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Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

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A special car carried General Lee and the other wedding guests fromRichmond to Petersburg. He did not enter into the gay conversationof the young people, but appeared sad and depressed, and seemed todread seeing the town of Petersburg and meeting its people. Thisfeeling was dispelled by the enthusiastic welcome given him by everyone there. General Mahone, whose guest he was to be, met him atthe depot with a carriage and four white horses. Many of the citizenstried to take out the horses and pull the carriage into the town, butthe General protested, declaring, if they did so, he would have toget 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, sendinghim eggs, butter, etc., when he had had his headquarters near by duringthe siege. On his return he took lunch at Mr. Bolling's, and held animpromptu 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 feelingof relief at seeing every one so bright and cheerful. He was delightedto find the people so prosperous, and to observe that they had it intheir hearts to be gay and happy. The next morning he returned toRichmond. He was escorted to the train in the same way in which hehad been received. All the people turned out to see him leave, andhe 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 eagerto 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, andmany to look on him for the first time. Where ever he was seen, he wastreated with the greatest love, admiration, and respect. It was withdevotion, deep, sincere, and true, mixed with awe and sadness, thatthey beheld their old commander, on foot, in citizen's dress, grayerthan three years ago, but still the same, passing along the ways wherehe had so often ridden on Traveller, with the noise of battle allaround. What a change for him; what a difference to them! But theirtrust and faith in him were as unshaken as ever. A glimpse of hisfeelings at this time is shown in one of his letters written a fewweeks later, which I will give in its proper place. The day afterhis return to Richmond he write to my mother:

"Richmond, December 1, 1867.

"My Dear Mary: I returned here yesterday with Custis, Robert andFitz. Lee. We left Fitzhugh and his bride in Petersburg. Mildredis with them. In consequence of being told that the new couple wereto leave Petersburg the morning after the wedding, I had made myarrangements to return here Saturday. If I had known that they wouldremain till Monday, as is now their intention, I should have mademy arrangements to stay. Mildred will come up with them on Mondayand go to Mrs. Caskie's. I proposed to Custis, Rob, and Fitz toremain in Petersburg till that time, but they preferred coming withme. I shall go to Brandon to-morrow morning, and will take Custisand Robert with me. I propose to return here Tuesday, finish mybusiness Wednesday, spend Thursday at Hickory Hill, take passage forLexington Friday, where I hope to arrive Saturday. As far as I couldjudge, our new daughter will go to Baltimore December 2d and probablyreturn here the following Monday. Fitzhugh will go down to the WhiteHouse during the week and make arrangements for their sojourn there.He can go down in the morning and return in the evening. I repeatedour invitation to her to visit us on their return from Baltimore, butshe said Fitzhugh thought it better fo them to defer it till thespring, but she would write to let us know. I do not think she willcome at this time, for she is in that happy state which causes herto take pleasure in doing what she thinks he prefers, and he, I think,would like to go to the White House and arrange for winter. I wentup to Caskie's last evening. Saw Norvell, but Mr. and Mrs. Caskiewere both sick upstairs. The latter is better than when I last wrote,and free from pain. I paid several visits yesterday evening, andtook Rob with me. Mrs. Triplett's, Mrs. Peebles', Mrs. Brander's,Mrs. J. R. Anderson's. At the latter place I met Mrs. Robert Stannard,who looked, I thought, remarkably well. She is living with Hugh (herson), on his farm. I also went to Mrs. Dunlop's and saw there Generaland Miss Jennie Cooper. The latter looked remarkably well, but theformer is very thin. They will remain here some weeks. I have notseen Colonel Allan since my return from Petersburg, but am told thathe 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. Itis 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 livingin Richmond, with whom my mother had become well acquainted duringher 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 eachplace--"called just to shake hands," he would say. All were delightedto see him. From some places where he had been well known he couldhardly get away. He had a kind word for all, and his excuse forhurrying on was that he must try to see so and so, as Mrs. Lee hadtold him to be sure to do so. He was bright and cheerful, and waspleased with the great affection shown him on all sides.

On the day he had appointed--Monday, the 2d of December--we startedin 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 theold homesteads along the route, many of which he had visited in thedays 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 itreturned next day to Richmond. They were all glad to see him and sorryto let him go, but his plans had been formed before-hand, accordingto 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 returnedto my home. To my brother, Fitzhugh, after his return from his weddingtrip, he writes:

"Lexington, Virginia, December 21, 1867.

"My Dear Fitzhugh: I was very glad last night to receive your letterof the 18th announcing your return to Richmond. I did not like mydaughter to be so far away. I am glad, however, that you had sopleasant a visit, which has no doubt prepared you for the enjoymentsof home, and will make the repose of Xmas week in Petersburg doublyagreeable. I had a very pleasant visit to Brandon after parting withyou, which Custis and Robert seemed equally to enjoy, and I regrettedthat I could only spend one night. I passed Shirley both going andreturning with regret, from my inability to stop; but Custis and Ispent a day at Hickory Hill on our way up very agreeably. My visitto Petersburg was extremely pleasant. Besides the pleasure of seeingmy daughter and being with you, which was very great, I was gratifiedin seeing many friends. In addition, when our armies were in front ofPetersburg I suffered so much in body and mind on account of the goodtownspeople, especially on that gloomy night when I was forced toabandon them, that I have always reverted to them in sadness andsorrow. My old feelings returned to me, as I passed well-rememberedspots and recalled the ravages of the hostile shells. But when Isaw the cheerfulness with which the people were working to restoretheir condition, and witnessed the comforts with which they weresurrounded, a load of sorrow which had been pressing upon me for yearswas lifted from my heart. This is bad weather for completing yourhouse, but it will soon pass away, and your sweet helpmate will makeeverything go smoothly. When the spring opens and the mocking-birdsresume their song you will have much to do. So you must prepare intime. 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 shallbe very glad when you can bring our daughter to see us. Select thetime most convenient to you, and do not let it be long distant. Tellher 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 toyours from Baltimore. She wrote the day of its reception, and addressedit to New York, as you directed. The box about which you inquiredarrived safely and was much enjoyed. Mary is in Baltimore, where shewill probably spend the winter. As I am so far from Mildred, it willbe difficult for her to make up her mind when to return, so that thewhole care of the household devolves upon Agnes, who is occupied allthe morning, teaching our niece, Mildred.... God bless you all isthe prayer of Your devoted father, R. Lee.

"General Wm. H. F. Lee."

Watch the video: A 1924 Edition of recollections and letters of general Robert E Lee written by his son Capt. Robert (June 2022).