Part 5 out of 8
"Baxter" and "Tom, the Nipper" were Mildred's pets. All of us had
a fondness for cats, inherited from my mother and her father, Mr.
Custis. My father was very fond of them in his way and in their
place, and was kind to them and considerate of their feelings. My
father was very fond of them in his way and in their place, and was
kind to them and considerate of their feelings. My mother told of
his hearing one of the house-pets, possibly Baxter or the Nipper,
crying and lamenting under his window one stormy night. The General
got out of bed, opened the window, and called pussy to come in. The
window was so high that the animal could not jump up to it. My father
then stepped softly across the room, took one of my mother's crutches,
and held it so far out of the window that he became wet from falling
rain; but he persuaded the cat to climb up along the crutch, and
into the window, before he thought of dry clothing fo himself. "Lucy
Long" was my father's mare, which had been lost or stolen at the end
of the war, and which I had just brought back to him. I will give
in the following letter his account of her:
"Lexington, Virginia, September 4, 1866.
"Dr. C. S. Garnett.
"Dear Sir: I am much obliged to you for your letter of the 23d ult.
and the information it contained. The mare about which my son wrote
you was bred by Mr. Stephen Dandridge, of 'The Bower,' Berkeley County,
Virginia, and was purchased from him for me by General J. E. B. Stuart
in the fall of 1862--after the return of the army from Maryland. She
is nine or ten years old, about fifteen hands high, square built,
sorrel (not chestnut) colour, has a fast walk, easy pace, and short
canter. When I parted with her she had a full long mane and tail. I
rode her in conjunction with my gray horse from the fall of '62 to
the spring of '64, when she was sent back for refreshment; and it was
in recalling her in the spring of '65 from Mr. Hairston's, in Henry
County, that she got into Major Paxton's stables of public horses and
went to Danville with them. I think she might be recognised by any
member of the Army of Northern Virginia, in Essex, unless much changed.
I now recollect no distinctive marks about her except a blaze in her
forehead and white hind-legs. My son, General W. H. F. Lee, residing
at the White House, in New Kent, might recognise her, and also my
son Robert, who resides near West Point, in King William. Captain
Hopkins, to whom you refer in your letter, is dead, but Major Paxton,
who had general charge of the public stables, and to whom I referred
you letter, has sent me the accompanying affidavits of two of the
men employed by him. Should their evidence not be satisfactory, he
will procure statements from some of the officers, which probably
may be more definite. I should be obliged to you, if the mare in
question is the one I am seeking for, that you would take steps to
recover her, as I am desirous of reclaiming her in consideration of
the donor, General Stuart.
"Your obedient servant, R. E. Lee."
It was proved to the satisfaction of all parties that the mare in
question was "Lucy Long," and my father reimbursed the man who had
bought her from some one who had no right to her. She was brought
to my place and I recognised her at once. She stayed with me until
I was ready to pay my Christmas visit to Lexington. She then was put
on the train and sent to Staunton, where I met her. I found there
Colonel William Allan, a professor of Washington College, who had a
buggy and no horse, and as I had a horse and no buggy, we joined forces
and I drove him over to Lexington, "Lucy Long" carrying us with great
ease to herself and comfort to us. My father was glad to get her, as
he was very fond of her. When he heard how she came over, he was
really shocked, as he thought she had never been broken to harness.
She lived to be thirty-three years old, and was then chloroformed,
because my brother thought she had ceased to enjoy life. For the last
ten years of her life she was boarded out in the country, where she
did nothing but rest, and until about a year before her death she
seemed in good health and spirits.
An Ideal Father
Letters to Mildred Lee--To Robert--To Fitzhugh--Interviewed by Swinton,
historian of the Army of the Potomac--Improvement in grounds and
buildings of Washington College--Punctuality a prominent trait of its
President--A strong supporter of the Y.M.C.A.
My sister, after the Christmas holidays, went from "Ashby" to Baltimore,
Cousins George and Eleanor Goldsborough taking her with them to their
town house. I think my father always wanted his daughters with him.
When they were away he missed them, their love, care, and attention.
The next letter I find is to Mildred in Baltimore:
"Lexington, Virginia, January 27, 1867.
"My Precious Daughter: Your letter to your mother gave us the
satisfactory information of your continued good health, for I feared
that your long silence had been caused by indisposition of body,
rather than that due to writing. I hope you will not let so long an
interval between your letters occur again, for you know I am always
longing to hear from you, when I cannot see you, and a few lines, if
only to say you are well, will prevent unpleasant apprehensions. I
am delighted at your increased bodily dimensions, and your diminished
drapery. One hundred and twenty-eight avoirdupois is approximately
a proper standard. Seven more pounds will make you all right. But
I fear before I see you the unnatural life, which I fear you will lead
in Baltimore, will reduce you to skin and bone. Do not go out to
many parties, preserve your simple tastes and manners, and you will
enjoy more pleasure. Plainness and simplicity of dress, early hours,
and rational amusements, I wish you to practise. You must thank
Cousins Eleanor and George for all their kindness to you, and remember
me to all friends. If you see your uncle Marshall, present my kind
regards to him, and my best wishes for his health and happiness. I
hope you will see Robert. I heart that he stayed at Mr. Edward Dallam's
when in Baltimore, but do not know whether he will return there from
Lynwood. I was sorry to hear that you lost your purse. Perhaps the
finder was more in want than you are, and it may be of service to
him, and you can do without it. A little money is sometimes useful.
You must bear in mind that it will not be becoming in a Virginia girl
now to be fine or fashionable, and that gentility as well as self-
respect requires moderation in dress and gaiety. While her people
are suffering, she should practise self-denial and show her sympathy
in their affliction. We are all pretty well. Your poor mother suffers
more pain than usual during this inclement weather. Your sister is
devoted to the snow and ice, and Agnes is becoming a very good
housekeeper. She has received a letter from a gentleman, whose
judgement she respects, recommending her to acquire that useful
knowledge, and assuring her that it will not only promote domestic
happiness, but will add greatly to connubial bliss. This is a great
encouragement to her. Our young friends, the law students and cadets,
all inquire after you and wish for your return. You know that is my
wish and hope, so whenever you are ready to return you will know that
I am waiting to receive you. I will leave your mother and sisters to
give you all domestic news. Tell Annette I have been looking for her
in every stage since her letter last fall, and that I hope for her
arrival daily. Nipper is well, and endeavors, by stern gravity, to
repress the frivolity of Baxter. All unite in much love, and I am,
"Your father, R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
Just after the intermediate examinations, he writes to Mildred again:
"Lexington, Virginia, February 16, 1867.
"My Precious Daughter: I have wished to answer your letter of the
2d for some days, but have not been able. The intermediate examinations
which were in progress when it arrived continued ten entire days, and
since their termination the necessary arrangements for the resumption
of studies, and the reorganisation of the classes, have occupied my
time not devoted to other pressing matters. The students generally
passed very creditable examinations. Many of your friends were
distinguished. The ordeal through which the higher classes passed was
as severe as any I ever witnessed. Colonel Johnston [William Preston
Johnston, the son of General Albert Sidney Johnston, who fell at
Shiloh. He had recently been elected to the chair of History and
Literature at Washington College.] has arrived and entered upon his
duties. He is living at the hotel with his wife and six sweet little
children, being unable to procure a house, and the college being too
poor to build one for him. We have other professors also houseless.
Robert has returned to his 'broken-back cottage,' though he confesses
to having enjoyed great pleasure during his visit to Baltimore. He
dwells with delight upon his intercourse with the Misses ---, whom
he considers angels upon earth, without wings. His account of them
increases my desire to get them to Virginia. Miss --- once promised
me to have Fitzhugh. Tell her I will release her from her engagement
if she will take Rob. He was also much gratified at being able to
spend a week with you, and I am getting very anxious for your return.
The winter has passed, the snow and ice have disappeared, and the
birds have returned to their favourite resorts in the yard. We have,
however, a sea of mud around us, through which we have to plunge,
but I hope the pleasant air and sun now visiting us will soon dissipate
it. I am glad you are enjoying yourself among such kind friends, but
do not remain too long, as you may detain Cousins Eleanor and George
from the Eastern Shore. Markie has sent me a likeness of you on
porcelain, from the negative taken by the celebrated Plecker, which
she carried with her to Philadelphia. It is very good, but I prefer
the original.... Everybody seems anxious for your return, and is
surprised you can stay so long from your papa. May God bless and
keep you, my dear child, is the constant prayer of
"Your devoted father, R. E. Lee."
Before Mildred returned to Lexington she received one more letter from
my father, in which he advises her of the two routes to Lexington,
and tells her some college news:
"Lexington, Virginia, February 23, 1867.
"My Precious Daughter: Agnes wishes you to purchase some articles for
her, and your mother and sister may have some commissions, which I
fear will reduce your purse to an inconvenient collapse. I therefore
send a check for --- dollars, which I hope will enable you to gratify
their wishes and serve as a reserve for your own wants. I hope you
are well and passing your time profitably as well as pleasantly. The
cadets are under the impression that you are at the Patapsco Institute,
and will expect to find you, on your return, more agreeable than ever.
They are labouring so industriously in mental culture that they believe
every one is similarly engaged. I went last evening to the celebration
of the anniversary of the Washington Society, and was much pleased
with the speeches. It was held in the Methodist church, which was
filled to overflowing. The institute and Ann Smith [Female Academy]
were represented. Your sisters were present, and as they were both
absent from breakfast this morning I fear so much learning made them
sleepy. They were also at a cadet hop on the 21st, and did not get
home till between two and three A. M. on the 22d. I suppose, therefore,
they had 'splendid times' and very fresh society. We were somewhat
surprised the other morning at Mrs. Grady's committing matrimony. I
missed, at our chapel exercises, Captain Grady and our acting chaplain,
but did not know at the time what prevented their attendance. I heard
afterwards that they had put the happy pair in the stage and sent them
on their way rejoicing. She is now Mrs. Richard Norris, and has
gone to Baltimore. It will be but fair now that Captain Grady should
go to Baltimore and bring us a young lady from there in return for
his mother. If you see Miss Armistead, ask her to be ready on short
notice, as we are a people of few words in this region, and proceed
in all matters in a businesslike way. Agnes, I suppose, has told you
of all matters of gaiety and fashion. She has, no doubt, too, kept
you advised of the progress of young Baxter and of the deeds of
'Thomas the Nipper.' They are both flourishing, and are much
admired.... The roads are so muddy that my evening rides have been
suspended, and I see nobody.... You must write me when to expect you.
The stage from Staunton now crosses during the night, and, when the
roads are favourable, arrives about two A. M. When the roads are
unfavourable, it gets in generally in time for an early breakfast.
The canal-boats have resumed their trips now, so you will have a choice
of routes from Richmond, if you conclude to go there. All unite
with me in much love, and I am, always,
"Your father, R. E. Lee."
From Lexington I had gone to Baltimore for a short visit, and had spent
a week with Mildred at the home of our cousin, Mr. George Washington
Peter, near Ellicott City. Soon after getting back to my farm, I
received the following letter from my father, still trying to help
me along in my work:
"Lexington, Virginia, February 8, 1867.
