churches in our neighbourhood, whenever there was a service. I never
heard your father discuss public matters at all, nor did he express
his opinion of public men. On one occasion, I did hear him condemn
with great severity the Secretary of War, Stanton. This was at the
time Mrs. Surratt was condemned and executed. At another time I heard
him speak harshly of General Hunter, who had written to him to get his
approval of his movements, during the Valley Campaign, against General
Early. With these exceptions, I never heard him speak of public men
or measures."

In this connection I quote the Rev. J. Wm. Jones in his "Personal
Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee":

"Not long after the close of the war, General Lee received a letter
from General David Hunger, of the Federal Army, in which he begged
information on two points:

"1. His (Hunter's) campaign in the summer of 1864 was undertaken on
information received at the War Department in Washington that General
Lee was about to detach forty thousand picked troops to send General
Johnston. Did not his (Hunter's) movements prevent this, and relieve
Sherman to that extent?

"2. When he (Hunter) found it necessary to retreat from before
Lynchburg, did not he adopt the most feasible line of retreat?

"General Lee wrote a very courteous reply, in which he said:

"'The information upon which your campaign was undertaken was erroneous.
I had NO TROOPS to spare General Johnston and no intention of sending

"'As to the second point--I would say that I am not advised as to the
motives which induced you to adopt the line of retreat which you took,
and am not, perhaps competent to judge of the question, BUT I CERTAINLY
is Dr. Jones's], and was gratified at the time that you preferred the
route through the mountains of the Ohio--leaving the valley open for
General Early's advance into Maryland.'"

Before leaving Richmond, my father wrote the following letter to
Colonel Ordway, then Provost Marshal:

"Richmond, Virginia, June 21, 1865.

"Lt.-Col. Albert Ordway, Provost Marshal, Department of Virginia.

"Colonel: I propose establishing my family next week in Cumberland
County, Virginia, near Cartersville, on the James River canal. On
announcing my intention to General Patrick, when he was on duty in
Richmond, he stated that no passport for the purpose was necessary.
Should there have been any change in the orders of the Department
rendering passports necessary, I request that I may be furnished
with them. My son, G. W. Custis Lee, a paroled prisoner with myself,
will accompany me. Very respectfully your obedient servant,

"R. E. Lee."

The latter part of June, my father, mother, brother Custis, and sisters
went to "Derwent," the name of the little place which was to be his
home for that summer. They went by canal-boat from Richmond to
Cartersville, and then had a drive of about six miles. Mrs. Cocke
lived at "Oakland," two miles away, and her generous heart was made
glad by the opportunity of supplying my father and his family with
every comfort that it was possible to get at the time. In his letters
to me, still at the White House busy with our corn, he gives a
description of the surroundings:

"...We are all well, and established in a comfortable but small house,
in a grove of oaks, belonging to Mr. Thomas Cocke [Mrs. Cocke's eldest
son]. It contains four rooms, and there is a house in the yard which
when fitted up will give us another. Only your mother, Agnes, and
Mildred are with me. Custis, who has had a return of his attack...is
at Mrs. Cocke's house, about two miles off--is convalescent, I hope.
I have been nowhere as yet. The weather has been excessively hot,
but this morning there is an agreeable change, with some rain. The
country here is poor but healthy, and we are at a long distance from
you all. I can do nothing until I learn what decision in my case is
made in Washington. All unite with me in much love.

"Very truly, your father,

"R. E. Lee."

The "case" referred to here was the indictment in June by a grand
jury in Norfolk, Virginia, of Mr. Davis, General Lee, and others,
for treason or something like it.

The Hon. Reverdy Johnson offered his professional services to my
father in this case, but there was no trial, as a letter from General
Grant to the authorities insisted that the parole given by him to the
officers and soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia should be
respected. The following letter explains itself:

"Near Cartersville, Virginia, July 27, 1865.

"Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Baltimore, Md.

"My Dear Sir: I very much regret that I did not see you on your recent
visit to Richmond, that I might have thanked you for the interest you
have shown in my behalf, and you great kindness in offering me your
professional services in the indictment which I now understand is
pending against me. I am very glad, however, that you had an
opportunity of reading a copy of General Grant's letter of the 20th
inst. to me, which I left with Mr. Macfarland for that purpose, and
also that he might show it to other officers of the Army of Northern
Virginia in my condition. I did not wish to give it greater publicity
without the assent of General Grant, supposing that, if he desired it
made public, he would take steps to have it done. Should he consent
to your request to have it published, I, of course, have no objection.
But should he not, I request that you only use it in the manner I have
above indicated. Again offering you my warmest thanks for your sympathy
and consideration for my welfare, I am, with great respect,

"Your obedient Servant,

"R. E. Lee."

