Washington and Lee University

Robert E. Lee and His Family

Chapter XI
CAPTAIN ROBERT E. LEE

Robert Edward Lee, youngest of the three sons of Gen. Robert E. Lee, was born at Arlington on October 27, 1843. After tuition in private schools, he entered the University of Virginia in October, 1860. He was at the University in the beginning of August, 1861, when his father went from Richmond through Charlottesville on his way to western Virginia, but he could not stop to see Rob. The latter, the next month, went with his mother to Hot Springs, in Bath County. General Lee, at this time, was campaigning in Randolph County. Rob was anxious to join the army, but it was decided that he should return to the University, which opened October 1. In the spring of 1862, however, with his father's consent, he enlisted in the Rockbridge Artillery, after having gone to Richmond to see his father. About the end of March, after the battle of Kernstown, young Lee, with the Rockbridge Artillery, joined the army of Stonewall Jackson at Red Banks (Camp Buchanan) in Shenandoah County. The famous Valley Campaign followed, and then, soon after the middle of June, Jackson's army crossed the Blue Ridge and moved on to Richmond to aid in driving back McClellan. In the meantime General Lee had taken command at Richmond, following the severe wounding of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in the battle of Seven Pines, May 31.

In the long, hot, and toilsome march from the Valley and the hard fighting around Richmond, Jackson's men were much worn down. One clay, during the “Seven Days,” while Rob Lee, ragged and dirty, was dozing in the shade of a caisson, a comrade prodded him with a sponge-staff and told him that he was called for. Staggering out, only half awake, he found himself face to face with General Lee and his staff. The General had learned of his whereabouts and had ridden by to see how he was getting along. The next time he saw his father the General was riding at the head of Longstreet's men on the field of Second Manassas. During the two weeks following Rob saw his father occasionally, but did not speak with him again until the bloody day at Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862, when the remnant of the Rockbridge battery had to be sent again to the front. One afternoon in October, in camp near Winchester, Rob received a note from his father telling him of the death in North Carolina of his sister Annie.

CAPTAIN ROBERT E. LEE

Later in the autumn of 1862 Rob Lee was made a lieutenant and aide-de-camp on the staff of his brother Rooney, who had just been promoted to the command of a brigade of cavalry. He proceeded to his father's headquarters near Orange Court House. There his father gave him a bay mare, four years old, a daughter of the handsome “Grace Darling.” She carried him through the remainder of the war and for thirteen years thereafter.

When Gen. Rooney Lee. wounded, was carried away from Hickory Hill, about June 24, 1863, by the Federals, his brother, Titus Rob Lee, escaped capture. Being warned of the approach of the Federals, General Rooney directed Rob to get away, declaring that he could do no good by remaining. Accordingly, Rob hid in the shrubbery near the house until the raiding party had gone away. All the horses on the place were saved by the servants except General Rooney's favorite charger. From Hickory Hill Rob went to Richmond; then, after the Gettysburg campaign, he rejoined the army in Culpeper County. At first he was in his old brigade, then commanded by John R. Chambliss; early in 1864 he was under his cousin, Gen. Fitz Lee.

The first week in July (1864) Lieutenant Lee was sent by his father from Petersburg with a message to Gen. Jubal Early who was then in Maryland, threatening Washington. General Lee gave him a letter for General Early, but told him the contents. If he appeared in danger of capture he was to destroy the letter, but if he escaped and succeeded in reaching General Early he was to deliver the message orally. In Richmond, while waiting for the train, he saw his mother and sisters. From Staunton, where he left the train, a relay of horses had been ordered by telegraph. Riding night and day, he reached General Early some miles beyond Sharpsburg and delivered the letter. He then returned to General Lee at Petersburg.

On August 14, 1864, a heavy force of Federals made an advance towards Richmond on the north side of James River, continuing for several days. They were opposed by the Confederate cavalry division in which Rob Lee was serving. He, on the 15th, was shot in the arm and was disabled for about three weeks.

Photo by Miley of Lexington.

MRS. ROBERT E. LEE in LATER YEARS

Immediately following the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Captain Lee with several other officers and others made his way to Greensboro, N.C., expecting to join Confederate forces farther south, but after a few days he started back towards Richmond. About the first week in May he arrived in that city and there found his father, mother, and other members of the family in the house on Franklin Street, now the headquarters of the Virginia Historical Society. He at this time lacked five or six months of being 22 years old. His brother, Gen. Rooney Lee, had already gone back to the White House, his farm home in New Kent County, and there Rob soon joined him, with horses and several Negro men. They hitched the cavalry horses to the plows and put out a crop of corn, finishing the planting on June 9. In later years Captain Lee operated his own farm in King William County, but he asserted that the crop at the White (louse in 1865 was the best he ever made.

On November 16, 1871, Captain Lee married (1) Charlotte Taylor, who died without issue on September 22, 1872. On March 8, 1894, at Washington, D.C., he married (2) Juliet Carter by whom he had two daughters: Anne Carter, born July 21, 1897, and Mary Curtis, horn December 23, 1900.

For a number of years Captain Lee occupied and operated the farm in King William County, Va., which he had inherited from his grandfather Custis, but for twenty years or so preceding his death he was engaged in business in and near Washington City. On June 1, 1897, he made his will and in it described himself as of the County of King William, “now sojourning in the City of Washington.” He was a member of the firm of Dulany, Fleming, and Lee, handling real estate, brokerage, and insurance. He received by gift $25,000 from his sister Mildred, who died in 1905. This money he invested in the business of the said firm. His will, by which he appointed his wife, Juliet Carter Lee, sole executrix, was probated in Fairfax County, Va., on January 31. 1916. (See Fairfax County Will Book 6, page 6.)

Captain Lee rendered an enduring service to posterity in his book, “Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee,” which was first published in 1904. In 1924, eight years after his death, a second edition was issued with additions by William Taylor Thom. This work presents the best picture extant of General Lee and his splendid service in leading the people of Virginia and other states in their spiritual and material rebuilding following the destruction of war.


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