Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee, Jr.
ARMY LIFE OF ROBERT THE YOUNGER
VOLUNTEER IN ROCKBRIDGE ARTILLERY—"FOUR YEARS WITH GENERAL LEE"
QUOTED—MEETINGS BETWEEN FATHER AND SON—PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GENERAL—DEATH OF HIS DAUGHTER, ANNIE—HIS SON ROBERT RAISED FROM THE RANKS—THE HORSES, "GRACE DARLING" AND "TRAVELLER"—FREDERICKSBURG—FREEING SLAVES
LIKE all the students at the university, I was wild to go into the army, and wrote my father that I was afraid the war would be over before I had a chance to serve. His reply was that I need have no fear of that contingency, that I must study hard and fit myself to be useful to my country when I was old enough to be of real service to her; so, very properly, I was not allowed to have my wish then. In a letter to my mother written April, '61, he says:
I wrote to Robert that I could not consent to take boys from their schools and young men from their colleges and put them in the ranks at the beginning of a war, when they are not wanted and when there were men enough for that purpose. The war may last ten years. Where are our ranks to be filled from then? I was willing for his company to continue at their studies, to keep up its organisation, and to perfect themselves in their military exercises, and to perform duty at the college; but all to be called into the field. I therefore wished him to remain. If the exercises at the college are suspended, he can then come home. . . .
But in the spring of '62 he allowed me to volunteer, and I having selected the company I wished to join, the Rockbridge Artillery, he gave his approval, and wrote me to come to Richmond, where he would give me my outfit. He was just as sweet and loving to me then as in the old days. I had seen so little of him during the last six years that I stood somewhat in awe of him. I soon found, however, that I had no cause for such a feeling. He took great pains in getting what was necessary for me. The baggage of a private in a Confederate battery was not extensive. How little was needed my father, even at that time, did not know, for though he was very careful in providing me with the least amount he thought necessary, I soon found by experience that he had given me a great deal too much. It was characteristic of his consideration for others and the unselfishness of his nature, that at this time, when weighed down, harassed and burdened by the cares incident to bringing the untrained forces of the Confederacy into the field, and preparing them for a struggle the seriousness of which he knew better than any one, he should give his time and attention to the minute details of fitting out his youngest son as a private soldier. I think it worthy of note that the son of the commanding general enlisting as a private in his army was not thought to be anything remarkable or unusual. Neither my mother, my family, my friends nor myself expected any other course, and I do not suppose it ever occurred to my father to think of giving me an office, which he could easily have done. I know it never occurred to me, nor did I ever hear, at that time or afterwards, from anyone, that I might have been entitled to better rank than that of a private because of my father's prominence in Virginia and in the Confederacy. With the good advice to be obedient to all authority, to do my duty in everything, great or small, he bade me good-bye, and sent me off to the Valley of Virginia, where the command in which I was about to enlist were serving under "Stonewall Jackson."
Of my father's military duties at this time, Colonel Taylor, in his "Four Years with General Lee," says:
Exercising a constant supervision over the condition of affairs at each important point, thoroughly informed as to the resources and necessities of the several commanders of armies in the field, as well as of the dangers which respectively threatened them, he was enabled to give them wise counsel, to offer them valuable suggestions, and to respond to their demands for assistance and support to such extent as the limited resources of the government would permit. It was in great measure due to his advice and encouragement that General Magruder so stoutly and so gallantly held his lines on the Peninsula against General McClellan until troops could be sent to his relief from General Johnston's army. I recollect a telegraphic despatch received by General Lee from General Magruder, in which he stated that a council of war which he had convened had unanimously determined that his army should retreat, in reply to which General Lee urged him to maintain his lines, and to make as bold a front as possible, and encouraged him with the prospect of being reinforced. No better illustration of the nature and importance of the duty performed by General Lee, while in this position, can be given than the following letter—one of a number of similar import—written by him to General Jackson, the "rough" or original draft of which is still in my possession:
HEADQUARTERS, RICHMOND, Virginia, April 29, 1862.
MAJOR-GENERAL T. J. JACKSON, commanding, etc.,
Swift Run Gap, Virginia.
General: I have had the honour to receive your letter of yesterday's date. From the reports that reach me that are entitled to credit, the force of the enemy opposite Fredericksburg is represented as too large to admit of any diminution whatever of our army in that vicinity at present, as it might not only invite an attack on Richmond, but jeopard the safety of the army in the Peninsula. I regret, therefore, that your request to have five thousand men sent from that army to reinforce you cannot be complied with. Can you not draw enough from the command of General Edward Johnson to warrant you in attacking Banks? The last return received from that army show a present force of upward of thirty-five hundred, which, it is hoped, has since increased by recruits and returned furloughs. As he does not appear to be pressed, it is suggested that a portion of his force might be temporarily removed from its present position and made available for the movement in question. A decisive and successful blow at Banks's column would be fraught with the happiest results, and I deeply regret my inability to send you the reinforcements you ask. If, however, you think the combined forces of Generals Ewell and Johnson, with your own, inadequate for the move, General Ewell might, with the assistance of General Anderson's army near Fredericksburg, strike at McDowell's army between that city and Acquia, with much promise of success; provided you feel sufficiently strong alone to hold Banks in check. Very truly yours,
R. E. Lee.
The reader will observe that this letter bears the date "April 29, 1862." On May 5th or 6th, General Jackson formed a junction between his own command and that of General Edward Johnson; on May 8th, he defeated Milroy at McDowell. Soon thereafter, the command of General Ewell was united to that already under Jackson, and on the 25th of the same month Banks was defeated and put to flight. Other incidents might be cited to illustrate this branch of the important service rendered at this period by General Lee. The line of earthworks around the city of Richmond, and other preparations for resisting an attack, testified to the immense care and labour bestowed upon the defense of the capital, so seriously threatened by the army of General McClellan.
On May 31st, the battle of Seven Pines was fought, and General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, was severely wounded. The next day, by order of the President, General Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The day after the battle of Cold Harbor, during the "Seven Days" fighting around Richmond, was the first time I met my father after I had joined General Jackson. The tremendous work Stonewall's men had performed, including the rapid march from the Valley of Virginia, the short rations, the bad water, and the great heat, had begun to tell upon us, and I was pretty well worn out. On this particular morning, my battery had not moved from its bivouac ground of the previous night, but was parked in an open field all ready, waiting orders. Most of the men were lying down, many sleeping, myself among the latter number. To get some shade and to be out of the way, I had crawled under a caisson, and was busy making up many lost hours of rest. Suddenly I was rudely awakened by a comrade, prodding me with a sponge-staff as I had failed to be aroused by his call, and was told to get up and come out, that some one wished to see me. Half awake, I staggered out, and found myself face to face with General Lee and his staff. Their fresh uniforms, bright equipments and well-groomed horses contrasted so forcibly with the war-worn appearance of our command that I was completely dazed. It took me a moment or two to realise what it all meant, but when I saw my father's loving eyes and smile it became clear to me that he had ridden by to see if I was safe and to ask how I was getting along. I remember well how curiously those with him gazed at me, and I am sure that it must have struck them as very odd that such a dirty, ragged, unkempt youth could have been the son of this grand-looking victorious commander.
I was introduced recently to a gentleman, now living in Washington, who, when he found out my name, said he had met me once before and that it was on this occasion. At that time he was a member of the Tenth Virginia Infantry, Jackson's Division, and was camped near our battery. Seeing General Lee and staff approach, he, with others, drew near to have a look at them, and thus witnessed the meeting between father and son. He also said that he had often told of this incident as illustrating the peculiar composition of our army.
After McClellan's change of base to Harrison's Landing on James River, the army lay inactive around Richmond. I had a short furlough on account of sickness, and saw my father; also my mother and sisters, who were then living in Richmond. He was the same loving father to us all, as kind and thoughtful of my mother, who as an invalid, and of us, his children, as if our comfort and happiness were all he had to care for. His great victory did not elate him, so far as one could see. In a letter of July 9th, to my mother, he says:
. . . I have returned to my old quarters and am filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all the mercies He has extended to us. Our success has not been so great or complete as we could have desired, but God knows what is best for us. Our enemy met with a heavy loss, from which it must take him some time to recover, before he can recommence his operations. . . .
The honourable Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States, says of General Lee:
What I had seen General Lee to be at first—child-like in simplicity and unselfish in his character—he remained, unspoiled by praise and by success.
He was the same in victory or defeat, always calm and contained. Jackson, having had a short rest, was now moved up to Gordonsville. I rejoined my command and went with him, supplied with new clothes and a fresh stock of health. In a letter to his three daughters who were in North Carolina, dated Richmond, July 18, 1862, he writes describing my condition:
Rob came out to see me one afternoon. He had been much worn down by his marching and fighting, and had gone to his mamma to get a littlerest. He was thin but well, but, not being able to get a clean shirt, has not gone to see Miss Norvell. He has rejoined his company and gone off with General Jackson, as good as new again, I hope, inasmuch as your mother thought, by means of a bath and a profusion of soap, she had cleansed the outward man considerably, and replenished his lost wardrobe.
From Gordonsville we were moved on to Orange County, and then commenced that series of manœuvres by the Army of Northern Virginia, beginning with the battle of Cedar Mountain and ending with second Manassas.
When I again saw my father, he rode at the head of Longstreet's men on the field of Manassas, and we of Jackson's corps, hard pressed for two days, welcomed him and the divisions which followed him with great cheers. Two rifle-guns from our battery had been detached and sent to join Longstreet's advance artillery, under General Stephen D. Lee, moving into action on our right. I was "Number 1" at one of these guns. We advanced rapidly, from hill to hill, firing as fast as we could, trying to keep ahead of our gallant comrades, just arrived. As we were ordered to cease firing from the last position we took, and the breathless cannoneers were leaning on their guns, General Lee and staff galloped up, and from this point of vantage scanned the movements of the enemy and of our forces. The general reined in "Traveller" close by my gun, not fifteen feet from me. I looked at them all some few minutes, and then went up and spoke to Captain Mason of the staff, who had not the slightest idea who I was. When he found me out he was greatly amused, and introduced me to several others whom I already knew. My appearance was even less prepossessing that when I had met my father at Cold Harbour, for I had been marching night and day for four days, with no opportunity to wash myself or my clothes; my face and hands were blackened with powder-sweat, and the few garments I had on were ragged and stained with the red soil of that section. When the General, after a moment or two, dropped his glass to his side, and turned to his staff, Captain Mason said:
"General, here is some one who wants to speak to you."
The General, seeing a much-begrimed artillery-man, sponge-staff in hand, said:
"Well, my man, what can I do for you?" I replied:
"Why, General, don't you know me?" and he, of course, at once recognised me, and was very much amused at my appearance and most glad to see that I was safe and well.
We, of the ranks, used to have our opinions on all subjects. The armies, their generals, and their manœuvres were freely discussed. If there was one point on which the entire army was unanimous—I speak of the rank and file—it was that we were not in the least afraid of General Pope, but were perfectly sure of whipping him whenever we could meet him. The passages I quote here from two of General Lee's letters indicate that this feeling may possibly have extended to our officers. In a letter to my mother, from near Richmond, dated July 28, 1862, he says:
. . . When you write to Rob, tell him to catch Pope for me, and also bring in his cousin, Louis Marshall, who, I am told, is on his staff. I could forgive the latter's fighting against us, but not his joining Pope.
. . . Johnny Lee[note 29] saw Louis Marshall after Jackson's last battle, who asked him kindly after his old uncle, and said his mother was well. Johnny said Louis looked wretched himself. I am sorry he is in such bad company, but I suppose he could not help it.
As one of the Army of Northern Virginia, I occasionally saw the commander-in-chief, on the march, or passed the headquarters close enough to recognise him and members of his staff, but as a private soldier in Jackson's corps did not have much time, during that campaign, for visiting, and until the battle of Sharpsburg I had no opportunity of speaking to him. On that occasion our battery had been severely handled, losing many men and horses. Having three guns disabled, we were ordered to withdraw, and while moving back we passed General Lee and several of his staff, grouped on a little knoll near the road. Having no definite orders where to go, our captain, seeing the commanding general, halted us and rode over to get some instructions. Some others and myself went along to see and hear. General Lee was dismounted with some of his staff around him, a courier holding his horse. Captain Poague, commanding our battery, the Rockbridge Artillery, saluted, reported our condition, and asked for instructions. The General, listening patiently looked at us—his eyes passing over me without any sign of recognition—and then ordered Captain Poague to take the most serviceable horses and men, man the uninjured gun, send the disabled part of his command back to refit, and report to the front for duty. As Poague turned to go, I went up to speak to my father. When he found out who I was, he congratulated me on being well and unhurt. I then said:
"General, are you going to send us in again?"
"Yes, my son," he replied, with a smile; "you all must do what you can to help drive these people back."
This meeting between General Lee and his son has been told very often and in many different ways, but the above is what I remember of the circumstances.
He was much on foot during this part of the campaign, and moved about either in an ambulance or on horseback, with a courier leading his horse. The accident which temporarily disabled him happened before he left Virginia. He had dismounted, and was sitting on a fallen log, with the bridle reins hung over his arm. Traveller, becoming frightened at something, suddenly dashed away, threw him violently to the ground, spraining both hands and breaking a small bone in one of them. A letter written some weeks afterward to my mother alludes to this meeting with his son, and to the condition of his hands:
. . . I have not laid eyes on Rob since I saw him in the battle of Sharpsburg—going in with a single gun of his for the second time, after his company had been withdrawn in consequence of three of its guns having been disabled. Custis has seen him and says he is very well, and apparently happy and content. My hands are improving slowly, and, with my left hand, I am able to dress and undress myself, which is a great comfort. My right is becoming of some assistance, too, though it is still swollen and sometimes painful. The bandages have been removed. I am now able to sign my name. It has been six weeks to-day since I was injured, and I have at last discarded the sling.
After the army recrossed the Potomac into Virginia, we were camped for some time in the vicinity of Winchester. One beautiful afternoon in October, a courier from headquarters rode up to our camp, found me out, and handed me a note from my father. It told me of the death of my sister Annie. As I have lost this letter to me, I quote from one to my mother about the same time. It was dated October 26, 1862:
. . . I cannot express the anguish I feel at the death of our sweet Annie. To know that I shall never see her again on earth, that her place in our circle, which I always hoped one day to enjoy, is forever vacant, is agonising in the extreme. But God in this, as in all things, has mingled mercy with the blow, in selecting that one best prepared to leave us. May you be able to join me in saying "His will be done!" . . . I know how much you will grieve and how much she will be mourned. I wish I could give you any comfort, but beyond our hope in the great mercy of God, and the belief that he takes her at the time and place when it is best for her to go, there is none. May that same mercy be extended to us all, and may we be prepared for His summons.
In a letter to my sister Mary, one month later, from "Camp near Fredericksburg":
. . . The death of my dear Annie was, indeed, to me a bitter pang, but "the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." In the quiet hours of the night, when there is nothing to lighten the full weight of my grief, I feel as if I should be overwhelmed. I have always counted, if God should spare me a few days after this Civil War has ended, that I should have her with me, but year after year my hopes go out, and I must be resigned. . . .
To this daughter whose loss grieved him so he was specially devoted. She died in North Carolina, at the Warren White Sulphur Springs. At the close of the war, the citizens of the county erected over her grave a handsome monument. General Lee was invited to be present at the ceremonies of the unveiling. In his reply, he says:
. . . I have always cherished the intention of visiting the tomb of her who never gave me aught but pleasure; . . . Though absent in person, my heart will be with you, and my sorrow and devotions will be mingled with yours. . . . I inclose, according to your request, the date of my daughter's birth and the inscription proposed for the monument over her tomb. The latter are the last lines of the hymn which she asked for just before her death.
A visitor to her grave, some years after the war, thus describes it:
In the beautiful and quiet graveyard near the Springs a plain shaft of native granite marks the grave of this beloved daughter. On one side is cut in the stone, "Annie C. Lee, daughter of General R. E. Lee and Mary C. Lee"—and on the opposite—"Born at Arlington, June 18, 1839, and died at White Sulphur Springs, Warren County, North Carolina, Oct. 20, 1862." On another side are the lines selected by her father,
Perfect and true are all His ways
Whom heaven adores and earth obeys.
That autumn I was offered the position of Lt. and A.D.C. on the staff of my brother, W. H. F. Lee, just promoted from the colonelcy of the 9th Virginia Cavalry to the command of a brigade in the same arm of the service. My father had told me when I joined the army to do my whole duty faithfully, not to be rash about volunteering for any service out of my regular line, and always to accept promotion. After consulting him, it was decided that I should take the position offered, and he presented me with a horse and one of his swords. My promotion necessitated my having an honourable discharge as a private, from the ranks, and this I obtained in the proper way from General "Stonewall" Jackson, commanding the corps of which my company was a part, and was thus introduced for the first time to that remarkable man. Having served in his command since my enlistment, I had been seeing him daily. "Old Jack," at a distance, was as familiar to me as one of the battery guns, but I had never met him, and felt much awe at being ushered into his presence. This feeling, however, was groundless, for he was seemingly so much embarrassed by the interview that I really felt sorry for him before he dismissed me with my discharge papers, properly made out and signed.
I had received a letter from my father telling me to come to him as soon as I had gotten my discharge from my company, so I proceeded at once to his headquarters, which were situated near Orange Court House, on a wooded hill just east of the village. I found there the horse which he gave me. She was a daughter of his mare, "Grace Darling," and, though not so handsome as her mother, she inherited many of her good qualities and carried me well until the end of the war and for thirteen years afterward. She was four years old, a solid bay, and never failed me a single day during three years' hard work. The General was on the point of moving his headquarters down to Fredericksburg, some of the army having already gone forward to that city. I think the camp was struck the day after I arrived, and as the General's hands were not yet entirely well, he allowed me, as a great favour, to ride his horse "Traveller." Amongst the soldiers this horse was as well known as was his master. He was a handsome iron-gray with black points—mane and tail very dark—sixteen hands high, and five years old. He was born near the White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and attracted the notice of my father when he was in that part of the State in 1861. He was never known to tire, and, though quiet and sensible in general and afraid of nothing, yet if not regularly exercised, he fretted a good deal especially in a crowd of horses. But there can be no better description of this famous horse than the one given by his master. It was dictated to his daughter Agnes at Lexington, Virginia, after the war, in response to some artist who had asked for a description, and was corrected in his own handwriting:
If I were an artist like you I would draw a true picture of Traveller—representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest and short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and the dangers and sufferings through which he passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts, through the long night marches and days of battle through which he has passed. But I am no artist; I can only say he is a Confederate gray. I purchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the autumn of 1861, and he has been my patient follower ever since—to Georgia, the Carolinas, and back to Virginia. He carried me through the Seven Days battle around Richmond, the second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, the last day at Chancellorsville, to Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, and back to the Rappahannock. From the commencement of the campaign in 1864 at Orange, till its close around Petersburg, the saddle was scarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbour, and across the James River. He was almost in daily requisition in the winter of 1864–65 on the long line of defenses from Chickahominy, north of Richmond, to Hatcher's Run, south of the Appomattox. In the campaign of 1865, he bore me from Petersburg to the final days at Appomattox Court House. You must know the comfort he is to me in my present retirement. He is well supplied with equipments. Two sets have been sent to him from England, one from the ladies of Baltimore, and one was made for him in Richmond; but I think his favourite is the American saddle from St. Louis. Of all his companions in toil, "Richmond," "Brown Roan," "Ajax," and quiet "Lucy Long," he is the only one that retained his vigour. The first two expired under their onerous burden, and the last two failed. You can, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait.
The general had the strongest affection for Traveller, which he showed on all occasions, and his allowing me to ride him on this long march was a great compliment. Possibly he wanted to give me a good hammering before he turned me over to the cavalry. During my soldier life, so far, I had been on foot, having backed nothing more lively than a tired artillery horse; so I mounted with some misgivings, though I was very proud of my steed. My misgivings were fully realised, for Traveller would not walk a step. He took a short, high trot—a buck-trot, as compared with a buck-jump—and kept it up to Fredericksburg, some thirty miles. Though young, strong, and tough, I was glad when the journey ended. This was my first introduction to the cavalry service. I think I am safe in saying that I could have walked the distance with much less discomfort and fatigue. My father having thus given me a horse and presented me with one of his swords, also supplied my purse so that I could get myself an outfit suitable to my new position, and he sent me on to join my command, stationed not far away on the Rappahannock, southward from Fredericksburg.
As an officer in the cavalry on the staff, I had more frequent opportunities of seeing my father than as a private in the artillery. In the course of duty, I was sometimes sent to him to report the condition of affairs at the front, or on the flank of the army, and I also, occasionally, paid him a visit. At these times, he would take me into his tent, talk to me about my mother and sisters, about my horse and myself, or the people and the country where my command happened to be stationed. I think my presence was very grateful to him, and he seemed to brighten up when I came. I remember, he always took it as a matter of course that I must be hungry (and I was for three years), so he invariably made his mess-steward, Bryan, give me something to eat, if I did not have time to wait for the regular meal. His headquarters at this time, just before the battle of Fredericksburg and after, were at a point on the road between Fredericksburg and Hamilton's Crossing, selected on account of its accessibility. Notwithstanding there was near-by a good house vacant, he lived in his tents. His quarters were very unpretentious, consisting of three or four "wall-tents" and several more common ones. They were pitched on the edge of an old pine field, near a grove of forest trees from which he drew his supply of fire-wood, while the pines helped to shelter his tents and horses from the cold winds. Though from the outside they were rather dismal, especially through the dreary winter time, within they were cheerful, and the surroundings as neat and comfortable as possible under the circumstances.
On November 24, 1862, in a letter to his daughter Mary, he writes:
. . . General Burnside's whole army is apparently opposite Fredericksburg, and stretches from the Rappahannock to the Potomac. What his intentions are he has not yet disclosed. I am sorry he is in position to oppress our friends and citizens of the Northern Neck. He threatens to bombard Fredericksburg, and the noble spirit displayed by its citizens, particularly the women and children, has elicited my highest admiration. They have been abandoning their homes, night and day, during all this inclement weather, cheerfully and uncomplainingly, with only such assistance as our wagons and ambulances could afford, women, girls, children, trudging through the mud and bivouacking in the open fields.
How the battle of Fredericksburg was fought and won all the world has heard, and I shall not attempt to describe it. On December 11th, the day Burnside commenced his attack, General Lee wrote to my mother:
. . . The enemy, after bombarding the town of Fredericksburg, setting fire to many houses and knocking down nearly all those along the river, crossed over a large force about dark, and now occupies the town. We hold the hills commanding it, and hope we shall be able to damage him yet. His position and heavy guns command the town entirely.
On December 16th, in another letter to my mother, he tells of the recrossing of the Federals:
I had supposed they were just preparing for battle, and was saving our men for the conflict. Their hosts crown the hill and plain beyond the river, and their numbers to me are unknown. Still I felt the confidence we could stand the shock, and was anxious for the blow that is to fall on some point, and was prepared to meet it here. Yesterday evening I had my suspicions that they might return during the night, but could not believe they would relinquish their hopes after all their boasting and preparation, and when I say that the latter is equal to the former you will have some idea of the magnitude. This morning they were all safe on the north side of the Rappahannock. They went as they came—in the night. They suffered heavily as far as the battle went, but it did not go far enough to satisfy me. Our loss was comparatively slight, and I think will not exceed two thousand. The contest will have now to be renewed, but on what field I cannot say.
I did not see my father at any time during the fighting. Some days after it was all over, I saw him, as calm and composed as if nothing unusual had happened, and he never referred to his great victory, except to deplore the loss of his brave officers and soldiers or the sufferings of the sick and wounded. He repeatedly referred to the hardships so bravely endured by the inhabitants of Fredericksburg, who had been obliged to flee from the town, the women and children, the old and the feeble, whose sufferings cut him to the heart. On Christmas Day he writes to his youngest daughter, Mildred, who was at school in North Carolina:
. . . I cannot tell you how I long to see you when a little quiet occurs. My thoughts revert to you, your sisters, and your mother; my heart aches for our reunion. Your brothers I see occasionally. This morning Fitzhugh rode by with his young aide-de-camp (Rob) at the head of his brigade, on his way up the Rappahannock. You must study hard, gain knowledge, and learn your duty to God and your neighbour: that is the great object of life. I have no news, confined constantly to camp, and my thoughts occupied with its necessities and duties. I am, however, happy in the knowledge that General Burnside and army will not eat their promised Christmas dinner in Richmond to-day.
On the next day he writes as follows to his daughter Agnes, who was with her mother in Richmond:
CAMP FREDERICKSBURG, December 26, 1862.
My Precious Little Agnes: I have not heard of you for a long time. I wish you were with me, for, always solitary, I am sometimes weary, and long for the reunion of my family once again. But I will not speak of myself, but of you. . . . I have seen the ladies in this vicinity only when flying from the enemy, and it caused me acute grief to witness their exposure and suffering. But a more noble spirit was never displayed anywhere. The faces of old and young were wreathed with smiles, and glowed with happiness at their sacrifices for the good of their country. Many have lost everything. What the fire and shells of the enemy spared, their pillagers destroyed. But God will shelter them, I know. So much heroism will not be unregarded. I can only hold oral communication with your sister,[note 30] and have forbidden the scouts to bring any writing, and have taken back some that I had given them for her. If caught, it would compromise them. They only convey messages. I learn in that way she is well. Your devoted father,
R. E. LEE.
I give another letter he wrote on Christmas Day, besides the one quoted above, to his daughter, Mildred. It was written to his wife, and is interesting as giving an insight into his private feelings and views regarding this great victory:
. . . I will commence this holy day by writing to you. My heart is filled with gratitude to Almighty God for His unspeakable mercies with which He has blessed us in this day, for those He has granted us from the beginning of life, and particularly for those He has vouchsafed us during the past year. What should have become of us without His crowning help and protection? Oh, if our people would only recognise it and cease from vain self-boasting and adulation, how strong would be my belief in final success and happiness to our country! But what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. Our army was never in such good health and condition since I have been attached to it. I believe they share with me my disappointment that the enemy did not renew the combat on the 13th. I was holding back all day and husbanding our strength and ammunition for the great struggle, for which I thought I was preparing. Had I divined that was to have been his only effort, he would have had more of it. My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.
GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE
Photographed in 1862 or '63
One marked characteristic of my father was his habit of attending to all business matters promptly. He was never idle, and what he had to do he performed with care and precision. Mr. Custis, my grandfather, had made him executor of his will, wherein it was directed that all the slaves belonging to the estate should be set free after the expiration of so many years. The time had now arrived, and notwithstanding the exacting duties of his position, the care of his suffering soldiers, and his anxiety about their future, immediate and distant, he proceeded according to the law of the land to carry out the provisions of the will, and had delivered to every one of the servants, where it was possible, their manumission papers. From his letters written at this time I give a few extracts bearing on this subject:
. . . As regards the liberation of the people, I wish to progress in it as far as I can. Those hired in Richmond can still find employment there if they choose. Those in the country can do the same or remain on the farms. I hope they will all do well and behave themselves. I should like, if I could, to attend to their wants and see them placed to the best advantage. But that is impossible. All that choose can leave the State before the war closes. . . .
. . . I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and returned it to him. I perceived that John Sawyer and James's names, among the Arlington people, had been omitted, and inserted them. I fear there are others among the White House lot which I did not discover. As to the attacks of the Northern papers, I do not mind them, and do not think it wise to make the publication you suggest. If all the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled to their freedom and I wish to give it to them. Those that have been carried away, I hope are free and happy; I cannot get their papers to them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit them. . . .
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