"My Dear Son: I was very glad to learn from your letter of the 31st
ult. that you had enjoyed your visit to Baltimore, for I feared when
you left us that you might have a visit from your shaking enemy. I
trust, however, that he has now left you never to return. Still be
prudent and watch his approach closely. I hope you may be able to
procure some good mules in Richmond, as it is a matter of importance
to your operations. If you can get the lime delivered at ten cents,
I do not know a more economical application to your land. I believe
you will be repaid by the first crop, provided it acts as I think it
will. Of this you must judge, and I can only say that if you can
accomplish it, and wish to try, I can send you $300, and will send it
by draft to you, or to any one in Baltimore that you will designate,
as soon as I hear from you. I commend you for not wishing to go in
debt, or to proceed faster in your operations than prudence dictates.
I think it economy to improve your land, and to begin upon the system
you prefer as soon as possible. It is your only chance of success,
so let me know. I have to write in haste, as the examination is in
progress, and I have to be present. George and Robert both came up
to-day in the subjects in which they are respectively weakest, so give
them your good wishes. I received yesterday a letter from Mildred
regretting your departure from Baltimore, and expressing the pleasure
she derived from having been with you even a short week. I hope she
will continue well and return to us soon. We are all about as you
left us. The weather has moderated and the ice disappeared from the
river, though the boats have not yet resumed their trips. Mud
predominates now instead of snow.... Wishing you all happiness, I
am, Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee.
"Robert E. Lee, Jr."
The Robert and George mentioned here were two of his nephews whom he
was educating at the college, the sons, respectively, of his brothers,
Sydney Smith Lee and Charles Carter Lee. They were members of his
household and were treated as his own family.
To my brother Fitzhugh he writes at this time the following, chiding
him for his extravagance in a Christmas gift, and asking for some
data of the movements of his command. It is full of good advice,
encouragement, and affection:
"Lexington, Virginia, February 26, 1867.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: You must not think because I write so seldom that
you are absent from my thoughts. I think of you constantly, and am
every revolving in my mind all that concerns you. I have an ardent
desire to see you re-established at your home and enjoying the pleasure
of prosperity around you. I know this cannot be accomplished at once,
but must come from continuous labour, economy, and industry, and be
the result of years of good management. We have now nothing to do
but to attend to our material interest which collectively will advance
the interests of the State, and to await events. The dominant party
cannot reign forever, and truth and justice will at last prevail. I
hope I shall be able to get down to see you and Rob during the next
vacation. I shall then have a more correct apprehension of existing
circumstances, and can follow your progress more satisfactorily. I
was very much obliged to you for the nice eye-glasses you sent me
Xmas, and asked your mother and the girls to thank you for them, which
I hope they did. I fear they are too nice for my present circumstances,
and do not think you ought to spend anything, except on your farm,
until you get that in a prosperous condition. We have all, now, to
confine ourselves strictly to our necessities.... While you are your
own manager you can carry on cultivation on a large scale with
comparatively less expense than on a small scale, and your profits
will of course be greater. I would commence a system of progressive
improvement which would improve your land and add steadily to your
income. I have received, lately, from Fitz Lee a narrative of the
operations of his division of cavalry. I requested Custis to write
to you for a report of your operations during the winter of 1863-4
down to April 18, 1865. How are you progressing with it? I know
the difficulties of making such a narrative at this time; still, by
correspondence with your officers, and by exerting your own memory,
much can be done, and it will help me greatly in my undertaking.
Make it as full as you can, embracing all circumstances bearing on
the campaigns affecting your operations and illustrating the conduct
of your division. I hope you will be able to get up to see us this
spring or summer. Select the time when you can best absent yourself,
that you may feel the freer and enjoy yourself the more.... I wish
I were nearer to you all.... Your mother is about the same, busy
with her needle and her pen, and as cheerful as ever....
"Affectionately your father, R. E. Lee.
"General Wm. H. F. Lee."
His desire for accounts from his officers of the movements of their
commands shows he still intended to attempt to write his campaigns
with the Army of Northern Virginia. Some months later he writes
again to my brother, and in it he alludes to the dark cloud of the
"reconstruction" days, hanging then over the South:
"Lexington, Virginia, June 8, 1867.
"My Dear Son: Your letter written on your birthday has been welcomed
by the whole family, and I assure you that we reciprocate your regrets
at the distance which separates us. Although the future is still
dark, and the prospects gloomy, I am confident that, if we all unite
in doing our duty, and earnestly work to extract what good we can
out of the evil that now hangs over our dear land, the time is not
distant when the angry cloud will be lifted from our horizon and the
sun in his pristine brightness again shine forth. I, therefore, can
anticipate for you many years of happiness and prosperity, and in my
daily prayers to the God of mercy and truth I invoke His choicest
blessings upon you. May He gather you under the shadow of His almighty
wing, direct you in all your ways, and give you peace and everlasting
life. It would be most pleasant to my feelings could I again, as
you propose, gather you all around me, but I fear that will not be in
this world. Let us all so live that we may be united in that world
where there is no more separation, and where sorrow and pain never
come. I think after next year I will have done all the good I can
for the college, and I should then like, if peace is restored to the
country, to retire to some quiet spot, east of the mountains, where
I might prepare a home for your mother and sisters after my death,
and where I could earn my daily bread. We will talk of it when we
meet. This summer I wish to carry your mother to some of the mineral
springs where she might obtain some relief, but it is hard to know
where that can be found. She seems now to prefer White Sulphur, merely
on the ground, I believe, that she has never tried those waters, and,
therefore, they might be of service to her. If she makes up her
mind to go, I will endeavour to get her there with one of the girls,
at least. Mildred has returned to us, looking very well, and says
she has had a very pleasant tour among her friends, and has received
a great deal of kindness wherever she has been. She seems to be very
contented now at home. I think you did right to defer her visit to
us until you had more leisure. I am glad your prospects for a harvest
are so good. Every one must look to his material interests now, as
labour is our only resource. The completion of the railroad to the
Pamunkey will be a great advantage to you in getting to market what
you make, and I hope you will put everything to account. I hope
Robert is doing well. Mary is in Staunton, where she went a week
since to attend Miss Stribling's wedding.... Miss Mary Stewart is
staying with us, and I believe is to remain until July, when her sister
Belle is to join her. The examination of the students has been
progressing a week and will continue until the 20th. The young men
have, so far, done very well on the whole.... Mr. Swinton has paid
his visit. He seemed to be gentlemanly, but I derive no pleasure from
my interviews with book-makers. I have either to appear uncivil,
or run the risk of being dragged before the public.... I am,
"Always as ever, your father, R. E. Lee.
"General Wm. H. Fitzhugh Lee."
The Pamunkey was the name of the river on which the White House, my
brother's estate, was situated. The railroad from Richmond, torn up
during the war, had just been rebuilt to that point. Swinton was
the historian of the Federal Amy of the Potomac. He spent some days
in Lexington, and, I suppose, sought from my father information on
points connected with his history of the movements of General Grant's
My father, as I have said before, commenced almost as soon as he became
the president of the college to improve the grounds, roads, walks,
fences, etc., and systematically kept up this work up to the time
of his death. The walks about the college grounds were in very bad
condition, and, in wet weather, often ankle-deep in mud. As a first
step toward improving them the president had a quantity of limestone
broken up and spread upon the roads and walks. The rough, jagged
surface was most uninviting, and horsemen and footmen naturally took
to the grass. seeing Colonel T. L. Preston riding one day across
the campus on his way to his classes at the Virginia Military Institute,
my father remarked:
"Ah, Colonel, I have depended upon you and your big sorrel to help
smooth down my walks!"
Another day, a student who was walking on the grass saw the General
not far away, and immediately stepped into the middle of the rocks,
upon which he manfully trudged along. A strange lady, going in the
same direction, followed in the student's footsteps, and when the
youth came within speaking distance, my father, with a twinkle in his
eye, thanked him for setting so good an example, and added, "The
ladies do not generally take kindly to my walks."
The buildings also were altered and renovated, so far as funds for
the purpose permitted. He urged the erection as soon as possible of
a chapel, which should be of dimensions suitable for the demands of
the college. There were other objects calling for a far greater
outlay of money than the resources of the college afforded, but he
deemed this of great importance, and succeeded in getting appropriations
for it first. He hastened the selection of the site and the drawing
of the plans. the completion of the work was much retarded owing to
the want of funds, but his interest in its erection never flagged.
He gave it his personal superintendence from first to last, visiting
it often two or three times a day. After it was dedicated, he always
attended morning prayers and all other religious exercises held there,
unless prevented by sickness. Whenever I was there on a visit I
always went with him every morning to chapel. He had a certain seat
which he occupied, and you could have kept your watch regulated by
the time he entered the doors. As he thought well of the young men
who left his drawing-room by ten o'clock, so he placed in a higher
estimate those who attended chapel regularly, especially if they got
there in proper time. There was no regular chaplain, but the ministers
of the different denominations who had churches in the village
undertook, by turns, to perform a month's service. The hour was forty-
five minutes past seven o'clock every morning, except Sunday, during
the session, save in the three winter months, December, January, and
February, when it was one hour later. He was the earnest friend and
strong support of the Young Men's Christian Association, and an annual
contributor to its funds. Upon one occasion, at least, he placed in
its library a collection of suitable books, which he had purchased
with that intention. In his annual reports to the trustees, he always
made mention of the association, giving an account of its operations
An incident about "Traveller"--The General's love for children--His
friendship with Ex-President Davis--A ride with his daughter to the
Peaks of Otter--Mildred Lee's narrative--Mrs. Lee at the White Sulphur
Springs--The great attention paid her husband there--His idea of life
Since the arrival of "Lucy Long" my father was generally accompanied
by one of my sisters in his rides, whenever the weather and the condition
of the roads admitted of their going. It took very severe weather to
keep him in, though often he could not spare the time, for during the
winter months the days were very short. Every Monday afternoon there
was a faculty meeting, and the vestry meetings of his church were held
two or three times a month. Whenever I was in Lexington I rode with
him, and when he was prevented by any of the above-mentioned causes
he would ask me to take Traveller out and give him a gallop, which I
was delighted to do, and I think I had my revenge for his treatment
of me on that ride from Orange to Fredericksburg in the winter of
1862. My father's affection for his horses was very deep and strong.
In a letter written from the Springs one summer, to his clerk in
Lexington, he says:
"How is Traveller? Tell him I miss him dreadfully, and have repented
of our separation but once--and that is the whole time since we parted."
I think Traveller appreciated his love and sympathy, and returned it
as much as was in a horse's nature to do. As illustrative of this
bond between them, a very pretty story was told me by Mrs. S. P. Lee
[Daughter of General W. N. Pendleton, Chief of Artillery of the A.
N. Va., and widow of Colonel Edwin Grey Lee, C. S. A.]:
"One afternoon in July of this year, the General rode down to the
canal-boat landing to put on board a young lady who had been visiting
his daughters and was returning home. He dismounted, tied Traveller
to a post, and was standing on the boat making his adieux, when some
one called out that Traveller was loose. Sure enough, the gallant
gray was making his way up the road, increasing his speed as a number
of boys and men tried to stop him. My father immediately stepped
ashore, called to the crowd to stand still, and advancing a few steps
gave a peculiar low whistle. At the first sound, Traveller stopped
and pricked up his ears. The General whistled a second time, and the
horse with a glad whinny turned and trotted quietly back to his master,
who patted and coaxed him before tying him up again. To a bystander
expressing surprise at the creature's docility the General observed
that he did not see how any man could ride a horse for any length of
time without a perfect understanding being established between them.
