General Lee’s Unwritten “History of the Army of Northern Virginia”
Allen W. Moger


* Dr. Moger is professor of history at Washington and Lee University.

1 Mrs. Lee wrote from “Derwent” on July 18, 1865, to her friend Caroline Peters in New York, while General Lee was visiting his brother Carter, who lived nearby: “You would suppose from the title of this retreat that we are in sight of cool lakes & romantic scenery but it is a little retired place with a straight up house & the only beauty it possesses is a fine grove of oaks which surrounds it. Thro’ the kindness of a friend who has given us the use of it it has been rendered habitable, but all the outbuildings are delapidated & the garden is a mass of weeds. As we shall probably not remain here longer than the season we shall not attempt to cultivate it & the kindness of our neighbors supplies us with vegetables meat & ice so that we want for nothing. Our future will be guided by circumstances. I dare not look into it, all seems so dark now, that we are almost tempted to think God has forsaken us. Yet we have many blessings, . . .” (Lee Archives, McCormick Library, Washington and Lee University; unless otherwise stated, all manuscripts used in this paper are in this collection. See also Byrd Pendleton Jervey, “ ‘Derwent’ in Powhatan County,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LVIII [1950], 84–97.)

2 Katharine Elizabeth Crane, “Nathaniel Beverley Tucker,” Dictionary of American Biography, ed. Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone (New York, 1928–1958), XIX, 37–38; Ludwell H. Johnson, “Beverly Tucker’s Canadian Mission, 1864–1865,” Journal of Southern History, XXIX (1963), 88–99.

3 Beverley Tucker to Lee, July 11, 1865.

4 C. B. Richardson to Lee, July 28, August 4, September 7, 1865.

5 J. William Jones, Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (New York, 1874), p. 180, hereafter cited as Jones, Personal Reminiscences.

6 Avery Craven, ed., “To Markie”: The Letters of Robert E. Lee to Martha Custis Williams (Cambridge, Mass., 1933), p. 66.

7 This letter is described as “Circular Letter” in “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress. Also in the Library of Congress is the original letter with a postscript to General R. H. Anderson and a photostat of the one sent to General P. G. T. Beauregard. Cartersville, the nearest post office, was in Cumberland County. Mrs. Cocke’s estate was located in both Cumberland and Powhatan counties, but “Derwent” was in Powhatan.

8 Lee to Taylor, July 31, 1865, Walter H. Taylor, Four Years with General Lee (New York, 1877), pp 156–157. The original letter sent to Colonel Taylor is in the Lee Archives, Washington and Lee University.

9 Marshall to Lee, October 1, 1865.

10 Hampton to Lee, n.d.

11 Louisville Daily Journal, November 12, 1865.

12 Thomas Potts to Lee, November 24, 1865.

13 Ellen Reily, widow of Colonel James Reily, Houston, to Lee, April 2, 1866.

14 Jno. R. Winston, Leakville, to Lee, April 20, 1866.

15 Nathaniel B. Fuller, Beaufort, S.C., to Lee, September 28, 1866.

16 Wickham to Lee, September 17, 1865.

17 Roy F. Nichols, “William Bradford Reed,” Dictionary of American Biography, XV, 461–462. A former Whig, Reed had supported the Democrats since 1856. Prominent as a lawyer, diplomat, and author, Reed, because of his open and bitter opposition to the war, lost caste socially and his law practice declined.

18 Reed to Lee, November 4, 1865.

l9 Lee to William B. Reid, November 10, 1865, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress. Reed’s name is erroneously spelled “Reid” in “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” which accounts for the misspelling in Robert E. Lee, Jr.’s Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (New York, 1924), p. 218.

20 Reed to Lee, December 23, 1866.

21 J. R. McKee, Camden, Arkansas, to Lee, June 24, 1866; W. Scott Glore to Lee, March 15, 1866.

22 Richardson to Lee, June 2, 1866.

23 Lee to Lt. von Clausewitz, April 16, 1866. Besides von Clausewitz, who wrote in French from Germany, March 13, 1866, the two others who wished to translate were H. G. Aryman of New York, December 27, 1865, and Dr. J. E. Doetsh, a citizen of Germany then practicing medicine in Richmond, March 1866.

24 Lee, near Cartersville, to C. C. Lee, August 18, 1865.

25 Richardson to Lee, July 28, August 4, September 7, 1865.

26 Jones, Personal Reminiscences, p. 181.

27 Lee to Reid [Reed], November 10, 1865, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress.

28 Lee to General W. S. Smith, July 27, 1868: “I have understood that the confederate military records are in one of the bureaus at Washington. . . . I regret my information should be so indefinite.” Jones, Personal Reminiscences, p. 268.

29 Lee, near Cartersville, to C. C. Lee, August 18, 1865; Richardson to Lee, July 28, 1865.

30 Richardson to Lee, September 7, December 11, 1865. The contract signed by Lee and Richardson for the publication of his father’s Memoirs is in the Lee Archives at Washington and Lee University.

3l Richardson to Lee, February 7, 1868. See Douglas Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee (New York, 1934–1935), IV, 415–416, for more details concerning Lee’s preparation of his father’s Memoirs.

32 Richardson to Lee, January 19, 1870; Henry, Heath, secretary of University Publishing Company, to Lee, February 24, 1870. The work finally appeared late in 1869 under the title: Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States, by Henry Lee; Biography of the Author, by Robert E. Lee (New York: University Publishing Company).

33 Richardson to Lee, February 24, 1870.

34 Marshall to Lee, November 28, 1865.

35 Charles Carter Lee to R. E. Lee, November 15, December 5, 1865.

36 Richardson to Lee, October 3, December 26, 1865, June 2, 1866.

37 Richardson to Lee, February 3, March 13, 1866.

38 Richardson to Lee, February 3, March 13, 20, 1866.

39 Lee to Richardson, April 2, 1866, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress.

40 Richardson to Lee, April 10, 1866.

4l Lee to Richardson, February 28, 1870, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress.

42 Henry Heath to Lee, March 5, 1870.

43 Topham to Lee, August 17, 1865.

44 Lee to Topham, August 26, 1865, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress.

45 Topham to Lee, September 18, October 4, 25, 1865; Lee to Topham, October 31, 1865.

46 Scranton and Burr to Lee, October 10, 13, 1865.

47 Lee to Scranton and Burr, October 25, 1865, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” III, Library of Congress.

48 S. S. Scranton to Lee, March 15, 1866, February 28, 1867.

49 Lee to Messrs. S. S. Scranton & Co., March 4, I867, “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” IV, Library of Congress.

50 The companies and dates of their letters were: W. S. Williams & Co., Hartford, Connecticut, September 5, 1865; D. Appleton & Co., New York, October 28, 1865; Blelock and Co., New York, November 28, 1865 (Blelock had also written Lee the previous July); Sampson Low, Son & Marston, London, Englad, December 3, 1865; T. Ellwood Zell, Philadelphia, January 10, 1866; Jones Bros. & Co., Philadelphia, February 2, 1866; E. J. Hale & Son, New York, October 10, 1866; and William B. Evans, Philadelphia, December 4, 1866.

51 E. J. Hale & Son to Lee, October 5, 1866; Zebulon B. Vance to Lee, October 10, 1866.

52 Sampson Low & Co., London, to Lee, December 3, 1865.

53 Jno R. Thompson, London, to Lee, May 15, 1866.

54 Francis Lawley, London, to G. A. Myers, Richmond, May 25, 1866. This letter was enclosed in one from Myers to Lee, June 11, 1866.

55 Richardson to Lee, February 3, March 13, 1866.

56 Lee to C. C. Lee, August 18, 1865.

57 Scott to Lee, December 22, 1867.

58 Hampton to Lee, n.d.

59 Lee wrote to Colonel Taylor, November 2, 1865: “I have made no progress as yet in the writing, and very little in collecting information. Every one, I suppose, is embarassed by loss of papers, and the necessary devotion to his business” (Taylor, Four Years with General Lee, p. 160).

60 Mahone to Lee, September 6, 1865; Longstreet to Lee, March 3, 1866; Gordon to Lee, January 3, December 12, 1867. Twenty-five years after the war Longstreet wrote his memoirs, which many considered bitter and inaccurate. First published in 1896, his volume has recently been reissued: James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox, edited by James I. Robertson, Jr. (Bloomington, Indiana, 1960).

61 Hampton to Lee, n.d., July 21, November 11, 1866, July 16, 1867.

62 Lee to Early, March 15, 1866, Early Papers, Library of Congress.

63 Early, Mexico City, to Lee, January 25, 1866.

64 Early, Havana, to Lee, May 15, 1866.

65 Lee to Early, October 15, 1866, Early Papers, Library of Congess. Early had written Lee from Mexico City and Havana. On reaching Canada Early published the account of his campaigns in November 1866, but there is little evidence that he followed Lee’s advice in omitting “all epithets or remarks calculated to incite bittemess or animosity.” See A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America, containing an Account of the Operations of his Commands in the Years 1864 and 1865, by Lieutenant-General Jubal A. Early (Toronto, 1866). The next year, while Early was still in Canada, the account was published in Lynchburg, Virginia, the proceeds to go to the Ladies Memorial Association of Virginia, and in New Orleans. General Early continued to work on his memoirs off and on for thirty years, and they were published in 1912. The volume of 495 pages has recently been republished. Jubal Anderson Early, War Memoirs, edited by Frank E. Vandiver (Bloomington, Indiana, 1960).

66 Taylor, Four Years with General Lee, pp. 157–160, 162.

67 Marsball to Lee, October 1, 1865. Marshall had been Lee’s military secretary for three years, and both Taylor and Marshall had been on Lee’s headquarters staff as assistant adjutant-generals of the Army of Northern Virginia.

68 Lee to Taylor, November 2, 1865; Taylor, Four Years with General Lee, p. 160.

69 Lee to Beauregard, October 3, December 23, 1865, Jones, Personal Reminiscences, pp. 207–210.

70 John C. Breckenridge to Lee, Toronto, April 29, Niagara, August 6, 1866; J. Stoddard Johnston to Lee, December 25, 1865, August 16, 1866; Mansfield Lovell to Lee, May 13, 1866. J. G. Clark offered typographical maps which Lee actually received (Clark to Lee, May 15, 1867; Clark to E. C. Gordon, December 2, 1867, January 23, 1868).

7l Isaac R. Trimble to Lee, December 12, 1865.

72 While the available evidence does not show that Lee was personally denied access to these captured papers, Colonel Taylor wrote shortly after Lee’s death that “several unsuccessful attempts had been made to obtain permission to examine the Confederate papers” in Washington. This statement was probably based on Richardson’s repeated attempts to secure access to the papers. When Taylor made a personal request to examine the papers darng the 1870’s, he met with success and cooperation (Taylor, Four Years with General Lee, p. 162).

73 Richardsonto Lee, March 13, 1866.

74 Lee to Taylor, May 25, December 28, 1866, Walter H. Taylor, General Lee, His Campaigns in Virginia, 1861–1865 . . . (Norfolk, 1906), pp. 310–311.

75 Thomas Nelson Page, Robert E. Lee, Man and Soldier (New York, 1911) , pp. 668–669.

76 Professor Edward S. Joynes of Lee’s faculty felt that this was the chief explanation for Lee’s failure to write his history (J. William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee [New York, 1906], p. 423).

77 Lee to Charles F. Deems, August 4, 1866, Jones, Personal Reminiscences, pp. 247–248.

78 Lee to the Rev. G. W. Leyburn, March 20, 1866, Ibid., pp. 213–214.

79 Lee’s letter accepting the presidency of Washington College.

80 Allen W. Moger, “Letters to General Lee after the War,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LXIV (1956), 30–69.

81 Lee to Taylor, November 2, 1865, Taylor, Four Years with General Lee, p. 160.

82 Lee to Beauregard, October 3, 1865, Jones, Personal Reminiscences, p. 207.

83 Conclusions reached from a study of Lee’s correspondence with or concerning each of the men mentioned.

84 Lee to Early, March 15, 1866, Early Papers, Library of Congress.

85 Lee to David Macrae during an interview in spring of 1868, David Macrae, The Americans at Home (New York, 1952), p. 202. In October 1865 Lee had expressed a similar opinion to the Scranton and Burr publishers. See above p. 352.

86 Lee to W. H. Watterson, Rogersville, Tennessee, December 11, 1869 (italics added), “Lee’s MS Letterbook,” IV, Library of Congress. Lee also told Watterson that he thought the state historical societies would be the proper collectors and depositories of historical material, and that the designation of Washington College “might be considered as interfering with the State Societies.” See also Lee’s note on letter from S. N. Whittle of Macon, Georgia, in which Lee suggested the use of state historical soceties as depositories (November 15, 1866).

One of the few public positions which Lee accepted after the war was that of vice-president for Virginia of the Southern Historical Society which was organized in New Orleans in 1869 with plans to have branches in each state (Lee’s note on letter to Dr. Joseph Jones, Secretary of Southern Historical Society, June 17, August 9, 1869).

87 Jones, Life and Letters, p. 423.

88 Freeman, R. E. Lee, IV, 521–524.

89 Freeman, R. E. Lee, IV, 417.

90 Gamaliel Bradford, Lee the American (Boston, 1912), p. 151.

91 Taylor, Four Years with General Lee, pp. 160–161.

92 A. L. Long, Menmoirs of Robert E. Lee . . . (New York, 1886), p. 442.