Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

The "White House," my brother's home at that time, is on the PamunkeyRiver, about twenty-five miles north of "Shirley." From my father'sletter it is evident he had thought of driving over, instead ofgoing by boat and rail through Richmond. This plan was abandonedwhen his daughter determined to accompany him, as a lady's baggage,even in those days, was too voluminous for private conveyance. Mr.Wm. Harrison lived at "Upper Brandon" and Mr. George Harrison at"Middle Brandon." The mistress of "Lower Brandon," the old historichome, was Mrs. Isabella Ritchie Harrison, widow of the late GeorgeHarrison. Miss Jennie, referred to in the above letter, was MissVirginia Ritchie, sister of Mrs. Harrison. She had succeeded inhaving a post-office established at "Lower Brandon" and herself madepostmistress. This was done for the convenience of the "Brandons"and the immediate neighbourhood. The proceeds Miss Jennie gave tothe "Brandon" church.

Of his visit to "Shirley," his mother's home when she was a girl, andwhere she was married to "Light Horse Harry," I can find no accountwritten at the time. It is a few hours from "Brandon" to "Shirley"by steamer on the beautiful James, and they arrived there Tuesday,May 10th, and left the following Thursday by steamer for Richmond.So says the "Home Journal" kept at "Shirley." All the country cameto see him, and there was a large party to dinner. One of thedaughters of the house, then a young girl, says:

"I can only remember the great dignity and kindness of General Lee'sbearing, how lovely he was to all of us girls, that he gave us hisphotographs and write his name on them. He liked to have us ticklehis hands, but when Cousin Agnes came to sit by him that seemed tobe her privilege. We regarded him with the greatest veneration.We had heard of God, but here was General Lee!"

My mother was now at the "White House." I will here introduce portionsof a letter of the 9th and 13th of May from her to her daughter inLexington, telling of my father's arrival on the 12th:

"'White House,' May 9, 1870.

"Fitzhugh took us on a delightful drive this morning, dear Mildred,to Tunstall's, where we got your letter, and Markie got nine,including yours, so we were much gratified with our excursion. Theroad was fine, with the exception of a few mud-holes, and the woodslovely with wild flowers and dogwood blossoms and with all thefragrance of early spring, the dark holly and pine intermingling withthe delicate leaves just brought out by the genial season, daisies,wild violets, and heart's-ease. I have not seen so many wild flowerssince I left Arlington....

"Thirteenth.--I determined, after commencing this, to wait and seeyour papa, who arrived last evening with Agnes. He looks fatter,but I do not like his complexion, and he seems still stiff. Ihave not yet had time to hear much of their tour, except a granddinner given them at Mr. Benet's. Your papa sends his love,and says he will be in Lexington somewhere about the 24th....

There is no news. The country becomes more lovely each day. Thelocust trees are in full bloom, and the polonia, the only treeleft of all that were planted by poor Charlotte and myself. Howall our labours have come to naught. The General has just come in.Robbie is riding on his knee, sitting as grave as a judge. Hesays now 'Markie,' 'Agnes,' and many other words, and calls me'Bonne Mama.' We expect Rob this morning....

"Yours affectionately,

"M. C. Lee."

At this time my father was persuaded to make me a visit. He hadbeen invited before, when at different times he had been to the"White House," but something had hitherto always prevented hiscoming; now he decided to come. My "Romancoke" farm was situatedin King William County, on the opposite side of the Pamunkey River,and some fifteen miles east of "White House." We arrived therein the afternoon, having come down by the steamer, which at thattime ran from "White House" to Baltimore. "Romancoke" had beenalways a dependency of the "White House," and was managed by anoverseer who was subordinate to the manager on the latter estate.There was on it only a small house, of the size usual in our countryfor that character of property. I had taken possession in 1866, andwas preparing to build a more comfortable residence, but in themeantime I lived in the house which had been occupied by the differentoverseers for about seventy-five years. Its accommodations werevery limited, simple, and it was much out of repair. Owing to thesettling of the underpinning in the centre, it had assumed a "sway-backed" outline, which gave it the name of the "broken-back house."No repairs had been attempted, as I was preparing to build a newhome.

My father, always dignified and self-contained, rarely gave anyevidence of being astonished or startled. His self-control was greatand his emotions were not on the surface, but when he enteredand looked around my bachelor quarters he appeared really muchshocked. As I was much better off in the matter of housekeepingthan I had been for four years, I flattered myself that I was doingvery well. I can appreciate fully now what he must have felt atthe time. However, he soon rallied and concealed his dismay bymaking kindly fun of my surroundings. The next day at dinner hefelt obliged to remark on my china, knives, and forks, and suggestedthat I might at least better my holdings in that line. When he gotback to Richmond he sent me a full set of plated forks and spoons,which I have been using from that day to this. He walked and droveover the farm, discussed my plans for improvement, and was muchinterested in all my work, advising me about the site of my newhouse, new barns, ice-house, etc. He evidently enjoyed his visit,for the quiet and the rest were very refreshing.

About thirty miles, as the crow flies, from my place, down York River,is situated, in Gloucester County, "White Marsh," an old Virginiahome which then belonged to Dr. Prosser Tabb, who with his wifeand children was living there. Mrs. Tabb was a near cousin of myfather, and as a little girl had been a pet and favourite. Hisaffection and regard for her had lasted from his early manhood. Hehad seen but little of her since the war, and when "Cousin Rebecca,"as we called her, learned he was to be at the "White House," shewrote begging him to pay her a visit. This he had agreed to doif it was possible.

While at the "White House," we had consulted together as to the bestmethod of accomplishing this trip, and we determined to make it from"Romancoke." So I drove him to West Point, and there got aboard theBaltimore steamer, taking my horse and trap with us. At Cappahoosic,a wharf on the York, we landed and drove the nine miles to "WhiteMarsh," arriving at "supper time," as we still say in Virginia--i.e.,about 7:30 P. M.

When General Lee got off on the wharf, so great was the desire ofthe passengers and crew to see him, that they all went to the sideof the boat, which caused her to list so that I was unable to getmy horse out through the gangway until the captain had orderedevery one to the other side. As the sun went down, it became chillyand I drove quite rapidly, anxious to get my father out of thenight air as soon as possible. He said nothing at the time, nordid I know that he noticed my unusual speed. But afterward heremarked on it to several persons, saying:

"I think Rob drives unnecessarily fast."

We were expected, and were met at the door by all the family and guests.A hearty welcome was given us. After supper he was the centre ofthe circle in the drawing-room, and made the acquaintance of thechildren of the house and of the friends and relatives of the familywho were there. He said little, but all listened eagerly to whathe did say, and were charmed with his pleasant smile and graciousmanner. "Cousin Rebecca" introduced him to her son-in-law, CaptainPerrin, mentioning that he had been wounded in the war and was stilllame from the effects. The General replied that at any rate hewas all right now, for he had a pair of strong young feet to waitupon him, indicating his young wife.

As was customary in this section of Virginia, the house was full ofvisitors, and I shared my father's room and bed. Though many ayear had passed since we had been bedfellows, he told me that heremembered well the time when, as a little fellow, I had begged forthis privilege. The next day he walked about the beautiful gardens,and was driven over the plantation and shown the landscapes andwater views of the immediate neighborhood. Mr. Graves, Dr. Tabb'soverseer, who had the honour of being his coachman, fully appreciatedit, and was delighted when my father praised his management. Hehad been a soldier under the General, and had stoutly carried hismusket to Appomatox, where he surrendered it. When told of thisby Dr. Tabb, my father took occasion to compliment him on his steadfastendurance and courage, but Graves simply and sincerely replied,

"Yes, General, I stuck to the army, but if you had in your entirecommand a greater coward than I was, you ought to have had him shot."

My father, who was greatly amused at his candour, spoke of it whenhe got back from his drive saying "that sort of a coward makes agood soldier."

That the drive had fatigued him was quite apparent to Cousin Rebecca,who begged him to go and lie down to rest, but he declined, though,finally, at her request, he consented to take a glass of wine. Mrs.Tabb was anxious to give a general reception that day in his honour,so that all the old soldiers in the country could have an opportunityof shaking hands with him, but at the General's request the ideawas abandoned.

Several persons were invited to meet him at dinner, among them theRev. Phillips, an Englishman, the rector of Abingdon, an oldColonial church in the country. He and his wife were ardent admirersof General lee, and had often expressed a great desire to see him,so Mrs. Tabb kindly gave them this opportunity. They were charmedwith him, and, writing to their friends in England, declared:

"The greatest event in our lives has occurred--we have seen GeneralLee."

One of his young cousins, in talking with him, wondered what fate wasin store for "us poor Virginians." The General replied with an earnest,softened look:

"You can work for Virginia, to build her up again, to make her greatagain. You can teach your children to love and cherish her."

I was struck with the tenderness of his manner to all these cousins,many of whom he had never seen before, and the real affection andinterest he manifested toward them. He seemed pleased and touchedby their love and kindness. I think he enjoyed this visit, but itwas plain that he was easily fatigued.

To catch our steamer the next morning, an early start was necessary.Arrangements were made the night before, and all good-byes said, forwe had to leave the house about five o'clock. That night he was veryrestless and wakeful, and remarked that it was generally so with himwhenever he had to get up at an unusual hour, as he was always uneasylest he might be late. However, we got off in full time--made theconnection with our steamer, and returned immediately to the "WhiteHouse." I left the steamer at West Point to take my horse home,after which I joined him at the former place.

After a short stay at the "White House," he started for Lexington,stopping over in Richmond for a few days. From there he writes tohis daughter Mildred in Lexington:

"Richmond, Virginia, May 23, 1870.

"My Precious Daughter: I came up from the 'White House' this morningwith Agnes, but she threatens to divorce herself from me, and we havealready separated. She is at Dr. Fairfax's and I am at Mr. Mcfarland's.She promises, however, to see me occasionally, and if I can restoreour travelling relations even at costly sacrifice I shall be happyto take her along with me. I find I shall be detained here too longto take the Wednesday's boat from Lynchburg, but, if not preventedby circumstances now not foreseen, I shall take the Friday's boat,so as to reach Lexington SATURDAY morning, 28th inst. If Sam iswell enough, and it should be otherwise convenient, he could meetme with Lucy and the carriage or with Traveller. If not, I willget a seat up in the omnibus. Your mother proposes to leave in theboat for Bremo on the 1st proximo, spend one week there, and thencontinue her journey to Lexington. Agnes has not yet made up hermind whether she will go with me, her mother, or remain for a while.I hope to find you well, though alone. I must reserve all accountstill we meet, which I am very anxious should take place as soon aspracticable. I am improving, I think, in general health, but cannottell certainly as to the difficulty in my chest, as I have been unableto test my progress. I had a pleasant visit to F--- and Robert, andenjoyed rest there, which I wanted. Love to Custis and kind regardsto all friends. I hope that I shall find all well and doing well.All at the 'White House' send love. Poor Tabb is still sick.Markie Williams is with your mother. Robert came up with us, butreturns this evening. I have seen Dr. Houston this morning, andI am to have a great medicine talk to-morrow.

"Your devoted father,

"R. E. Lee.

"Miss Mildred Lee."

Watch the video: Η Μόνικα Μπελούτσι -ως Μαρία Κάλλας- στο Ηρώδειο. 17082020. ΕΡΤ