My sister Mildred, who rode with him constantly this summer, tells
me of his enjoyment of their long rides out into the beautiful, restful
country. Nothing seemed to delight him so much.
"I have often known him to give rein to Traveller and to at full speed
to the top of some long hill, then turn and wait for me jogging along
on Lucy, calling out with merry voice, 'Come along, Miss Lucy, Miss
Lucy, Lucy Long!' He would question the country people about the
roads, where they came from, where they led to, and soon knew every
farmer's name and every homestead in the country. He often said:
"'I wish I had a little farm of my own, where we could live in peace
to the end of our days. You girls could attend to the dairy and the
cows and the sheep and wait on your mother and me, for it is time now
for us old people to rest and for the young people to work.'"
All the children in the country around were devoted to him, and felt
no hesitation in approaching him, after they once knew him. He used
to meet his favourites among the little ones on the street, and would
sometimes lift them up in front of him to give them a ride on Traveller.
That was the greatest treat he could provide. There is a very
pretty story told of Virginia Lee Letcher, his god-daughter, and her
baby sister, Fannie, which is yet remembered among the Lexington
people. Jennie had been followed by her persistent sister, and all
the coaxing and the commanding of the six-year-old failed to make
the younger return home. Fannie had sat down by the roadside to pout,
when General Lee came riding by. Jeannie at once appealed to him:
"General Lee, won't you please make this child go home to her mother?"
The General immediately rode over to where Fannie sat, leaned over
from his saddle and drew her up into his lap. There she sat in royal
contentment, and was thus grandly escorted home. When Mrs. Letcher
inquired of Jennie why she had given General Lee so much trouble,
she received the naive reply:
"I couldn't make Fan go home, and I thought HE could do anything."
[Daughters of Governor John Letcher--the War Governor of Virginia]
There was a little boy living with his mother, who had come from New
York. His father had been killed in our army. The little fellow,
now Colonel Grier Monroe, of New York city, was much teased at his
playmates calling him "Yankee" when he knew he was not one. One
day he marched into my father's office in the college, stated his
case, and asked for redress.
"The next boy that calls you 'Yankee' send him to me," said the General,
which, when reported, struck such terror into the hearts of his small
comrades that the offense was never repeated.
There was another little boy who was accustomed to clamber up by the
side of my father at the morning chapel exercises, and was so kindly
treated that, whenever he saw his distinguished friend, he straightway
assumed a position beside him. At the college commencement, which
was held in the chapel, the little fellow glided from his mother's
side and quietly stole up to the platform. Soon he was nestled at
the feet of the dignified president, and, resting his head upon his
knees, dropped asleep. General Lee tenderly remained without moving,
preferring to suffer from the constrained position rather than disturb
the innocent slumberer. This boy is now the Reverend Carter Jones of
he Baptist Church.
About this time Ex-President Davis was freed from the confinement of
his prison at Fortress Monroe, where he had been for about two years.
There was a warm personal friendship between these two men, dating
from the time they were cadets at West Point together, and as his
unjust and unnecessary imprisonment had pained and distressed none
more than my father, so his release gave him corresponding joy. He
at once wrote to him the following letter, full of feeling and
"Lexington, Virginia, June 1, 1867.
"Honourable Jefferson Davis.
"My Dear Mr. Davis: You can conceive better than I can express the
misery which your friends have suffered from your long imprisonment,
and the other afflictions incident thereto. To no one has this been
more painful than to me, and the impossibility of affording relief has
added to my distress. Your release has lifted a load from my heart
which I have not words to tell. My daily prayer to the great Ruler
of the world is that He may shield you from all future harm, guard
you from all evil, and give you that peace which the world cannot
take away. That the rest of your days may be triumphantly happy is
the sincere and earnest wish of
"Your most obedient, faithful friend and servant,
"R. E. Lee."
Though my father would take no part in the politics of the country,
and rarely expressed his views on questions of that nature then
occupying the minds of all, nevertheless, when he deemed it necessary,
and to the proper person, he very plainly said what he thought. The
following letter to General Longstreet, in answer to one from him
written about this time, illustrates what I have said in this
connection, and explains itself:
"Lexington, Virginia, October 29, 1867.
"General J. Longstreet, 21 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, La.
"My Dear General: When I received your letter of the 8th of June,
I had just returned from a short trip to Bedford County, and was
preparing for a more extended visit to the White Sulphur Springs for
the benefit of Mrs. Lee's health. As I could not write such a letter
as you desired, and as you stated that you would leave New Orleans
for Mexico in a week from the time you wrote, to be absent some months,
I determined to delay my reply till my return. Although I have been
here more than a month, I have been so occupied by necessary business,
and so incommoded by the effects of an attack of illness, from which
I have not yet recovered, that this is the first day that I have been
able to write to you. I have avoided all discussion of political
questions since the cessation of hostilities, and have, in my own
conduct, and in my recommendations to others, endeavoured to conform
to existing circumstances. I consider this the part of wisdom, as
well as of duty; but, while I think we should act under the law and
according to the law imposed upon us, I cannot think the course
pursued by the dominant political party the best for the interests
of the country, and therefore cannot say so or give it my approval.
This is the reason why I could not comply with the request in your
letter. I am of the opinion that all who can should vote for the
most intelligent, honest, and conscientious men eligible to office,
irrespective of former party opinions, who will endeavour to make
the new constitutions and the laws passed under them as beneficial
as possible to the true interests, prosperity, and liberty of all
classes and conditions of the people. With my best wishes for your
health and happiness, and my kindest regards to Mrs. Longstreet and
your children, I am, with great regard, and very truly and sincerely
"R. E. Lee."
This summer my father paid a visit to the Peaks of Otter, a famous
group of mountains in the Blue Ridge range, situated in Bedford County,
Virginia. He rode Traveller, and my sister Mildred accompanied him
on "Lucy Long." After visiting the Peaks and ascending the summit,
which is 4,000 feet in height, he rode on to Liberty, now Bedford
City, ten miles distant, and spent the night at "Avenel," the home
of the Burwells, who were friends and connections of his.
From there the riding party went to Captain Bufurd's, about twelve
miles distant, where they spent the night and the next day. The
Captain was a farmer, a great admirer and a staunch upholder of his
native State, Viriginia, in her fight for constitutional liberty,
from '61 to '65. He had sent his sons into the army, and had given
of his substance freely to support the troops, as well as the poor
and needy, the widow and orphan, who had been left in want by the
death in battle of their natural protectors and by the ravages of
war. In the early years of the struggle, my mother and sisters, when
"refugeeing," had boarded, as they thought and intended at the time,
at his home. But when they tried to induce him to accept pay for the
shelter and food he had given them for a month or more, he sternly
refused. His was a patriotism that hesitated at no sacrifice, and
was of a kind and character that admitted of no self-consideration.
This trait, so strongly developed in him, attracted the admiration
and respect of my father. The visit he paid him was to thank him in
person for the kindness extended to his wife and daughters, and also
for a very large and handsome horse which he had sent my father the
last year, I think, of the war. My sister Mildred tells me what she
can recollect of this ride. It is a source of endless regret to us
that we cannot recall more. His championship was at all times
delightful to his children, and on an occasion of this kind, invigorated
by the exercise, inspired by the bright skies and relieved of all
harassing cares, he became almost a boy again.
My sister Mildred says:
"We started at daybreak one perfect June day, papa on Traveller, I on
Lucy Long, our saddle-bags being our only luggage. He was in the
gayest humour, laughing and joking with me as I paced along by his
side on quiet 'Miss Lucy.' Traveller seemed to sympathise with his
master, his springy step, high head, and bright eye clearly showing
how happy he was and how much interest he took in this journey. He
had to be constantly chided for his restlessness, and was told that
it would be well for him to reserve some of his too abundant energy
for the latter part of his trip. At midday we dismounted, and, tying
our horses while resting on the soft grass under a wild-plum hedge by
the roadside, ate our lunch. We then rode on, and soon came to the
James River, which was crossed by a ferry-boat. The ferry-man was
an old soldier, who of course recognised papa, and refused payment;
nor could he be induced to take any. Further on the road, as our
horses were climbing a steep rocky ascent, we met some little children,
with very dirty faces, playing on the roadside. He spoke to them in
his gentle, playful way, alluding to their faces and the desirability
of using a little water. They stared at us with open-eyed astonishment,
and then scampered off up the hill; a few minutes later, in rounding
this hill, we passed a little cabin, when out they all ran with clean
faces, fresh aprons, and their hair nicely brushed, one little girl
exclaiming, 'We know you are General Lee! we have got your picture!'
"That night about nine o'clock we reached the little mountain inn at
the foot of the Peaks, ate a hearty supper, and soon went to bed,
tired out by our thirty-mile ride. Our bedrooms seemed to be a loft,
and the beds were of feathers, but I, at last, slept without turning.
Next morning, at dawn of day, we set out, accompanied by the master
of the house, and rode for a long time up the mountain-side, Lucy
following closely behind Traveller. Finally it became impossible to
proceed further on horseback, so the horses were fastened to some
trees and we climbed the rest of the way to the summit on foot. When
the top was reached, we sat for a long time on a great rock, gazing
down on the glorious prospect beneath. Papa spoke but a few words,
and seemed very sad. I have heard there is now a mark on the rock
showing where we sat. The inn-keeper, who accompanied us all the way,
told us that we had ridden nearer the top than any other persons up
to that time. Regaining our horses, we proceeded on our second day's
journey, which was to end at Liberty, some ten miles distant.
"We had not ridden far, when suddenly a black thunder-cloud arose and
in a few minutes a heavy shower broke over us. We galloped back to
a log cabin we had just passed. Papa lifted me off of Lucy and,
dripping with water, I rushed in, while he led the horse under an
adjacent shed. the woman of the house looked dark and glum on seeing
the pools of water forming from my dress on her freshly scoured floor,
and when papa came in with his muddy boots her expression was more
forbidding and gloomy. He asked her permission to wait there until
the shower was over, and praised her nice white floor, regretting
that we had marred its beauty. At this praise, so becomingly bestowed,
she was slightly appeased, and asked us into the best room, which was
adorned with colored prints of Lee, Jackson, Davis, and Johnston.
When the shower ceased and papa went out for the horses I told her
who I was. Poor woman! She seemed stunned and kept on saying: 'What
will Joe say? What will Joe say!' Joe was her husband, and had been,
like every other man in the country, a soldier in the 'Army of
"The shower over and the sun shining brightly, we rode along joyously
through the refreshed hills and dust-laid roads arriving at Liberty
in good time, and went to 'Avenel,' the pretty home of the Burwells.
The comforts of this sweet old place seemed very delicious to me
after my short experience of roughing it. Papa was much amused when
I appeared in crinoline, my 'hoops' having been squeezed into the
saddle-bags and brought with me. We remained here the next day,
Sunday, and the day after rode on some twelve miles to Captain
Buford's. The Captain, in his shirt-sleeves, received us with open
arms, seemed much surprised at my full growth, and said, 'Why, General,
you called her your 'little girl,' and she is a real chuck of a gal!'
He showed us his fine Jersey cattle, his rich fields and well-filled
barns, and delighted in talking of the time during the war when mama,
Mary, and Agnes paid him a visit. He overflowed with kindness and
hospitality, and his table fairly groaned with the good things. Papa
afterwards constantly quoted his original sayings, especially one on
early rising, which was made on the eve of our arrival, when he told
us good-night. Papa asked him what time he must be ready for breakfast
"'Well, General,' said the Captain, 'as you have been riding hard,
and as you are company, we will not have breakfast to-morrow until
sun-up,' which meant in those June days somewhere before five o'clock.
