Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son
The Army of Northern Virginia
The General's sympathy for his suffering soldiers--Chancellorsville--
Death of "Stonewall" Jackson--General Fitzhugh Lee wounded and
captured--Escape of his brother Robert--Gettysburg--Religious revival--
Infantry review--Unsatisfactory commissariat
During this winter, which was a very severe one, the sufferings of
General Lee's soldiers on account of insufficient shelter and clothing,
the scant rations for man and beast, the increasing destitution
throughout the country, and his inability to better these conditions,
bore heavily upon him. But he was bright and cheerful to those around
him, never complaining of any one nor about anything and often indulging
in his quaint humour, especially with the younger officers, as when
he remarked to one of them, who complained of the tough biscuit at
"You ought not to mind that; they will stick by you the longer!"
His headquarters continued all the winter at the same place, and with
stove and fire-places in the tents, the General and his military family
managed to keep fairly comfortable. On February 6, 1863, he wrote to
his daughter, Agnes from this camp:
"Camp Fredericksburg, February 6, 1863.
"...I read yesterday, my precious daughter, your letter, and grieved
very much when last in Richmond at not seeing you. My movements are
so uncertain that I cannot be relied on for anything. The only place
I am to be found is in camp, and I am so cross now that I am not worth
seeing anywhere. Here you will have to take me with the three stools--
the snow, the rain, and the mud. The storm of the last twenty-four
hours has added to our stock of all, and we are now in a floating
condition. But the sun and the wind will carry all off in time, and
then we shall appreciate our relief. Our horses and mules suffer the
most. They have to bear the cold and rain, tug through the mud, and
suffer all the time with hunger. The roads are wretched, almost
impassable. I heard of Mag lately. One of our scouts brought me a
card of Margaret Stuart's with a pair of gauntlets directed to 'Cousin
Robert.'... I have no news.
General Hooker is obliged to do something.
I do not know what it will be. He is playing the Chinese game, trying
what frightening will do. He runs out his guns, starts his wagons
and troops up and down the river, and creates an excitement generally.
Our men look on in wonder, give a cheer, and all again subsides in
statu quo ante bellum. I wish you were here with me to-day. You would
have to sit by this little stove, look out at the rain, and keep
yourself dry. But here come, in all the wet, the adjutants-general
with the papers. I must stop and go to work. See how kind God is;
we have plenty to do in good weather and bad...."
"Your devoted father,
"R. E. Lee."
On February 23d, he writes to Mrs. Lee:
"Camp Fredericksburg, February 23, 1863.
"The weather is now very hard upon our poor bushmen. This morning
the whole country is covered with a mantle of snow fully a foot deep.
It was nearly up to my knees as I stepped out this morning, and our
poor horses were enveloped. We have dug them out and opened our avenues
a little, but it will be terrible and the roads impassable. No cars
from Richmond yesterday. I fear our short rations for man and horse
will have to be curtailed. Our enemies have their troubles too. They
are very strong immediately in front, but have withdrawn their troops
above and below us back toward
Acquia Creek. I owe Mr. F. J. Hooker
["Fighting Joe" was Hooker's most popular sobriquet in the Federal
army] no thanks for keeping me here. He ought to have made up his
mind long ago about what do to--24th. The cars have arrived and
brought me a young French officer, full of vivacity, and ardent for
service with me. I think the appearance of things will cool him. If
they do not, the night will, for he brought no blankets.
"R. E. Lee."
The dreary winter gradually passed away. Toward the last of April,
the two armies, which had been opposite each other for four months,
began to move, and, about the first of May, the greatest of Lee's
battles was fought. My command was on the extreme left, and, as Hooker
crossed the river, we followed a raiding party of the enemy's cavalry
over toward the James River above Richmond; so I did not see my father
at any time during the several day's fighting. The joy of our victory
at Chancellorsville was saddened by the death of "Stonewall" Jackson.
His loss was the heaviest blow the Army of Northern Virginia ever
sustained. To Jackson's note telling him he was wounded, my father
"I cannot express my regret at the occurance. Could I have directed
events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to have been
disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory, which is
due to your skill and energy."
Jackson said, when this was read to him,
"Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee."
