University of Va
Aug 21 1869
My dear Taylor
Your kind note received this morning. I am not invited to Gettysburg but will give you my opinion about going in giving my thoughts when I saw that they were pestering Mars Bob1 with an invitation.2 I thought for a day and a half that I would write to him and tell him that I would go for him to prevent his being annoyed by these people or from being misinterpreted in case he declined. He ought perhaps to send a Staff officer. I did not write to him because I feared he might think I was anxious to go &c &c. I am opposed to the whole thing as a piece of Yankee vanity & impudence but think at the same time all chances of keeping these Army men our friends should be taken. There on the whole Gen Lee ought not to go but one of us ought to be there as his representative. You know well that you & I know more of that field than the old man & could tell more to keep those Yankees straight. This now my opinion when I am in a good humor. But when I think it over how would it sound for history to tell us that the English invited two French officers to Waterloo to fix the positions of the fight? Absurd in the last degree & impudent beyond measure. Histories will fix the matter. Yankees who show people the field will always lie. At Waterloo there are two sets of guides or perhaps the same set who tell different stories to English and French. There in this view I would not go near them. There is something in what you say about misinterpretation at home. And this is to be avoided & this you could only avoid by being there as Gen Lee’s representative. Certain it is if Gen Lee goes you ought to go to post him because he must be posted. But I cannot think he will go. I know one thing, if Heth & Longstreet go there, they will know noth[in]g beyond a division & a corps & they are not smart. What can you gather from all this muddle of mine. Why, to watch and see who goes & determine by that. I will go when the reunion is at Chancellorsville & Fredericksburg. I suppose you write to Gen Lee & volunteer to go as his representative. If I had an invitation & a free ticket & could make up a party of old friends like you & the party would pay my expenses I think I would risk some criticism. Three girls!!! I have the same numbers
Col WH Taylor
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 8, M2009.378
Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 July 15
1. “Mars Bob” was a nickname for Robert E. Lee.
2. In August of 1869, the Secretary of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, David McConaugah, invited Union and ex-Confederate officers to a reunion held in Gettysburg for the purpose of marking out the battlefield with memorials to illustrate the events of the battle. The reunion was generally considered a failure at the time, with only two ex-Confederate officers attending: Colonel Walter Harrison of Richmond, who served in Pickett’s division, and a Colonel Watkins of Tennessee. A common opinion at the time, echoed by Venable in the letter, was that it was insulting to ask the Confederates to commemorate their defeat, and that the wounds between the North and South would heal faster if the battle was forgotten rather than memorialized.