"After a day spent pleasantly here, we started next morning early on
our return. Halting for a short time in Buchanan, we stopped at
Colonel Edmund Pendleton's who then lived there in an imposing white
pillared edifice, formerly a bank. Mrs. Pendelton gave us some
delicious apricots from her garden, which my father enjoyed greatly.
We then proceeded on the road to Lexington, going by the Natural
Bridge, where we had another short rest, and reached home the same
night, about ten o'clock, after a forty-mile ride.
"Shortly after this visit Captain Bufurd sent me a fine Jersey cow,
on condition that I would get up early every morning and milk her,
and also send him a part of the butter I made."
After my father returned from this trip, he began his arrangements for
taking my mother to the Greenbriar White Sulphur Springs. He hoped
that the waters and the change might be of service to her general
health, even if they should not alleviated the severity of her
rheumatic pains. About the first of July, my mother, sister Agnes
and Miss Mary Pendleton, with my brother Custis in charge, set out
for the White Sulphur Springs. My father, with Professor J. J. White,
decided to make the journey to the same place on horseback. They
started a day in advance and were at Covington when the ladies,
travelling by stage-coach to Goshen, thence by rail, arrived there.
After spending the night at Covington, the passengers were put into
as many stage-coaches as were necessary, and the long, rough drive
over the mountains by "Callahan's" commenced.
General Lee on Traveller was at once recognised, and when it was found
out by his fellow-travellers that Mrs. Lee was with him, attentions
and services of all kinds were pressed on her party, and a most
enjoyable lunch was sent to the stage reserved for her. Seeing that
the other stages were much crowded, while the one reserved for his
wife had vacant seats, my father insisted that some of the others
should join his party, which they very gladly did. He and Professor
White went ahead of the stages on their horses.
At the White Sulphur Springs the "Harrison cottage," in "Baltimore
Row," had been put at my father's disposal, and the entire party was
soon most pleasantly established there. Mr. W. W. Corcoran, of
Washington, Professor White, Miss Mary Pendleton, Agnes and my father
and brother had a table together. Almost every day some special dainty
was sent to this table. My mother, of course, had her meals served
in her cottage. Her faithful and capable servant, Milly Howard, was
always most eager for her to appear her best, and took great pride
in dressing her up, so far as she was allowed, in becoming caps, etc.,
to receive her numerous visitors. My father's usual custom while
there was to spend some time in the morning in the large parlour of
the hotel, before taking his ride on Traveller. After dinner he
went again to the parlour, and also after tea.
Among the company were many old friends and acquaintances from
Baltimore, who could not sufficiently testify their pleasure in this
renewal of intercourse. Whenever he appeared in the parlour or ballroom
he was the centre of attraction, and in vain the young men tried to
engage the attention of the young ladies when General Lee was present.
During his visit, a circus came to "Dry Creek," a neighbouring
settlement, and gave an exhibition. The manager rode over to the
Springs, came to my father's cottage, and insisted on leaving several
tickets, begging that General Lee would permit him to send carriages
for him and any friends he might like to take to his show. These
offers my father courteously declined, but bought many tickets,
which he presented to his little friends at the Springs.
During the morning he rode over to "Dry Creek," where the crowds of
country people, many of them his old soldiers, feasted their eyes
on him to the neglect of the circus. That night a special exhibition
was given by the manager to General Lee's friends, who were taken
to seats draped with Confederate colors, red, and white. After the
return from the circus, my father invited a large party to his cottage
to partake of a huge watermelon sent him by express from Mobile. It
weighed about sixty pounds, and its producer thought the only fitting
way he could dispose of it was to present it to General Lee.
Every possible attention that love, admiration, and respect could prompt
was paid my father by the guests at the Springs, each one seeming
anxious to do him homage. My mother and sisters shared it all with
him, for any attention and kindness shown them went straight to his
After spending three weeks at "the White," my father's party went to
the Old Sweet Springs, where they were all made very comfortable,
one of the parlours being turned into a bedroom for my mother, so
that in her wheeled chair she could go out on the verandas and into
He was taken quite sick there, and, though he rode over from the White
Sulphur Springs, was unable to continue his early rides for some time.
His room was on the first floor, with a window opening on the end of
the building. One morning, when he was very unwell and it was important
that he should not be disturbed, Miss Pendleton found a countryman
cautiously opening the shutters from the outside. She quickly
"Go away; that is General Lee's room."
The man dropped back, saying mournfully:
"I only wanted to see him."
On another occasion some country people came to the Springs with
plums and berries for sale. Catching sight of him on the piazza,
they put down their baskets, took off their hats, and hurrahed most
lustily for "Marse Bob. They were his old soldiers. When he
acknowledged their loyalty by shaking hands with them, they insisted
on presenting him with their fruit.
About the first week in September my father rode back to Lexington
on Traveller, Custis taking my mother and Agnes back over the same
tedious journey by stage and rail.
There have been preserved very few letters from him at this time. I
found one to me, full of kindness, wholesome advice, and offers of
aid, in which he sends his thanks to the President of the York River
Railroad for a courtesy tendered him:
"White Sulphur Springs, Greenbriar County, West Virginia,
"August 5, 1867.
"My Dear Son: I received to-day your letter of the 28th ult.,
inclosing a free ticket over the Richmond & York River Railroad,
from its president, Mr. Dudley. Please present him my grateful
thanks for this mark of his esteem. I am very glad to hear that the
road is completed to he White House, and that a boat connects it
with Norfolk. the convenience of the community and the interests of
the road will be promoted thereby. It is a difficult undertaking in
these times to build a road, and I hope the company will soon be able
to finish it to West Point. I suppose you have received before this
the letter from your mother and Agnes, announcing our arrival at this
place and informing you of the company. The latter has been much
increased, and among the arrivals are the Daingerfields, Haxalls,
Capertons, Miss Belle Harrison, etc., etc. I told Agnes to tell you
how much we wished you were with us, and as an inducement for you to
join us, if you could leave home, if you would come, I would pay your
expenses. I feel very sensibly, in my old age, the absence of my
children, though I recognise the necessity of every one's attending
to his business, and admire him the more for so doing. I am very
glad that you and Fitzhugh have, so far, escaped the fever, and hope
you may avoid it altogether. Be prudent. I am very sorry that your
harvest promises a poor yield. It will be better next year, but you
must continue systematically the improvement of the land. I know of
no better method than by liming, and if you wish to prosecute it,
and are in need of help, I will aid you to the extent of last year
or more. So make your arrangements, and let me know your wishes. A
farmer's life is one of labour, but it is also one of pleasure, and
the consciousness of steady improvement, though it may be slow, is
very encouraging. I think you had better also begin to make
arrangements to build yourself a house. If you can do nothing more
than prepare a site, lay out a garden, orchard, etc., and get a
small house partly finished, so as to inhabit it, it will add to your
comfort and health. I can help you in that too. Think about it.
Then, too, you must get a nice wife. I do not like you being so lonely.
I fear you will fall in love with celibacy. I have heard some very
pleasing reports of Fitzhugh. I hope that his desires, if beneficial
to his happiness, may be crowned with success. I saw the lady when
I was in Petersburg, and was much pleased with her. I will get Agnes
or your mother to tell you what occurs at the Springs. There are some
500 people here, very pleasant and kind, but most of my time is passed
alone with Traveller in the mountains. I hope your mother may derive
some benefit from the waters, but I see none now. It will, at least,
afford her some variety, and give her some pleasure, of which there
is a dearth with us now. Give much love to Fitzhugh. All unite in
love to you. God bless you, my son, prays
"Your affectionate father,
"R. E. Lee."
Early in September my father sent my mother sister home to Lexington,
while he mounted Traveller and rode back by way of the Hot Springs,
Healing, and Rockbridge Alum. He was detained by indisposition a day
or two at the Healing, and writes to my mother a little note from that
"Healing Springs, September 12, 1867.
"My Dear Mary: I arrived here on the 10th, and had expected to resume
my journey this morning, but did not feel able. Should nothing prevent,
I will leave here to-morrow, but I fear I shall not be able to reach
the Rockbridge Alum, which I am told is twenty-nine miles distant.
In that event, I will halt on the road, and arrive there on Saturday,
lie over Sunday, and reach Lexington on Monday. I am very anxious
to get to Lexington, and think nothing on the route will benefit me,
as I feel much concerned about the resumption of the college exercises.
Mr. John Stewart, Misses Mary and Marian, Mr. Price, and his daughters
came over from the Hot yesterday to see me. The Stewarts are there on
Miss Belle's account. Give much love to everybody. I hope you
reached Lexington safely and comfortably and that all are well. I
hope to see you Monday. Till then, farewell.
"Very truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee."
It is to be regretted that we have no accounts of these rides, the
people he met, and what he said to them, where he stayed, and who
were his hosts. He was very fond of horseback journeys, enjoyed the
quiet and rest, the freedom of mind and body, the close sympathy of
his old warhorse, and the beauties of Nature which are to be seen at
every turn in the mountains of Virginia. Ah, if we could only obtain
some records of his thoughts as he rode all alone along the mountain
roads, how much it would help us all in our trials and troubles! He
was a man of few words, very loath to talk about himself, nor do I
believe any one ever knew what that great heart suffered. His idea
of life was to do his duty, at whatever cost, and to try to help
others to theirs.
An Advisor of Young Men
Lee's policy as college president--His advice on agricultural matters--
His affection for his prospective daughter-in-law--Fitzhugh's wedding--
The General's ovation at Petersburg--his personal interest in the
students under his care
The college exercises were resumed in the last weeks of September.
My mother and sisters were all back at home. The President's work,
now more in hand, began to show results. The number of students this
session was largely increased and the outlook of the college was very
"He had from the beginning of his presidency a distinct policy and
plan which he had fully conceived and to which he steadily adhered,
so that all his particular measures of progress were but consistent
steps in its development. His object was nothing less than to establish
and perfect an institution which should meet the highest needs of
education in every department. At once, and without waiting for the
means to be provided in advance, he proceeded to develop this object.
Under his advice, new chairs were created, and professors called to
fill them, so that before the end of the first year the faculty was
doubled in numbers. Still additional chairs were created, and finally
a complete system of 'schools' was established and brought into full
operation. So admirably was the plan conceived and administered by
General lee, that, heterogeneous as were the students, especially in
the early years, each one found his proper place, and all were kept
in line of complete and systematic study. Under this organisation,
and especially under the inspiration of his central influence, the
utmost harmony and utmost energy pervaded all the departments of the
college. The highest powers of both professors and students were
called forth, under the fullest responsibility. The standards of
scholarship were rapidly advanced; and soon the graduates of Washington
College were the acknowledged equals of those from the best institutions
elsewhere, and were eagerly sought after for the highest positions as
teachers in the best schools. The results...were due directly and
immediately, more than to all other causes, to the personal ability
and influence of General Lee as president of the college."