Afterward, when it was reported that Jackson was doing well, General
Lee playfully sent him word:
"You are better off than I am, for while you have only lost your LEFT,
I have lost my RIGHT arm."
Then, hearing that he was worse, he said:
"Tell him that I am praying for him as I believe I have never prayed
After his death, General Lee writes to my mother, on May 11th:
"...In addition to the deaths of officers and friends consequent upon
the late battles, you will see that we have to mourn the loss of the
great and good Jackson. Any victory would be dear at such a price.
His remains go to Richmond to-day. I know not how to replace him.
God's will be done! I trust He will raise up some one in his place...."
Jones, in his Memoirs, says: "To one of his officers, after Jackson's
death, he [General Lee] said: 'I had such implicit confidence in
Jackson's skill and energy that I never troubled myself to give him
detailed instructions. The most general suggestions were all that he
To one of his aides, who came to his tent, April 29th, to inform him
that the enemy had crossed the Rappahannock River in heavy force,
General Lee made the playful reply:
"Well, I heard firing, and I was beginning to think it was time some
of you lazy young fellows were coming to tell me what it was all about.
Say to General Jackson that he knows just as well what to do with the
enemy as I do."
Jackson said of Lee, when it was intimated by some, at the time he
first took command, that he was slow:
"He is cautious. He ought to be. But he is NOT slow. Lee is a
phenomenon. He is the only man whom I would follow blindfold."
As the story of these great men year by year is made plainer to the
world, their love, trust, and respect for each other will be better
understood. As commander and lieutenant they were exactly suited.
When General Lee wanted a movement made and gave Jackson an outline
of his plans and the object to be gained, it was performed promptly,
well, and thoroughly, if it was possible for flesh and blood to do
At the end of May, the Army of Northern Virginia, rested and
strengthened, was ready for active operations. On May 31st General
Lee writes to Mrs. Lee:
has been very daring this past week, and quite
active. He has not said what he intends to do, but is giving out by
his movements that he designs crossing the Rappahannock. I hope we
may be able to frustrate his plans, in part, if not in whole.... I
pray that our merciful Father in Heaven may protect and direct us!
In that case, I fear no odds and no numbers."
About June 5th most of the army was gathered around Culpeper. Its
efficiency, confidence, and MORALE were never better. On June 7th
the entire cavalry corps was reviewed on the plain near Brandy Station
in Culpeper by General Lee. We had been preparing ourselves for this
event for some days, cleaning, mending and polishing, and I remember
were very proud of our appearance. In fact, it was a grand sight--
about eight thousand well-mounted men riding by their beloved commander,
first passing by him in a walk and then a trot. He writes to my
mother next day--June 8, 1863:
"...I reviewed the cavalry in this section yesterday. It was a splendid
sight. The men and horses looked well. They have recuperated since
last fall. Stuart [J. E. B. Stuart, commanding cavalry corps.] was
in all his glory. Your sons and nephews [two sons and three nephews]
were well and flourishing. The country here looks very green and
pretty, notwithstanding the ravages of war. What a beautiful world
God, in His loving kindness to His creatures, has given us! What a
shame that men endowed with reason and knowledge of right should mar
The next day, June 9th, a large force of the enemy's cavalry, supported
by infantry, crossed the Rappahannock and attacked General Stuart.
The conflict lasted until dark, when
"The enemy was compelled to recross the river, with heavy loss, leaving
about five hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, and several
colours in our hands."
During the engagement, about 3 P. M., my brother, General W. H. F. Lee,
my commanding officer, was severely wounded. In a letter dated the
11th of the month, my father writes to my mother:
"...My supplications continue to ascend for you, my children, and my
country. When I last wrote I did not suppose that Fitzhugh would be
soon sent to the rear disabled, and I hope it will be for a short time.
