October 10, 1975

Dear Dick,[1]

I was delighted by your suggestion that my/your R. E. Lee proof be given to the Boyhood Home in Alexandria. I had noticed that it is getting pretty ragged in Dad’s copy of Volume I, and I think it would be a pleasing memorial to Lee, Dr. Freeman, and even in a small way to me. Having it permanently in Alexandria would be very appropriate to everybody concerned.

I well remember the afternoon Dr. Freeman gave it to me. I had happened to mention to my good friends Dr. Vincent Franks—then rector of St. Paul’s Church in Richmond—and his wonderful wife Adele that my father was a great admirer of Freeman and would be extremely pleased if I could meet him. They replied that this would be easy for them to arrange. Pretty soon, an invitation came from Mrs. Freeman to call on such-and-such an afternoon at the Freeman house (the house that R. E. Lee built) in Richmond for tea.

It turned out to be ginger ale—no wine or booze, you may be sure, from Lee’s biographer. Both Freeman and Mrs. Freeman could not have been more gracious. As we were having our ginger ale, Dr. Freeman told me a remarkable story: while he was writing parts of R. E. Lee, he spent some of his leisure time (how he managed to have any I cannot imagine) listening to recordings of Wagner’s music. Years later, a lady from Texas, having read these passages, wrote to Freeman asking if perchance he could have been listening to Wagner when he wrote them.

Later Dr. Freeman showed me his splendid library and study, and confided that most of the Civil War books and files had been taken out and replaced with Washington materials. I say “confided,” because he added that his decision to write a biography of Washington was still something of a publisher’s secret. He planned to spend eight years writing it. As you know, he spent more than eight years and in fact never lived fully to complete it.

He then ended the visit and tour by asking if I would like a galley proof of R. E. Lee. This was a customary keepsake that he presented to admiring callers. I hesitated to ask for “A Carriage Goes to Alexandria,” because I knew that it was Volume I, page 1, and probably especially valuable if not already spoken for. However, I explained that I would like it because I was born in Alexandria, and asked anyway.

Freeman went to his batch of proofs and to my surprize fished out the one I asked for and wrote the inscription that you know.

Dad, I recall, was pleased as Punch with it. I am sure he would also be pleased to know that it has found its way to Oronoco Street.

One of these days I’ll get back to Fluvanna County—dead or alive. Things are so chaotic in New York City, I sometimes think dead, but I’ll get there. Meanwhile all the best to you and your organization, and of course love to Carol and the kids.








Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Oversize Box, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall



Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 April 11


[1] Richard Ballenger Smith (1920-2001) was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Robert B. Smith (b. 1891) and Louise S. Ballenger Uhl (1897-1974). He attended Duke University, where he met his wife, Frances G. Pulzone, of Callao, Virginia, with whom he was married for 52 years. Colonel Smith served for 32 years in the Marine Corps, first onboard the U.S.S. Springfield during the battle for Iwo Jima. He won two Bronze Stars in the Korean War and served with the Marines in England and the Middle East after the Korean War. He took part in Operation Kingfisher and Operation Kentucky during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Marines in 1973 and worked for the Lee Jackson Foundation and many other organizations. He died in 2001 in Fluvanna, Virginia.

[2] Sherwood Smith was born 1924 January 2 in Arlington, Virginia. He died 2015 September 11.