Washington and Lee University

Memoir, 11–21 1861
Harriotte Lee Taliaferro


* Colonel Montague is a native of Richmond and a graduate of V.M.I., with a Ph.D. in history from Duke University. Before the war he was Assistant Professor of History at V.M.I. His Army service was with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he is presently employed, in a civilian capacity, under the National Security Council. He recently became Secretary of the Society of the Lees of Virginia.

1 Douglass Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee, I, 446f.

2 Rebecca Lloyd, daughter of Anne Harriotte Lee and wife of Dr. John Prosser Tabb, of White Marsh, Gloucester County. She, and her sister, were first cousins (once removed) to Robert E. Lee.

3 A date remembered because it was her 21st birthday.

4 Presumably Mrs. Tabb, her first cousin, referred to above. It was while visiting the Tabbs in Gloucester that Mrs. Taliaferro had met her future husband.

5 On April 4 a test vote in the Convention had indicated a two to one majority against secession, but Fort Sumter had been attacked on the 12th, Lincoln had called for volunteers on the 15th, and the Convention had gone into secret session on the 16th. If the mail had reached Gloucester on the 17th it would have been known there that a crisis was at hand. Probably no mail had come through since April 10, on account of the storm.

6 From the wash of the paddle wheels.

7 "Rooney" Lee, whose home, the White House, was on the line of the York River Railroad.

8 Here a page of the manuscript is unfortunately missing. The gist of "Rooney" Lee's remarks can be had by reference to Miss S. L. Lee, "War Time in Alexandria," South Atlantic Quarterly, IV (1905), 235: "A lady [her sister, Mrs. Taliaferro] . . . telling of her meeting on the train with W. H. F. Lee . . . says that she can never forget the contrast of his deep depression with the prevalent elation and jubilancy. He said the people had lost their senses and had no conception of what a terrible mistake they were making."

9 The implication of this fragment is that Mrs. Taliaferro found the prevalent opinion in Richmond more reassuring than that of "Rooney𔄙 Lee.

10 Presumably the special train had been provided to take Judge Robertson to Alexandria. See Freeman, op. cit., I, 637.

11 Cf. the statement attributed to Mrs. Tabb in Wedderburn, op. cit.

12 Harriotte Lee had attended Mr. Lefevre's School in Richmond during the session of 1859–60; Col. Lee had left Arlington for Texas in February, 1860.

13 Robert Lee was 54, Cassius Lee, 53.

14 The Lloyd House, according to an explanatory note by Mrs. Taliaferro's daughter. This house (220 North Washington Street) was mid-way between Christ Church and the home of Cassius Lee (No. 428).

15 Presumably he did return eventually to his carriage at the Lloyd House, at which time a conversation similar to that reported by Wedderbum may well have occurred.

16 North of Alexandria in the area of the present Mount Vernon Boulevard.

17 Lee's problem was essentially whether to accept the probable tender of a Virginia commission. Dr. Freeman has shown conclusively that he was offered chief command only after his arrival in Richmond. That idea may have been substituted in Mrs. Taliaferro's recollection by hindsight. The idea that Lee would be called to chief command was current in Alexandria on April 21, however, so that he and Cassius Lee may have discussed the subject in those terms.

18 Lee was evidently disturbed by what he foresaw, but in no doubt where his duty lay, if he were called. He accepted instantly on receiving Judge Robertson's note at Arlington that evening. Freeman, op. cit., I, 447.

19 Cassius Lee was and remained a staunch Unionist. On April 21 he apparently still hoped, against reason, that the ordinance of secession would not be ratified.

20 The day before, in writing to his brother, Lee had stated that he would have preferred not to resign his U.S. commission until the ordinance of secession had actually been ratified, but had decided to act at once to avoid having to resign under orders. Freeman, op. cit., I, 444. He clearly foresaw that military necessity could not wait upon constitutional procedure.

21 That Robert Lee felt that his conversation with Cassius had been unsatisfactorily inconclusive is indicated by the fact that on his third day in Richmond he took time from urgent business to write: "I wanted to say many things to you before I left home. But the event was rendered so imperatively speedy that I could not." E. J. Lee, Lee of Virginia, 420.

22 That is, until about May 10.

23 The Lee family left Arlington on May 14. Federal forces occupied Arlington and Alexandria on May 24.