Part 7 out of 8
so fully enjoyed the privilege of his companionship, feel especially
his loss, and grieve profoundly at his death; and we heartily
sympathise with his parents and relations in their great affliction,
and truly participate in the deep sorrow that has befallen them.
"With the view of testifying the esteem felt for his character and
the respect due to his memory, all academic exercises will be suspended
for the day, and the faculty and students are requested to attend in
their respective bodies his funeral services at the Presbyterian
church, at eleven o'clock, to pay the last sad tribute of respect
to his earthly remains, while cherishing in their hearts his many
"R. E. Lee, President."
The General declines lucrative positions in New York and Atlanta--He
suffers from an obstinate cold--Local gossip--He is advised to go South
in the spring of 1870--Desires to visit his daughter Annie's grave
After General Lee had accepted the presidency of Washington College,
he determined to devote himself entirely to the interest and improvement
of that institution. From this resolution he never wavered. An offer
that he should be a the head of a large house to represent southern
commerce, that he should reside in New York, and have placed at his
disposal an immense sum of money, he declined, saying:
"I am grateful, but I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish.
I have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many of
them die on the field; I shall devote my remaining energies to training
young men to do their duty in life."
To a request from some of his old officers that he should associate
himself with a business enterprise in the South, as its president, he
replied with the following letter:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 14, 1869.
"General J. B. Gordon, President,
"Southern Life Insurance Company, Atlanta, Georgia.
"My Dear General: I have received your letter of the 3d inst., and
am duly sensible of the kind feelings which prompted your proposal.
It would be a great pleasure to me to be associated with you, Hampton,
B. H. Hill, and the other good men whose names I see on your list
of directors, but I feel that I ought not to abandon the position I
hold at Washington College at this time, or as long as I can be of
service to it. Thanking you for your kind consideration, for which
I know I am alone indebted for your proposition to become president
of the Southern Life Insurance Company, and with kindest regards to
Mrs. Gordon and my best wishes for yourself, I am,
"Very truly yours,
"R. E. Lee."
His correspondence shows that many like positions were made to him.
The Christmas of '69, neither my brother nor myself was with him.
Knowing of our plans in that respect, he wrote before the holidays
to Fitzhugh, wishing us both the compliments of the season and a
pleasant time in the visits we were going to make:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 18, 1869.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I must begin by wishing you a pleasant Christmas
and many, many Happy New Years, and may each succeeding year bring
to you and yours increasing happiness. I shall think of you and my
daughter and my grandson very often during the season when families
are generally united, and though absent from you in person, you will
always be present in mind, and my poor prayers and best wishes will
accompany you all wherever you are. Bertus will also be remembered,
and I hope that the festivities of 'Brandon' will not drive from his
memory the homely board at Lexington. I trust that he will enjoy
himself and find some on to fill that void in his heart as completely
as he will the one in his--system. Tell Tabb that no one in Petersburg
wants to see her half as much as her papa, and now that her little
boy has his mouth full of teeth, he would not appear so LONESOME as
he did in the summer. If she should find in the 'Burg' a 'Duckie'
to take his place, I beg that she will send him up to me.
"I duly received your letter previous to the 12th inst., and requested
some of the family who were writing about that time to inform you.
When I last wrote, I could not find it on my table and did not refer
to it. 'The Mim' says you excel her in counting, if you do not in
writing, but she does not think she is in your debt. I agree with
you in your views about Smith's Island, and see no advantage in leasing
it, but wish you could sell it to advantage. I hope the prospects may
be better in the spring. Political affairs will be better, I think,
and people will be more sanguine and hopeful. You must be on the
alert. I wish I could go down to see you, but think it better for
me to remain here. To leave home now and return during the winter
would be worse for me. It is too cold for your mother to travel now.
She says she will go down in the spring, but you know what an exertion
it is for her to leave home, and the inconvenience if not the suffering,
is great. The anticipation, however, is pleasing to her and encourages
hope, and I like her to enjoy it, though am not sanguine that she
will realise it. Mildred is probably with you, and can tell you all
about us. I am somewhat reconciled to her absence by the knowledge
of the benefit that she will be to Tabb. Tell the latter that she
[Mildred] is modest and backward in giving advice, but that she has
mines of wealth on that subject, and that she [Tabb] must endeavour
to extract from her her views on the management of a household,
children, etc., and the proper conduct to be observed toward husbands
and the world in general. I am sure my little son will receive many
wise admonitions which he will take open-mouthed. I have received
a letter from your Uncle Carter telling me of his pleasant visit to
you and of his agreeable impressions of his nephew and new niece.
He was taken very sick in Richmond and delayed there so long that he
could not be present at Wm. Kennon's wedding, and missed the festivities
at his neighbour Gilliam's and at Norwood. Indeed, he had not recovered
his strength when Lucy wrote a few days ago, and her account makes me
very uneasy about him. I am glad Rob has so agreeable a neighbour
as General Cooke, and I presume it is the North Carolina brigadier
[A Virginian--son of General St. George Cooke, of the Federal Army,
who commanded a North Carolina brigade in A. P. Hill's corps, A. N.
Va.]. When you go to Petersburg, present my kind regards to Mr. and
Mrs. Bolling, 'Miss Melville,' and all friends. All here unite with
me in love to you, Tabb, and the boy, in which Mildred is included.
"Your affectionate father,
"R. E. Lee.
"General William H. F. Lee."
In a note, written the day after, acknowledging a paper sent to him
to sign, he says:
"...I wrote to you yesterday, Saturday, in reply to your former letter,
and stated the reasons why I could not visit you. Your mother has
received Mildred's letter announcing her arrival in Richmond and will
write to her there. I can only repeat my love and prayers that every
blessing may attend you and yours. We are as usual.
"Truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"General William H. F. Lee."
The attack of cold from which my father suffered in October had been
very severe. Rapid exercise on horseback or on foot produced pain
and difficulty in breathing. After he was considered by most of his
friends to have gotten well over it, it was very evident to his doctors
and himself that there was a serious trouble about the heart, and he
often had great weariness and depression. He complained but little,
was often very bright and cheerful, and still kept up his old-time
fun and humour in his conversation and letters, but his letters written
during this year to his immediate family show that he was constantly
in pain and had begun to look upon himself as an invalid. To Mildred,
who was in Richmond on a visit to friends, he writes jokingly about
the difficulty experienced by the family in finding out what she meant
in a letter to him:
"Lexington, Virginia, January 8, 1870.
"My Precious Life: I received you letter of the 4th. We held a family
council over it. It was passed from eager hand to hand and attracted
wondering eyes and mysterious looks. It produced few words but a
deal of thinking, and the conclusion arrived at, I believe unanimously,
was that there was a great fund of amusement and information in it
if it could be extracted. I have therefore determined to put it
carefully away till your return, seize a leisure day, and get you to
interpret it. Your mother's commentary, in a suppressed soliloquy,
was that you had succeeded in writing a wretched hand. Agnes thought
that it would keep this cold weather--her thoughts running on jellies
and oysters in the storeroom; but I, indignant at such aspersions
upon your accomplishments, retained your epistle and read in an
elevated tone an interesting narrative of travels in sundry countries,
describing gorgeous scenery, hairbreadth escapes, and a series of
remarkable events by flood and field, not a word of which they declared
was in your letter. Your return, I hope, will prove the correctness
of my version of your annals.... I have little to tell. Gaiety
continues. Last night there was a cadet hop. Night before, a party
at Colonel Johnston's. The night preceding, a college conversazione
at your mother's. It was given in honour of Miss Maggie Johnston's
visit of a few days to us. You know how agreeable I am on such
occasions, but on this, I am told, I surpassed myself.
"On New year's Day the usual receptions. many of our friends called.
Many of my ancients as well as juniors were present, and all enjoyed
some good Norfolk oysters. I refer you to Agnes for details. We
are pretty well. I think I am better. Your mother and sisters as
usual. Custis busy with the examination of the cadets, the students
preparing for theirs. Cadet Cook, who was so dangerously injured by
a fall from his window on the 1st, it is hoped now will recover. The
Misses Pendleton were to have arrived this morning, and Miss Ella
Heninberger is on a visit to Miss Campbell. Miss Lizzie Letcher
still absent. Messrs. Anderson, Baker, W. Graves, Moorman, Strickler,
and Webb have all been on visits to their sweethearts, and have left
without them. 'Mrs. Smith' is as usual. 'Gus' is as wild as ever
["Mrs. Smith" and "Gus" were the names of two of the pet cats of my
sister. "Gus" was short for Gustavus Adolphus.]. We catch our own
rats and mice now, and are independent of cats. All unite in love
"Your affectionate father,
"R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
A month later he writes again to this daughter in the same playful
strain, and sends his remembrances to many friends in Richmond:
"Lexington, Virginia, February 2, 1870.
"My Precious Life: Your letter of the 29th ultimo, which has been
four days on the road, reached me this morning, and my reply, unless
our mails whip up, will not get to you before Sunday or Monday.
There is no danger, therefore, of our correspondence becoming too
brisk. What do the young girls do whose lovers are at Washington
College or the Institute? Their tender hearts must always be in a
lacerated and bleeding condition! I hope you are not now in that
category, for I see no pining swains among them, whose thoughts and
wishes are stretching eagerly toward Richmond. I am glad you have
had so pleasant a visit to the Andersons. You must present my regards
to them all, and I hope that Misses Ellen and Mary will come to see
you in the summer. I am sure you will have an agreeable time at
Brook Hill. Remember me to all the family, and tell Miss Belle
to spare my friend Wilkins. He is not in a condition to enjoy the
sufferings which she imposes on her Richmond beaux. Besides, his
position entitles him to tender treatment.
"I think it time that you should be thinking of returning home. I
want to see you very much, and as you have been receiving instruction
from the learned pig, I shall expect to see you much improved. We
are not reduced to apply to such instructors at Lexington. Here we
have learned professors to teach us what we wish to know, and the
Franklin Institute to furnish us lectures on science and literature.
You had better come back, if you are in search of information on any
subject. I am glad that Miss 'Nannie' Wise found one occasion on
which her ready tongue failed her. She will have to hold it in
subjection now. I should like to see Miss Belle under such similar
circumstances, provided she did not die from suppressed ideas. What
an awful feeling she must experience, if the occasion should ever
come for her to restrain that active member! Although my friend
Wilkins would be very indulgent, I think he would want her to listen
sometimes. Miss Pendleton has just been over to give us some pleasing
news. Her niece, Miss Susan Meade, Philip's daughter, is to be married
next month to a Mr. Brown, of Kentucky, who visited her two year ago
upon the recommendation of the Reverend Charles Page, found her a
school-girl, and has waited until she became a woman. He is rich,
forty-nine, and has six children. There is a fair start in the world
for a young woman! I recommend her example to you. We are all as
usual, and 'Mrs. Smith' is just the same. Miss Maggie Johnston,
who has been staying with us occasionally for a few days at a time,
is now on a visit to us. There is to be an anniversary celebration
of the societies of the Institute on Friday, and a student's party
on Monday night, and a dance at the College Hotel. To-morrow night
your mother has an evening for some young students. Gaiety will
never cease in Lexington so long as the ladies are so attractive
and the men so agreeable. Surprise parties are the fashion now. Miss
Lucy Campbell has her cousin, Miss Ella Heninberger, staying with her,
who assists her to surprise and capture too unwary youths. I am
sorry to hear of Mrs. Ould's illness. If you see her, present me
most kindly to her; also to Mrs. George Randolph. Do beware of
vanilla cream. Recollect how far you are from home, and do not tamper
with yourself. Our semi-annual examination has been in progress for
a fortnight. We shall conclude on Saturday, which will be a great
relief for me, for, in addition to other things, I have to be six
hours daily in the examination rooms. I was sorry that I could not
attend Mr. Peabody's funeral, but I did not feel able to undertake
the journey, especially at this season. I am getting better, I hope,
and feel stronger than I did, but I cannot walk much farther than to
the college, though when I get on my horse I can ride with comfort.
Agnes accompanies me very often. I must refer you to her and your
mother for all local news. Give my love to Fitzhugh, and Tabb, and
Robert when you see them, and for yourself keep an abundance. I
have received letters from Edward and Blanche. They are very anxious
about the condition of political affairs in France. Blanche sent you
some receipts for creams, etc. You had better come and try them.
"Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
The following letter to his son, Fitzhugh, further shows his tender
interest in his children and grandson:
"Lexington, Viriginia, February 14, 1870.
"My Dear Fitzhugh:...I hope that you are all well and that you will
not let any one spoil my grandson. Your mother has written all the
family and Lexington news. She gathers much more than I do. I go
nowhere but to the college, and when the weather permits I ride in
the mountains. I am better, I think, but still troubled. Mildred,
I hope, is with you. When she gets away from her papa, she does not
know what she wants to do, tell her. You have had a fine winter for
work, and later you will have a profitable season. Custis is well
and very retired; I see no alarming exhibition of attention to the
ladies. I have great hopes of Robert. Give much love to my daughter
Tabb and to poor little 'Life.' I wish I could see you all; it
would do my pains good. Poor little Agnes is not at all well, and
I am urging her to go away for a while. Mary as usual.
"Affectionately your father, R. E. Lee.
"General W. H. F. Lee."
After waiting all winter for the improvement in his health, my father,
yielding at last to the wishes of his family, physician, and friends,
determined to try the effect of a southern climate. It was thought
it might do him good, at any rate, to escape the rigours of a Lexington
March, and could do no harm. In the following letters to his children
he outlines his plans and touchingly alludes to the memory of his
daughter Annie, who died in 1862 and was buried at Warrenton Springs,
"Lexington, Virginia, March 21, 1870.
"My Dear Daughter: The doctors and others think I had better go to
the South in the hope of relieving the effects of the cold, under
which I have been labouring all the winter. I think I should do
better here, and am very reluctant to leave home in my present
condition; but they seem so interested in my recovery and so persuasive
in their uneasiness that I should appear obstinate, if not perverse,
if I resisted longer. I therefore consented to go, and will take
Agnes to Savannah, as she seems anxious to visit that city, or,
perhaps, she will take me. I wish also to visit my dear Annie's
grave before I die. I have always desired to do so since the cessation
of active hostilities, but have never been able. I wish to see how
calmly she sleeps away from us all, with her dear hands folded over
her breast as if in mute prayer, while her pure spirit is traversing
the land of the blessed. I shall diverge from the main route of
travel for this purpose, and it will depend somewhat upon my feelings
and somewhat upon my procuring an escort for Agnes, whether I go
"I am sorry not to be able to see you before I go, but if I return,
I hope to find you here well and happy. You must take good care of
your mother and do everything she wants. You must not shorten your
trip on account of our departure. Custis will be with her every day,
and Mary is with her still. The servants seem attractive. Good-bye,
my dear child. Remember me to all friends, and believe me,
"Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
"Lexington, Virginia, March 22, 1870.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: Your letter of the 17th inst. has been received.
Lest I should appear obstinate, if not perverse, I have yielded to
the kind importunities of my physicians and of the faculty to take
a trip toward the South. In pursuance of my resolution, I shall
leave here Thursday next in the packet-boat, and hope to arrive in
Richmond on Friday afternoon. I shall take with me, as my companion,
Agnes, who has been my kind and uncomplaining nurse, and if we could
only get down to you that evening we would do so, for I want to see
you, my sweet daughter, and dear grandson. But as the doctors think
it important that I should reach a southern climate as soon as
practicable, I fear I shall have to leave my visit to you till my
return. I shall go first to Warrenton Springs, North Carolina, to
visit the grave of my dear Annie, where I have always promised myself
to go, and I think, if I accomplish it, I have no time to lose. I
wish to witness her quiet sleep, with her dear hands crossed over
her breast, as if it were in mute prayer, undisturbed by her distance
from us, and to feel that her pure spirit is waiting in bliss in the
land of the blessed. From there, according to my feelings, I shall
either go down to Norfolk or to Savannah, and take you if practicable
on my return. I would ask you to come up to Richmond, but my movements
are unknown to myself, as I cannot know the routes, schedules, etc.,
till I arrive there, but I have promised not to linger there longer
than necessary; so I must avoid temptation. We are all as usual.
Your mother still talks of visiting you, and when I urge her to make
preparations for the journey, she replies rather disdainfully she has
none to make; they have been made years ago. Custis and Mary are
well, and Mildred writes that she will be back by April 1st. We
are having beautiful weather now, which I hope may continue. From
"Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee."
To his daughter Mildred he writes again, giving her the minutest details
as to the routes home. This is very characteristic of him. We were
always fully instructed, all the roads of life were carefully marked
out for us by him:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 23, 1870.
"My Dear Daughter: I wrote to you the other day, telling you of my
intention of going South and of my general plan as far as formed.
This morning your letter of the 21st arrived.... I hope you will
get back comfortably and safely, and if you can fall in with no
escort, you had better go as far as Alexandria, the first stage of
your journey. Aunt Maria, Cassius Lee, the Smiths, etc., would
receive you. If you wish to come by Goshen, you must take the train
from Alexandria on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, so as to arrive
here about twelve o'clock at night. By taking the train from
Alexandria on the alternate days, Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, you
will reach Staunton that evening by four P. M., remain all night,
and come over by daylight the following day in the stage. By taking
the train from Alexandria to Lynchburg, Mondays, Wednesdays, or
Fridays, you will reach there the same afternoon, about four P. M.,
then go IMMEDIATELY to the packet-boat, and you will arrive here
next morning. This last is the EASIEST route, and the best if you
find no escort. Tell all the conductors and captains that you are
my runaway daughter, and they will take care of you. I leave
to-morrow evening on the packet-boat. I told you that Agnes would
accompany me. Tell my cousins Washington, Jane, and Mary that I
wish I were going to see them. I should then anticipate some pleasure.
But the doctors say I must turn my face the other way. I know they
do not know everything, and yet I have often had to do what I was
told, without benefit to myself, and I shall have to do it again.
Good-bye, my dear daughter. All unite in love.
"Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
The Southern Trip
Letters to Mrs. Lee from Richmond and Savannah--From Brandon--Agnes
Lee's account of her father's greetings from old friends and old
soldiers--Wilmington and Norfolk do him honour--Visits to Fitzhugh
and Robert in their homes
It is to be regretted that so little was written by my father while
on this trip. In the letters extant he scarcely refers to his
reception by the people at different points visited. His daughter
Agnes tells more, and we can imagine how tenderly and joyfully he
was greeted by his old soldiers, their wives, children and friends.
He was very unwilling to be made a hero anywhere, and most reluctant
to show himself to the crowds assembled at every station along his
route, pressing to catch sight of him.
"Why should they care to see me?" he would say, when urged to appear
on the platform of the train; "I am only a poor old Confederate!"
This feeling, natural to him, was probably intensified at that time
by the state of his health. On Sunday he writes to my mother of his
trip to Richmond and of his stay there:
"Richmond, Virginia, March 29, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I reached here Friday afternoon, and had a more
comfortable journey than I expected. The night aboard the packet
was very trying, but I survived it, and the dust of the railroad
the following day. Yesterday the doctors, Huston, McCaw, and
Cunningham, examined me for two hours, and I believe, contemplate
returning to-day. They say they will make up their opinion and
communicate it to Doctor Barton, who will write me what to do. In
the meantime they desire me to continue his prescriptions. I think
I feel better than when I left Lexington, certainly stronger, but
am a little feverish. Whether it is produced by the journey, or
the toddies that Agnes administers, I do not know. I have not been
able to see anybody, nor was I able to get the groceries yesterday.
Agnes thinks you will have enough to last till I get back here,
when I will select them and send them up. Should you want any
particular article, write to Messrs. Bacon & Lewis for it. I saw,
yesterday morning, Mr. John Stewart and Miss Mary [Miss Mary Stewart,
of "Brook Hill," afterward Mrs. Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina.],
who had called to see Agnes but found she was out. Miss Mary looked
very sweet, and inquired about you all. Agnes rode out there
yesterday afternoon and saw all the family. I am told all our
friends here are well. Many of my northern friends have done me the
honour to call on me. Among them 'Brick Pomeroy.' The like to see
all that is going on. Agnes has gone to church with Colonel Corley.
I was afraid to go. The day is unfavourable, and I should see so
many of my old friends, to whom I would like to speak, that it might
be injurious to me. I was in hopes that Fitzhugh might make his
appearance yesterday, when we should have learned all about those
below, but he did not. I hear that they are all well, however. I
expect to continue our journey to-morrow, if nothing prevents, though
I have not yet got the information I desire about the routes. Still,
I will get on. I will leave to Agnes to tell about herself. Love
to all, Truly, R. E. Lee."
The next letter that I find is written from Savannah:
"Savannah, Georgia, April 2, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I reached here yesterday evening and have borne the
journey much better than I expected. I think I am stronger than
when I left Lexington, but otherwise can discover no difference. I
have had a tedious journey upon the whole, and have more than ever
regretted that I undertook it. However, I have enjoyed meeting many
friends, and the old soldiers have greeted me very cordially. My
visit to dear Annie's grave was mournful, yet soothing to my feelings,
and I was glad to have the opportunity of thanking the kind friends
for their care of her while living and their attention to her since
her death. I saw most of the ladies of the committee who undertook
the preparation of the monument and the inclosure of the cemetery,
and was very kindly received by all the citizens of Warrenton, and,
indeed, at all the towns through which we passed. Yesterday, several
gentlemen from Savannah met the train in which we came from Augusta--
General Lawton, Mr. Andrew Lowe, Mr. Hodgson, etc., etc. I found
they had arranged among themselves about my sojourn, so I yielded
at once, and, after depositing Agnes at General Lawton's, I came off
to Mr. Lowe's, where I am now domiciled. His house is partially
dismantled and he is keeping house alone, so I have a very quiet
time. This morning I took a short drive around the city with Agnes
and Miss Lawton, and on returning called on Mrs. Elliot, who has her
two widowed daughters living with, Mrs. Elliot and Mrs. Habersham.
