Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee, Jr.
AN ADVISER OF YOUNG MEN
LEE'S POLICY AS COLLEGE PRESIDENT—HIS ADVICE ON AGRICULTURAL MATTERS—HIS AFFECTION FOR HIS PROSPECTIVE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW—FITZHUGH'S WEDDING—THE GENERAL'S OVATION AT PETERSBURG—HIS PERSONAL INTEREST IN THE STUDENTS UNDER HIS CARE
THE college exercises were resumed in the last weeks of September. My mother and sisters were all back at home. The President's work, now more in hand, began to show results. The number of students this session was largely increased and the outlook of the college was very much brighter.
He had from the beginning of his presidency a distinct policy and plan which he had fully conceived and to which he steadily adhered, so that all his particular measures of progress were but consistent steps in its development. His object was nothing less than to establish and perfect an institution which should meet the highest needs of education in every department. At once, and without waiting for the means to be provided in advance, he proceeded to develop this object. Under his advice, new chairs were created, and professors called to fill them, so that before the end of the first year the faculty was doubled in numbers. Still additional chairs were created, and finally a complete system of "schools" was established and brought into full operation. So admirably was the plan conceived and administered by General Lee, that, heterogeneous as were the students, especially in the early years, each one found his proper place, and all were kept in line of complete and systematic study. Under this organisation, and especially under the inspiration of his central influence, the utmost harmony and utmost energy pervaded all the departments of the college. The highest powers of both professors and students were called forth, under the fullest responsibility. The standards of scholarship were rapidly advanced; and soon the graduates of Washington College were the acknowledged equals of those from the best institutions elsewhere, and were eagerly sought after for the highest positions as teachers in the best schools. The results . . . were due directly and immediately, more than to all other causes, to the personal ability and influence of General Lee as president of the college.
So wrote Professor Edward S. Joynes in an article published soon after General Lee's death, in the University Monthly. All of this had not been accomplished as yet, but the work was well advanced, and the results began to be evident. His health had not been strong since the middle of the summer, but he never ceased in his endeavour to better the condition of the college, and to improve the minds, morals, and bodies of the young men committed to his charge. He writes to me about this time, encouraging me to renewed efforts, telling me how to better my condition, and advising me not to be cast down by difficulties:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, October 26, 1867.
My Dear Rob: Your letter of the 10th did not give me a very favourable account of yourself or your prospects, but I have no doubt it was true and therefore commendable. We must not, however, yield to difficulties, but strive the harder to overcome them. I am sorry for the failure of your crops, your loneliness and uncomfortableness, and wish it were in my power to visit you and advise with you. But you must come up this winter, when convenient, and we will discuss the whole matter. Fitzhugh, I hope, will be married soon, and then he will have more time to counsel with you. I hope, between you two, you will devise some mode of relief. The only way to improve your crop is to improve your land, which requires time, patience, and good cultivation. Lime, I think, is one of the chief instruments, and I advise you to apply that systematically and judiciously. I think, too, you had better purchase another pair of mules. I can help you in these items, and, if you need, can advance you $500. Then, as regards a house, I can help you in that too, but you must first select a site and a plan. The first can only be found on the land, and the latter might be adopted on the progressive principle, commencing with the minor members, and finishing with the principal ones as convenience or necessity might authorise. If no better can be found, how would the present site answer? If you are going to cultivate the lower part of the farm, it would at least have the advantage of convenience, or if you thought it better to divide and sell your farm it would answer for one of the divisions. I am clear for your marrying, if you select a good wife; otherwise you had better remain as you are for a time. An imprudent or uncongenial woman is worse than the minks.[note 69] I think, upon the whole, you are progressing very well and have accomplished the worst part. A failure in crops will occur occasionally to every farmer, even the best, with favourable surroundings. It serves a good purpose, inculcates prudence and economy, and excites energy and perseverance. These qualities will overcome everything. You are very young still, and if you are virtuous and laborious you will accomplish all the good you propose to yourself. Let me know if you want the money. We are pretty well. I am better and your poor mother more comfortable, I think, than she was last year. The girls are as usual, and Custis is in far better health than he was before his visit to the Springs. He seems, however, not happy, and I presume other people have their troubles as well as farmers. God bless you, my son, and may He guard, guide, and direct you in all you do. All would unite in love did they know I was writing. Truly and affectionately, your father,
R. E. LEE.
ROBERT E. LEE, JR.