So wrote Professor Edward S. Joynes in an article published soon after
General lee's death, in the "University Monthly." All of this had
not been accomplished as yet, but the work was well advanced, and
the results began to be evident. His health had not been strong since
the middle of the summer, but he never ceased in his endeavour to
better the condition of the college, and to improve the minds, morals,
and bodies of the young men committed to his charge. He writes to
me about this time, encouraging me to renewed efforts, telling me
how to better my condition, and advising me not to be cast down by
"Lexington, Viriginia, October 26, 1867.
"My Dear Rob: Your letter of the 10th did not give me a very favourable
account of yourself or your prospects, but I have no doubt it was true
and therefore commendable. We must not, however, yield to difficulties,
but strive the harder to overcome them. I am sorry for the failure
of your crops, your loneliness and uncomfortableness, and wish it
were in my power to visit you and advise with you. But you must come
up this winter, when convenient, and we will discuss the whole matter.
Fitzhugh, I hope, will be married soon, and then he will have more
time to counsel with you. I hope, between you two, you will devise
some mode of relief. The only way to improve your crop is to improve
your land, which requires time, patience, and good cultivation. Lime,
I think, is one of the chief instruments, and I advise you to apply
that systematically and judiciously. I think, too, you had better
purchase another pair of mules. I can help you in these items, and,
if you need, can advance you $500. Then, as regards a house, I can
help you in that too, but you must first select a site and a plan.
The first can only be found on the land, and the latter might be
adopted on the progressive principle, commencing with the minor
members, and finishing with the principal ones as convenience or
necessity might authorise. If no better can be found, how would the
present site answer? If you are going to cultivate the lower part
of the farm, it would at least have the advantage of convenience, or
if you thought it better to divide and sell your farm it would answer
for one of the divisions. I am clear for your marrying, if you select
a good wife; otherwise you had better remain as you are for a time.
An imprudent or uncongenial woman is worse than THE MINKS [I had
written to him that they had destroyed all my hens]. I think, upon
the whole, you are progressing very well and have accomplished the
worst part. A failure in crops will occur occasionally to every farmer,
even the best, with favourable surroundings. It serves a good purpose,
inculcates prudence and economy, and excites energy and perseverance.
These qualities will overcome everything. You are very young still,
and if you are virtuous and laborious you will accomplish all the
good you propose to yourself. Let me know if you want the money. We
are pretty well. I am better and your poor mother more comfortable,
I think, than she was last year. The girls are as usual, and Custis
is in far better health than he was before his visit to the Springs.
He seems, however, not happy, and I presume other people have their
troubles as well as farmers. God bless you, my son, and may He guard,
guide, and direct you in all you do. All would unite in love did
they know I was writing.
"Truly and affectionately, your father,
"R. E. Lee.
"Robert E. Lee, Jr."
My brother Fitzhugh was to be married that autumn. This event, so
soon to take place, gave my father great pleasure. He was an earnest
advocate of matrimony, and was constantly urging his sons to take
to themselves wives. With his daughters he was less pressing. Though
apparently always willing to have another daughter, he did not seem
to long for any more sons. He thus writes to my brother when his
engagement was formally announced to him:
"Lexington, Virginia, September 20, 1867.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I have been anxious for some time to write to
you, to express the pleasure I have felt a the prospects of your
marriage with Miss Bolling; but sickness has prevented, and I am still
so feeble that I cannot attend to the pressing business connected
with the college. As you know how deeply I feel all that concerns
you, you may feel assured of the pleasure I derived from your letter
to your mother informing her of your engagement. I have the most
pleasing recollection of 'Miss Tabb,' and of her kindness to me, and
now that she has consented to by my daughter the measure of my gratitude
is filled to overflowing. I hope she will not delay the consummation,
for I want to see her very much, and I fear she will not come to see
me until then. You must present her my warm love, and you both must
accept my earnest prayers and most fervent wishes for your future
happiness and prosperity. I am glad that your house is progressing
and that your crops promise well. I hope that you soon will be able
to come and see us. Your mother, I hope, has derived some benefit
from her visit to the Springs. Her general health is improved, but
I see no relaxation in her rheumatic complaint. The girls are quite
well, and all send love....
"Your affectionate father,
"R. E. Lee.
"General William H. F. Lee."
The young lady who was so soon to become a member of his family was
Miss Mary Tabb Bolling, the daughter of Mr. G. W. Bolling, of
Petersburg, Virginia. Her father had been very kind to General Lee
during the eventful months of the siege of that town, and his daughter
had been often to see him and was a great favourite of his. My brother
was especially anxious that his father should be present at his wedding,
and had been urging him to make his arrangements to come. The sickness
to which he frequently alludes in his recent letters had been annoying
him since his return from the White Sulphur Springs up to this time,
and he now writes proposing that my brother and bride should come
to him instead of his going to the wedding:
"Lexington, Virginia, November 15, 1867.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I received this morning your letter of the 13th,
and am glad to hear of your safe arrival and of the favourable
condition of things at your home. I was afraid your house would not
be ready at the time supposed, but I would not delay the wedding
on that account--you can exist without it. We have one here at your
service, though a poor one. I am obliged to you for having arranged
about my clothes. Upon reflection, I think it better not to go to
the White House and Romancoke before the wedding. You and Robert
could hardly pay the necessary attention to business matters with
your hands filled with love and matrimony. I think of catching up
Rob and marrying him to some of my sweethearts while I am down, so
as to prevent the necessity from him to reach Petersburg by the 28th,
and we have arranged to commence our journey on Monday night, 25th
inst., at 12 M., so as to reach Richmond Tuesday evening, remain
there the 27th and go to Petersburg the 28th. I do not think I shall
be able to go to the White House at all. I should not be able to
aid you or Rob, my only object, and would put you to much trouble....
We are all as you left us, and miss you and Mildred very much.
"Very affectionately, your father,
"R. E. Lee.
"General William H. F. Lee."
So it was all settled satisfactorily; my brother gained his point,
and my father arranged his affairs so that he could absent himself
without detriment to his work at the college. He left on the appointed
day and hour, and the morning after arriving in Richmond, writes my
"Exchange Hotel, Richmond, November 26, 1867.
"My Dear Mary: We reached here yesterday about 4 P. M., after a not
uncomfortable journey, and found Fitzhugh waiting for the important
event. I doubt whether his house will be finished, from his account,
till January, though he thinks it will. His plans, I believe, as
far as he can form them, are to leave Petersburg the morning after
the wedding for Baltimore, where they will probably send a week
gathering up their furniture, etc., and after that all is undetermined.
I renewed the invitation for their visit to us, but he could not
decide. Robert is expected to-morrow. Mildred is well and seems
to be perfectly happy, as she had on, last evening, a dress about
two yards longer than Norvell's. I saw Mr. Davis, who looks
astonishingly well, and is quite cheerful. He inquired particularly
after you all. He is at Judge Ould's. No one seems to know what
is to be done. Judge Chase had not arrived yesterday, but it was
thought probable he would reach here in the ten o'clock train last
night. I have not heard this morning. I will present myself to
the court this morning, and learn, I hope, what they wish of me.
Williams Wickham is here, and will attend the wedding. Annie will
also go. Fitzhugh is to go out to Hickory Hill this morning, and
return this afternoon, to pay his adieux. Mrs. Caskie was not well
last evening. The rest as usual, and send much love. Custis is
well, and I have my clothes. I left my sleeve-buttons in my shirt
hanging up in my dressing-room. Ask Cornelia to take care of them.
Mr. Alexander said he would send you up some turkeys, and Colonel
Johnston, that he would help you revise the manuscript. It is time
I should get my breakfast, as I wish to transact some business
before going to court. Give much love to the girls and everybody.
I hope you are well and will want for nothing while I am away. Most
"Mrs. M. C. Lee. R. E. Lee."
General Lee was summoned this time as a witness in the trial of Mr.
Davis, but after some delay a nolle prosequi was filed. General
Lee after the war was asked by a lady his opinion of the position
and part Mr. Davis had taken and acted during the war was asked by a
lady of his opinion of the position and part Mr. Davis had taken and
acted during the war. He replied:
"If my opinion is worth anything, you can ALWAYS say that few people
could have done better than Mr. Davis. I knew of none that could have
done as well."
On the morning after the wedding he writes to my mother:
"Petersburg, November 29, 1867.
"My Dear Mary: Our son was married last night and shone in his
happiness. The bride looked lovely and was, in every way, captivating.
The church was crowded to its utmost capacity, and the streets
thronged. Everything went off well, and I will enter into details
when I see you. Mr. Wickham and Annie, Mr. Fry, John Wood, and
others were present. Mr. Davis was prevented from attending by the
death of Mrs. Howell. The Misses Haxall, Miss Enders, Miss Giles,
etc., came down from Richmond. Fitzhugh lee was one of the groomsmen,
Custis very composed, and Rob suffering from chills. Many of my
acquaintances were present, and everybody was very kind. Regrets
were often expressed that you, Mary, and Agnes were not present. I
believe the plan was for the bride and groom to start on their travels
this morning, but I doubt whether it will be carried out, as I thought
I saw indications of a change of purpose before I left, which I
had no doubt would be strengthened by the reflections of this morning.
I shall remain to-day and return to Richmond to-morrow. I wish to
go to Brandon Monday, but do not know that I can accomplish it.
Until leaving Richmond, my whole time was taken up by the august
court, so that I could do nothing nor see anybody there. Mildred was
all life, in white and curls. I am staying at General Mahone's and
have got hold of one of his needlepens, with which I can do nothing.
Excuse illegibility. No one has descended to breakfast yet. I
received, on arriving here yesterday, at 3 P. M., a kind note from
our daughter asking me to come and see her as soon after my arrival
as convenient, which I did and carried over the necklace, which she
pronounced very pretty. Give my love to all. Most truly yours,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee."
A special car carried General Lee and the other wedding guests from
Richmond to Petersburg. He did not enter into the gay conversation
of the young people, but appeared sad and depressed, and seemed to
dread seeing the town of Petersburg and meeting its people. This
feeling was dispelled by the enthusiastic welcome given him by every
one there. General Mahone, whose guest he was to be, met him at
the depot with a carriage and four white horses. Many of the citizens
tried to take out the horses and pull the carriage into the town, but
the General protested, declaring, if they did so, he would have to
get out and help them. The morning after the wedding he drove out to
"Turnbull's" to see an old woman who had been very kind to him, sending
him eggs, butter, etc., when he had had his headquarters near by during
the siege. On his return he took lunch at Mr. Bolling's, and held an
impromptu reception, everybody coming in to speak to him.
That night he went to an entertainment given to the bride at Mr.
Johnson's. He enjoyed the evening very much and expressed his feeling
of relief at seeing every one so bright and cheerful. He was delighted
to find the people so prosperous, and to observe that they had it in
their hearts to be gay and happy. The next morning he returned to
Richmond. He was escorted to the train in the same way in which he
had been received. All the people turned out to see him leave, and
he departed amid tremendous cheering.
My father enjoyed this visit. It had been a success in every way.
His old friends and soldiers called on him in great numbers, all eager
to look on his face and clasp his hand again. The night of the wedding,
the streets were filled with crowds anxious to see him once more, and
many to look on him for the first time. Where ever he was seen, he was
treated with the greatest love, admiration, and respect. It was with
devotion, deep, sincere, and true, mixed with awe and sadness, that
they beheld their old commander, on foot, in citizen's dress, grayer
than three years ago, but still the same, passing along the ways where
he had so often ridden on Traveller, with the noise of battle all
around. What a change for him; what a difference to them! But their
trust and faith in him were as unshaken as ever. A glimpse of his
feelings at this time is shown in one of his letters written a few
weeks later, which I will give in its proper place. The day after
his return to Richmond he write to my mother:
"Richmond, December 1, 1867.
"My Dear Mary: I returned here yesterday with Custis, Robert and
Fitz. Lee. We left Fitzhugh and his bride in Petersburg. Mildred
is with them. In consequence of being told that the new couple were
to leave Petersburg the morning after the wedding, I had made my
arrangements to return here Saturday. If I had known that they would
remain till Monday, as is now their intention, I should have made
my arrangements to stay. Mildred will come up with them on Monday
and go to Mrs. Caskie's. I proposed to Custis, Rob, and Fitz to
remain in Petersburg till that time, but they preferred coming with
me. I shall go to Brandon to-morrow morning, and will take Custis
and Robert with me. I propose to return here Tuesday, finish my
business Wednesday, spend Thursday at Hickory Hill, take passage for
Lexington Friday, where I hope to arrive Saturday. As far as I could
judge, our new daughter will go to Baltimore December 2d and probably
return here the following Monday. Fitzhugh will go down to the White
House during the week and make arrangements for their sojourn there.
He can go down in the morning and return in the evening. I repeated
our invitation to her to visit us on their return from Baltimore, but
she said Fitzhugh thought it better fo them to defer it till the
spring, but she would write to let us know. I do not think she will
come at this time, for she is in that happy state which causes her
to take pleasure in doing what she thinks he prefers, and he, I think,
would like to go to the White House and arrange for winter. I went
up to Caskie's last evening. Saw Norvell, but Mr. and Mrs. Caskie
were both sick upstairs. The latter is better than when I last wrote,
and free from pain. I paid several visits yesterday evening, and
took Rob with me. Mrs. Triplett's, Mrs. Peebles', Mrs. Brander's,
Mrs. J. R. Anderson's. At the latter place I met Mrs. Robert Stannard,
who looked, I thought, remarkably well. She is living with Hugh (her
son), on his farm. I also went to Mrs. Dunlop's and saw there General
and Miss Jennie Cooper. The latter looked remarkably well, but the
former is very thin. They will remain here some weeks. I have not
seen Colonel Allan since my return from Petersburg, but am told that
he is better. You must give a great deal of love to all with you.
I am very anxious to get back, and I hope that you are all well. It
is very cold here this morning, and ice is abundant. Good-bye.
"Truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee."
The people mentioned here as those he called on were all friends living
in Richmond, with whom my mother had become well acquainted during
her stay there, in war times. There were many others he went to see,
for I remember going with him. He sat only a few minutes at each
place--"called just to shake hands," he would say. All were delighted
to see him. From some places where he had been well known he could
hardly get away. He had a kind word for all, and his excuse for
hurrying on was that he must try to see so and so, as Mrs. Lee had
told him to be sure to do so. He was bright and cheerful, and was
pleased with the great affection shown him on all sides.
On the day he had appointed--Monday, the 2d of December--we started
in the morning for "Brandon." We took the steamer down James River,
passing through much of the country where he had opposed McClellan in
'62 and Grant in '64. Custis and I were with him. He said very little,
as I remember--nothing about the war--but was interested in all the
old homesteads along the route, many of which he had visited in the
days long ago and whose owners had been his relatives and friends.
He expressed great regret at not being able to stop at "Shirley,"
which was the birthplace and home of his mother before she married.
He stayed at "Brandon" one night only, taking the same boat as it
returned next day to Richmond. They were all glad to see him and sorry
to let him go, but his plans had been formed before-hand, according
to his invariable custom, and he carried them out without any change.
Spending one day in Richmond, he went from there to "Hickory Hill,"
thence to Lexington, arriving there the Saturday he had fixed on.
I bade him and my brother Custis good-bye in Richmond, and returned
to my home. To my brother, Fitzhugh, after his return from his wedding
trip, he writes:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 21, 1867.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I was very glad last night to receive your letter
of the 18th announcing your return to Richmond. I did not like my
daughter to be so far away. I am glad, however, that you had so
pleasant a visit, which has no doubt prepared you for the enjoyments
of home, and will make the repose of Xmas week in Petersburg doubly
agreeable. I had a very pleasant visit to Brandon after parting with
you, which Custis and Robert seemed equally to enjoy, and I regretted
that I could only spend one night. I passed Shirley both going and
returning with regret, from my inability to stop; but Custis and I
spent a day at Hickory Hill on our way up very agreeably. My visit
to Petersburg was extremely pleasant. Besides the pleasure of seeing
my daughter and being with you, which was very great, I was gratified
in seeing many friends. In addition, when our armies were in front of
Petersburg I suffered so much in body and mind on account of the good
townspeople, especially on that gloomy night when I was forced to
abandon them, that I have always reverted to them in sadness and
sorrow. My old feelings returned to me, as I passed well-remembered
spots and recalled the ravages of the hostile shells. But when I
saw the cheerfulness with which the people were working to restore
their condition, and witnessed the comforts with which they were
surrounded, a load of sorrow which had been pressing upon me for years
was lifted from my heart. This is bad weather for completing your
house, but it will soon pass away, and your sweet helpmate will make
everything go smoothly. When the spring opens and the mocking-birds
resume their song you will have much to do. So you must prepare in
time. You must give a great deal of love for me to all at Mr.
Bolling's, to General and Mrs. Mahone, and other friends. We shall
be very glad when you can bring our daughter to see us. Select the
time most convenient to you, and do not let it be long distant. Tell
her I wish to see her very much, as do also her mama and sisters.
Your mother regrets that you did not receive her letter in answer to
yours from Baltimore. She wrote the day of its reception, and addressed
it to New York, as you directed. The box about which you inquired
arrived safely and was much enjoyed. Mary is in Baltimore, where she
will probably spend the winter. As I am so far from Mildred, it will
be difficult for her to make up her mind when to return, so that the
whole care of the household devolves upon Agnes, who is occupied all
the morning, teaching our niece, Mildred.... God bless you all is
the prayer of Your devoted father, R. E. Lee.
"General Wm. H. F. Lee."
The Christmas of 1867 I spent, as usual, in Lexington with my father.
He had been president of the college now a little more than two years.
The number of professors and students had largely increased. The
chapel had been build, many improvements made to the lecture-rooms
and halls, the grounds improved by the laying out of new roads and
walks, the inclosures renewed, the grass restored to the campus, and
new shade trees set out over the college grounds. The increase in
the number of professors demanded more houses for them. As a move
in this direction, the trustees decided to build a new house for the
president, so that the one he now occupied could be used for one of
the faculty. Accordingly, the appropriations of a sum was made, and
my father was authorised to build according to a plan of his own
selection. He took a keen interest in this matter, and at once
commenced designing a new "President's House" on the lot which had
previously been occupied by an old building devoted to the same purpose.
This was completed in the summer of 1869.
The endowment fund of the college had been increased by liberal
contributions from several philanthropic persons, and also by a better
investment of the resources already belonging to the institution. The
fees from the greater number of students also added much to its
prosperity. his interest in the student individually and collectively
was untiring. By the system of reports made weekly to the president,
and monthly to the parent or guardian, he knew well how each one of
his charges was getting on, whether or not he was progressing, or even
holding his own. If the report was unsatisfactory, the student was
sent for and remonstrated with. If that had no effect, the parents
were advised, and requested to urge the son to try to do better. If
the student still persisted in wasting his time and money, his parents
were asked to call him home.
As illustrating how well the president was acquainted with the student,
and how accurate was his remembrance of their individuality, it is
related that on one occasion a name was read out in faculty meeting
which was unfamiliar to him. He asked that it be read out again,
and repeated the name to himself, adding in a tone of self-reproach:
"I have no recollection of a student of that name. It is very strange
that I have forgotten him. I thought I knew every one in college.
How long has he been here?"
An investigation proved that the student had recently entered during
his absence, and that he had never seen him. He won the confidence
of the students, and very soon their affections. He regarded a mass
of petty regulations as being only vexatious, and yet by his tact
and firmness his discipline became most effective. Very seldom was
there any breaking of the laws. He was so honoured and loved that
they tried to please him in all things. Of course, there were
exceptions. I give here some letters written to parents and guardians
which will show how he tried to induce these triflers to become men:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 25, 1866.
"My Dear Sir: I am very glad to learn from your letter of the 13th
inst. that you have written your son in reference to his neglect of
his studies. I am sure your letter and the kind admonition of his
mother will have a beneficial effect upon him. I have myself told
him as plainly but as kindly as I could that it was necessary for
him to change his course, or that he would be obliged to return home.
He had promised me that he would henceforth be diligent and attentive,
and endeavour in all things to perform his duty. I hope that he may
succeed, for I think he is able to do well if he really makes the
effort. Will you be so kind as to inform Mrs. W. that I have received
her letter of the 19th? It will give me great pleasure at all times
to aid her son in every way I can, but if he desires no benefit from
his connection with the college it will be to his interest to return
"Very truly your obedient servant, R. E. Lee."
Here is another letter showing the patience and forbearance of the
president and his earnest desire to help on in life the young men
committed to his charge:
"Washington College, Lexington Virginia, April 20, 1868.
"My Dear Sir: I regret to see, from your letter of the 29th ult.,
to the clerk of the faculty, that you have misunderstood their action
in reference to your son. He was not dismissed, as you suppose, from
the college, but every means having been tried by the faculty to
induce him to attend faithfully and regularly to his studies without
effect, and great forbearance having been practised, it was thought
best for him, and just to you, that he should return home. The action
of the faculty was purposely designed, not to prevent his being received
into any other college, or to return to this, should you so desire.
The monthly reports are intended to advise parents of the progress
of their sons, and it was supposed you would have seen the little
advancement made by yours in his studies, and that no further notice
was required. The action of the faculty was caused by no immorality
on his part, but by a systematic neglect of his duties, which no
counsel on the part of his professors, or my own, could correct. In
compliance, however, with your wishes, and on the positive promise
of amendment on the part of your son, he has been received into college,
and I sincerely hope that he will apply himself diligently to his
studies, and make an earnest effort to retrieve the time he has lost.
With great respect,
"Your obedient servant, R. E. Lee."
This letter, too, shows his fatherly interest:
"Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, March 19, 1868.
"My Dear Sir: Before this you have learned the affecting death of
your son. I can say nothing to mitigate your grief or to relieve
your sorrow; but if the sincere sympathy of his comrades and friends
and of the entire community can bring you any consolation, I can assure
you that you possess it in its fullest extent. When one, in the
pureness and freshness of youth, before having been contaminated by
sin or afflicted by misery, is called to the presence of his Merciful
Creator, it must be solely for his good. As difficult as this may be
for you now to recognise, I hope you will keep it constantly in your
memory and take it to your comfort; and I pray that He who in His
wise Providence has permitted this crushing sorrow may sanctify it
to the happiness of all. Your son and his friend, Mr. Birely, often
passed their leisure hours in rowing on the river, and, on last Saturday
afternoon, the 4th inst., attempted what they had more than once been
cautioned against--to approach the foot of the dam, at the public
bridge. Unfortunately, their boat was caught by the return-current,
struck by the falling water, and was immediately upset. Their perilous
position was at once seen from the shore, and aid was hurried to their
relief, but before it could reach them both had perished. Efforts
to restore your son's life, though long continued, were unavailing.
Mr. Birely's body was not found until the next morning. Their remains
were, yesterday, Sunday, conveyed to the Episcopal church in this
city, where the sacred ceremony for the dead were performed, by the
Reverend Dr. Pendleton, who nineteen years ago, at the far-off home
of their infancy, placed upon them their baptismal vows. After the
service a long procession of the professors and students of the college,
the officers and cadets of the Virginia Military Academy, and the
citizens of Lexington accompanied their bodies to the packet-boat
for Lynchburg, where they were place in charge of Messrs. Wheeler &
Baker to convey them to Frederick City.
"With great regard and sincere sympathy, I am,
"Most respectfully, R. E. Lee."
The Reconstruction Period
The General believes in the enforcement of law and order--His moral
influence in the college--Playful humour shown in his letters--His
opinion of negro labour--Mr. Davis's trial--Letter to Mrs. Fitzhugh
Lee--Intercourse with Faculty
Virginia was at this time still under military rule. The
"reconstruction" days were not over. My father had himself accepted
the political situation after the war, and had advised every one who
had sought his advice to do the same. The following incident and
letters will show his acquiescence in the law of the land, and ready
submission to the authorities. In a street disturbance that spring
a student had been shot by a negro, and it was reported that, in case
of the young man's death, the murderer would be summarily dealt with
by his college-mates. Captain Wagner, the military commissioner,
wrote to General Lee informing him of these reports. He received the
"Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, May 4, 1868.
"Captain Wagner, Commissioner District, Lexington, Virginia.
"Sir: Upon investigation of the reports which you communicated to
me yesterday afternoon, I can find no foundation for the apprehension
that the students of Washington college contemplate any attack upon
the man confined in jail for shooting Mr. --- Friday night. On the
contrary, I have been assured by members of the faculty and individual
students that they have heard no suggestion of the kind, and they
believe that no such intention has been entertained or now exists. I
think, therefore, the reports made to you are groundless.
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"R. E. Lee."
However, in order to take all precautions and provide against any
disturbance, he wrote as follows to the president of the Young Men's
Christian Association, whom he knew well and trusted, and who was a
man of much influence with his fellow-students:
"Mr. G. B. Strickler,
"President Young Men's Christian Association, Washington College.
"I have just been informed by Captain Wagner, Military Commissioner
of this district, that from information received by him, he had reason
to apprehend that, should the wound received by Mr. --- Friday night
prove fatal, the students of Washington College contemplate taking
from the jail the man who shot him and inflicting upon him summary
punishment. I cannot believe that any such act is intended or would
be allowed by the students of Washington College, thought it is possible
that such an intention may have been spoken of amongst them. I think
it only necessary to call the attention of the students to the report
to prevent such an occurrence. I feel convinced that none would
countenance such outrage against law and order, but that all will
cheerfully submit to the administration of justice by the legal
authorities. As the readiest way of communicating with the students,
at this hour, on Sunday, I have concluded to address you this letter
that through the members of the Young Men's Christian Association the
students generally may be informed of the apprehension entertained by
the military authorities; and I earnestly invoke the students to
abstain from an violation of law, and to unite in preserving quiet
and order on this and every occasion.
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"R. E. Lee."
The young man recovered, there was no disturbance of any kind, nor
was it believed that there would have been, after this appeal from
the president, even if the wound had proved fatal.
"Nor was it a moral influence alone that he exerted in the college.
He was equally careful of the intellectual interests. He watched the
progress of every class, attended all the examinations, and strove
constantly to stimulate both professors and students to the highest
attainments. The whole college, in a word, felt his influence as an
ever-present motive, and his character was quietly but irresistibly
impressed upon it, not only in the general working of all its
departments, but in all the details of each. Of this influence General
Lee, modest as he was, was perfectly aware, and, like a prudent ruler,
he husbanded it with wise economy. He preferred to confine his direct
interposition to purely personal acts, and rarely--and then only on
critical occasions--did he step forward to present himself before the
whole body of students in the full dignity of his presidential office.
On these occasions, which in the latter years hardly ever occurred,
he would quietly post an address to the students, in which, appealing
only to the highest principals of conduct, he sought to dissuade them
from threatened evil. The addresses, which the boys designated as
his 'general orders,' were always of immediate efficacy. No single
case ever occurred in which they failed of instant and complete effect;
and no student would have been tolerated by his fellow-students who
would have dared to disregard such an appeal from General Lee."
[Professor Joynes in "University Monthly".]
My father had recovered form the spell of sickness of the previous
summer at the Old Sweet Springs, which had weakened and depressed him
until about the time he attended my brother's wedding. That marriage
had been a great joy to him. His trip there and back, and his visits
to "Brandon" and "Hickory Hill," the change of climate and scene,
seeing old friends and new places, had all contributed to benefit his
health and spirits. I remember this Christmas of 1867 he seemed
particularly bright and cheerful. I give a letter he wrote me after
I had left for my home which reflects his playful humour and good
"Lexington, Virginia, January 23, 1868.
"My Dear Robert: I inclose a letter which has just arrived in the
mail. It seems to be from a nice young lady, judging from the style
and address. I hope she is the right one and that her response is
favourable. Put in a good crop, and recollect you may have two to
feed after the harvest. We are doing what we can in this region to
supply the springs and streams that form the lowland rivers. It is
still raining, though the snow and ice have not left us. After your
departure, Mr. Gordon brought to me a letter from Fitzhugh to your
mother which had come in the Sunday mail and was overlooked among the
papers. I am sorry it had not been found before you left, as you
would have known their plans. Tell them I am sorry not to have seen
them. We miss you very much. 'Life' has it all her own way now, and
expends her energy in regulating her brother and putting your mother's
drawers and presses to rights. It's her only vent, and furnishes
exercise for body and mind. There is to be a great fete in your
mother's room to-day. The Grace Church Sewing Society is to meet there
at 10 A. M.--that is, if the members are impervious to water. I
charged the two Mildreds to be seated with their white aprons on and
with scissors and thimbles in hand. I hope they may have a refreshing
"R. E. Lee.
"Robert E. Lee."
The second Mildred mentioned here was my father's niece, daughter of
Charles Carter Lee. She was living with my father at this time,
going to school, and was, like her cousin the other Mildred, not very
fond of her needle. His nickname for her was "Powhattie," derived,
I presume, from her native County of Powhatan. He was very fond of
teasing her in his playful way. Indeed, we all enjoyed that attention
from him. He never teased any one whom he did not especially like.
To his new daughter I find the following letter, written at this time,
in which he shows his affection and admiration for her:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 10, 1868.
"My Beautiful Daughter: I have been wishing to write to you for a
long time, but have supposed that you would be so engrossed with my
sons, with their plans and their projects, that you could not lend
an ear to your papa. But now I must tell you how much I have thought
of you, how much I want to see you, and how greatly I was disappointed
at your not getting to see us at the time you proposed. You must not
postpone your visit too long, or you may not find us here. Our winter,
which has been long and cold, I hope now is over. The gardeners are
busy, the grass is growing green, and the atmosphere warm and inspiring.
I presume under its genial influence you and Fitzhugh are busy improving
your new home. I hope everything is agreeable, and that you are
becoming more and more interested in making those around you happy.
That is the true way to secure your own happiness for which my poor
prayers are daily offered to the throne of the Most High. I have been
summoned to Richmond the third Thursday in this month, as a witness
in the trial against Mr. Davis; and though that will be a painful
errand for me, I hope that it will give me the pleasure of seeing you.
I will endeavour to get down some day to the White House, if it is
only to spend Sunday with you. I hope that you will be able to pay
some attention to your poor brother Robert. Do not let his elder
brother monopolise you altogether. You will have to take care of
both till you can find some one like yourself to take Romancoke in
hand. Do you think Miss Anne Banister will consent? Mildred, you
know, is the only one of the girls who has been with us this winter.
She has consequently had her hands full, and considers herself now
a great character. She rules her brother and my nephews with an iron
rod, and scatters her advice broadcast among the young men of the
college. I hope that it may yield an abundant harvest. The young
mothers of Lexington ought to be extremely grateful to her for her
suggestions to them as to the proper mode of rearing their children,
and though she finds many unable to appreciate her system, she is
nothing daunted by the obtuseness of vision, but takes advantage of
every opportunity to enlighten them as to its benefits. Mary and
Agnes are still in Baltimore, and are now at the house of Mrs. Charles
Howard. Agnes expects, I believe, to return to the Peters near Ellicott
City, and then go over to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to visit the
Goldsboroughs and other friends. I hardly think either of them will
get back before June. I have recently received a very pretty picture
from a young lady of Baltimore, Miss Mary Jones, whom I met last summer
at the White Sulphur Springs. In one of my morning rides to the
Beaver-dam Falls, near the Sweet Springs, I found her at the foot of
the falls making a sketch of the scene, and on her return home she
finished it and has sent it to me. It is beautifully painted and is
a faithful representation of the Falls. I think you will be pleased
with it when you come up, and agree with me in the opinion that it
is the principal ornament of our parlour. I am sorry to inform you
that your poor mama ahs been suffering more than usual lately from
her rheumatic pains. She took cold in some way, which produced a
recurrence of her former pangs, though she is in a measure now relieved.
We often wish for you and Fitzhugh. My only pleasure is in my solitary
evening rides, which give me abundant opportunity for quiet thought.
With a great deal of love to your husband, I am your sincerely attached
"R. E. Lee."
"Mrs. William H. Fitzhugh Lee."
The next letter I find is a reply to one of mine, in which I evidently
had been confiding to him my agricultural woes:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 12, 1868.
"My Dear Rob: I am sorry to learn from your letter of the 1st that
the winter has been so hard on your wheat. I hope, however, the present
good weather is shedding its influence upon it, and that it will turn
out better than it promises. You must, however, take a lesson from
the last season. What you do cultivate, do well. Improve and prepare
the land in the best manner; your labour will be less, and your
profits more. Your flat lands were always uncertain in wet winters.
The uplands were more sure. Is it not possible that some unbidden
guest may have been feasting on your corn? Six hundred bushels are
are a large deficit in casting up your account for the year. But
you must make it up by economy and good management. A farmer's motto
should be TOIL AND TRUST. I am glad that you have got your lime and
sown your oats and clover. Do you use the drill or sow broadcast?
I shall try to get down to see you if I go to Richmond, for I am
anxious to know how you are progressing and to see if in any way I
can aid you. Whenever I can, you must let me know. You must still
think about your house and make up your mind as to the site and kind,
and collect the material. I can help you to any kind of plan, and
with some ready money to pay the mechanics. I have presently had a
visit from Dr. Oliver, of Scotland, who is examining lands for
immigrants from his country. He seems to be a sensible and judicious
man. From his account, I do not think the Scotch and English would
suit your part of the country. It would require time from them to
become acclimated, and they would probably get dissatisfied, especially
as there is so much mountainous region where they could be accommodated.
I think you will have to look to the Germans; perhaps the Hollanders,
as a class, would be the most useful. When the railroad shall have
been completed to West Point, I think there will be no difficulty in
getting the whites among you. I would try to get some of our own young
men in your employ. I rode out the other day to Mr. Andrew Cameron's
and went into the field where he was plowing. I took great pleasure
in following the plows around the circuit. He had four in operation.
Three of them were held by his former comrades in the army, who are
regularly employed by him, and, he says, much to his satisfaction
and profit. People have got to work now. It is creditable to them
to do so; their bodies and their minds are benefited by it, and those
who can and will work will be advanced by it. You will never prosper
with blacks, and it is abhorrent to a reflecting mind to be supporting
and cherishing those who are plotting and working for your injury,
and all of whose sympathies and associations are antagonistic to yours.
I wish them no evil in the world--on the contrary, will do them every
good in my power, and know that they are misled by those to whom
they have given their confidence; but our material, social, and
political interests are naturally with the whites. Mr. Davis' trial
was fixed for the last of this month. If Judge Chase's presence is
essential, I do not see how it can take place, unless that of Mr.
Johnson is to be postponed. I suppose that will be decided to-day
or to-morrow, and then I shall know what to expect. I shall not go
to Richmond unless necessary, as it is always inconvenient for me to
leave home, and I am not at all well. Your poor mother is also more
ailing than she is ordinarily, in consequence of a cold she has taken.
But it is passing away, I trust. I must leave you to her and Mildred
for all local and domestic news. Custis and the boys are well, and
'Powhattie,' I hope has got rid of the chills. We hear regularly
from Mary and Agnes, who seem to be enjoying themselves, and I do
not think from their programme that they will get back to us till
summer. All unite in much love, and I am always, Your father,
"R. E. Lee."
This same month he writes a long letter to his daughter Agnes, who
was visiting friends in Baltimore. The Annette, Mildred, and Mary
he mentions in this letter were the daughters of Charles Henry Carter,
of "Goodwood," Maryland, a first cousin of my father:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 28, 1868.
"My Precious Agnes: I was so glad to receive your letter, to learn
that you were well and enjoying yourself among pleasant friends. I
hope that you will soon get through all your visits and come home.
Your uncle Smith says you girls ought to marry his sons, as you both
find it so agreeable to be from home, and you could then live a true
Bohemian life and have a happy time generally. But I do not agree
with him; I shall not give my consent, so you must choose elsewhere.
I have written to Annette telling her of my alarm for her. Now that
Mildred is engaged, and she sees how much Mary is in love, I fear
she will pick up an Adonis next, so that she had better run away to
the mountains at once. I am glad that you saw Mr. Davis. It is a
terrible thing to have this prosecution hanging over him, and to be
unable to fix his thoughts on a course of life or apply his hands to
the support of his family. But I hope a kind Providence will shield
and guide him. You must remember me to all my friends, the Taggarts,
Glenns, McKims, Marshalls, etc.... As to the young ladies you mention,
you must tell them that I want to see them very much, and hope that
they will all come to the mountains this summer, and not pass us by
in Lexington. When you go to 'Goodwood' and the Eastern Shore, do
the same there for me, and present me to all by name. Tell sweet
Sallie Warwick I think she ought to come to Lexington, if only to show
those babies; but in truth the want to see her more than them, so she
may leave them with Major Poor [her husband], if she chooses. You
must see everybody you wish and enjoy yourself as much as you can,
and then come home. I told Mildred to tell you if you wanted any funds
you must let me know and where to send them. I do not know whether
she delivered my message. She has become very imperious, and may not
think you require any. She has been much exercised of late on the
score of servants, but hopes to get some relief on the 1st proximo
from the promised change of Miss Mary Dixon to Miss Eliza Cyrus. I
hope her expectations may be realised. Little Mildred has had a return
of her chills. It has been a sharp attack, and thought it has been
arrested, when I left her this morning I feared she might have a
relapse, as this is her regular day. She was looking remarkably well
before it came on, better than she had ever done, but every cold
terminates in this way, however slight it may be. Colds have been
quite prevalent, and there have been two deaths among the cadets from
pneumonia. Fortunately so far the students have escaped. I am relieved
of mine I hope, and your poor mother is, I hope, better. The storm
seems to have subsided, and I trust the bright weather may ameliorate
her pains. Custis, Mildred, and the boys are well, as are most of our
friends in Lexington.... Fitzhugh writes that everything is blooming
at the 'White House,' and that his wheat is splendid. I am in hopes
that it is all due to the presence of my fair daughter. Rob says
that things at Romancoke are not so prosperous--you see, there is no
Mrs. R. E. Lee, Jr., there, and that may make the difference. Cannot
you persuade some of those pretty girls in Baltimore to take compassion
on a poor bachelor? I will give them a plan for a house if they will
build it.... All would unite with me in love if they knew I was
writing. You ought to be here to enjoy the birds Captain O. C. H.
sends us. With much love for yourself, and my poor prayers for your
happiness, I am, Your devoted father,
"R. E. Lee."
A few days afterward he writes to his son Fitzhugh, who was now
established very happily in his new house, and warns him not to depend
entirely on sentiment, but to arrange for something material. He also
speaks of Mr. Davis and his trial, which was continually being
postponed, and in the end was dismissed, and gives him some good advice
about importing cattle:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 30, 1868.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I was very glad to receive your letter of the
19th, and as you are aware of the order of the court postponing Mr.
Davis's trial till the 14th proximo, I presume that you have not been
expecting me down. I see it stated in the Washington 'Star' that
the trial is again postponed till May 4th, but I have seen as yet no
order from the court. Mr. and Mrs. Davis went from Baltimore to New
York on Tuesday last, and were to go on to Canada. He said that he
did not know what he should do or what he could turn his hand to for
support. As long as this trial is hanging over him, of course, he
can do nothing. He can apply his mind to nothing, nor could he
acquire the confidence of the business community in anything he might
undertake, from the apprehension of his being interrupted in the midst
of it. Agnes and Mary saw them as they passed through Baltimore.
They say Mr. Davis was well, though he had changed a great deal since
they saw him last. I am very glad that you are so pleased with your
house. I think it must be my daughter that gives it such a charm.
I am sure that she will make everything look bright to me. It is a
good thing that the wheat is doing so well, for I am not sure 'that
the flame you are so rich in will light a fire in the kitchen, nor
the little god turn the spit, spit, spit.' Some material element
is necessary to make it burn brightly and furnish some good dishes
for the table. Shad are good in their way, but they do not run up
the Pamunkey all the year. I am glad that you are making arrangements
for some cows, and think you are right in getting those of the best
breed. It used to be thought that cows from the North would not prosper
in that lower country, and indeed cows from the upper part of Virginia
did not succeed well, but were apt to become sick and die; and that
the surest process to improve the stock was to purchase calves of
good breed and cross on the native stock. You must, therefore, be
careful and not invest too much. We have had a cold winter, and
March has been particularly harsh. Still, vegetation is progressing
and the wheat around Lexington looks beautiful. My garden is advancing
in a small way. Pease, spinach, and onions look promising, but my
hot-bed plants are poor. The new house, about which you inquire, is
in statu quo before winter. I believe the money is wanting and the
workmen cannot proceed. We require some of that latter article here,
as elsewhere, and have but little.... I heard of you in Richmond
the other day, but did not learn whether my daughter was with you.
I wish you would send her up to her papa when you go away. With much
"Your devoted father, R. E. Lee."
A month later he writes me, telling me that he expects to be in Richmond
the following week, and will try to get down to see us; also telling
of his garden, and horse, and, as he always did, encouraging, cheering
me, and offering help:
"Lexington, Virginia, April 25, 1868.
"My Dear Rob: Your letter of the 21st is just received. I am very
glad that your wheat is improving in appearance, and hope that at
harvest it will yield a fair return for your care and labour. Your
corn I am sure will be more remunerative than the crop of last year,
and I trust that at the end of the year you will find you have advanced
in the field of agriculture. Your mule and provender was a heavy
loss. You must make it up. Replace the first by a good one and I
will pay for it. I hope the warm sun will bring forward the grass
to supply the latter. Should I go to Richmond, next week, as I now
expect, I will be prepared to pay for the mule, and if I do not I
will send you a check for the amount. I am sorry to hear that you
have not been well. You must get out of that too.... You must refresh
yourself when you can by going up to the White House to see your
brother and sister. Take a good look at the latter for me.... In
our garden nothing is up but the hardy plans, pease, potatoes, spinach,
onions, etc.... Beets, carrots, salsify, etc., have been sown a long
time, but are not up, and I cannot put in the beans, squash, etc., or
set out the hot-bed plants. But we can wait. I have not been as well
this winter as usual, and have been confined of late. I have taken
up Traveller, however, who is as rough as a bear, and have had two
or three rides on him, in the mud, which I think has benefited me.
Mildred sometimes accompanies me. Your mother, I am glad to say, is
better. She has less pain than when I last wrote, and is more active
on her crutches.... Good-bye, my dear son. If I go to Richmond I
will try to get to see you.
"Affectionately your father,
"R. E. Lee."
"R. E. Lee, Jr."
My father came to Richmond, summoned to attend the trial of Mr. Davis,
but when he arrived he found that it was again postponed. So he
went to the White House and spent several days. I came up from
Romancoke and stayed with him till he left. It was a great pleasure
to him to meet his sons and to see his new daughter in her new home.
After his return to Lexington he wrote to her this letter:
"Lexington, Viriginia, May 29, 1868.
"My Dear Daughter: I have been enjoying the memory, ever since my
return, my visit to the Pamunkey, and whenever I have thought of
writing to you the pleasure I experienced in your company and in that
of Fitzhugh and Robert absorbed the moment I could devote to a letter,
and other calls made me postpone it. But I have thought of you often,
and always with renewed pleasure; and I rejoice at your having around
you more comforts and within your reach more pleasures than I had
anticipated. I pray that both may be increased and be long continued.
There is one thing I regret--that you are so far from us. I know the
difficulty of farmers and their wives leaving home. Their success,
and in a measure their pleasure, depend upon their daily attention to
their affairs, and it is almost an impossibility for us old people to
get to you. Yet I trust we may meet this summer some time, and whenever
you can you must come and see us. Our small house will never be so
full that there will not be room for you, or so empty that you will
not be most cordially welcome. Letters received from Mary and Agnes
report them still on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where they were
detained by the sickness of Agnes. They expected, however, to be able
to return to Baltimore last Tuesday, 26th, where, after a few days'
sojourn, they were to go to Mrs. Washington Peter's. I fear, however,
that Agnes might not have been well enough, as she had had an attack
of bilious fever and was much prostrated. Should you find yourself
in danger of becoming sick, you must come right up to your papa. I
know you will pine, but I would rather you should suffer in that way
than burn with fever, and while on that subject I will tell you
something that may be of comfort: you may reasonably expect Fitzhugh
soon to follow, so you will not suffer long. I wish to take your
mama to the Warm Springs, and to the Hot or Healing, if she will go,
to try to obtain for her some relief; but we will not leave home till
the last of June or first of July. I am so much occupied that I feel
that I ought never to go away, and every absence accumulates my work.
I had a pleasant visit of three days, to Lynchburg, attending the
Episcopal Convention, and I have not yet brought up my correspondence,
etc. I fear, too, I shall have to go to Richmond next week, as
everything seems to portend the certainty of Mr. Davis's trial. God
grant that, like the impeachment of Mr. Johnson, it may be dismissed.
If I do go, I fear I shall have no time to visit you. The examinations
of the senior classes of the college are now in progress, and after
their completion the examination of the undergraduates will commence,
and will not terminate till the 15th of June, and the commencement
exercises them begin and end on the 18th. So you see how necessary
it is for me to be here and that I shall be obliged to hasten back as