I saw him the night after the battle--indeed, met him on the field
as they were bringing him from the front. He is young and healthy,
and I trust will soon be up again. He seemed to be more concerned
about his brave men and officers, who had fallen in the battle, than
It was decided, the next day, to send my brother to "Hickory Hill,"
the home of Mr. W. F. Wickham, in Hanover County, about twenty miles
from Richmond, and I was put in charge of him to take him there and
to be with him until his wound should heal. Thus it happened that I
did not meet my father again until after Gettysburg had been fought,
and the army had recrossed into Virginia, almost to the same place I
had left it. My father wrote my brother a note the morning after he
was wounded, before he left Culpeper. It shows his consideration and
"My Dear Son: I send you a dispatch, received from C. last night.
I hope you are comfortable this morning. I wish I could see you, but
I cannot. Take care of yourself, and make haste and get well and
return. Though I scarcely ever saw you, it was a great comfort to
know that you were near and with me. I could think of you and hope
to see you. May we yet meet in peace and happiness...."
In a letter to my brother's wife, written on the 11th, his love and
concern for both of them are plainly shown:
"I am so grieved, my dear daughter, to send Fitzhugh to you wounded.
But I am so grateful that his wound is of a character to give us full
hope of a speedy recovery. With his youth and strength to aid him,
and your tender care to nurse him, I trust he will soon be well again.
I know that you will unite with me in thanks to Almighty God, who has
so often sheltered him in the hour of danger, for his recent
deliverance, and lift up your whole heart in praise to Him for sparing
a life so dear to us, while enabling him to do his duty in the station
in which he had placed him. Ask him to join us in supplication that
He may always cover him with the shadow of His almighty arm, and teach
him that his only refuge is in Him, the greatness of whose mercy
reacheth unto the heavens, and His truth unto the clouds. As some good
is always mixed with the evil in this world, you will now have him with
you for a time, and I shall look to you to cure him soon and send him
back to me...."
My brother reached "Hickory Hill" quite comfortably, and his wound
commenced to heal finely. His wife joined him, my mother and sisters
came up from Richmond, and he had all the tender care he could wish.
He occupied "the office" in the yard, while I slept in the room
adjoining and became quite an expert nurse. About two weeks after our
arrival, one lovely morning as we all came out from the breakfast table,
stepping into the front porch with Mrs. Wickham, we were much surprised
to hear to or three shots down in the direction of the outer gate,
where there was a large grove of hickory trees. Mrs. Wickham said
some one must be after her squirrels, as there were many in those woods
and she asked me to run down and stop whoever was shooting them. I
got my hat, and at once started off to do her bidding. I had not
gone over a hundred yards toward the grove, when I saw, coming up at
a gallop to the gate I was making for, five or six Federal cavalrymen.
I knew what it meant at once, so I rushed back to the office and told
my brother. He immediately understood the situation and directed me
to get away--said I could do no good by staying, that the soldiers
could not and would not hurt him, and there was nothing to be gained
by my falling into their hands; but that, on the contrary, I might do
a great deal of good by eluding them, making my way to "North Wales,"
a plantation across the Pamunkey River, and saving our horses.
So I ran out, got over the fence and behind a thick hedge, just as I
heard the tramp and clank of quite a body of troopers riding up. Behind
this hedge I crept along until I reached a body of woods, were I was
perfectly safe. From a hill near by I ascertained that there was a
large raiding party of Federal cavalry in the main road, and the heavy
smoke ascending from the Court House, about three miles away, told me
that they were burning the railroad buildings at that place. After
waiting until I thought the coast was clear, I worked my way very
cautiously back to the vicinity of the house to find out what was going
on. Fortunately, I took advantage of the luxuriant shrubbery in the
old garden at the rear of the house, and when I looked out from the
last box bush that screened me, about twenty yards from the back porch,
I perceived that I was too soon, for there were standing, sitting
and walking about quite a number of the bluecoats. I jumped back
behind the group of box trees, and, flinging myself flat under a thick
fir, crawled close up to the trunk under the low-hanging branches, and
lay there for some hours.
I saw my brother brought out from the office on a mattress, and placed
in the "Hickory Hill" carriage, to which was hitched Mr. Wichkam's
horses, and then saw him driven away, a soldier on the box and a
mounted guard surrounding him. He was carried to the "White House"
in this way, and then sent by water to
Fortress Monroe. This party
had been sent out especially to capture him, and he was held as a
hostage (for the safety of some Federal officers we had captured) for
nine long, weary months.
The next day I found out that all the horses but one had been saved
by the faithfulness of our servants. The one lost, my brother's
favourite and best horse, was ridden straight into the column by
a negro servant, who had him out for exercise. Before he knew our
enemies, he and the horse were prisoners. Scott watched for his
opportunity, and, not being guarded, soon got away. By crawling through
a culvert, under the road, while the cavalry was passing along, he
made his way into a deep ditch in the adjoining field, thence succeeded
in reaching the farm where the rest of the horses were, and hurried
them off to a safe place in the woods, just as the Federal cavalry
rode up to get them.
In a letter dated Culpeper, July 26th, to my brother's wife, my father
thus urges resignation:
"I received, last night, my darling daughter, your letter of the 18th
from 'Hickory Hill.'... You must not be sick while Fitzhugh is away,
or he will be more restless under his separation. Get strong and
hearty by his return, that he may the more rejoice at the sight of
you.... I can appreciate your distress at Fitzhugh's situation. I
deeply sympathise with it, and in the lone hours of the night I groan
in sorrow at his captivity and separation from you. But we must bear
it, exercise all our patience, and do nothing to aggravate the evil.
This, besides injuring ourselves, would rejoice our enemies and be
sinful in the eyes of God. In His own good time He will relieve us
and make all things work together for our good, if we give Him our
love and place in Him our trust. I can see no harm that can result
from Fitzhugh's capture, except his detention. I feel assured that he
will be well attended to. He will be in the hands of old army officers
and surgeons, most of whom are men of principle and humanity. His
wound, I understand, has not been injured by his removal, but is doing
well. Nothing would do him more harm than for him to learn that you
were sick and sad. How could he get well? So cheer up and prove
your fortitude and patriotism.... You may think of Fitzhugh and love
him as much as you please, but do not grieve over him or grow sad."
Williamsport, to my mother, he thus writes of his son's capture:
"I have heard with great grief that Fitzhugh has been captured by the
enemy. Had not expected that he would be taken from his bed and carried
off, but we must bear this additional affliction with fortitude and
resignation, and not repine at the will of God. It will eventuate in
some good that we know not of now. We must bear our labours and
hardships manfully. Our noble men are cheerful and confident. I
constantly remember you in my thoughts and prayers."
On July 12th, from near
Hagerstown, he writes again about him:
"The consequences of war are horrid enough at best, surrounded by all
the ameliorations of civilisation and Christianity. I am very sorry
for the injuries done the family at Hickory Hill, and particularly
that our dear old Uncle Williams, in his eightieth year, should be
subjected to such treatment. But we cannot help it, and must endure
it. You will, however, learn before this reaches you that our success
at Gettysburg was not so great as reported--in fact, that we failed
to drive the enemy from his position, and that our army withdrew to
the Potomac. Had the river not unexpectedly risen, all would have been
well with us; but God, in His all-wise providence, willed otherwise,
and our communications have been interrupted and almost cut off. The
waters have subsided to about four feet, and, if they continue, by
to-morrow, I hope, our communications will be open. I trust that a
merciful God, our only hope and refuge, will not desert us in this
hour of need, and will deliver us by His almighty hand, that the whole
world may recognise His power and all hearts be lifted up in adoration
and praise of His unbounded loving-kindness. We must, however, submit
to His almighty will, whatever that may be. May God guide and protect
us all is my constant prayer."
In 1868, in a letter to Major Wm. M. McDonald, of Berryville, Clarke
County, Virginia, who was intending to write a school history, and had
written to my father, asking for information about some of his great
battles, the following statement appears:
"As to the battle of Gettysburg, I must again refer you to the official
accounts. Its loss was occasioned by a combination of circumstances.
It was commenced in the absence of correct intelligence. It was
continued in the effort to overcome the difficulties by which we were
surrounded, and it would have been gained could one determined and
united blow have been delivered by our whole line. As it was, victory
trembled in the balance for three days, and the battle resulted in
the infliction of as great an amount of injury as was received and
in frustrating the Federal campaign for the season."
After my brother's capture I went to Richmond, taking with me his
horses and servants. After remaining there a short time, I mounted
my mare and started back to the army, which I found at its old camping-
ground in Culpeper. I stopped at first for a few days with my father.
He was very glad to see me and the could tell him all about my mother
and sisters, and many other friends whom I had just left in Richmond.
He appeared to be unchanged in manner and appearance. The
disappointment in the Gettysburg campaign, to which he alludes in his
letter to my mother, was not shown in anything he said or did. He
was calm and dignified with all, at times bright and cheerful, and
always had a pleasant word for those about him. The army lay inactive,
along the line of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan for two months,
watching the enemy, who was in our front. We were very anxious to
attack or to be attacked, but each general desired to fight on ground
of his won choosing.
During this period, and indeed at all times, my father was fully
employed. Besides the care of his own immediate command, he advised
with the President and Secretary of War as to the movements and
dispositions of the other armies in the Confederacy. In looking over
his correspondence one is astonished a the amount of it and at its
varied character. He always answered all letters addressed to him,
from whatever source, if it was possible. During this winter he
devoted himself especially to looking after the welfare of his troops,
their clothing, shoes, and rations, all three of which were becoming
very scarce. Often, indeed, his army had only a few days' rations
in sight. Here are some letters written to the authorities, showing
how he was hampered in his movements by the deficiencies existing in
the quartermaster's and commissary departments. To the Quartermaster-
General, at Richmond, he writes, October, 1863, after his movement
General Meade's right, to Manassas:
"...The want of supplies of shoes, clothing and blankets is very great.
Nothing but my unwillingness to expose the men to the hardships that
would have resulted from moving them into Loudoun in their present
condition induced me to return to the Rappahannock. But I was averse
to marching them over the rough roads of that region, at a season, too
when frosts are certain and snow probable, unless they were better
provided to encounter them without suffering. I should, otherwise
have endeavoured to detain
General Meade near the Potomac, if I could
not throw him to the north side."
In a letter of the same time to the Honourable James A. Seddon,
Secretary of War:
"...If General Meade is disposed to remain quiet where he is, it was
my intention, provided the army could be supplied with clothing, again
to advance and threaten his position. Nothing prevented my continuing
in his front but the destitute condition of the men, thousands of whom
are barefooted, a greater number partially shod, and nearly all without
overcoats, blankets, or warm clothing. I think the sublimest sight
of war was the cheerfulness and alacrity exhibited by this army in
the pursuit of the enemy under all the trial and privations to which
it was exposed...."
Later on, in January, when the sever weather commenced, he again
writes to the Quartermaster-General on the same subject:
"General: The want of shoes and blankets in this army continues to
cause much suffering and to impair its efficiency. In one regiment
I am informed that there are only fifty men with serviceable shoes,
and a brigade that recently went on picket was compelled to leave
several hundred men in camp, who were unable to bear the exposure of
duty, being destitute of shoes and blankets.... The supply, by running
the blockade, has become so precarious that I think we should turn
our attention chiefly to our own resources, and I should like to be
informed how far the latter can be counted upon.... I trust that no
efforts will be spared to develop our own resources of supply, as a
further dependence upon those from abroad can result in nothing but
increase of suffering and want. I am, with great respect,
"Your obedient servant,
"R. E. Lee, General."
There was at this time a great revival of religion in the army. My
father became much interested in it, and did what he could to promote
in his camps all sacred exercises. Reverend J. W. Jones, in his
"Personal Reminiscences of General R. E. Lee," says:
"General Lee's orders and reports always gratefully recognised 'The
Lord of Hosts' as the 'Giver of Victory,' and expressed an humble
dependence upon and trust in Him.'
All his correspondence shows the same devout feeling.
On August 13, 1863, he issued the following order:
"Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia, August 13, 1863.
"The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people,
appointed August 21st as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer.
A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and
soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are
absolutely necessary, will be suspended. The commanding officers of
brigades and regiments are requested to cause divine services, suitable
to the occasion, to be performed in their respective commands.
Soldiers! we have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His
signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful
spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause
should be pure in His eyes; that 'our times are in His hands,' and we
have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our
independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble
ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him
to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined
will; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and
sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place
among the nations of the earth.
"R. E. Lee, General."
His was a practical, every-day religion, which supported him all through
his life, enabled him to bear with equanimity every reverse of fortune,
and to accept her gifts without undue elation. During this period of
rest, so unusual to the Army of Northern Virginia, several reviews
were held before the commanding general. I remember being present
when that of the Third Army Corps, General A. P. Hill commanding, took
place. Some of us young cavalrymen, then stationed near the
Rappahannock, rode over to Orange Court House to see this grand military
pageant. From all parts of the army, officers and men who could get
leave came to look on, and from all the surrounding country the people,
old and young, ladies and children, came in every pattern of vehicle
and on horseback, to see twenty thousand of that "incomparable infantry"
of the Army of Northern Virginia pass in review before their great
The General was mounted on Traveller, looking very proud of his master,
who had on sash and sword, which he very rarely wore, a pair of new
cavalry gauntlets, and, I think, a new hat. At any rate, he looked
unusually fine, and sat his horse like a perfect picture of grace and
power. The infantry was drawn up in column by divisions, with their
muskets all glittering in the sun, their battle-flags standing
straight out before the breeze, and their bands playing, awaiting the
inspection of the General, before they broke into column by companies
and marched past him in review. When all was ready, General Hill and
staff rode up to General Lee, and the two generals, with their
respective staffs, galloped around front and rear of each of the three
divisions standing motionless on the plain. As the cavalcade reached
the head of each division, its commanding officer joined in and followed
as far as the next division, so that there was a continual infusion of
fresh groups into the original one all along the lines. Traveller
started with a long lope, and never changed his stride. His rider
sat erect and calm, not noticing anything but the gray lines of men
whom he knew so well. The pace was very fast, as there were nine
good miles to go, and the escort began to become less and less, dropping
out one by one from different causes as Traveller raced along without
check. When the General drew up, after this nine-mile gallop, under
the standard at the reviewing-stand, flushed with the exercise as
well as with pride in his brave men, he raised his hat and saluted.
Then arose a shout of applause and admiration from the entire
assemblage, the memory of which to this day moistens the eye of every
old soldier. The corps was then passed in review at a quick-step,
company front. It was a most imposing sight. After it was all over,
my father rode up to several carriages whose occupants he knew and
gladdened them by a smile, a word, or a shake of the hand. He found
several of us young officers with some pretty cousins of his from
Richmond, and he was very bright and cheerful, joking us young people
about each other. His letters to my mother and sister this summer and
fall help to give an insight into his thoughts and feelings. On July
15th, from Bunker Hill, in a letter to his wife, he says:
"...The army has returned to Virginia. Its return is rather sooner
than I had originally contemplated, but having accomplished much of
what I proposed on leaving the Rappahannock--namely, relieving the
valley of the presence of the enemy and drawing his army north of
the Potomac--I determined to recross the latter river. The enemy,
after centering his forces in our front, began to fortify himself
in his position and bring up his troops, militia, etc.--and those
around Washington and Alexandria. This gave him enormous odds. It
also circumscribed our limits for procuring subsistence for men and
animals, which, with the uncertain state of the river, rendered it
hazardous for us to continue on the north side. It has been raining
a great deal since we first crossed the Potomac, making the roads
horrid and embarrassing our operations. The night we recrossed it
rained terribly, yet we got all over safe, save such vehicles as broke
down on the road from the mud, rocks, etc. We are all well. I hope
we will yet be able to damage our adversaries when they meet us. That
it should be so, we must implore the forgiveness of God for our sins,
and the continuance of His blessings. There is nothing but His almighty
power that can sustain us. God bless you all...."
Later, July 26th, he writes from Camp Culpeper:
"...After crossing the Potomac, finding that the Shenandoah was six
feet above the fording-stage, and, having waited for a week for it to
fall, so that I might cross into Loudoun, fearing that the enemy might
take advantage of our position and move upon Richmond, I determined
to ascend the Valley and cross into Culpeper. Two corps are here
with me. The third passed Thornton's Gap, and I hope will be in
striking distance to-morrow. The army has laboured hard, endured much,
and behaved nobly. It has accomplished all that could be reasonably
expected. It ought not to have been expected to perform
impossibilities, or to have fulfilled the anticipations of the
thoughtless and unreasonable."
On August 2d, from the same camp, he again writes to my mother:
"...I have heard of some doctor having reached Richmond, who had seen
our son at
Fortress Monroe. He said that his wound is improving,
and that he himself was well and walking about on crutches. The
exchange of prisoners that had been going on has, for some cause,
been suspended, owing to some crotchet or other, but I hope will soon
be resumed, and that we shall have him back soon. The armies are in
such close proximity that frequent collisions are common along the
outposts. Yesterday the enemy laid down two or three pontoon bridges
across the Rappahannock and crossed his cavalry, with a big force of
his infantry. It looked at first as if it were the advance of his
army, and, as I had not intended to deliver battle, I directed our
cavalry to retire slowly before them and to check their too rapid
pursuit. Finding, later in the day, that their army was not following,
I ordered out the infantry and drove them back to the river. I suppose
they intended to push on to Richmond by this or some other route. I
trust, however, they will never reach there...."
On August 23d, from the camp near Orange Court House, General Lee
writes to Mrs. Lee:
"...My camp is near Mr. Erasmus Taylor's house, who has been very kind
in contributing to our comfort. His wife sends us every day,
buttermilk, loaf bread, ice, and such vegetables as she has. I cannot
get her to desist, thought I have made two special visits to that
effect. All the brides have come on a visit to the army: Mrs. Ewell,
Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Heth, etc. General Meade's army is north of the
Rappahannock along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. He is very
"September 4, 1863.
"...You see I am still here. When I wrote last, the indications were
that the enemy would move against us any day; but this past week he
has been very quiet, and seems at present to continue so. I was
out looking at him yesterday, from Clarke's Mountain. He has spread
himself over a large surface and looks immense...."
And on September 18th, from the same camp:
"...The enemy state that they have heard of a great reduction in our
forces here, and are now going to drive us back to Richmond. I trust
they will not succeed; but our hope and our refuge is in our merciful
Father in Heaven...."
On October 9th, the Army of Northern Virginia was put in motion, and
wa pushed around Meade's right. Meade was gradually forced back to a
position near the old battlefield at Manassas. Although we had hard
marching, much skirmishing, and several severe fights between the
cavalry of both armies, nothing permanent was accomplished, and in
about ten days we were back on our old lines. In a letter of October
19, 1863, to his wife, my father says:
"...I have returned to the Rappahannock. I did not pursue with the
main army beyond Bristoe or Broad Run. Our advance went as far as
Bull Run, where the enemy was entrenched, extending his right as far
as 'Chantilly,' in the yard of which he was building a redoubt. I
could have thrown him farther back, but saw no chance of bringing
him to battle, and it would only have served to fatigue our troops
by advancing farther. I should certainly have endeavored to throw
them north of the Potomac; but thousands were barefooted, thousands
with fragments of shoes, and all without overcoats, blankets, or warm
clothing. I could not bear to expose them to certain suffering and
an uncertain issue...."
On October 25th, from "Camp Rappahannock," he writes again to my mother:
"...I moved yesterday into a nice pine thicket, and Perry is to-day
engaged in constructing a chimney in front of my tent, which will make
it warm and comfortable. I have no idea when Fitzhugh [his son,
Major General Fitzhugh Lee] will be exchanged. The Federal authorities
still resist all exchanges, because they think it is to our interest
to make them. Any desire expressed on our part for the exchange of
any individual magnifies the difficulty, as they at once think some
great benefit is to result to us from it. His detention is very
grievous to me, and, besides, I want his services. I am glad you have
some socks for the army. Send them to me. They will come safely.
Tell the girls [his daughters] to send all they can. I wish they could
make some shoes, too. We have thousands of barefooted men. There is
no news. General Meade, I believe, is repairing the railroad, and
I presume will come on again. If I could only get some shoes and
clothes for the men, I would save him the trouble...."
One can see from these letters of my father how deeply he felt for
the sufferings of his soldiers, and how his plans were hindered by
inadequate supplies of food and clothing. I heard him constantly
allude to these troubles; indeed, they seemed never absent from his