My brother Fitzhugh was to be married that autumn. This event, so soon to take place, gave my father great pleasure. He was an earnest advocate of matrimony, and was constantly urging his sons to take to themselves wives. With his daughters he was less pressing. Though apparently always willing to have another daughter, he did not seem to long for any more sons. He thus writes to my brother when his engagement was formally announced to him:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, September 20, 1867.
My Dear Fitzhugh: I have been anxious for some time to write to you, to express the pleasure I have felt a the prospects of your marriage with Miss Bolling; but sickness has prevented, and I am still so feeble that I cannot attend to the pressing business connected with the college. As you know how deeply I feel all that concerns you, you may feel assured of the pleasure I derived from your letter to your mother informing her of your engagement. I have the most pleasing recollection of "Miss Tabb," and of her kindness to me, and now that she has consented to by my daughter the measure of my gratitude is filled to overflowing. I hope she will not delay the consummation, for I want to see her very much, and I fear she will not come to see me until then. You must present her my warm love, and you both must accept my earnest prayers and most fervent wishes for your future happiness and prosperity. I am glad that your house is progressing and that your crops promise well. I hope that you soon will be able to come and see us. Your mother, I hope, has derived some benefit from her visit to the Springs. Her general health is improved, but I see no relaxation in her rheumatic complaint. The girls are quite well, and all send love. . . . Your affectionate father,
R. E. LEE.
GENERAL WILLIAM H. F. LEE.
The young lady who was so soon to become a member of his family was Miss Mary Tabb Bolling, the daughter of Mr. G. W. Bolling, of Petersburg, Virginia. Her father had been very kind to General Lee during the eventful months of the siege of that town, and his daughter had been often to see him and was a great favourite of his. My brother was especially anxious that his father should be present at his wedding, and had been urging him to make his arrangements to come. The sickness to which he frequently alludes in his recent letters had been annoying him since his return from the White Sulphur Springs up to this time, and he now writes proposing that my brother and bride should come to him instead of his going to the wedding:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, October 25, 1867.
My Dear Fitzhugh: I have been wishing to write to you every day since the reception of your letter of the 6th inst., but have been prevented by business and sickness. I am delighted that your marriage is so near at hand, and it would give me great pleasure to attend, but I do not think that I could add to the enjoyment of any one. I suppose it will take place in church, according to the present fashion, and I should see very little of you. I therefore propose that, instead of going directly to the White House, you both come up here, and spend as much time with us as you can. It will give your house more time for completion, and I suppose the pretty bride will want to see her old father and mother and what kind of people her sisters are. At any rate, I want to see her very much, and I should be unable to do so in Petersburg, as she would be surrounded by her old beaux and companions. . . . We shall all be delighted to see you, and you may go back as soon as you are tired. Tell me what you think of this plan. There is another thing I wish you to aide me in—to tell me what agreeable present I can make to my daughter to remind her, hereafter, of her papa, or if I send you $100 will you get for me something she would like? I have been quite sick lately, but am better now. The rest of the family are as usual, and your mother, I hope, is more comfortable than she was last year. . . . I am very glad you have enjoyed good health all the summer, and hope that nothing will occur to mar the happiness of your wedding or to postpone it. . . . Your devoted father,
R. E. LEE.
My brother, after receiving this, ran up to Lexington and paid him a short visit. His next letter shows that he had yielded to his wishes and had determined to be present at this wedding:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, November 15, 1867.
My Dear Fitzhugh: I received this morning your letter of the 13th, and am glad to hear of your safe arrival and of the favourable condition of things at your home. I was afraid your house would not be ready at the time supposed, but I would not delay the wedding on that account—you can exist without it. We have one here at your service, though a poor one. I am obliged to you for having arranged about my clothes. Upon reflection, I think it better not to go to the White House and Romancoke before the wedding. You and Robert could hardly pay the necessary attention to business matters with your hands filled with love and matrimony. I think of catching up Rob and marrying him to some of my sweethearts while I am down, so as to prevent the necessity of going down again. Custis says it will be inconvenient for him to leave here before the time necessary for him to reach Petersburg by the 28th, and we have arranged to commence our journey on Monday night, 25th inst., at 12 M., so as to reach Richmond Tuesday evening, remain there the 27th and go to Petersburg the 28th. I do not think I shall be able to go to the White House at all. I should not be able to aid you or Rob, my only object, and would put you to much trouble. . . . We are all as you left us, and miss you and Mildred very much. Very affectionately, your father,
R. E. LEE.
GENERAL WILLIAM H. F. LEE.
