ROBERT E. LEE AND HIS CHILDREN
VIRGINIA LOUISE LEE
A.B., 1957, THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Columbian College of The George Washington University in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Thesis directed by Wood Gray, Ph.D.
My original intention for this thesis was to develop an integrated study of the children of Robert E. Lee, but preliminary research revealed such a scarcity of material on the subject that reluctantly the idea had to be abandoned. Curiosity concerning the Lee children remained high, however, and I also discovered that almost as much as he is revered as a Christian, the world in general honors Robert E. Lee as an ideal father, yet very little has been done to pursue exclusively those elements in his background, both remote and immediate, which made him so.
Uniting my curiosity with this lack I have endeavored to delineate the circumstances of his heritage and his childhood that may have shaped his later attitudes as a parent, and to follow the course of his adult life as it materially affected his attitudes and his actions toward his children.
The fact that other important consequences of his life may have been likewise the result of these same influences does not come within the purview of this paper; others better qualified than I have dealt adequately and at great length with those phases of his career.
Biographical treatment has been necessary in order to encompass the scope of influences that made him the man and father he was and to provide the background against which to observe those influences in action throughout his life. Without this background we would be unable to place him in proper perspective to his children or to realize just how greatly Robert E. Lee, in his role as a father, as in other things, triumphed over misfortune.
In attempting to picture him as a father, inevitably something must be revealed of the children he was father to. It is the aim of this thesis to remind that Robert E. Lee was basically a man like other men and very human indeed, and simultaneously to recreate, insofar as available material permits, his three sons and four daughters so that each one becomes clearly distinguishable as an individual, with a distinct and unique personality of his own.
It is my hope also that in thus picturing a man whose favorite dish was “smothered chicken,” and who wrote his daughter that his room “wasn't big enough to swing a cat in,” who had the humor to call his naval officer brother “my darling Rose,” and to tell his “Precious Life that “I saw cats as is cats,” the Marble Model will be broken enough to reveal not feet of clay but the warm, human, tender being that was the essence of Robert E. Lee.
Among those who helped make this study possible are Miss Elizabeth McPherson of the Manuscript Division, and Mr. Allen Ledwith of the Newspaper Division, Library of Congress. Miss Georgia Cowan of the District of Columbia Main Library was of much assistance, as was Miss Shirley Williams of the Alexandria Library where the Virginiana donated to it by the late archivist of the Lee family, Cazenove G. Lee, Jr., was of immeasurable aid to me. The secretary of Christ Church, the clerk in the Clerk of Court's Office, and members of the staff of the Alexandria Gazette, all of Alexandria, were most kind and helpful. I am indebted also to members of the staff of the Confederate Museum, members of the staff of the Virginia Historical Society, especially Mr. Howson Cole, Curator of Manuscripts, and members of the staff of the Virginia State Library, particularly Mr. William Harrison, Photo Librarian of that institution, all of Richmond, Virginia, who gave such prompt and friendly attention to the solving of several problems incidental to this research. Mr. Houston Howell, editor of the Lexington Gazette, and the Clerk of the Rockbridge County Court, Lexington, gave generously of their time and effort, and Mrs. William Cabell Flournoy, custodian of the Lee Chapel, Lexington, was most enthusiastic and encouraging. Mrs. Hunter deButts, daughter of Captain Robert E. Lee, very graciously answered some questions.
Virginia L. Lee
2 January 1960
TABLE OF CONTENTS