I also went to see Mrs. Gordon, Mrs. Gilmer, and Mrs. Owen, and then
returned to the Lowes', where I find he has invited some gentlemen
to meet me at dinner--General Joe Johnston, General Lawton, General
Gilmer, Colonel Corley, etc. Colonel Corley has stuck to me all
the journey, and now talks of going to New Orleans. The weather
to-day is rather cool and raw, with an easterly wind, and if it
continues I will go on to Florida next week. The woods are filled
with flowers, yellow jasmine covering all the trees, etc., and
fresh vegetables everywhere. I must leave Agnes to give you all
the details. The writing-desk is placed in a dark corner in this
handsome house, prepared for younger eyes than mine, and I can hardly
see what I write. All friends inquire after you, Custis, Mary, and
Mildred. Give my love to all, and believe me,
"Most truly, R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
The Colonel Corley mentioned in the above letters had been on General
Lee's staff, as chief quartermaster, from the time he assumed
command of the Army of Northern Virginia until the surrender. His
voluntary service as escort on this trip, so delicately offered
and performed, was highly appreciated by his old commander. A letter
from his daughter to her mother, written the next day tells many
particulars of their journey, but still leaves much to be desired:
"Savannah, Georgia, April 3, 1870.
"...I hardly know where to commence, I have so little time to write.
We left Richmond Monday, 2 P. M. We reached Warrenton at ten o'clock
and were taken to their house by Mr. and Mrs. White, who met us at
the depot. The next morning papa and I drove with Captain White's
horses to the cemetery. Mrs. White gave me a quantity of beautiful
white hyacinths, which she said were for you, too, and I had brought
some grey moss that Kitty Stiles had given me. This I twined on the
base of the monument. The flowers looked very pure and beautiful.
The place is just as it is in Mr. Hope's picture (which I have). It
was a great satisfaction to be there again. We did not go to the
springs, a mile off. Returning, we stopped at Mr. Joe Jones's (old
Mr. J---'s son). They insisted on our taking dinner. He has eleven
children, I think, and there were numberless others there. They
loaded me with flowers, the garden full of hyacinths and early
spring flowers. Mrs. Jones is a very nice lady, one of those who
were foremost in erecting the monument. We then stopped at the farm
of the Jones's, who were at the springs when we were there in the
autumn of 1862, and Mrs. J--- knew me at once, and asked affectionately
after you. Saw Patty and Emma--all the daughters married except
Patty and the youngest. Mr. J--- is very infirm--eighty-three years
old. That evening a number of persons came to see us, Mrs. Alston
and Miss Brownlow, two others of the committee of ladies. Every
one was very kind. Indeed, I wish you could travel with papa, to
see the affection and feeling shown toward him everywhere. We spent
that night in the sleeping-car, very handsome and comfortable, but
the novelty, I suppose, made us wakeful. At Raleigh and another place
the people crowded to the depot and called 'Lee! Lee!' and cheered
vociferously, but we were locked up and 'mum.' Everywhere along the
road where meals were provided the landlords invited us in, and when
we would not get out, sent coffee and lunches. Even soldiers on the
train sent in fruit, and I think we were expected to die of eating.
At Charlotte and Salisbury there were other crowds and bands. Colonel
Corley joined us at C., having asked to go to Savannah with us. The
train stopped fifteen minutes at Columbia. Colonel Alexander Haskell
took charge of the crowd, which in spite of the pouring rain, stood
there till we left. General E. Porter Alexander was there, and was
very hearty in his inquiries after all of us. His little girl was
lifted into the car. Namesakes appeared on the way, of all sizes.
Old ladies stretched their heads intot he windows at way-stations,
and then drew back and said 'He is mightily like his pictures.' We
reached Augusta Wednesday night. The mayor and council met us, having
heard a few minutes before that papa was on the train. We were whirled
off to the hotel, and papa decided to spend Thursday there. They had
a reception the whole of the morning. Crowds came. Wounded soldiers,
servants, and working-men even. The sweetest little children--
namesakes--dressed to their eyes, with bouquets of japonica--or tiny
cards in their little fat hands--with their names. Robert Burwell,
of Clarke, who married Miss Clayton there; Randall, author of 'My
Maryland'; General McLaws, Wright, Gardner, and many others. Saw
the Misses Boggs, General B---'s sisters. Miss Rebecca knew Mrs.
Kirkpatrick very well, and asked after her. Miss Russell, with
whose father and sisters we had been at the White Sulphur, helped
us to receive. She is very tall and handsome, and was superb in a
white lace shawl, a moire-antique with a train. The Branch brothers
rather took possession of me. Melville, who was at the Institute
[Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia] and knew the
Letchers very well, drove me in and around town--at the rate of a
mile a minute. Another brother took me to the 'Skating Rink' at
night...a serenade that night. At some point on the way here Generals
Lawton and Gilmer, Mr. Andrew Lowe, and others, got on the cars with
us. Flowers were given us at various places. I so much enjoyed
the evidences of spring all along our route--more and more advanced
as we proceeded. The jasmine, though passing away, was still in
sufficient abundance, in some places, to perfume the air. The dark
marshes were rich in tall magnolia trees, beautiful red buds, and other
red blossoms I did not know. The jasmine and the trees hanging with
gray moss--perfectly weird-looking--have been the least luxuriant
places in the interim. Savannah is green with live-oaks--and filled
with trees and shrubbery. I wish you could see a large marble table
in the parlour, where I am writing, with a pyramid of jasmine in the
centre and four large plates full at the corners, almost covering the
square, all sent me Saturday. The Lawtons are as kind as possible,
wanted papa to stay here, but Mr. Andrew Lowe had arranged to take
him to his house at bed-time. So he lost the benefit of a serenade
from two bands, alternating, which we enjoyed--General Lawton telling
the crowd General Lee had retired from fatigue. Papa has borne
the journey and the crowds far better than I thought he would and
seems stronger. (Monday.) It seems impossible to finish this--I
inclose some scraps which will tell our story. Crowds of persons
have been coming to see me ever since I came. Saw Mrs. General
Johnston--Nannie Hutchenson--of course, and Reverend and Mrs. Moore
yesterday. They left to-day.... Colonel Corley has taken Corinne
[Corinne Lawton] and me on a beautiful drive this morning to
'Bonaventure,' which is to be a cemetery, and to several places in its
vicinity. I never saw anything more impressive and beautiful than
the avenues of live-oaks, literally covered with long gray moss,
arching over the roads. Tell Messrs. Owen and Minis I have seen
their families, who are very kind to us. General and Mrs. Gilmer asked
especially after Custis.... We think of going to Florida in a few
days. Haven't heard from you.
This is the only letter from his daughter Agnes, written at this time,
that can be found. My father, in his letters to his family, left
"details" and "particulars" for her to describe, and doubtless she
did so. Unfortunately, there is but this single letter.
On April 17th, he writes again from Savannah to my mother:
"My Dear Mary: I have received your letter of the Wednesday after
our departure and am glad to hear that you are well and getting on
so comfortably. The destruction of the bridge is really a loss to
the community, and I fear will inconvenience Mildred in her return.
However, the spring is now advancing and they ought to be able to
get up the new bridge. I hope I am a little better. I seem to be
stronger and to walk with less difficulty, but it may be owing to
the better streets of Savannah. I presume if any change takes place
it will be gradual and slow. Please say to Doctor Barton that I
have received his letter and am obliged to him for his kind advice.
I shall begin to-day with his new prescriptions and will follow them
strictly. To-morrow I expect to go to Florida, and will stop first
at Amelia Island. The visitors to that region are coming out,
saying the weather is uncomfortably hot. If I find it so, I shall
return. Savannah has become very pleasant within the last few days,
and I dare say I shall do as well here as elsewhere. The spring,
however, is backward. I believe I told you that I was staying with
Mr. Andrew Lowe, who is very kind, and where I am very comfortable.
I am going to be separated from Agnes, and have received invitations
from several of the inhabitants where we could be united. But it
is awkward to change. Agnes has been sick, too, since her arrival,
which has made me the more anxious to be with her. You know she is
like her papa--always wanting something. She is, however, better
to-day, as I learn, though I have not seen her yet. I saw her twice
yesterday. She was better then and came down to Mrs. Lawton's room,
so I hope she will be well enough to go with me to Amelia Island.
The Messrs. Mackay got down from Etowa last evening, both looking
very well, and have reopened their old house in Broughton Street,
which I am glad of. I have see Mrs. Doctor Elliot and family, the
Andersons, Gordons, etc., etc., and all my former acquaintances and
many new ones. I do not think travelling in this way procures me
much quiet and repose. I wish I were back.... Give my love to her
[his daughter Mary] and to Custis, and tell the latter I hope that
he will be able to keep Sam in the seeds he may require. Praying
a merciful God to guard and direct you all, I am,
"Most affectionately, R. E. Lee.
"P. S.--I received a letter from F---: all well.
"R. E. L."
Sam was the gardener and man-of-all-work at Lexington. My father
took great interest in his garden and always had a fine one. Still,
in Savannah, he again writes to his wife acknowledging the letters
forwarded to him and commenting on the steps being taken:
"Savannah, Georgia, April 11, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I received yesterday your letters of the 3d and 6th,
inclosing Reverend Mr. Brantley's and daughter's and Cassius Lee's.
I forwarded the petition to the President, accompanying the latter,
to Cassius, and asked him to give it to Mr. Smith. Hearing, while
passing through Richmond, of the decision of the Supreme Court referred
to, I sent word to Mr. Smith that if he thought the time and occasion
propitious for taking steps for the recovery of Arlington, the Mill,
etc., to do so, but to act quietly and discreetly. I presume the
petition sent you for signature was the consequence. I do not know
whether this is a propitious time or not, and should rather have had
an opportunity to consult friends, but am unable to do so. Tell
Custis that I wish that he would act for me, through you or others,
for it is mainly on his account that I desire the restitution of the
property. I see that a resolution has been introduced in Congress
'to perfect the title of the Government to Arlington and other
National Cemeteries,' which I have been apprehensive of stirring, so
I suppose the matter will come up anyhow. I did not sign the petition,
for I did not think it necessary, and believed the more I was kept
out of sight the better. We must hope for the best, speak as little
and act as discreetly as possible.
"The reverend Dr. Brantley was invited by the faculty of the college
to deliver the baccalaureate sermon next June, and I invited him and
his daughter, in the event of his accepting, to stay with us. Do you
know whether he has accepted? I should have gone to Florida last
Friday as proposed, but Agnes was not well enough. She took cold on
the journey or on her first arrival, and has been quite sick, but is
better now. I have not seen her this morning, but if she is
sufficiently recovered we will leave here to-morrow. I have received
a message saying that she was much better. As regards myself, my
general health is pretty good. I feel stronger than when I came.
The warm weather has also dispelled some of the rheumatic pains in
my back, but I perceive no change in the stricture in my chest. If
I attempt to walk beyond a very slow gait, the pain is always there.
It is all true what the doctors say about its being aggravated by
any fresh cold, but how to avoid taking cold is the question. It
seems with me to be impossible. Everything and anything seems to
give me one. I meet with much kindness and consideration, but fear
that nothing will relieve my complaint, which is fixed and old. I
must bear it. I hope that you will not give over your trip to the
'White House,' if you still desire to make it. I shall commence my
return above the last of April, stopping at some points, and will
be a few days in Richmond, and the 'White House' if able. I must
leave to Agnes all details. Give much love to Custis, Mary, and
Mildred. Tell the latter I have received her letters. Remember
me to all friends.
"Most sincerely yours, R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
After visiting Cumberland Island and going up to the St. John's River
as far as Palatka, and spending the night at Colonel Cole's place
near there, they returned to Savannah. Colonel Cole was on General
Lee's staff as chief commissary during the time he commanded the
Army of Northern Virginia, and was a very dear friend of us all:
"Savannah, Georgia, April 18, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I have received your letter of the 13th, and am glad
to learn that you propose visiting the 'White House,' as I feared
my journey might prevent you. I am, however, very anxious on the
subject, as I apprehend the trip will be irksome and may produce
great inconvenience and pain. I hope you received my letter of the
11th, written just before my departure for Florida. In case you did
not, I will state that I forwarded your petition to Cassius Lee as
received, not thinking my signature necessary or advantageous. I
will send the money received from the 'University Publishing Company'
to Carter, for whom I intend it [This was the money that came to
General Lee from his new edition of his father's "Memoirs of the
War in the Southern Department of the United States."]. I returned
from Florida Saturday, 16th, having had a very pleasant trip as
far as Palatka on the St. John's. We visited Comberland Island,
and Agnes decorated my father's grave with beautiful fresh flowers.
I presume it is the last time I shall be able to pay to it my tribute
of respect. The cemetery is unharmed and the grave is in good order,
though the house of Dungeness has been burned and the island devastated.
Mr. Nightingale, the present proprietor, accompanied me from Brunswick.
Mr. Andrew Lowe was so kind as to go with us the whole way, thinking
Agnes and I were unable to take care of ourselves. Agnes seemed to
enjoy the trip very much, and has improved in health. I shall leave
to her all details. We spent a night at Colonel Cole's, a beautiful
place near Palatka, and ate oranges from the trees. We passed some
other beautiful places on the river, but could not stop at any but
Jacksonville, where we remained from 4 P. M. to 3 A. M. next morning,
rode over the town, etc., and were hospitably entertained by Colonel
Sanderson. The climate was delightful, the fish inviting and abundant.
We have returned to our old quarters, Agnes to the Lawtons' and I to
the Lowe's. We shall remain here this week, and will probably spend
a few days in Charleston and Norfolk, if we go that way, and at
'Brandon' and 'Shirley' before going to the 'White House,' where we
shall hope to meet you. I know of no certain place where a letter
will catch me before I reach Richmond, where the doctors desire me to
spend a few days that they may again examine me. Write me there
whether Fitzhugh is too full to receive us. It will depend upon my
feelings, weather, etc., whether I make the digression by Norfolk.
Poor little Agnes has had, I fear, but little enjoyment so far, and
I wish her to have all the pleasure she can gather on the route.
She is still weak and seems to suffer constantly from the neuralgia.
I hope I am better, I know that I am stronger, but I still have the
pain in my chest whenever I walk. I have felt it also occasionally
of late when quiescent, but not badly, which is new. To-day Doctors
Arnold and Reed, of this city, examined me for about an hour. They
concur in the opinion of the other physicians, and think it pretty
certain that my trouble arises from some adhesion of the parts, not
from injury of the lungs and heart, but that the pericardium may
not be implicated, and the adhesion may be between the pleura and ---,
I have forgotten the name. Their visit was at the urgent entreaty
of friends, which I could not well resist, and perhaps their opinion
is not fully matured. I am continuing the prescriptions of Doctors
Barton and Madison. My rheumatic pains, either from the effects of
the medicine or the climate, or both, have diminished, but the pain
along the breast bone ever returns on my making any exertion. I
am glad Mildred has returned so well. I hope that she will continue
so. After perusal, send this letter to one of the children to whom
you may be writing, that Doctors Barton, etc., may be informed how
I am getting along, as I have been unable to write to them or to
any one at Lexington. I have so many letters to write in answer to
kind invitations, etc., and so many interruptions, that my time is
consumed. Besides, writing is irksome to me. Give my love to Fitzhugh,
Tabb, and Robert and to Custis, Mary, and Mildred when you write.
Agnes said she was going out to return some of her numerous visits
to-day, and I presume will not be able to write. She has had but
little comfort in her clothes. Her silk dress was spoiled on the way,
and she returned it to Baltimore, but has learned that they can do
nothing with it, so she will have to do without it, which I presume
she can do. I hope you may reach the 'White House' comfortably. I
will apprise you of my movements from time to time. I hope my godson
will know you. Tell him I have numbers of his namesakes since I left
Virginia, of whom I was not aware. I hope they will come to good.
"With great affection,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
From the following letters--all that I can find relating to this
part of the journey--it appears that the travellers started for
Virginia, stopping at Charleston, Wilmington, and Norfolk. Of their
visit to Charleston I can find no record. He and Agnes stayed at
the beautiful home of Mr. Bennet, who had two sons at the college,
and a lovely daughter, Mary Bennet. I remember Agnes telling me
of the beautiful flowers and other attentions lavished upon them.
At Wilmington they spent a day with Mr. and Mrs. Davis. His coming
there was known only to a few persons, as its announcement was by
a private telegram from Savannah, but quite a number of ladies and
gentlemen secured a small train and went out on the Southern Road
to meet him. When they met the regular passenger-train from Savannah,
General Lee was taken from it to the privateone and welcomed by his
many friends. He seemed bright and cheerful and conversed with all.
He spoke of his health not being good, and on this account begged
that there would be no public demonstration on his arrival, nor
during his stay at Wilmington.
On reaching that place, he accompanied Mr. George Davis [Attorney
General in Mr. Davis's cabinet] to his house and was his guest during
his sojourn in the city.
Mrs. Davis was a Miss Fairfax, daughter of Dr. O. Fairfax, of
Alexandria, Virginia. They had been and were very old and dear friends
and neighbours. The next morning my father walked out and called on
Bishop Atkinson, with whom he had been well acquainted when they both
lived in Baltimore, some twelve years before, the one as rector of
St. Peter's (Episcopal) church, the other as Captain of the United
States Engineers, in charge of the harbour defenses of the city.
There was a dinner given to my father that day at Mr. Davis's home,
and a number of gentlemen were present. He was looking very well,
but in conversation said that he realised there was some trouble with
his heart, which he was satisfied was incurable.
The next day, May 1st, he left for Norfolk, Virginia, where Dr. and
Mrs. Selden were the kind entertainers of his daughter and himself.
Agnes told me that in going and returning from church the street
was lined with people who stood, hats off, in silent deference. From
Norfolk they visited "Lower" and "Upper Brandon" on the James River,
the homes of the Harrisons; then "Shirley," higher up the river.
Then they proceeded by way of Richmond to the "White House," my mother
having arrived there from Lexington a short time previously. The
General wrote from "Brandon" to his wife:
"'Brandon', May 7, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: We have reached this point on our journey. Mrs.
Harrison and Miss Belle are well and very kind, and I have been up
to see Mr. William Harrison and Mr. George and their families. The
former is much better than I expected to find him, and I hope will
recover his health as the spring advances. The ladies are all well,
and Miss Gulie is very handsome. Agnes and I went over to see
Warrenton Carter and his wife this morning. They are both very well,
and everything around them looks comfortable and flourishing. They
have a nice home, and, as far as I could see, everything is prospering.
Their little boy was asleep, but we were invited in to see him. He
is a true Carter. Mrs. Page, the daughter of General Richardson, is
here on a visit, and Mrs. Murdock, wife of their former pastor, arrived
this morning. We are to go up to Mr. George Harrison's this evening,
where the children are to have some tableaux, and where we are expected
to spend the evening. In Norfolk we saw all our friends, but I did
not succeed in getting out to Richard Page's as I desired, on account
of the heavy rain on the appointed day and engagements that interfered
on others. Agnes and Mrs. Selden rode out, however, and saw all the
family. Everybody inquired kindly after you, down to Bryan, and all
sent their love. 'Brandon' is looking very beautiful, and it is
refreshing to look at the river. The garden is filled with flowers
and abounds in roses. The yellow jasmine is still in bloom and
perfumes the atmosphere. I have not heard from you or from Lexington
since I left Savannah. I hope all are well. I am better, I trust;
am getting fat and big, but am still rigid and painful in my back.
On Tuesday night I expect to go to 'Shirley,' and on Thursday, 12th
inst., to Richmond, and on Friday to the 'White House,' unless I hear
that you are crowded, in which case I will submit myself to the
doctors for two or three days, as they desire, and then go down.
Agnes now says she will accompany me to the 'White House,' so that
I shall necessarily pass through Richmond, as our baggage renders
that route necessary. Therefore, unless something unforeseen prevents,
I shall be with you on Friday next. All unite in love. Agnes, I
hope, is better than when she left Lexington, but is not strong. You
must give a great deal of love to Fitzhugh, Tabb, my grandson Robert,
and all with you.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"P. S. --Monday. Your note of the 6th with Colonel Allen's letter
has just been received. I am very sorry to hear of Tabb's sickness.
I hope that she will be well by the time of my arrival. I shall be
glad to see Markie.
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
On the same date, he writes to his daughter Mildred at Lexington:
"'Brandon,' May 7, 1870.
"My Dear Daughter: Miss Jennie is putting up her mail and says that
my letter must go with it, so I have but a few minutes to inform
you that we have reached this point on our way home. We stayed
a day in Wilmington with the Davises after leaving Charleston, and
several with the Seldens in Norfolk, and shall on Tuesday next go
up to 'Shirley,' and then to the 'White House.' Agnes threatens
to abandon me at 'Shirley,' and I wish that you were there to take
her place. I am better, I hope, certainly am stronger and have
less pain, but am far from comfortable, and have little ability to
move or do anything, though am growing large and fat. Perhaps that
is the cause. All here are well and send love. Miss Belle very
sweet; all very kind. I rode yesterday to the other 'Brandons,'
and saw all the inhabitants. Captain Shirley spent the day here.
Mr. Wm. Harrison much better, and Miss Gulie very pretty. They
have some visitors. It is quiet and delightful here, the river is
beautiful. Agnes will write when she finds 'time,' which is a
scarce commodity with her. I had intended to write before breakfast,
the longest portion of the day, but walked out and forgot it. We
have little time after breakfast. Give much love to Mary and
Custis. I hope that you are all well and comfortable. I was very
glad to receive your letter the morning I left Savannah, and I hope
that 'Mrs. Smith' and Traveller are enjoying themselves. I hope
to get back to Lexington about the 24th, but will write. After
paying my visit to the 'White House' I will have to spend some days
in Richmond and at the doctors' request, as they wish to examine
me again and more thoroughly. I hope all are well at the college.
Remember me to all there and in Lexington.
"With affectionate love, Your father,
"R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
The "White House," my brother's home at that time, is on the Pamunkey
River, about twenty-five miles north of "Shirley." From my father's
letter it is evident he had thought of driving over, instead of
going by boat and rail through Richmond. This plan was abandoned
when his daughter determined to accompany him, as a lady's baggage,
even in those days, was too voluminous for private conveyance. Mr.
Wm. Harrison lived at "Upper Brandon" and Mr. George Harrison at
"Middle Brandon." The mistress of "Lower Brandon," the old historic
home, was Mrs. Isabella Ritchie Harrison, widow of the late George
Harrison. Miss Jennie, referred to in the above letter, was Miss
Virginia Ritchie, sister of Mrs. Harrison. She had succeeded in
having a post-office established at "Lower Brandon" and herself made
postmistress. This was done for the convenience of the "Brandons"
and the immediate neighbourhood. The proceeds Miss Jennie gave to
the "Brandon" church.
Of his visit to "Shirley," his mother's home when she was a girl, and
where she was married to "Light Horse Harry," I can find no account
written at the time. It is a few hours from "Brandon" to "Shirley"
by steamer on the beautiful James, and they arrived there Tuesday,
May 10th, and left the following Thursday by steamer for Richmond.
So says the "Home Journal" kept at "Shirley." All the country came
to see him, and there was a large party to dinner. One of the
daughters of the house, then a young girl, says:
"I can only remember the great dignity and kindness of General Lee's
bearing, how lovely he was to all of us girls, that he gave us his
photographs and write his name on them. He liked to have us tickle
his hands, but when Cousin Agnes came to sit by him that seemed to
be her privilege. We regarded him with the greatest veneration.
We had heard of God, but here was General Lee!"
My mother was now at the "White House." I will here introduce portions
of a letter of the 9th and 13th of May from her to her daughter in
Lexington, telling of my father's arrival on the 12th:
"'White House,' May 9, 1870.
"Fitzhugh took us on a delightful drive this morning, dear Mildred,
to Tunstall's, where we got your letter, and Markie got nine,
including yours, so we were much gratified with our excursion. The
road was fine, with the exception of a few mud-holes, and the woods
lovely with wild flowers and dogwood blossoms and with all the
fragrance of early spring, the dark holly and pine intermingling with
the delicate leaves just brought out by the genial season, daisies,
wild violets, and heart's-ease. I have not seen so many wild flowers
since I left Arlington....
"Thirteenth.--I determined, after commencing this, to wait and see
your papa, who arrived last evening with Agnes. He looks fatter,
but I do not like his complexion, and he seems still stiff. I
have not yet had time to hear much of their tour, except a grand
dinner given them at Mr. Benet's. Your papa sends his love,
and says he will be in Lexington somewhere about the 24th....
There is no news. The country becomes more lovely each day. The
locust trees are in full bloom, and the polonia, the only tree
left of all that were planted by poor Charlotte and myself. How
all our labours have come to naught. The General has just come in.
Robbie is riding on his knee, sitting as grave as a judge. He
says now 'Markie,' 'Agnes,' and many other words, and calls me
'Bonne Mama.' We expect Rob this morning....
"M. C. Lee."
At this time my father was persuaded to make me a visit. He had
been invited before, when at different times he had been to the
"White House," but something had hitherto always prevented his
coming; now he decided to come. My "Romancoke" farm was situated
in King William County, on the opposite side of the Pamunkey River,
and some fifteen miles east of "White House." We arrived there
in the afternoon, having come down by the steamer, which at that
time ran from "White House" to Baltimore. "Romancoke" had been
always a dependency of the "White House," and was managed by an
overseer who was subordinate to the manager on the latter estate.
There was on it only a small house, of the size usual in our country
for that character of property. I had taken possession in 1866, and
was preparing to build a more comfortable residence, but in the
meantime I lived in the house which had been occupied by the different
overseers for about seventy-five years. Its accommodations were
very limited, simple, and it was much out of repair. Owing to the
settling of the underpinning in the centre, it had assumed a "sway-
backed" outline, which gave it the name of the "broken-back house."
No repairs had been attempted, as I was preparing to build a new
My father, always dignified and self-contained, rarely gave any
evidence of being astonished or startled. His self-control was great
and his emotions were not on the surface, but when he entered
and looked around my bachelor quarters he appeared really much
shocked. As I was much better off in the matter of housekeeping
than I had been for four years, I flattered myself that I was doing
very well. I can appreciate fully now what he must have felt at
the time. However, he soon rallied and concealed his dismay by
making kindly fun of my surroundings. The next day at dinner he
felt obliged to remark on my china, knives, and forks, and suggested
that I might at least better my holdings in that line. When he got
back to Richmond he sent me a full set of plated forks and spoons,
which I have been using from that day to this. He walked and drove
over the farm, discussed my plans for improvement, and was much
interested in all my work, advising me about the site of my new
house, new barns, ice-house, etc. He evidently enjoyed his visit,
for the quiet and the rest were very refreshing.
About thirty miles, as the crow flies, from my place, down York River,
is situated, in Gloucester County, "White Marsh," an old Virginia
home which then belonged to Dr. Prosser Tabb, who with his wife
and children was living there. Mrs. Tabb was a near cousin of my
father, and as a little girl had been a pet and favourite. His
affection and regard for her had lasted from his early manhood. He
had seen but little of her since the war, and when "Cousin Rebecca,"
as we called her, learned he was to be at the "White House," she
wrote begging him to pay her a visit. This he had agreed to do
if it was possible.
While at the "White House," we had consulted together as to the best
method of accomplishing this trip, and we determined to make it from
"Romancoke." So I drove him to West Point, and there got aboard the
Baltimore steamer, taking my horse and trap with us. At Cappahoosic,
a wharf on the York, we landed and drove the nine miles to "White
Marsh," arriving at "supper time," as we still say in Virginia--i.e.,
about 7:30 P. M.
When General Lee got off on the wharf, so great was the desire of
the passengers and crew to see him, that they all went to the side
of the boat, which caused her to list so that I was unable to get
my horse out through the gangway until the captain had ordered
every one to the other side. As the sun went down, it became chilly
and I drove quite rapidly, anxious to get my father out of the
night air as soon as possible. He said nothing at the time, nor
did I know that he noticed my unusual speed. But afterward he
remarked on it to several persons, saying:
"I think Rob drives unnecessarily fast."
We were expected, and were met at the door by all the family and guests.
A hearty welcome was given us. After supper he was the centre of
the circle in the drawing-room, and made the acquaintance of the
children of the house and of the friends and relatives of the family
who were there. He said little, but all listened eagerly to what
he did say, and were charmed with his pleasant smile and gracious
manner. "Cousin Rebecca" introduced him to her son-in-law, Captain
Perrin, mentioning that he had been wounded in the war and was still
lame from the effects. The General replied that at any rate he
was all right now, for he had a pair of strong young feet to wait
upon him, indicating his young wife.
As was customary in this section of Virginia, the house was full of
visitors, and I shared my father's room and bed. Though many a
year had passed since we had been bedfellows, he told me that he
remembered well the time when, as a little fellow, I had begged for
this privilege. The next day he walked about the beautiful gardens,
and was driven over the plantation and shown the landscapes and
water views of the immediate neighborhood. Mr. Graves, Dr. Tabb's
overseer, who had the honour of being his coachman, fully appreciated
it, and was delighted when my father praised his management. He
had been a soldier under the General, and had stoutly carried his
musket to Appomatox, where he surrendered it. When told of this
by Dr. Tabb, my father took occasion to compliment him on his steadfast
endurance and courage, but Graves simply and sincerely replied,
"Yes, General, I stuck to the army, but if you had in your entire
command a greater coward than I was, you ought to have had him shot."
My father, who was greatly amused at his candour, spoke of it when
he got back from his drive saying "that sort of a coward makes a
That the drive had fatigued him was quite apparent to Cousin Rebecca,
who begged him to go and lie down to rest, but he declined, though,
finally, at her request, he consented to take a glass of wine. Mrs.
Tabb was anxious to give a general reception that day in his honour,
so that all the old soldiers in the country could have an opportunity
of shaking hands with him, but at the General's request the idea
Several persons were invited to meet him at dinner, among them the
Rev. Mr. Phillips, an Englishman, the rector of Abingdon, an old
Colonial church in the country. He and his wife were ardent admirers
of General lee, and had often expressed a great desire to see him,
so Mrs. Tabb kindly gave them this opportunity. They were charmed
with him, and, writing to their friends in England, declared:
"The greatest event in our lives has occurred--we have seen General
One of his young cousins, in talking with him, wondered what fate was
in store for "us poor Virginians." The General replied with an earnest,
"You can work for Virginia, to build her up again, to make her great
again. You can teach your children to love and cherish her."
I was struck with the tenderness of his manner to all these cousins,
many of whom he had never seen before, and the real affection and
interest he manifested toward them. He seemed pleased and touched
by their love and kindness. I think he enjoyed this visit, but it
was plain that he was easily fatigued.
To catch our steamer the next morning, an early start was necessary.
Arrangements were made the night before, and all good-byes said, for
we had to leave the house about five o'clock. That night he was very
restless and wakeful, and remarked that it was generally so with him
whenever he had to get up at an unusual hour, as he was always uneasy
lest he might be late. However, we got off in full time--made the
connection with our steamer, and returned immediately to the "White
House." I left the steamer at West Point to take my horse home,
after which I joined him at the former place.
After a short stay at the "White House," he started for Lexington,
stopping over in Richmond for a few days. From there he writes to
his daughter Mildred in Lexington:
"Richmond, Virginia, May 23, 1870.
"My Precious Daughter: I came up from the 'White House' this morning
with Agnes, but she threatens to divorce herself from me, and we have
already separated. She is at Dr. Fairfax's and I am at Mr. Mcfarland's.
She promises, however, to see me occasionally, and if I can restore
our travelling relations even at costly sacrifice I shall be happy
to take her along with me. I find I shall be detained here too long
to take the Wednesday's boat from Lynchburg, but, if not prevented
by circumstances now not foreseen, I shall take the Friday's boat,
so as to reach Lexington SATURDAY morning, 28th inst. If Sam is
well enough, and it should be otherwise convenient, he could meet
me with Lucy and the carriage or with Traveller. If not, I will
get a seat up in the omnibus. Your mother proposes to leave in the
boat for Bremo on the 1st proximo, spend one week there, and then
continue her journey to Lexington. Agnes has not yet made up her
mind whether she will go with me, her mother, or remain for a while.
I hope to find you well, though alone. I must reserve all accounts
till we meet, which I am very anxious should take place as soon as
practicable. I am improving, I think, in general health, but cannot
tell certainly as to the difficulty in my chest, as I have been unable
to test my progress. I had a pleasant visit to F--- and Robert, and
enjoyed rest there, which I wanted. Love to Custis and kind regards
to all friends. I hope that I shall find all well and doing well.
All at the 'White House' send love. Poor Tabb is still sick.
Markie Williams is with your mother. Robert came up with us, but
returns this evening. I have seen Dr. Houston this morning, and
I am to have a great medicine talk to-morrow.
"Your devoted father,
"R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
A Round of Visits
Baltimore--Alexandria--A war-talk with Cousin Cassius Lee--"Ravensworth"
--Letter to Doctor Buckler declining invitation to Europe--To General
Cooper--To Mrs. Lee from the Hot Springs--Tired of public places--
Preference for country life
Judged by what he says of himself, my father's trip South did him
no permanent good. The rest and change, the meeting with many old
friends, the great love and kindness shown him by all, gave him much
pleasure, and for a time it was thought he was better; but the main
cause of his troubles was not removed, though for a while held in
During the month of June he remained in Lexington, was present at
the final examinations of the college, and attended to all his duties
as usual. On July 1st he went to Baltimore in order to consult Dr.
Thomas H. Buckler about his health.
While there he stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Tagart.
My mother had returned to Lexington after her visit to "Bremo,"
together with my sister Agnes. To her, on July 2d, he writes:
"Baltimore, Maryland, July 2, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I reached her yesterday evening at 9:15 P. M. Found
Mr. Tagart at the depot waiting for me, where he had been since
eight o'clock, thanks to his having a punctual wife, who regulates
everything for him, so that he had plenty of time for reflection.
I believe, however, the delay was occasioned by change of schedule
that day, of which Mrs. Tagart was not advised. We arrived at
Alexandria at 5:00 P. M., and were taken to Washington and kept in
the cars till 7:45, when we were sent on. It was the hottest day
I ever experienced, or I was in the hottest position I ever occupied,
both on board the packet and in the railroad cars, or I was less
able to stand it, for I never recollect having suffered so much.
Dr. Buckler came in to see me this morning, and examined me, stripped,
for two hours. He says he finds my lungs working well, the action
of the heart a little too much diffused, but nothing to injure.
He is inclined to think that my whole difficulty arises from rheumatic
excitement, both the first attack in front of Fredericksburg and
the second last winter. Says I appear to have a rheumatic constitution,
must guard against cold, keep out in the air, exercise, etc., as
the other physicians prescribe. He will see me again. In the
meantime, he has told me to try lemon-juice and watch the effect.
I will endeavour to get out to Washington Peter's on the 4th and
to Goodwood as soon as Dr. B--- is satisfied. Mr. and Mrs. Tagart
are very well and send regards. The messenger is waiting to take
this to the office. It is raining, and I have not been out nor
seen any one out of the house. I hope all are well with you, and
regret that I was obliged to come away. Tell the girls I was so
overcome that I could not get up this morning till 8:00 A. M. Give
much love to everybody, and believe me most truly,
"R. E. Lee."
The advantages of early rising my father ever held out to his daughters,
so that he knew they would enjoy hearing of his being late in getting
down in the morning. During this visit to Baltimore he took advantage
of his proximity to many old friends to visit them.
His next letter is from Alexandria to my mother:
"Alexandria, Virginia, July 15, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I arrived here last evening from Goodwood, and was
glad to hear from Burke this morning that our Aunt Maria was as well
as usual. I wish to get out to Cassius Lee's this afternoon, and
will spend to-morrow on the Hill in visiting General Cooper, Mr.
Mason, the Bishop, etc. ["Aunt M---" was Mrs. Fitzhugh of "Ravensworth,"
and "Burke," her coloured servant; Cassius Lee, my father's cousin;
General S. S. Cooper, Adj. General of the C. S. armies; Mr. J. M.
Mason, Senator in U. S. and C. S. Congress; the Bishop, Bishop Johns
of Virginia, all at that time living on the "Hill"--or Seminary Hill--
about two miles from Alexandria.] Next week I shall go to Ravensworth
and from there think I shall proceed to Lexington. It is so hot that
I shall be obliged to forego my visit to Nannie and the 'White House.'
It is intensely hot here and I am unable to bear the heat now. I
took cold yesterday in the cars or elsewhere and am full of pains
this morning, and was unable to sleep last night.
"I have seen Mr. Smith [Mr. Francis L. Smith was my father's lawyer.
The matter referred to which caused the remark, "The prospect is
not promising," was the chance of getting back the estate of Arlington
from the U. S. Government. Mr. Smith and Mr. Cassius Lee were my
father's advisers in this matter. "Nannie" was the widow of Captain
S. S. Lee, my father's brother.] this morning and had with him a
long business talk, and will see him again after seeing Cassius.
The prospect is not promising. I got your letter at Charles's.
Thank Agnes for hers. All were well there and on West River, and
sent you all messages of love. I will give all particulars when
we meet. I am at the Mansion House, where it is piping hot. I had
felt better until I caught fresh cold, but no one can avoid it in
such weather. Love to all. I cannot fix yet the day of my return,
but it will be the last week in July.
"I hope Custis has got off, though I shall not be able to see him.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
Mr. Cassius Lee was my father's first cousin. They had been children
together, schoolmates in boyhood, and lifelong friends and neighbours.
He was my father's trusted adviser in all business matters, and in
him he had the greatest confidence. Mr. Cazenove Lee, of Washington,
D. C., his son, has kindly furnished me with some of his recollections
of this visit, which I give in his own words:
"It is greatly to be regretted that an accurate and full account of
this visit was not preserved, for the conversations during those
two or three days were most interesting and would have filled a
volume. It was the review of a lifetime by two old men. It is believed
that General Lee never talked after the war with as little reserve
as on this occasion. Only my father and two of his boys were present.
I can remember his telling my father of meeting Mr. Leary, their old
teacher at the Alexandria Academy, during his late visit to the
South, which recalled many incidents of their school life. They talked
of the war, and he told of the delay of Jackson in getting on
McClellan's flank, causing the fight at Mechanicsville, which fight
he said was unexpected, but was necessary to prevent McClellan from
entering Richmond, from the front of which most of the troops had been
moved. He thought that if Jackson had been at Gettysburg he would
have gained a victory, 'for' said he, 'Jackson would have held the
heights which Ewell took on the first day.' He said that Ewell was
a fine officer, but would never take the responsibility of exceeding
his orders, and having been ordered to Gettysburg, he would not go
farther and hold the heights beyond the town. I asked him which of
the Federal generals he considered the greatest, and he answered
most emphatically 'McClellan by all odds.' He was asked why he did
not come to Washington after second Manassas.
"'Because,' he replied, 'my men had nothing to eat,' and pointing
to Fort Wade, in the rear of our home, he said, 'I could not tell my
men to take that fort when they had had nothing to eat for three days.
I went to Maryland to feed my army.'
"This led to a statement of the mismanagement of the Confederate
Commissary Department, of which he gave numerous instances, and mentioned
his embarrassments in consequence. He was also very severe in his
criticism of the newspapers, and said that patriotism did not seem
to influence them in the least, that movements of the army were
published which frustrated their plans, and, as an instance, he told
of Longstreet's being sent to the Western Army and the efforts that
were made to keep the movement secret, but to no purpose, the papers
having heralded it at once to friend and foe alike. I also remember
his saying that he advocated putting the negroes in the army, and the
arguments he advanced in favour of it. My father remarked at table
one day that he could not have starved in the Confederate service if
he could have gotten bread and milk.
"'No,' replied the General, 'but frequently I could not get even that.'
"His love of children was most marked, and he never failed to show
them patient consideration. On the occasion of this visit, his answers
to all our boyish questions were given with as much detail and as
readily as if we had been the most important men in the community.
Several years before the war I remember that my sister, brother, and
myself, all young children, drove over to Arlington Mills, and that
while going there Colonel Lee rode up on a beautiful black horse. He
impressed my childish fancy then as the handsomest and finest horseman
I had ever seen--the beau-ideal of a soldier. Upon seeing us he at
once stopped, spoke to each of us, and took my sister, then about ten
years of age, upon his horse before him, and rode with us for two
miles, telling her, I remember, of his boy Robby, who had a pony, and
who should be her sweetheart. Often have I seen him on the road or
street or elsewhere, and though I was 'only a boy,' he always stopped
and had something pleasant to say to me."
The Mr. Leary mentioned here was my father's teacher when a boy in
Alexandria. His regard and esteem for him was very high, as is shown
in the following letter:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 15, 1866.
"Mr. Wm. B. Leary.
"My Dear Sir: Your visit has recalled to me years long since passed,
when I was under your tuition and received daily your instruction.
In parting from you, I beg to express the gratitude I have felt all
my life for the affectionate fidelity which characterised your teaching
and conduct toward me. Should any of my friends, wherever your lot
may be cast, desire to know your qualifications as a teacher, I hope
you will refer them to me; for that is a subject on which I can speak
knowingly and from experience. Wishing you health, happiness, and
prosperity, I am, affectionately,
"R. E. Lee."
His next letter is from "Ravensworth," where he went after his visit
to the "Seminary Hill:"
"Ravensworth, Virginia, July 20, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I arrived here yesterday from Alexandria and found
Aunt Maria well in general health, but less free to walk than when
I last saw her. She is cheerful and quiet, but seems indisposed to
try any of the healing baths, or, indeed, any of the remedies resorted
to in cases of similar character, and seems to think nothing will
be of avail. I hope in time that she will be relieved. Her niece,
Mrs. Goldsborough, the daughter of her sister Wilhelmina, is with
her. She seems to be a nice little lady--has a big boy of eight
months, and is expecting her husband to-morrow, so nothing need be
said more on her account. Mr. Dickens was over last evening, and
reports all well with him. All the family are to be over this evening,
so I cannot say more of them. Ravensworth is looking very well--I
mean the house and grounds, but little of the farm seems to be
cultivated, and is growing up with pines. I received your letter
directed to Alexandria after my return from my visit to Cassius,
also Colonel Williamson's. Resolutions will not build the church.
It will require money. Mr. Smith did not give so favourable an account
of Mr. Price as did Mr. Green. I did not see Mr. P---, for it would
have been of no avail without having the plans, etc., and I cannot
wait here to receive them. I shall have to send them, or to invite
him to Lexington after my return. I propose to leave here, if nothing
prevents, on Monday, 25th inst. If I go by Goshen, I hope to reach
Lexington that night, or Tuesday morning after breakfast. I have
heard a rumour that the water has been withdrawn from the canal above
Lynchburg for the purpose of repairs. If that is so, I shall have to
go by Goshen. My cold continues, but is better. The weather is very
hot and to me is almost insupportable. At 6:00 P. M. yesterday, the
thermometer in Ravensworth hall marked 86 degrees. This morning,
when I first went out, it stood at 84 degrees. Thank Agnes for her
letter. I cannot respond at this time. The letter you forwarded
from Mrs. Podestad describes the sickness her children have passed
through. She is now with them at Capon, and Miss Emily has gone to
visit Mrs. Barksdale in Greenbrier. Mrs. P--- says she will be ready
to visit you any time after the middle of August that you will notify
her. I am glad all are well with you, and hope the garden will give
you some vegetables. I am anxious to get back and see you all. Give
much love to the girls, including the Misses Selden. Tell them they
must not leave till I return, that I am hurrying back as fast as
rheumatism will let me. I have abandoned my visit to Nannie and the
boys on the Pamunkey. Tell them it is too hot and that I am too
painful. Aunt M--- sends love to all. Remember me to all friends.
I must leave details till I return.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
The building of the church here referenced to was the Episcopal church
in Lexington, which it was proposed to take down and replace with
a larger and better building. My father was a vestryman, and also
a member of the building committee.
Dr. Buckler, whom my father had consulted in July, was at this time
on a visit to Baltimore, having lived abroad with his family since
1866. When about to return to Paris he wrote and asked my father to
This invitation he was obliged to decline.
"Lexington, Virginia, August 5, 1870.
"My Dear Doctor: I have just received your letter of the 4th inviting
me to accompany you across the Atlantic, and I return you my cordial
thanks for your kind solicitation for my health and comfort. There
is no one whom I would prefer to have as a companion on the voyage,
nor is there one, I am sure, who would take better care of me. But
I cannot impose myself upon you. I have given you sufficient trouble
already, and you must cure me on this side of the Atlantic. If you
are the man I take you for, you will do so. You must present my
warmest thanks to your wife for her remembrance of me and her kind
offer of the hospitalities of her house. Should I ever be able to
visit Europe I shall certainly accept them, but I hope she will soon
return to this country and that you will bring her up to the mountains
to us. We are all peaceable here now and she will find that we are
not as bad as we have been reported to be, and every one will extend
to her a hearty welcome, whereas Europe is now convulsed with the
horrors of war or the agony of its expectancy, and I fear for a season
is destined to feel the greatest calamity that can befall a people.
I am pursuing your directions and hope that I am deriving benefit
from them. I have made my arrangements to visit the Hot Springs,
Virginia, on Monday next, as you recommended, and trust I may find
relief from them. My rheumatic pains continue, but have diminished,
and that in my shoulder, I think, has lessened under the application
of the blister. I shall endeavour to be well by the fall. The letter
you inclosed to me was from Mrs. Smith on the Hudson--and not from
Mr. Henry White, as you supposed. Good-bye, my dear doctor; may
you have a prosperous voyage and find your family all well on your
arrival, and may your own health be entirely restored. My family
unite with me in every kind wish, and I am most truly,
"R. E. Lee.
"Dr. Thomas H. Buckler."
This letter to General Cooper (Adjutant General of the Confederate
States Army), written at this time, explains itself, and is one of
many witnesses of my father's delicate consideration for old soldiers
"Lexington, Virginia, August 4, 1870.
"General S. Cooper, Alexandria, Virginia.
"My Dear General: Impressed, with all the people of the South, with
your merits and services, I haev with them admired your manly efforts
to support your family, and have regretted that more remunerative
occupation, better suited to your capacities and former habits, had
not presented itself. This has been a subject of conversation with
some of us here, and when in Savannah last spring I presented it to
General Lawton, Colonel Cole, and others, and suggested that efforts
be made to raise a sum for the relief of any pressing necessity.
The idea was cordially adopted, and it was hoped that an amount
would be contributed that would enable you to receive some relaxation.
I have received a letter from General Lawton regretting the smallness
of the sum collected, $300, and explaining the delay that had
occurred, the general poverty of the people, the many calls upon
them, and the disposition to procrastinate when facts are not known
to them personally. To this sum I have only been able to add $100,
but I hope it may enable you to supply some immediate want and
prevent you from taxing your strength too much. You must also
pardon me for my moving in this matter, and for the foregoing
explanation, which I feel obliged to make that you might understand
"With my best wishes for your health and happiness and for the useful
prolongation of your honourable life, I am, with true regard,
"Your friend and servant,
"R. E. Lee."
He remained at Lexington only for a short time, as it was decided
that he should go to the Hot Springs, Virginia, where he could
try their famous waters for his rheumatism. On the day of his
arrival he writes to my mother:
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 10, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: We reached here this morning about 9:30 A. M., Captain
White and I, after as pleasant a journey as we could have expected.
After taking the cars at Goshen, the old route by Milboro' rose up
so strong before me that we determined to adhere to it. Reached
the Bath Alum about 4:00 P. M., where we passed the night and were
in luck in finding several schools or parts of them rusticating on
alum-water. Mrs. Heath was in charge of the detachment from Dr.
Phillips's [a well known girl's school at Staunton]. They presented
a gay and happy appearance. This morning we breakfasted at the
Warm and had the attention of Richard. There is a small party there,
Admiral Louis Goldsborough and his wife and Miss West amongst them.
Here thee is quite a company. Mrs. Lemmon from Baltimore, her
daughter Mrs. Dobbin, Mrs. General Walker, wife of the ex-Secretary
of War of the Confederacy, Mrs. and Miss. Sivent, etc., etc.
"Dr. and Mrs. Cabell are here, and the Tandys and Mrs. Mac regret
that you are not with me...I saw Mrs. Maise at the Warm, and her
sister from Kentucky, Mrs. Tate. Rev. Mr. Mason and the Daingerfields
have a girls' school in the village. The Warm seems to be retrograding.
I hope the new man, Edward, has arrived. Tell him to take good care
of the cow, and ask the girls to see to he and the garden, etc. I
saw Mrs. Caskie at the Baths. She looks very well. Her niece, Gay,
is with her, a pretty child. Mrs. Myers and her children are also
there. Mrs. Asher also. Small company, but select. All pleased
with Mr. Brown [the manager of the hotel]. Tell the girls I have
no one to rub me now. Shall miss them in this and other ways much.
Dr. Cabell says I must continue my medicines and commence with the
hot spout to-morrow. He has great confidence in the waters, and
says that 95 out of 100 patients that he has treated have recovered.
I shall alternate the spout with the boiler. But he says the great
error is that people become impatient and do not stay long enough.
I hope I may be benefited, but it is a tedious prospect. I hope
that you all will continue well. If you wish to go to the Baths,
or to come here, you must do so and write me what you want, if there
is anything I can do or get for you. Give love to all the girls
and remembrances to all friends. Tell our neighbours that I was
so occupied the last days I was in Lexington that I had not time
to bid them adieu. If you want more money let me know. God bless
you and preserve you all. Good-bye, dear Mary.
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee."
The Richard mentioned had been lately his house servant at Lexington,
and Edward was a new man he had engaged for the garden and stable.
The letters written to my mother and others of his family from the
Hot Springs at this time were frequent, and I give them in full,
as they tell all we know now of his visit there:
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 14, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I received this morning the last letters forwarded
by you. The first batch arrived yesterday. I am glad to hear that
you all continue well. I hope my letter of the 10th, announcing my
arrival, has reached you. It should have done so, it seems to me,
previously to your note of Friday. I have but little more to say
than I had them. I have taken four baths, Hot Spout, which seems
to agree with me very well, but it is too soon yet to look for results.
I receive the water on my shoulder, back, and chest. The sensation
is pleasant, and so far I have succeeded in preventing taking cold.
The atmosphere, however, is damp, and temperature variable. When
the sun shines, it is hot; but when it rains, which is the usual
condition of the weather, the former the exception, it is cool.
Mrs. Sledge and party are here, the former improved. She was much
better, went over to the White and Sweet, retrograded, and returned.
Will stay here September. Many of our invalids are improving.
Society has a rather solemn appearance, and conversation runs mostly
on personal ailments, baths, and damp weather. There were some
pretty tableaux last evening. The Misses Tardy, Mrs. Dobbin, and
the little girls, the performers. Mr. Washington [William Washington,
a well known painter of that day, who was for a short time professor
of painting and drawing at the Virginia Military Institute at
Lexington] is here. He looks well, is quiet, and has been copying
points of scenery in the neighbourhood. I do not know whether he
was in search of health or the picturesque. The latter is more easily
found in these mountains than the former. Captain White is well
and sends remembrances to all. I hope Edward has arrived and is an
improvement on the present occupant of the situation. If he does
not present himself, retain Henry till I come. I will endeavour
to find some one. You do not mention the cow; she is of more interest
to me than the cats, and is equally destructive of rats. I am glad
the girls are well; what are they troubling about now? I wish they
were with me. I find many ladies here for neuralgia. Mrs. General
Walker has been much benefited, also others. If little Agnes should
desire to try the effects of the waters, tell her to come on, I will
take care of her. I suppose Tabb will go with her husband. I am
sorry Fitzhugh is complaining. I have written to Rob and Miss
Lottie [Miss Charlotte Haxall, afterward Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Jr.,
who died in 1872]. I heard of Charles Carter's [Charles Carter, of
"Goodwood," Maryland, was my father's first cousin. Mildred and
Ella, two of his daughters] passing up the road to the White, and
Mildred preceded him a week. Ella, I hear, is much improved. I
shall not go to the White unless specially called by something now
unknown, but will remain here till the end of the month, if I find
it profitable, and then return to Lexington. I hope the college is
prospering. What does Mrs. Podestad say? I understand that Markie
Peter [Mrs. Peter was a near cousin of my mother, and with her as a
little girl our associations had been very near] and child are
occupying her old quarters at the Lomaxes near Warrenton. I have a
merry time with my old cronies, tell Mildred. I am getting too heavy
for them now. They soon drop me. I am getting uneasy about Edward
and Blanche. The reverses of the French, which seem to be light,
appear to have demoralised the nation. May God help all in affliction
and keep and guard you and all with you, is my constant prayer.
"Truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee."
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 19, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I received this morning your letters of the 14th and
18th, inclosing Dr. Buckler's, and was informed by Colonel Turner
that he had brough the package to which you referred. He has not
yet sent it to me, but, no doubt, will in time. I am sorry that
Edward has not kept his engagement, for I liked his appearance and
recommendations, though perhaps they are deceptive. You had better
retain Harry till I come, unless you fall in with a better. I am
glad that you are all well. You have such industrious little daughters
that I am sure all will go well. Thank Agnes for her letter and say
to her that I have not seen Mr. Vanmeter or Blair, but gave the letter
to the former to Colonel White, who will send it to him when he finds
out his position. Mr. Thom arrived this morning and Mr. John Jones
and family rode over from the Healing. They are there for a sick
child. My old friend, Dr. Broaddus, and the Reverend Mr. Jones
also presented themselves.... I have been trying the Boiler for
four days--and the Spout the five preceding. I do not perceive any
benefit yet, though some little change in the seat of my pains.
I will continue till the middle of next week, the 29th, when, if no
decided improvement takes place, I think of going over to the Healing.
Dr. Houston thinks that it will be beneficial, whereas, Dr. Cabell
recommends this. I am obliged to be in Staunton on the 30th ult.
to attend a meeting of the Valley Railroad Company, so I shall
leave here on the 29th for that purpose. After getting through with
that business, I shall return to Lexington. I am sorry that I shall
be called away, but I fear my stay here would be of no avail. Colonel
White is well and sends regards to all. I am glad that the cow is
better. She stands next in my affections to Traveller.... I hope
that Agnes's neuralgia is better, and as she has not accepted my
proposition I presume she declines. Hot bathing is not agreeable
to me either in its operations or effects, but I see daily evidences
of its good results on others. I wish that it suited your case.
You must try and get some one in Sally's place if Tabb, etc., come,
and make them all comfortable. If you want more money, let me know
in time. Send over to Mr. Leyburn for the flour, when you want it.
Mr. Bowie, I suspect, can arrange it for you. I fear Captain Brooks's
house will not be ready for occupancy this fall. I hope that General
Smith will begin Custis's in time. I heard of him on his way to
Edward Cocke's the other day. Mr. Washington is still here. Better,
I think. Again love to all.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"P.S.--Mr. Turner has just sent me the package.
"R. E. L."
To his son Fitzhugh, who was at the "White House" with his family:
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 20, 1870.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I am very sorry to learn from your letter of the
18th, received this morning, that Tabb is sick. I hope that it will
be of short duration and that she will soon throw off the chills.
The mountain doctors, however, do not understand them as well as the
lowland, and are apt to resort to the old practice. I wish that I
could get to the White to see you, but my time is too limited, owing
to the late day that I was able to leave Lexington. I propose staying
here till the 29th inst., which will only make my sojourn here two
and a half weeks, and then going to Staunton, where I am obliged to
attend a meeting of the Valley Railroad Company on the 30th. I hope
that I shall not be detained there longer than a day or two, when
I will return to Lexington, where I hope to find you all. You must
tell Mr. and Mrs. Podestad, Mr. Carter, Ella, etc., how sorry I am
not to see them at the White, but that I hope they will call at
Lexington. I wrote to Ella on my first arrival here, but presume my
letter failed to reach her. You did not mention how her health was.
I am much concerned at Tabb's indisposition, but am glad to hear that
the baby is well. Give my love to both, and I trust you will all be
benefited by the mountain air. My personal health is good, but I
see no change in my rheumatic attack, which is principally confined
to my chest and back. I inclose a note from your mother, transmitted
on the supposition that I would write to you. Professor White is
with me and I have some few acquaintances, but I am anxious to return.
I am glad that Bertus has had a short visit to the Orange. He says
that he will come to Rockbridge in September. Custis will be there
by the first, and we shall all, I hope, be together again.
"R. E. Lee."
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 23, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I have received your various notes of the 17th and
18th, and I am glad to hear of your well-being. Our good cow will
be a loss to us, but her troubles are all over now, and I am grateful
to her for what she has done for us. I hope that we did our duty to
her. I have written to Mr. Andrew Cameron to inquire about a young
cow he has of mine, and asked him to let you know if she is giving
milk. If his report is good, you had better send for her. She is,
however, young, and will require very gentle treatment. Caution
Henry on that point. I have told him, Mr. C---, also, that you would
send for the horses, which I wish you would do as soon as you can
see that they will be properly cared for. Tell Henry to be particularly
gentle and kind to them, or the gray will give him great trouble. He
must wash them clean, and not pull out their manes and tails. The
girls will have to exercise them till Custis comes. I suppose we
may give up expecting Edward. Retain Henry till you can find someone
better. You had also better engage some woman or man for a month as
a dining-room servant. I think Easter has not intention of coming
to us before October, and she will not come then if Mr.--- can keep
her. You will have so many friends staying with you that you cannot
make them comfortable unless you have more servants. As I stated in
a previous letter, I shall go to Staunton on the 29th. I hope I
shall be detained but a few days. Lest your funds may run low, I
send you a check.... The girls can get it cashed. I may be detained,
but I hope to return in time to see our children and friends. I
have been here a fortnight to-day. I hope that I am better, but am
aware of no material change, except that I am weaker. I am very
anxious to get back. It is very wearying at these public places and
the benefit hardly worth the cost. I do not think I can even stand
Lexington long. Colonels Allan and Johnston [Professors Wm. Allan
and William Preston Johnston of Washington College. The former
afterward principal of the McDonough School, near Baltimore, Maryland;
the latter president of Tulane University, New Orleans] arrived this
evening on horseback and have given me all Lexington news. Mr. Sledge
and his wife, from Huntsville, brother of the Colonel, also arrived,
and a Mr. and Mrs. Leeds, from New Orleans, with ten children, mostly
little girls. The latter are a great addition to my comfort. I have
written to Fitzhugh and Mrs. Podestad. Robert, you know, said he
would make his annual visit the first week in September. Tell the
girls they must make preparations to welcome all. Mrs. Walker,
wife of the former Secretary of War in the Confederacy, is here with
her son, whom she says she is anxious to place in the college, and
wishes to visit Lexington with that view. I have offered my escort
and invited her to stay with us. I do not know whether she will go
with me. The girls will have to prepare my room for some of the
visitors, and put me anywhere. I can be very comfortable in the
library. Tell the little creatures they must work like beavers and
get a supply of eggs and chickens. Recollect there is flour at
Leyburn's mill when you want it. Thank Mildred for her letter.
Remember me to all, and believe me,
"Always yours affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee.
"P.S.--I send you an order for the horses. Tell Henry to take with
him a bridle and halter. You must write for the cow if you want
her. R. E. Lee."
Mr. Andrew Cameron owned a fine farm near Lexington, and kindly took
care of my father's horses when he was away in the summer; also at
different times supplied him with a cow and took care of any calf,
if there happened to be one, till it was of service. My father
constantly rode out to see him, and enjoyed talking farming as they
rode together over his fields. His delight in every aspect of Nature
was real and ever present. These letters show, too, his care and
consideration for animals.
His letter to his daughter Agnes is in lighter vein. His playful
moods, so usual with his children, never entirely left him.
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 23, 1870.
"My Dear Agnes: I have received both of your letters, the last the
17th, and thank you for them as well as for your care of my room and
clothes. The former I understand is used for a multiplicity of
purposes, and the cats and kittens have the full run of my
establishment. Guard me against 'MISS SELDEN' [Mildred's kitten], I
pray you. I am sorry that you are not with me, as it possibly may
have benefitted your neuralgia. But if MISS BELLE is with you, I
am sure she will be of greater service, and tell her she must remain
till I come, that she may cure me. That you may have some other
inducements than your flowers and weeds to take you out of doors, I
will write to your mother and send for the horses as soon as she can
make arrangements to have them cared for, and then you and Mildred
and Miss Belle, the one on Traveller, the other on Lucy, can scour
the country and keep us in eggs and chickens. I am sorry for the
death of our good cow, but glad that she is out of misery.... I do
not think any of your friends are here. Mr. Washington has been
vibrating between this place and the Healing, but does not seem to
be well. Miss Alman, from Salem, Massachusetts, whom you may recollect
as having been at the White last summer, is here with her father and
mother. Miss Mollie Jourdan left to-day, and Colonel Robert Preston
arrived. The Chestnuts and Le Verts are still here. I hope that
you are well and that all is well with you. When Custis comes, ask
him to see to the horses and the cow and that they are gently treated
and properly fed. I know nothing of Henry's capacity in that way.
I hope to be home next week and am very anxious to get back.
"R. E. Lee."
Letter to his wife--To Mr. Tagart--Obituary notice in "Personal
Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee"--Mrs. Lee's account of his
The following is the last letter that I can find written by my father
to my mother. He was back in Lexington early in September, and was
never separated from her again while he lived:
"Hot Springs, August 27, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I have received your letter of the 22d. I should remain
here a week longer if time permitted, as I have felt in the last few
days better than I have yet, but I am obliged to be in Staunton on
the 30th and therefore must leave Monday, 29th. I should not have
time to return here. The college opens on September 15th, and I
wish to see that all things are prepared. Possibly the little
improvement now felt will continue. If not, I shall have to bear
my malady. I am truly sorry to hear of Edwin Lee's death [Colonel
Edwin Grey Lee was a near cousin. He had distinguished himself in
the late war. At its commencement he had volunteered, and was made
a 2d. lieutenant in the Second Virginia regiment, "Stonewall Brigade."
From that rank he quickly rose to be lieutenant colonel of the 33d
Virginia, in the same brigade. In 1862 his health, which was very
feeble, compelled him to resign, but after a short time he again
entered the service, though he never became strong enough to serve
actively in the field. General lee's opinion of his abilities was
very high.]. He was a true man, and, if health had permitted, would
have been an ornament as well as a benefit to his race. He certainly
was a great credit to the name. Give my sincere sympathy to his wife
and family. You have never mentioned anything of Dr. Grahame. I
have heard that he was in a critical condition. I saw Colonels
Allan and Johnston. They only stayed a day, and went on to the White.
I have heard of them on their return, and presume they will reach
Lexington to-morrow. Mr. George Taylor, who has been a month at the
White, arrived here to-day. Both he and his wife are well. The
company is thinning, though arrivals occur daily. Mr. Middleton
and his daughter and son, from Washington, whom you may recollect,
also came. But I hope to see you so soon that I will defer my
narrative. I am glad that Mary is enjoying herself and that Rob is
so happy. May both long continue so. I will endeavour to get the
muslin, but fear I shall not succeed. I trust I may not be detained
in Staunton more than a day or two. In that event, you may expect
me Thursday, September 1st, but I cannot say as to time. I hope
that I shall find you all well. Give my love to Agnes and Mildred,
and Custis, if he has arrived. Colonel Turner is very well. Tell
his wife that he was exhibited to-day at the Healing as a specimen
of the health of the Hot. In my last I gave you my views about the
servants and sent you a check for ---, which I hope that you have
received. Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee."
His last letter was written on the morning of the day he was taken
ill, September 28th. It was to Mr. Tagert, of Baltimore, at whose
home he had stayed the previous summer. Its tone was cheerful and
hopeful, and he wrote that he was much better and stronger.
"Lexington, Virginia, September 28, 1870.
"My Dear Mr. Tagart: Your note of the 26th reached me this morning,
and see how easy it is 'to inveigle me into a correspondence.' In
fact, when a man desires to do a thing, or when a thing gives a man
pleasure, he requires but small provocation to induce him to do it.
Now I wanted to hear how you and Mrs. Tagart were, what you were
doing, and how you had passed the summer, and I desired to tell you
so. That is the reason I write. In answer to your question, I reply
that I am much better. I do not know whether it is owing to having
seen you and Doctor Buckler last summer, or to my visit to the Hot
Springs. Perhaps both. But my pains are less, and my strength
greater. In fact, I suppose I am as well as I shall be. I am still
following Doctor B---'s directions, and in tie I may improve still
more. I expect to have to visit Baltimore this fall, in relation
to the Valley Railroad, and in that event I hope to see you, if you
will permit me. I am glad to hear that you spent a pleasant summer.
Colonel --- and I would have had a more agreeable one had you been
with us at the Hot, and as every place agrees so well with Mrs. Tagert,
I think she could have enjoyed as good health their as at Saratoga,
and we should have done better. Give my sincere regards to Mrs.
Tagart, and remember me to all friends, particularly Mr. ---. Tell
--- his brother is well and handsome, and I hope that he will study,
or his sweethearts in Baltimore will not pine for him long. Captain
--- is well and busy, and joins in my remembrances. Mrs. Lee and
my daughters unite with me in messages to you and Mrs. Tagart, and
I am most truly yours, R. E. Lee.
"S. H. Tagart, Esq."
When my brother Fitzhugh and I reached Lexington, my father was no
more. He died the morning of our arrival--October 12th. He had
apparently improved after his first attack, and the summoning of my
brother and myself had been put off from day to day. After we did
start we were delayed by the floods, which at that time prevailed over
the State. Of his last illness and death I have heard from my family.
The best account of those last days was written by Colonel William
Preston Johnston for the "Personal Reminiscences of General Robert
E. Lee," by the Rev. J. W. Jones, published in 1874. Colonel Johnston
was an intimate friend of the General and a distinguished member of
the faculty of his college. He was also one of the watchers by his
dying bedside. I, therefore, give it in full:
"The death of General Lee was not due to any sudden cause, but was
the result of agencies dating as far back as 1863. In the trying
campaign of that year he contracted a severe sore throat, that resulted
in rheumatic inflammation of the sac inclosing his heart. There is
no doubt that after this sickness his health was more or less impaired;
and although he complained little, yet rapid exercise on foot or on
horseback produced pain and difficulty breathing. In October, 1869,
he was again attacked by inflammation of the heart-sac, accompanied
by muscular rheumatism of the back, right side, and arms. The action
of the heart was weakened by this attack; the flush upon the face
deepened, the rheumatism increased, and he was troubled with weariness
"In March, 1870, General Lee, yielding to the solicitations of friends
and medical advisors, make a six-weeks' visit to Georgia and Florida.
He returned greatly benefited by the influence of the genial climate,
the society of friends in those States, and the demonstrations of
respect and affection of the people of the South; his physical
condition, however, was not greatly improved. During this winter and
spring he had said to his son, General Custis Lee, that his attack
was mortal; and had virtually expressed the same belief to other
trusted friends. And, now, with that delicacy that pervaded all his
actions, he seriously considered the question of resigning the
presidency of Washington College, 'fearful that he might not be equal to his
duties.' After listening, however, to the affectionate remonstrances
of the faculty and board of trustees, who well knew the value of his