So it was all settled satisfactorily; my brother gained his point, and my father arranged his affairs so that he could absent himself without detriment to his work at the college. He left on the appointed day and hour, and the morning after arriving in Richmond, writes my mother:
RICHMOND, November 26, 1867.
My Dear Mary: We reached here yesterday about 4 P.M., after a not uncomfortable journey, and found Fitzhugh waiting for the important event. I doubt whether his house will be finished, from his account, till January, though he thinks it will. His plans, I believe, as far as he can form them, are to leave Petersburg the morning after the wedding for Baltimore, where they will probably spend a week gathering up their furniture, etc., and after that all is undetermined. I renewed the invitation for their visit to us, but he could not decide. Robert is expected to-morrow. Mildred is well and seems to be perfectly happy, as she had on, last evening, a dress about two yards longer than Norvell's. I saw Mr. Davis, who looks astonishingly well, and is quite cheerful. He inquired particularly after you all. He is at Judge Ould's. No one seems to know what is to be done. Judge Chase had not arrived yesterday, but it was thought probable he would reach here in the ten o'clock train last night. I have not heard this morning. I will present myself to the court this morning, and learn, I hope, what they wish of me. Williams Wickham is here, and will attend the wedding. Annie will also go. Fitzhugh is to go out to Hickory Hill this morning, and return this afternoon, to pay his adieux. Mrs. Caskie was not well last evening. The rest as usual, and send much love. Custis is well, and I have my clothes. I left my sleeve-buttons in my shirt hanging up in my dressing-room. Ask Cornelia to take care of them. Mr. Alexander said he would send you up some turkeys, and Colonel Johnston, that he would help you revise the manuscript. It is time I should get my breakfast, as I wish to transact some business before going to court. Give much love to the girls and everybody. I hope you are well and will want for nothing while I am away. Most truly yours,
R. E. LEE.
MRS. M. C. LEE.
General Lee was summoned this time as a witness in the trial of Mr. Davis, but after some delay a nolle prosequi was filed. General Lee after the war was asked by a lady his opinion of the position and part Mr. Davis had taken and acted during the war. He replied:
If my opinion is worth anything, you can always say that few people could have done better than Mr. Davis. I knew of none that could have done as well.
On the morning after the wedding he writes to my mother:
PETERSBURG, November 29, 1867.
My Dear Mary: Our son was married last night and shone in his happiness. The bride looked lovely and was, in every way, captivating. The church was crowded to its utmost capacity, and the streets thronged. Everything went off well, and I will enter into details when I see you. Mr. Wickham and Annie, Mr. Fry, John Wood, and others were present. Mr. Davis was prevented from attending by the death of Mrs. Howell. The Misses Haxall, Miss Enders, Miss Giles, etc., came down from Richmond. Fitzhugh Lee was one of the groomsmen, Custis very composed, and Rob suffering from chills. Many of my acquaintances were present, and everybody was very kind. Regrets were often expressed that you, Mary, and Agnes were not present. I believe the plan was for the bride and groom to start on their travels this morning, but I doubt whether it will be carried out, as I thought I saw indications of a change of purpose before I left, which I had no doubt would be strengthened by the reflections of this morning. I shall remain to-day and return to Richmond to-morrow. I wish to go to Brandon Monday, but do not know that I can accomplish it. Until leaving Richmond, my whole time was taken up by the august court, so that I could do nothing nor see anybody there. Mildred was all life, in white and curls. I am staying at General Mahone's and have got hold of one of his needle-pens, with which I can do nothing. Excuse illegibility. No one has descended to breakfast yet. I received, on arriving here yesterday, at 3 P.M., a kind note from our daughter asking me to come and see her as soon after my arrival as convenient, which I did and carried over the necklace, which she pronounced very pretty. Give my love to all. Most truly yours,
R. E. LEE.
MRS. M. C. LEE.
A special car carried General Lee and the other wedding guests from Richmond to Petersburg. He did not enter into the gay conversation of the young people, but appeared sad and depressed, and seemed to dread seeing the town of Petersburg and meeting its people. This feeling was dispelled by the enthusiastic welcome given him by every one there. General Mahone, whose guest he was to be, met him at the depot with a carriage and four white horses. Many of the citizens tried to take out the horses and pull the carriage into the town, but the General protested, declaring, if they did so, he would have to get out and help them. The morning after the wedding he drove out to "Turnbull's" to see an old woman who had been very kind to him, sending him eggs, butter, etc., when he had had his headquarters near by during the siege. On his return he took lunch at Mr. Bolling's, and held an impromptu reception, everybody coming in to speak to him.
That night he went to an entertainment given to the bride at Mr. Johnson's. He enjoyed the evening very much and expressed his feeling of relief at seeing every one so bright and cheerful. He was delighted to find the people so prosperous, and to observe that they had it in their hearts to be gay and happy. The next morning he returned to Richmond. He was escorted to the train in the same way in which he had been received. All the people turned out to see him leave, and he departed amid tremendous cheering.
My father enjoyed this visit. It had been a success in every way. His old friends and soldiers called on him in great numbers, all eager to look on his face and clasp his hand again. The night of the wedding, the streets were filled with crowds anxious to see him once more, and many to look on him for the first time. Wherever he was seen, he was treated with the greatest love, admiration, and respect. It was with devotion, deep, sincere, and true, mixed with awe and sadness, that they beheld their old commander, on foot, in citizen's dress, grayer than three years ago, but still the same, passing along the ways where he had so often ridden on Traveller, with the noise of battle all around. What a change for him; what a difference to them! But their trust and faith in him were as unshaken as ever. A glimpse of his feelings at this time is shown in one of his letters written a few weeks later, which I will give in its proper place. The day after his return to Richmond he write to my mother:
RICHMOND, December 1, 1867.
My Dear Mary: I returned here yesterday with Custis, Robert and Fitz. Lee. We left Fitzhugh and his bride in Petersburg. Mildred is with them. In consequence of being told that the new couple were to leave Petersburg the morning after the wedding, I had made my arrangements to return here Saturday. If I had known that they would remain till Monday, as is now their intention, I should have made my arrangements to stay. Mildred will come up with them on Monday and go to Mrs. Caskie's. I proposed to Custis, Rob, and Fitz to remain in Petersburg till that time, but they preferred coming with me. I shall go to Brandon to-morrow morning, and will take Custis and Robert with me. I propose to return here Tuesday, finish my business Wednesday, spend Thursday at Hickory Hill, take passage for Lexington Friday, where I hope to arrive Saturday. As far as I could judge, our new daughter will go to Baltimore December 2d and probably return here the following Monday. Fitzhugh will go down to the White House during the week and make arrangements for their sojourn there. He can go down in the morning and return in the evening. I repeated our invitation to her to visit us on their return from Baltimore, but she said Fitzhugh thought it better for them to defer it till the spring, but she would write to let us know. I do not think she will come at this time, for she is in that happy state which causes her to take pleasure in doing what she thinks he prefers, and he, I think, would like to go to the White House and arrange for the winter. I went up to Caskie's last evening. Saw Norvell, but Mr. and Mrs. Caskie were both sick upstairs. The latter is better than when I last wrote, and free from pain. I paid several visits yesterday evening, and took Rob with me. Mrs. Triplett's, Mrs. Peebles', Mrs. Brander's, Mrs. J. R. Anderson's. At the latter place I met Mrs. Robert Stanard, who looked, I thought, remarkably well. She is living with Hugh (her son), on his farm. I also went to Mrs. Dunlop's and saw there General and Miss Jennie Cooper. The latter looked remarkably well, but the former is very thin. They will remain here some weeks. I have not seen Colonel Allan since my return from Petersburg, but am told that he is better. You must give a great deal of love to all with you. I am very anxious to get back, and I hope that you are all well. It is very cold here this morning, and ice is abundant. Good-bye. Truly and affectionately,
R. E. LEE.
The people mentioned here as those he called on were all friends living in Richmond, with whom my mother had become well acquainted during her stay there, in war times. There were many others he went to see, for I remember going with him. He sat only a few minutes at each place—"called just to shake hands," he would say. All were delighted to see him. From some places where he had been well known he could hardly get away. He had a kind word for all, and his excuse for hurrying on was that he must try to see so and so, as Mrs. Lee had told him to be sure to do so. He was bright and cheerful, and was pleased with the great affection shown him on all sides.
On the day he had appointed—Monday, the 2d of December—we started in the morning for "Brandon." We took the steamer down James River, passing through much of the country where he had opposed McClellan in '62 and Grant in '64. Custis and I were with him. He said very little, as I remember—nothing about the war—but was interested in all the old homesteads along the route, many of which he had visited in the days long ago and whose owners had been his relatives and friends. He expressed great regret at not being able to stop at "Shirley," which was the birthplace and home of his mother before she married. He stayed at "Brandon" one night only, taking the same boat as it returned next day to Richmond. They were all glad to see him and sorry to let him go, but his plans had been formed before-hand, according to his invariable custom, and he carried them out without any change. Spending one day in Richmond, he went from there to "Hickory Hill," thence to Lexington, arriving there the Saturday he had fixed on. I bade him and my brother Custis good-bye in Richmond, and returned to my home. To my brother, Fitzhugh, after his return from his wedding trip, he writes:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, December 21, 1867.
My Dear Fitzhugh: I was very glad last night to receive your letter of the 18th announcing your return to Richmond. I did not like my daughter to be so far away. I am glad, however, that you had so pleasant a visit, which has no doubt prepared you for the enjoyments of home, and will make the repose of Xmas week in Petersburg doubly agreeable. I had a very pleasant visit to Brandon after parting with you, which Custis and Robert seemed equally to enjoy, and I regretted that I could only spend one night. I passed Shirley both going and returning with regret, from my inability to stop; but Custis and I spent a day at Hickory Hill on our way up very agreeably. My visit to Petersburg was extremely pleasant. Besides the pleasure of seeing my daughter and being with you, which was very great, I was gratified in seeing many friends. In addition, when our armies were in front of Petersburg I suffered so much in body and mind on account of the good townspeople, especially on that gloomy night when I was forced to abandon them, that I have always reverted to them in sadness and sorrow. My old feelings returned to me, as I passed well-remembered spots and recalled the ravages of the hostile shells. But when I saw the cheerfulness with which the people were working to restore their condition, and witnessed the comforts with which they were surrounded, a load of sorrow which had been pressing upon me for years was lifted from my heart. This is bad weather for completing your house, but it will soon pass away, and your sweet helpmate will make everything go smoothly. When the spring opens and the mocking-birds resume their song you will have much to do. So you must prepare in time. You must give a great deal of love for me to all at Mr. Bolling's, to General and Mrs. Mahone, and other friends. We shall be very glad when you can bring our daughter to see us. Select the time most convenient to you, and do not let it be long distant. Tell her I wish to see her very much, as do also her mama and sisters. Your mother regrets that you did not receive her letter in answer to yours from Baltimore. She wrote the day of its reception, and addressed it to New York, as you directed. The box about which you inquired arrived safely and was much enjoyed. Mary is in Baltimore, where she will probably spend the winter. As I am so far from Mildred, it will be difficult for her to make up her mind when to return, so that the whole care of the household devolves upon Agnes, who is occupied all the morning, teaching our niece, Mildred. . . . God bless you all is the prayer of Your devoted father,
R. E. LEE.
GENERAL WM. H. F. LEE
The Christmas of 1867 I spent, as usual, in Lexington with my father. He had been president of the college now a little more than two years. The number of professors and students had largely increased. The chapel had been built, many improvements made to the lecture-rooms and halls, the grounds improved by the laying out of new roads and walks, the inclosures renewed, the grass restored to the campus, and new shade trees set out over the college grounds. The increase in the number of professors demanded more houses for them. As a move in this direction, the trustees decided to build a new house for the president, so that the one he now occupied could be used for one of the faculty. Accordingly, the appropriations of a sum was made, and my father was authorised to build according to a plan of his own selection. He took a keen interest in this matter, and at once commenced designing a new "President's House" on the lot which had previously been occupied by an old building devoted to the same purpose. This house was completed in the summer of 1869.
The endowment fund of the college had been increased by liberal contributions from several philanthropic persons, and also by a better investment of the resources already belonging to the institution. The fees from the greater number of students also added much to its prosperity. His interest in the students individually and collectively was untiring. By the system of reports made weekly to the president, and monthly to the parent or guardian, he knew well how each one of his charges was getting on, whether or not he was progressing, or even holding his own. If the report was unsatisfactory, the student was sent for and remonstrated with. If that had no effect, the parents were advised, and requested to urge the son to try to do better. If the student still persisted in wasting his time and money, his parents were asked to call him home.
As illustrating how well the president was acquainted with the student, and how accurate was his remembrance of their individuality, it is related that on one occasion a name was read out in faculty meeting which was unfamiliar to him. He asked that it be read out again, and repeated the name to himself, adding in a tone of self-reproach:
I have no recollection of a student of that name. It is very strange that I have forgotten him. I thought I knew every one in college. How long has he been here?
An investigation proved that the student had recently entered during his absence, and that he had never seen him. He won the confidence of the students, and very soon their affections. He regarded a mass of petty regulations as being only vexatious, and yet by his tact and firmness his discipline became most effective. Very seldom was there any breaking of the laws. He was so honoured and loved that they tried to please him in all things. Of course, there were exceptions. I give here some letters written to parents and guardians which will show how he tried to induce these triflers to become men:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, March 25, 1866.
My Dear Sir: I am very glad to learn from your letter of the 13th inst. that you have written your son in reference to his neglect of his studies. I am sure your letter and the kind admonition of his mother will have a beneficial effect upon him. I have myself told him as plainly but as kindly as I could that it was necessary for him to change his course, or that he would be obliged to return home. He had promised me that he would henceforth be diligent and attentive, and endeavour in all things to perform his duty. I hope that he may succeed, for I think he is able to do well if he really makes the effort. Will you be so kind as to inform Mrs. W. that I have received her letter of the 19th? It will give me great pleasure at all times to aid her son in every way I can, but if he desires no benefit from his connection with the college it will be to his interest to return home. Very truly your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE.
Here is another letter showing the patience and forbearance of the president and his earnest desire to help on in life the young men committed to his charge:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, April 20, 1868.
My Dear Sir: I regret to see, from your letter of the 29th ult., to the clerk of the faculty, that you have misunderstood their action in reference to your son. He was not dismissed, as you suppose, from college, but every means having been tried by the faculty to induce him to attend faithfully and regularly to his studies, without effect, and great forbearance having been practised, it was thought best for him, and just to you, that he should return home. The action of the faculty was purposely designed, not to prevent his being received into any other college, or to return to this, should you so desire. The monthly reports are intended to advise parents of the progress of their sons, and it was supposed you would have seen the little advancement made by yours in his studies, and that no further notice was required. The action of the faculty was caused by no immorality on his part, but by a systematic neglect of his duties, which no counsel on the part of his professors, or my own, could correct. In compliance, however, with your wishes, and on the positive promise of amendment on the part of your son, he has been received into college, and I sincerely hope that he will apply himself diligently to his studies, and make an earnest effort to retrieve the time he has lost. With great respect, Your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE.
This letter, too, shows his fatherly interest:
LEXINGTON, Virginia, March 19, 1868.
My Dear Sir: Before this you have learned the affecting death of your son. I can say nothing to mitigate your grief or to relieve your sorrow; but if the sincere sympathy of his comrades and friends and of the entire community can bring you any consolation, I can assure you that you possess it in its fullest extent. When one, in the pureness and freshness of youth, before having been contaminated by sin or afflicted by misery, is called to the presence of his Merciful Creator, it must be solely for his good. As difficult as this may be for you now to recognise, I hope you will keep it constantly in your memory and take it to your comfort; and I pray that He who in His wise Providence has permitted this crushing sorrow may sanctify it to the happiness of all. Your son and his friend, Mr. Birely, often passed their leisure hours in rowing on the river, and, on last Saturday afternoon, the 4th inst., attempted what they had more than once been cautioned against—to approach the foot of the dam, at the public bridge. Unfortunately, their boat was caught by the return-current, struck by the falling water, and was immediately upset. Their perilous position was at once seen from the shore, and aid was hurried to their relief, but before it could reach them both had perished. Efforts to restore your son's life, though long continued, were unavailing. Mr. Birely's body was not found until the next morning. Their remains were, yesterday, Sunday, conveyed to the Episcopal church in this city, where the sacred ceremony for the dead were performed, by the Reverend Dr. Pendleton, who nineteen years ago, at the far-off home of their infancy, placed upon them their baptismal vows. After the service a long procession of the professors and students of the college, the officers and cadets of the Virginia Military Academy, and the citizens of Lexington accompanied their bodies to the packet-boat for Lynchburg, where they were placed in charge of Messrs. Wheeler & Baker to convey them to Frederick City. With great regard and sincere sympathy, I am, Most respectfully,
R. E. LEE.
Return to Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee