Chapter XVI


This Site:

Civil War

Civil War Overview

Civil War 1861

Civil War 1862

Civil War 1863

Civil War 1864

Civil War 1865

Civil War Battles

Confederate Generals

Union Generals

Confederate History

Robert E. Lee

Civil War Medicine

Lincoln Assassination


Site Search

Civil War Links


Civil War Art

Revolutionary War

Mexican War

Republic of Texas


Winslow Homer

Thomas Nast

Mathew Brady

Western Art

Civil War Gifts

Robert E. Lee Portrait

  Up | Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII | Chapter VIII | Chapter IX | Chapter X | Chapter XI | Chapter XII | Chapter XIII | Chapter XIV | Chapter XV | Chapter XVI | Chapter XVII | Chapter XVIII | Chapter XVIV | Chapter XX | Chapter XXI | Chapter XXII | Chapter XXIII | Chapter XXIV

Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son

Chapter XVI
An Advisor of Young Men

Lee's policy as college president--His advice on agricultural matters--
His affection for his prospective daughter-in-law--Fitzhugh's wedding--
The General's ovation at Petersburg--his personal interest in the
students under his care

The college exercises were resumed in the last weeks of September.
My mother and sisters were all back at home.  The President's work,
now more in hand, began to show results.  The number of students this
session was largely increased and the outlook of the college was very
much brighter.

"He had from the beginning of his presidency a distinct policy and
plan which he had fully conceived and to which he steadily adhered,
so that all his particular measures of progress were but consistent
steps in its development.  His object was nothing less than to establish
and perfect an institution which should meet the highest needs of
education in every department.  At once, and without waiting for the
means to be provided in advance, he proceeded to develop this object.
Under his advice, new chairs were created, and professors called to
fill them, so that before the end of the first year the faculty was
doubled in numbers.  Still additional chairs were created, and finally
a complete system of 'schools' was established and brought into full
operation.  So admirably was the plan conceived and administered by
General lee, that, heterogeneous as were the students, especially in
the early years, each one found his proper place, and all were kept
in line of complete and systematic study.  Under this organisation,
and especially under the inspiration of his central influence, the
utmost harmony and utmost energy pervaded all the departments of the
college.  The highest powers of both professors and students were
called forth, under the fullest responsibility.  The standards of
scholarship were rapidly advanced; and soon the graduates of Washington
College were the acknowledged equals of those from the best institutions
elsewhere, and were eagerly sought after for the highest positions as
teachers in the best schools.  The results...were due directly and
immediately, more than to all other causes, to the personal ability
and influence of General Lee as president of the college."

So wrote Professor Edward S. Joynes in an article published soon after
General lee's death, in the "University Monthly."  All of this had
not been accomplished as yet, but the work was well advanced, and
the results began to be evident.  His health had not been strong since
the middle of the summer, but he never ceased in his endeavour to
better the condition of the college, and to improve the minds, morals,
and bodies of the young men committed to his charge.  He writes to
me about this time, encouraging me to renewed efforts, telling me
how to better my condition, and advising me not to be cast down by

                           "Lexington, Viriginia, October 26, 1867.

"My Dear Rob:  Your letter of the 10th did not give me a very favourable
account of yourself or your prospects, but I have no doubt it was true
and therefore commendable.  We must not, however, yield to difficulties,
but strive the harder to overcome them.  I am sorry for the failure
of your crops, your loneliness and uncomfortableness, and wish it
were in my power to visit you and advise with you.  But you must come
up this winter, when convenient, and we will discuss the whole matter.
Fitzhugh, I hope, will be married soon, and then he will have more
time to counsel with you.  I hope, between you two, you will devise
some mode of relief.  The only way to improve your crop is to improve
your land, which requires time, patience, and good cultivation.  Lime,
I think, is one of the chief instruments, and I advise you to apply
that systematically and judiciously.  I think, too, you had better
purchase another pair of mules.  I can help you in these items, and,
if you need, can advance you $500.  Then, as regards a house, I can
help you in that too, but you must first select a site and a plan.
The first can only be found on the land, and the latter might be
adopted on the progressive principle, commencing with the minor
members, and finishing with the principal ones as convenience or
necessity might authorise.  If no better can be found, how would the
present site answer?  If you are going to cultivate the lower part
of the farm, it would at least have the advantage of convenience, or
if you thought it better to divide and sell your farm it would answer
for one of the divisions.  I am clear for your marrying, if you select
a good wife; otherwise you had better remain as you are for a time.
An imprudent or uncongenial woman is worse than THE MINKS [I had
written to him that they had destroyed all my hens].  I think, upon
the whole, you are progressing very well and have accomplished the
worst part.  A failure in crops will occur occasionally to every farmer,
even the best, with favourable surroundings.  It serves a good purpose,
inculcates prudence and economy, and excites energy and perseverance.
These qualities will overcome everything.  You are very young still,
and if you are virtuous and laborious you will accomplish all the
good you propose to yourself.  Let me know if you want the money.  We
are pretty well.  I am better and your poor mother more comfortable,
I think, than she was last year.  The girls are as usual, and Custis
is in far better health than he was before his visit to the Springs.
He seems, however, not happy, and I presume other people have their
troubles as well as farmers.  God bless you, my son, and may He guard,
guide, and direct you in all you do.  All would unite in love did
they know I was writing.

                    "Truly and affectionately, your father,

                                 "R. E. Lee.

"Robert E. Lee, Jr."

My brother Fitzhugh was to be married that autumn.  This event, so
soon to take place, gave my father great pleasure.  He was an earnest
advocate of matrimony, and was constantly urging his sons to take
to themselves wives.  With his daughters he was less pressing.  Though
apparently always willing to have another daughter, he did not seem
to long for any more sons.  He thus writes to my brother when his
engagement was formally announced to him:

                          "Lexington, Virginia, September 20, 1867.

"My Dear Fitzhugh:  I have been anxious for some time to write to
you, to express the pleasure I have felt a the prospects of your
marriage with Miss Bolling; but sickness has prevented, and I am still
so feeble that I cannot attend to the pressing business connected
with the college.  As you know how deeply I feel all that concerns
you, you may feel assured of the pleasure I derived from your letter
to your mother informing her of your engagement.  I have the most
pleasing recollection of 'Miss Tabb,' and of her kindness to me, and
now that she has consented to by my daughter the measure of my gratitude
is filled to overflowing.  I hope she will not delay the consummation,
for I want to see her very much, and I fear she will not come to see
me until then.  You must present her my warm love, and you both must
accept my earnest prayers and most fervent wishes for your future
happiness and prosperity.  I am glad that your house is progressing
and that your crops promise well.  I hope that you soon will be able
to come and see us.  Your mother, I hope, has derived some benefit
from her visit to the Springs.  Her general health is improved, but
I see no relaxation in her rheumatic complaint.  The girls are quite
well, and all send love....

                "Your affectionate father,

                                "R. E. Lee.

"General William H. F. Lee."

The young lady who was so soon to become a member of his family was
Miss Mary Tabb Bolling, the daughter of Mr. G. W. Bolling, of
Petersburg, Virginia.  Her father had been very kind to General Lee
during the eventful months of the siege of that town, and his daughter
had been often to see him and was a great favourite of his.  My brother
was especially anxious that his father should be present at his wedding,
and had been urging him to make his arrangements to come.  The sickness
to which he frequently alludes in his recent letters had been annoying
him since his return from the White Sulphur Springs up to this time,
and he now writes proposing that my brother and bride should come
to him instead of his going to the wedding:

                           "Lexington, Virginia, November 15, 1867.

"My Dear Fitzhugh:  I received this morning your letter of the 13th,
and am glad to hear of your safe arrival and of the favourable
condition of things at your home.  I was afraid your house would not
be ready at the time supposed, but I would not delay the wedding
on that account--you can exist without it.  We have one here at your
service, though a poor one.  I am obliged to you for having arranged
about my clothes.  Upon reflection, I think it better not to go to
the White House and Romancoke before the wedding.  You and Robert
could hardly pay the necessary attention to business matters with
your hands filled with love and matrimony.  I think of catching up
Rob and marrying him to some of my sweethearts while I am down, so
as to prevent the necessity from him to reach Petersburg by the 28th,
and we have arranged to commence our journey on Monday night, 25th
inst., at 12 M., so as to reach Richmond Tuesday evening, remain
there the 27th and go to Petersburg the 28th.  I do not think I shall
be able to go to the White House at all.  I should not be able to
aid you or Rob, my only object, and would put you to much trouble....
We are all as you left us, and miss you and Mildred very much.

                     "Very affectionately, your father,

                              "R. E. Lee.

"General William H. F. Lee."

So it was all settled satisfactorily; my brother gained his point,
and my father arranged his affairs so that he could absent himself
without detriment to his work at the college.  He left on the appointed
day and hour, and the morning after arriving in Richmond, writes my

                      "Exchange Hotel, Richmond, November 26, 1867.

"My Dear Mary:  We reached here yesterday about 4 P. M., after a not
uncomfortable journey, and found Fitzhugh waiting for the important
event.  I doubt whether his house will be finished, from his account,
till January, though he thinks it will.  His plans, I believe, as
far as he can form them, are to leave Petersburg the morning after
the wedding for Baltimore, where they will probably send a week
gathering up their furniture, etc., and after that all is undetermined.
I renewed the invitation for their visit to us, but he could not
decide.  Robert is expected to-morrow.  Mildred is well and seems
to be perfectly happy, as she had on, last evening, a dress about
two yards longer than Norvell's.  I saw Mr. Davis, who looks
astonishingly well, and is quite cheerful.  He inquired particularly
after you all.  He is at Judge Ould's.  No one seems to know what
is to be done.  Judge Chase had not arrived yesterday, but it was
thought probable he would reach here in the ten o'clock train last
night.  I have not heard this morning.  I will present myself to
the court this morning, and learn, I hope, what they wish of me.
Williams Wickham is here, and will attend the wedding.  Annie will
also go.  Fitzhugh is to go out to Hickory Hill this morning, and
return this afternoon, to pay his adieux.  Mrs. Caskie was not well
last evening.  The rest as usual, and send much love.  Custis is
well, and I have my clothes.  I left my sleeve-buttons in my shirt
hanging up in my dressing-room.  Ask Cornelia to take care of them.
Mr. Alexander said he would send you up some turkeys, and Colonel
Johnston, that he would help you revise the manuscript.  It is time
I should get my breakfast, as I wish to transact some business
before going to court.  Give much love to the girls and everybody.
I hope you are well and will want for nothing while I am away.  Most
truly yours,

                  "Mrs. M. C. Lee.            R. E. Lee."

General Lee was summoned this time as a witness in the trial of Mr.
Davis, but after some delay a nolle prosequi was filed.  General
Lee after the war was asked by a lady his opinion of the position
and part Mr. Davis had taken and acted during the war was asked by a
lady of his opinion of the position and part Mr. Davis had taken and
acted during the war.  He replied:

"If my opinion is worth anything, you can ALWAYS say that few people
could have done better than Mr. Davis.  I knew of none that could have
done as well."

On the morning after the wedding he writes to my mother:

                                    "Petersburg, November 29, 1867.

"My Dear Mary:  Our son was married last night and shone in his
 happiness.  The bride looked lovely and was, in every way, captivating.
The church was crowded to its utmost capacity, and the streets
thronged.  Everything went off well, and I will enter into details
when I see you.  Mr. Wickham and Annie, Mr. Fry, John Wood, and
others were present.  Mr. Davis was prevented from attending by the
death of Mrs. Howell.  The Misses Haxall, Miss Enders, Miss Giles,
etc., came down from Richmond.  Fitzhugh lee was one of the groomsmen,
Custis very composed, and Rob suffering from chills.  Many of my
acquaintances were present, and everybody was very kind.  Regrets
were often expressed that you, Mary, and Agnes were not present.  I
believe the plan was for the bride and groom to start on their travels
this morning, but I doubt whether it will be carried out, as I thought
I saw indications of a change of purpose before I left, which I
had no doubt would be strengthened by the reflections of this morning.
I shall remain to-day and return to Richmond to-morrow.  I wish to
go to Brandon Monday, but do not know that I can accomplish it.
Until leaving Richmond, my whole time was taken up by the august
court, so that I could do nothing nor see anybody there.  Mildred was
all life, in white and curls.  I am staying at General Mahone's and
have got hold of one of his needlepens, with which I can do nothing.
Excuse illegibility.  No one has descended to breakfast yet.  I
received, on arriving here yesterday, at 3 P. M., a kind note from
our daughter asking me to come and see her as soon after my arrival
as convenient, which I did and carried over the necklace, which she
pronounced very pretty.  Give my love to all.  Most truly yours,

                                                      "R. E. Lee.

"Mrs. M. C. Lee."

A special car carried General Lee and the other wedding guests from
Richmond to Petersburg.  He did not enter into the gay conversation
of the young people, but appeared sad and depressed, and seemed to
dread seeing the town of Petersburg and meeting its people.  This
feeling was dispelled by the enthusiastic welcome given him by every
one there.  General Mahone, whose guest he was to be, met him at
the depot with a carriage and four white horses.  Many of the citizens
tried to take out the horses and pull the carriage into the town, but
the General protested, declaring, if they did so, he would have to
get 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, sending
him eggs, butter, etc., when he had had his headquarters near by during
the siege.  On his return he took lunch at Mr. Bolling's, and held an
impromptu 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 feeling
of relief at seeing every one so bright and cheerful.  He was delighted
to find the people so prosperous, and to observe that they had it in
their hearts to be gay and happy.  The next morning he returned to
Richmond.  He was escorted to the train in the same way in which he
had been received.  All the people turned out to see him leave, and
he 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 eager
to 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, and
many to look on him for the first time.  Where ever he was seen, he was
treated with the greatest love, admiration, and respect.  It was with
devotion, deep, sincere, and true, mixed with awe and sadness, that
they beheld their old commander, on foot, in citizen's dress, grayer
than three years ago, but still the same, passing along the ways where
he had so often ridden on Traveller, with the noise of battle all
around.  What a change for him; what a difference to them!  But their
trust and faith in him were as unshaken as ever.  A glimpse of his
feelings at this time is shown in one of his letters written a few
weeks later, which I will give in its proper place.  The day after
his return to Richmond he write to my mother:

                                       "Richmond, December 1, 1867.

"My Dear Mary:  I returned here yesterday with Custis, Robert and
Fitz. Lee.  We left Fitzhugh and his bride in Petersburg.  Mildred
is with them.  In consequence of being told that the new couple were
to leave Petersburg the morning after the wedding, I had made my
arrangements to return here Saturday.  If I had known that they would
remain till Monday, as is now their intention, I should have made
my arrangements to stay.  Mildred will come up with them on Monday
and go to Mrs. Caskie's.  I proposed to Custis, Rob, and Fitz to
remain in Petersburg till that time, but they preferred coming with
me.  I shall go to Brandon to-morrow morning, and will take Custis
and Robert with me.  I propose to return here Tuesday, finish my
business Wednesday, spend Thursday at Hickory Hill, take passage for
Lexington Friday, where I hope to arrive Saturday.  As far as I could
judge, our new daughter will go to Baltimore December 2d and probably
return here the following Monday.  Fitzhugh will go down to the White
House during the week and make arrangements for their sojourn there.
He can go down in the morning and return in the evening.  I repeated
our invitation to her to visit us on their return from Baltimore, but
she said Fitzhugh thought it better fo them to defer it till the
spring, but she would write to let us know.  I do not think she will
come at this time, for she is in that happy state which causes her
to 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 went
up to Caskie's last evening.  Saw Norvell, but Mr. and Mrs. Caskie
were both sick upstairs.  The latter is better than when I last wrote,
and free from pain.  I paid several visits yesterday evening, and
took 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 (her
son), on his farm.  I also went to Mrs. Dunlop's and saw there General
and Miss Jennie Cooper.  The latter looked remarkably well, but the
former is very thin.  They will remain here some weeks.  I have not
seen Colonel Allan since my return from Petersburg, but am told that
he 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.  It
is 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 living
in Richmond, with whom my mother had become well acquainted during
her 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 each
place--"called just to shake hands," he would say.  All were delighted
to see him.  From some places where he had been well known he could
hardly get away.  He had a kind word for all, and his excuse for
hurrying on was that he must try to see so and so, as Mrs. Lee had
told him to be sure to do so.  He was bright and cheerful, and was
pleased with the great affection shown him on all sides.

On the day he had appointed--Monday, the 2d of December--we started
in 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 the
old homesteads along the route, many of which he had visited in the
days 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 it
returned next day to Richmond.  They were all glad to see him and sorry
to let him go, but his plans had been formed before-hand, according
to 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 returned
to my home.  To my brother, Fitzhugh, after his return from his wedding
trip, he writes:

                           "Lexington, Virginia, December 21, 1867.

"My Dear Fitzhugh:  I was very glad last night to receive your letter
of the 18th announcing your return to Richmond.  I did not like my
daughter to be so far away.  I am glad, however, that you had so
pleasant a visit, which has no doubt prepared you for the enjoyments
of home, and will make the repose of Xmas week in Petersburg doubly
agreeable.  I had a very pleasant visit to Brandon after parting with
you, which Custis and Robert seemed equally to enjoy, and I regretted
that I could only spend one night.  I passed Shirley both going and
returning with regret, from my inability to stop; but Custis and I
spent a day at Hickory Hill on our way up very agreeably.  My visit
to Petersburg was extremely pleasant.  Besides the pleasure of seeing
my daughter and being with you, which was very great, I was gratified
in seeing many friends.  In addition, when our armies were in front of
Petersburg I suffered so much in body and mind on account of the good
townspeople, especially on that gloomy night when I was forced to
abandon them, that I have always reverted to them in sadness and
sorrow.  My old feelings returned to me, as I passed well-remembered
spots and recalled the ravages of the hostile shells.  But when I
saw the cheerfulness with which the people were working to restore
their condition, and witnessed the comforts with which they were
surrounded, a load of sorrow which had been pressing upon me for years
was lifted from my heart.  This is bad weather for completing your
house, but it will soon pass away, and your sweet helpmate will make
everything go smoothly.  When the spring opens and the mocking-birds
resume their song you will have much to do.  So you must prepare in
time.  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 shall
be very glad when you can bring our daughter to see us.  Select the
time most convenient to you, and do not let it be long distant.  Tell
her 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 to
yours from Baltimore.  She wrote the day of its reception, and addressed
it to New York, as you directed.  The box about which you inquired
arrived safely and was much enjoyed.  Mary is in Baltimore, where she
will probably spend the winter.  As I am so far from Mildred, it will
be difficult for her to make up her mind when to return, so that the
whole care of the household devolves upon Agnes, who is occupied all
the morning, teaching our niece, Mildred....  God bless you all is
the prayer of Your devoted father,  R. E. Lee.

"General Wm. H. F. Lee."

The Christmas of 1867 I spent, as usual, in Lexington with my father.
He had been president of the college now a little more than two years.
The number of professors and students had largely increased.  The
chapel had been build, many improvements made to the lecture-rooms
and halls, the grounds improved by the laying out of new roads and
walks, the inclosures renewed, the grass restored to the campus, and
new shade trees set out over the college grounds.  The increase in
the number of professors demanded more houses for them.  As a move
in this direction, the trustees decided to build a new house for the
president, so that the one he now occupied could be used for one of
the faculty.  Accordingly, the appropriations of a sum was made, and
my father was authorised to build according to a plan of his own
selection.  He took a keen interest in this matter, and at once
commenced designing a new "President's House" on the lot which had
previously been occupied by an old building devoted to the same purpose.
This was completed in the summer of 1869.

The endowment fund of the college had been increased by liberal
contributions from several philanthropic persons, and also by a better
investment of the resources already belonging to the institution.  The
fees from the greater number of students also added much to its
prosperity.  his interest in the student individually and collectively
was untiring.  By the system of reports made weekly to the president,
and monthly to the parent or guardian, he knew well how each one of
his charges was getting on, whether or not he was progressing, or even
holding his own.  If the report was unsatisfactory, the student was
sent for and remonstrated with.  If that had no effect, the parents
were advised, and requested to urge the son to try to do better.  If
the student still persisted in wasting his time and money, his parents
were asked to call him home.

As illustrating how well the president was acquainted with the student,
and how accurate was his remembrance of their individuality, it is
related that on one occasion a name was read out in faculty meeting
which was unfamiliar to him.  He asked that it be read out again,
and repeated the name to himself, adding in a tone of self-reproach:

"I have no recollection of a student of that name.  It is very strange
that I have forgotten him.  I thought I knew every one in college.
How long has he been here?"

An investigation proved that the student had recently entered during
his absence, and that he had never seen him.  He won the confidence
of the students, and very soon their affections.  He regarded a mass
of petty regulations as being only vexatious, and yet by his tact
and firmness his discipline became most effective.  Very seldom was
there any breaking of the laws.  He was so honoured and loved that
they tried to please him in all things.  Of course, there were
exceptions.  I give here some letters written to parents and guardians
which will show how he tried to induce these triflers to become men:

                              "Lexington, Virginia, March 25, 1866.

"My Dear Sir:  I am very glad to learn from your letter of the 13th
inst. that you have written your son in reference to his neglect of
his studies.  I am sure your letter and the kind admonition of his
mother will have a beneficial effect upon him.  I have myself told
him as plainly but as kindly as I could that it was necessary for
him to change his course, or that he would be obliged to return home.
He had promised me that he would henceforth be diligent and attentive,
and endeavour in all things to perform his duty.  I hope that he may
succeed, for I think he is able to do well if he really makes the
effort.  Will you be so kind as to inform Mrs. W. that I have received
her letter of the 19th?  It will give me great pleasure at all times
to aid her son in every way I can, but if he desires no benefit from
his connection with the college it will be to his interest to return

           "Very truly your obedient servant,  R. E. Lee."

Here is another letter showing the patience and forbearance of the
president and his earnest desire to help on in life the young men
committed to his charge:

           "Washington College, Lexington Virginia, April 20, 1868.

"My Dear Sir:  I regret to see, from your letter of the 29th ult.,
to the clerk of the faculty, that you have misunderstood their action
in reference to your son.  He was not dismissed, as you suppose, from
the college, but every means having been tried by the faculty to
induce him to attend faithfully and regularly to his studies without
effect, and great forbearance having been practised, it was thought
best for him, and just to you, that he should return home.  The action
of the faculty was purposely designed, not to prevent his being received
into any other college, or to return to this, should you so desire.
The monthly reports are intended to advise parents of the progress
of their sons, and it was supposed you would have seen the little
advancement made by yours in his studies, and that no further notice
was required.  The action of the faculty was caused by no immorality
on his part, but by a systematic neglect of his duties, which no
counsel on the part of his professors, or my own, could correct.  In
compliance, however, with your wishes, and on the positive promise
of amendment on the part of your son, he has been received into college,
and I sincerely hope that he will apply himself diligently to his
studies, and make an earnest effort to retrieve the time he has lost.
With great respect,

                        "Your obedient servant,   R. E. Lee."

This letter, too, shows his fatherly interest:

           "Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, March 19, 1868.

"My Dear Sir:  Before this you have learned the affecting death of
your son.  I can say nothing to mitigate your grief or to relieve
your sorrow; but if the sincere sympathy of his comrades and friends
and of the entire community can bring you any consolation, I can assure
you that you possess it in its fullest extent.  When one, in the
pureness and freshness of youth, before having been contaminated by
sin or afflicted by misery, is called to the presence of his Merciful
Creator, it must be solely for his good.  As difficult as this may be
for you now to recognise, I hope you will keep it constantly in your
memory and take it to your comfort; and I pray that He who in His
wise Providence has permitted this crushing sorrow may sanctify it
to the happiness of all.  Your son and his friend, Mr. Birely, often
passed their leisure hours in rowing on the river, and, on last Saturday
afternoon, the 4th inst., attempted what they had more than once been
cautioned against--to approach the foot of the dam, at the public
bridge.  Unfortunately, their boat was caught by the return-current,
struck by the falling water, and was immediately upset.  Their perilous
position was at once seen from the shore, and aid was hurried to their
relief, but before it could reach them both had perished.  Efforts
to restore your son's life, though long continued, were unavailing.
Mr. Birely's body was not found until the next morning.  Their remains
were, yesterday, Sunday, conveyed to the Episcopal church in this
city, where the sacred ceremony for the dead were performed, by the
Reverend Dr. Pendleton, who nineteen years ago, at the far-off home
of their infancy, placed upon them their baptismal vows.  After the
service a long procession of the professors and students of the college,
the officers and cadets of the Virginia Military Academy, and the
citizens of Lexington accompanied their bodies to the packet-boat
for Lynchburg, where they were place in charge of Messrs. Wheeler &
Baker to convey them to Frederick City.

       "With great regard and sincere sympathy, I am,

              "Most respectfully,   R. E. Lee."



site stats


Site Copyright 2003-2018 Son of the South. For Questions or comments about this collection,


privacy policy

Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.