In another letter to me he tells of his visit to his brother Charles
Carter Lee in Powhatan County, which was an easy ride from "Derwent."
He was very fond of making these little excursion, and Traveller,
that summer, was in constant use:

"Near Cartersville, July 22, 1865.

"My Dear Rob: I have just returned from a visit to your Uncle Carter,
and, among my letters, find one from some of your comrades to you,
which I inclose. I was happy to discover from the direction that it
was intended for you and not for me. I find Agnes quite sick, and
have sent for the doctor, as I do not know what to do for her. Poor
little thing! she seems quite prostrated. Custis, I am told, is
better. He is still at Mrs. Cocke's. The rest of us are well. I
saw several of your comrades, Cockes, Kennons and Gilliams, who inquired
after you all. Give my love to F. and Johnny, in which all here unite,
and believe me most truly and affectionately

"Your father, R. E. Lee.

"Robert E. Lee."

In another letter he gives an account of a trip that he and Traveller
had taken across the river into Albemarle County:

"Near Cartersville, August 21, 1865.

"My Dear Bertus: I received only a few days ago your letter of the
12th. I am very sorry to hear of your afflictions, but hope you have
shaken off all of them. You must keep your eyes open, you precious
boy, and not run against noxious vines and fevers. I have just returned
from a visit to Fluvanna. I rode up the gray and extended my
peregrinations into Albemarle, but no further than the Green Mountain
neighbourhood. I made short rides, stopping every evening with some
friend, and had a very pleasant time. I commended you to all the young
ladies on the road, but did not know I was extolling a poisoned beau!
You must go up and see Miss Francis Galt. Tell Fitzhugh I wrote to
him before I went away. I am glad to hear that your corn is so fine,
and that you are making preparations to put in a good crop of wheat.
I wish I had a little farm somewhere, to be at work too. Custis is
paying a visit to his friend, Captain Watkins, in Powhatan. He came
up for him last Saturday, and bore him off. He has got quite well
now, and I hope will continue so. Agnes is also well, though still
feeble and thin. Your mother, Life, and myself as usual. We have
not heard for some time from daughter. A report has reached us of
her being at Mr. Burwell's. Miss Mary Cocke and her brother John
paid us a short visit from Saturday to Monday, and several of our
neighbors have been over to spend the day. We have a quiet time,
which is delightful to me, but I fear not so exhilarating to the
girls. I missed Uncle Carter's visit. He and his Robert rode up on
a pair of colts while I was in Fluvanna, and spent several days. I
wish we were nearer you boys. I want to see you very much, but do
not know when that can be. I hope Johnny is well. I have heard
nothing from his father since we parted in Richmond, but hear that
Fitz has gone to see his mother. All here send their best love to
you, and I pray that every happiness may attend you.

"Your devoted father,

"R. E. Lee.

"Robert E. Lee."

"Bertus" was a contraction of Robertus, my father's pet name for me
as a child. My afflictions were "poison-oak," chills, and fever.
The letter to my brother Fitzhugh, here referred to, I also give:

"Near Cartersville, Cumberland County, Virginia, July 29, 1865.

"My Dear Fitzhugh: I was very glad to receive, by the last packet
from Richmond, your letter of the 22d. We had all been quite anxious
to hear from you, and were much gratified to learn that you were all
well, and doing well. It is very cheering to me to hear of your good
prospects for corn and your cheerful prospects for the future. God
grant they may be realised, which, I am sure, they will be, if you
will unite sound judgement to your usual energy in your operations.
As to the indictments, I hope you, at last, may not be prosecuted. I
see no other reason for it than for prosecuting ALL who ever engaged
in the war. I think, however, we may expect procrastination in measures
of relief, denunciatory threats, etc. We must be patient, and let them
take their course. As soon as I can ascertain their intention toward
me, if not prevented, I shall endeavour to procure some humble, but
quiet, abode for your mother and sisters, where I hope they can be
happy. As I before said, I want to get in some grass country, where
the natural product of the land will do much for my subsistence....
Our neighbours are very kind, and do everything in the world to promote
our comfort. If Agnes is well enough, I propose to ride up to 'Bremo'
next week. I wish I was near enough to see you. Give much love to
Rob and Johnny, the Carters and Braxtons. All here unite in love and
best wishes for you all.

"Most affectionately, your father,

"R. E. Lee."

Chapter X
President of Washington College

Patriotic motives for acceptance of trust--Condition of college--The
General's arrival at Lexington--He prepares for the removal of his
family to that city--Advice to Robert Junior--Trip to "Bremo" on
private canal-boat--Mrs. Lee's invalidism

About this time my father received from the Board of Trustees of
Washington College a notification of his election to the presidency
of that institution, at a meeting of the board held in Lexington,
Virginia, on August 4, 1865. The letter apprising him of the action
was presented by Judge John W. Brockenborough, rector of the college.
This was a complete surprise to my father. He had already been offered
the vice-chancellorship of the "University of the South," at Sewanee,
Tennessee, but declined it on the ground that it was denominational,
and to some suggestions that he should connect himself with the
University of Virginia he objected because it was a State institution.

Washington College had started as an academy in 1749. It was the first
classical school opened in the Valley of Virginia. After a struggle
of many years, under a succession of principals and with several
changes of site, it at length acquired such a reputation as to attract
the attention of General Washington. He gave it a handsome endowment,
and the institution changed its name from "Liberty Hall Academy" to
Washington College. In the summer of 1865, the college, through the
calamities of civil war, had reached the lowest point of depression
it had ever known. Its buildings, library, and apparatus had suffered
from the sack and plunder of hostile soldiery. Its invested funds,
owing to the general impoverishment throughout the land, were for the
time being rendered unproductive and their ultimate value was most
uncertain. Four professors still remained on duty, and there were
about forty students, mainly from the country around Lexington. It
was not a State institution, nor confined to any one religious
denomination, so two objections which might have been made by my father
were removed. But the college in later years had only a local
reputation. It was very poor, indifferently equipped with buildings,
and with no means in sight to improve its condition.

"There was a general expectation that he would decline the position
as not sufficiently lucrative, if his purpose was to repair the ruins
of his private fortune resulting from the war; as not lifting him
conspicuously enough in the public gaze, if he was ambitious of office
or further distinction; or as involving too great labour and anxiety,
if he coveted repose after the terrible contest from which he had just
emerged." [Professor E. S. Joynes]

He was very reluctant to accept this appointment, but for none of
the above reasons, as the average man might have been. Why he was
doubtful of undertaking the responsibilities of such a position his
letter of acceptance clearly shows. He considered the matter carefully
and then wrote the following letter to the committee:

"Powhatan County, August 24, 1865.

"Gentlemen: I have delayed for some days replying to your letter of
the 5th inst., informing me of my election by the board of trustees
to the presidency of Washington College, from a desire to give the
subject due consideration. Fully impressed with the responsibilities
of the office, I have feared that I should be unable to discharge its
duties to the satisfaction of the trustees or to the benefit of the
country. The proper education of youth requires not only great ability,
but I fear more strength than I now possess, for I do not feel able
to undergo the labour of conducting classes in regular courses of
instruction. I could not, therefore, undertake more than the general
administration and supervision of the institution. I could not,
therefore, undertake more than the general administration and
supervision of the institution. There is another subject which has
caused me some serious reflection, and is, I think, worthy of the
consideration of the board. Being excluded from the terms of amnesty
in the proclamation of the President of the United States, of the
29th of May last, and an object of censure to a portion of the country,
I have thought it probable that my occupation of the position of
president might draw upon the college a feeling of hostility; and I
should, therefore, cause injury to an institution which it would be
my highest desire to advance. I think it the duty of every citizen,
in the present condition of the country, to do all in his power to
aid in the restoration of peace and harmony, and in no way to oppose
the policy of the State or general government directed to that object.
It is particularly incumbent on those charged with the instruction of
the young to set them an example of submission to authority, and I
could not consent t be the cause of animadversion upon the college.
Should you, however, take a different view, and think that my services
in the position tendered to me by the board will be advantageous to
the college and country, I will yield to your judgement and accept it;
otherwise, I must most respectfully decline the office. Begging you
to express to the trustees of the college my heartfelt gratitude for
the honour conferred upon me, and requesting you to accept my cordial
thanks for the kind manner in which you have communicated their
decision, I am, gentlemen, with great respect, your most obedient
servant, R. E. Lee"

To present a clearer view of some of the motives influencing my father
in accepting this trust--for such he considered it--I give an extract
from an address on the occasion of his death, by Bishop Wilmer, of
Louisiana, delivered at the University of the South, at Sewanee,

"I was seated," says Bishop Wilmer, "at the close of the day, in my
Virginia home, when I beheld, through the thickening shades of evening,
a horseman entering the yard, whom I soon recognised as General Lee.
The next morning he placed in my hands the correspondence with the
authorities of Washington College at Lexington. He had been invited
to become president of that institution. I confess to a momentary
feeling of chagrin at the proposed change (shall I say revulsion?) in
his history. The institution was one of local interest, and
comparatively unknown to our people. I named others more conspicuous
which would welcome him with ardour at the presiding head. I soon
discovered that his mind towered above these earthly distinctions;
that, in his judgement, the CAUSE gave dignity to the institution,
and not the wealth of its endowment or the renown of its scholars;
that this door and not another was opened to him by Providence, and
he only wished to be assured of his competency to fulfil his trust
and this to make his few remaining years a comfort and blessing to
his suffering country. I had spoken to his human feelings; he had
now revealed himself to me as one 'whose life was hid with Christ
in God.' My speech was no longer restrained. I congratulated him
that his heart was inclined to this great cause, and that he was
prepared to give to the world this august testimony to the importance
of Christian education. How he listened to my feeble words; how he
beckoned me to his side, as the fulness of heart found utterance;
how his whole countenance glowed with animation as I spoke of the
Holy Ghost as the great Teacher, whose presence was required to make
education a blessing, which otherwise might be the curse of mankind;
how feelingly he responded, how ELOQUENTLY, as I never heard him
speak before--can never be effaced from memory; and nothing more
sacred mingles with my reminiscences of the dead."

The board of trustees, on August 31st, adopted and sent to General
Lee resolutions saying that, in spite of his objections, "his connection
with the institution would greatly promote its prosperity and advance
the general interest of education, and urged him to enter upon his
duties as president at his earliest convenience."

My father had had nearly four years' experience in the charge of young
men at West Point. The conditions at that place, to be sure, were very
different from those at the one to which he was now going, but the work
in the main was the same--to train, improve and elevate. I think he was
influenced, in making up his mind to accept this position, by the great
need of education in his State and in the South, and by the opportunity
that he saw at Washington College for starting almost from the
beginning, and for helping, by his experience and example, the youth
of his country to become good and useful citizens.

In the latter part of September, he mounted Traveller and started alone
for Lexington. He was four days on the journey, stopping with some
friend each night. He rode into Lexington on the afternoon of the
fourth day, no one knowing of his coming until he quietly drew up and
dismounted at the village inn. Professor White, who had just turned
into the main street as the General halted in front of the hotel,
said he knew in a moment that this stately rider on the iron-gray
charger must be General Lee. He, therefore, at once went forward, as
two or three old soldiers gathered around to help the General down,
and insisted on taking him to the home of Colonel Reid, the professor's
father-in-law, where he had already been invited to stay. My father,
with his usual consideration for others, as it was late in the
afternoon, had determined to remain at the hotel that night and go to
Mr. Reid's in the morning; but yielding to Captain White's (he always
called him "Captain," his Confederate title) assurances that all was
made ready for him, he accompanied him to the home of his kind host.

The next morning, before breakfast, he wrote the following letter to
my mother announcing his safe arrival. The "Captain Edmund" and "Mr.
Preston" mentioned in it were the sons of our revered friend and
benefactress Mrs. E. R. Cocke. Colonel Preston and Captain Frank were
her brother and nephew:

"Lexington, September 19, 1865.

"My Dear Mary: I reached here yesterday about one P.M., and on riding
up to the hotel was met by Professor White, of Washington College, who
brought me up to his father-in-law's, Colonel Reid, the oldest member
of the trustees of the college, where I am very comfortably quartered.
To-day I will look out for accommodations elsewhere, as the Colonel
has a large family and I fear I am intruding upon his hospitality. I
have not yet visited the college grounds. They seem to be beautifully
located, and the buildings are undergoing repairs. The house assigned
to the president, I am told, has been rented to Dr. Madison (I believe),
who has not been able to procure another residence, and I do not know
when it will be vacated, nor can I tell you more about it. I saw
Mrs. and Colonel Preston, Captain Frank, and his sister. All the family
are well. I shall go after breakfast to inquire after my trunks. I
had a very pleasant journey here. The first two days were very hot,
but, reaching the mountain region the third day, the temperature was
much cooler. I came up in four days' easy rides, getting to my
stopping-place by one P.M. each day, except the third, when I slept
on top of the Blue Ridge, which I reached at three P.M. The scenery
was beautiful all the way. I am writing before breakfast, and must
be short. Last night I found a blanket and coverlid rather light
covering, and this morning I see a fire in the dining-room. I have
thought much of you all since I left. Give much love to the girls and
Custis and remember me to all at 'Oakland.'

"Most affectionately yours, R. E. Lee.

"Mrs. R. E. Lee."

When he first arrived, the family, very naturally, stood a little in
awe of him. This feeling, however, was soon dispelled, for his simple
and unaffected manners in a short while put them at ease. There were
some little children in the house, and they and the General at once
became great friends. With these kind and hospitable friends he
stayed several days. After being present at a meeting of the board
of trustees, he rode Traveller over to the Rockbridge Baths--eleven
miles from Lexington--and from there writes to my mother, on September

"...Am very glad to hear of Rob's arrival. I am sorry that I missed
seeing the latter, but find it was necessary that I should have been
present at the meeting of the board of trustees on the 20th. They
adjourned on the eve of the 21st, and on the morning of the 22d I
rode over here, where I found Annie and Miss Belle [Mrs. Chapman Leigh
and Miss Belle Harrison, of Brandon, both very dear friends and cousins
of my father].... The babies [Mrs. Leigh's] are well and sweet. I have
taken the baths every day since my arrival, and like them very much.
In fact, they are delightful, and I wish you were all here to enjoy
them.... Annie and Belle go in two, and sometimes three, times a day.
Yesterday I procured some horses and took them up to the top of Jump
Mountain, where we had one of the most beautiful views I ever saw.
To-day I could get but one horse, and Miss Belle and I rode up Hays
Creek Valley, which possessed beauties of a different kind. I shall
return to Lexington on the 29th. I perceive, as yet, no change in my
rheumatic affection.... Tell Custis I am much obliged to him for his
attention to my baggage. All the articles enumerated by him arrived
safely at Colonel Reid's Thursday morning early. I also received the
package of letters he sent.... I hope he may receive the appointment
at the V. M. I. Everyone interested has expressed a desire he should
do so, and I am more desirous than all of them. If he comes by land,
he will find the route I took very pleasant, and about 108 miles,
namely: 'Bremo'--Dr. Wilmer's--Waynesboro'--Greenville. He will find
me at the Lexington Hotel.... I wish you were all here with me. I
feel very solitary and miss you all dreadfully. Give much love to
the girls and boys--kind remembrances to Mrs. P., Miss Louisa, and
Mrs. Thos. Cocke. I have no news. Most affectionately, R. E. Lee.

"P.S.--Annie and Belle send a great deal of love to all. R. E. L."

These little excursions and the meeting with old friends and dear
cousins were sources of real enjoyment and grateful rest. The pains
of the past, the worries of the present, and the cares for the future
were, for the time being, banished. My father earnestly desired a
quiet, informal inauguration, and his wish was gratified. On October
2, 1865, in the presence of the trustees, professors and students, after
solemn and appropriate prayer by the Rev. W. S. White, D. D., the
oldest Christian minister in the town [the father of Professor (or
"Captain") White], he took the oath of office as required by the laws
of the college, and was thus legally inaugurated as its president.

On October 3d he wrote my mother:

"...I am glad to hear that Rob is improving, and hope you had the
pleasure of seeing Mr. Dana [Our old pastor of Christ's Church,
Alexandria, the trusted friend of my grandmother and mother, who had
baptised all the children at Arlington].... The college opened
yesterday, and a fine set of youths, about fifty, made their appearance
in a body. It is supposed that many more will be coming during the
month. The scarcity of money everywhere embarrasses all proceedings.
General Smith informs me that the Military Institute will commence
its exercises on the 16th inst.; and that Custis was unanimously elected
to the chair of Civil Engineering [The Virginia Military Institute, a
State institution, modelled after the U. S. Military Academy at West
Point, was located in Lexington, and its grounds adjoined those of
Washington College. Since its foundation in 1839, unto this time,
General F. H. Smith had been its superintendent.]. I am living at
the Lexington Hotel, and he must come there if he comes up.... The
ladies have furnished me a very nice room in the college for my office;
new carpet from Baltimore, curtains, etc. They are always doing
something kind.... I came up September 30th from the Baths. Annie
and Miss Belle still there and very well. They expect to be here on
the 10th.... You tell me nothing of the girls. I hope Agnes is getting
strong and fat. I wished for them both at the Baths. Annie and Belle

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest