Death of Robert E. Lee

 

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Robert E. Lee's Death

Robert E. Lee Birthday | Death of Robert E. Lee | Harper's Weekly 1863 Lee & Jackson Article | Robert E. Lee Bio in Harper's Weekly | Robert E. Lee Day | Robert E. Lee's Last Words

The Death of Robert E. Lee

Source: (A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.

BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.)

On the 28th of September, 1870, after laborious attention to his duties during the early part of the day, General Lee attended, in the afternoon, a meeting of the Vestry of Grace Church, of which he was a member. Over this meeting he presided, and it was afterward remembered that his last public act was to contribute the sum of fifty-five dollars to some good object, the requisite amount to effect which was thus made up.

Robert E. Lee's Tomb

 

 After the meeting, General Lee returned to his home, and, when tea was served, took his place at the table to say grace, as was his habit, as it had been in camp throughout the war. His lips opened, but no sound issued from them, and he sank back in his chair, from which he was carried to bed.

The painful intelligence immediately became known throughout Lexington, and the utmost grief and consternation were visible upon every face. It was hoped, at first, that the attack would not prove serious, and that General Lee would soon be able to resume his duties. But this hope was soon dissipated. The skilful physicians who hastened to his bedside pronounced his malady congestion of the brain, and, from the appearance of the patient, who lay in a species of coma, the attack was evidently of the most alarming character.

 

The most discouraging phase of the case was, that, physically, General Lee was--if we may so say--in perfect health. His superb physique, although not perhaps as vigorous and robust as during the war, exhibited no indication whatever of disease. His health appeared perfect, and twenty years more of life might have been predicted for him from simple reference to his appearance.

The malady was more deeply seated, however, than any bodily disease; the cerebral congestion was but a symptom of the mental malady which was killing its victim. From the testimony of the able physicians who watched the great soldier, day and night, throughout his illness, and are thus best competent to speak upon the subject, there seems no doubt that General Lee's condition was the result of mental depression produced by the sufferings of the Southern people. Every mail, it is said, had brought him the most piteous appeals for assistance, from old soldiers whose families were in want of bread; and the woes of these poor people had a prostrating effect upon him. A year or two before, his health had been seriously impaired by this brooding depression, and he had visited North Carolina, the White Sulphur Springs, and other places, to divert his mind. In this he failed. The shadow went with him, and the result was, at last, the alarming attack from which he never rallied. During the two weeks of his illness he scarcely spoke, and evidently regarded his condition as hopeless. When one of his physicians said to him, "General, you must make haste and get well; _Traveller_ has been standing so long in his stable that he needs exercise." General Lee shook his head slowly, to indicate that he would never again mount his favorite horse.

He remained in this state, with few alterations in his condition, until Wednesday; October 12th, when, about nine in the morning, in the midst of his family, the great soldier tranquilly expired.

 

 

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