• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Ravensworth, near

Burke’s Station, Va.

 

 

My Dear Dr.:

 

Your letter to me of the 9th ult., addressed to “Washington, D. C.”, found its way to the Ebbitt House (where my brother, W. H. F., stays when he is in Washington), & got into the hands of Mr. Willard, one of the owners, who handed it to one of my nephews; and I got it yesterday. Although it is probably too late to give information for the vol. of the Southern Historical Society you refer to, I will tell you the little I know about my father’s horses during the late war. Soon after Genl. Lee went to Richmond in the spring of 1861, some gentlemen of that city presented him with a handsome, bay stallion, who was called “Richmond” by Genl. Lee. After the death of Genl. Robt. Garnett in West Va., during the summer of 1861, Genl. Lee was sent out there and took “Richmond” with him. While in West Va., he purchased a horse that was called “The Roan”, and I do not remember any other name for him. When Genl. Lee returned to Richmond in the autumn of 1861, he brought “Richmond” and “The Roan” with him. When he went, that winter, to the coast of Carolina and Georgia, he left “Richmond”, as he was not in good condition, in Richmond; and took one, “The Roan” with him to the South.

During the winter, Genl. Lee bought “Traveller” from a young Virginian officer, who was about to return to Va. and could not conveniently carry the horse with him. The horse was then called “Jeff. Davis”, but my father changed his name to “Traveller”.

When Genl. Lee returned to Richmond in the Spring of 1862, he brought back with him “The Roan” and “Traveller.” During the battles around Richmond, that summer, “The Roan”, who had been gradually going blind, became unserviceable; and Genl. Lee began to ride “Richmond” again; after the battle of Malvern Hill, “Richmond” lay down and died. After the battles around Richmond, Genl. Lee began to ride “Traveller” for the first time. He was a powerful, active horse, of great endurance. He had no vices or tricks, but was nervous and spirited. At the second battle of Manassas, while Genl. Lee was at the front, reconnoitering, standing on the ground & holding Traveller’s reins in his hand, the horse became frightened at some of the enemy’s movements, and pulled Genl. Lee down on a stump, breaking both of his hands. The Genl. went through the rest of the campaign in an ambulance when it was safe to do so, and at other times he rode on horse-back with a courier leading his horse. It was just after this campaign, I think, that Genl. G. E. B. [sic] Stuart bought for Genl. Lee the mare, “Lucy Long”, from Mr. Dandridge of “The Bower”, not far from Martinsburg. She was low and easy to mount, and had easy gaits. She was ridden pretty constantly until towards the close of the war, when she was found to be in foal and sent to the rear. “Traveller” was then ridden almost altogether until the end of the war, and up to the time of Genl. Lee’s death in the fall of 1871 [sic].

After the surrender of Appomattox, Lucy Long—who was not with the army N. V.—was taken by some straggler and sold to a Va. surgeon, I think, who took her home with him. After a while, Genl. Lee found out where the mare was, paid the Dr. what he had paid for her, and had her brought to Lexington, Va.

I neglected to mention that during the latter part of the war, some gentlemen of S.W. Va. presented to Genl. Lee a fine, large, sound horse, whom Genl. Lee named Ajax. This horse had a fine walk; but was too tall for Genl. Lee, and he did not often ride Ajax. Genl. Lee had at Lexington “Traveller”, “Lucy Long”, and “Ajax”. When “The Roan” became unfit for Army service on account of blindness, Genl. Lee gave him to a farmer, who promised to be kind to him and to take care of him.

Several years after Genl. Lee’s death (Oct. 1871 [sic]), “Traveller”, who was turned out during the day, got a nail in one of his four feet, and after about a week showed an unmistakeable case of lock-jaw. Everything possible was done for his relief and comfort; but he died about the end of the second week, and was buried on the grounds of W. & L. university. Some years after “Traveller’s” death, “Lucy Long”, who was turned out during the day for exercise, &c., injured one of her hind legs. After the leg got well, I put her to board out in the country, where she seemed to enjoy her life until last winter, when she began to fail; She died this spring at the age of 34 years, and was buried on the farm where she died.

Two or three years after the war—and before Genl. Lee’s death—Ajax, who was turned out during the day, when not used, ran against the iron prong of the latch of a partly open gate, and killed himself. I was not in Lexington at the time, and can not now be sure; but think Ajax was buried on the grounds of W & L university. I was not in Lexington at the time that “Lucy Long” injured herself either.

At the time of Traveller’s death, he was apparently as serviceable and high spirited as he ever was.

If you ever publish any of this, please do not let my name appear — except perhaps as authority for facts, if necessary.

Col. Walter Taylor, Norfolk, Va. who was with my father in W. Va., Carolina, and Georgia, could probably add anything that I have omitted, if desired.

I am sorry your letter did not reach me while I was in Lexington, as I might have been able to fix the dates, &c., better there.

Very truly Yrs.,

 

G. W. C. Lee

 

 

Source: Facsimile of original typed letter, Henry E. Huntington Library, vertical files, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall

 

 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 February 11

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