Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee


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The latter part of June, my father, mother, brother Custis, and sisterswent to "Derwent," the name of the little place which was to be hishome for that summer. They went by canal-boat from Richmond toCartersville, and then had a drive of about six miles. Mrs. Cockelived at "Oakland," two miles away, and her generous heart was madeglad by the opportunity of supplying my father and his family withevery comfort that it was possible to get at the time. In his lettersto me, still at the White House busy with our corn, he gives adescription of the surroundings:

"...We are all well, and established in a comfortable but small house,in a grove of oaks, belonging to Mr. Thomas Cocke [Mrs. Cocke's eldestson]. It contains four rooms, and there is a house in the yard whichwhen fitted up will give us another. Only your mother, Agnes, andMildred are with me. Custis, who has had a return of his attack...isat Mrs. Cocke's house, about two miles off--is convalescent, I hope.I have been nowhere as yet. The weather has been excessively hot,but this morning there is an agreeable change, with some rain. Thecountry here is poor but healthy, and we are at a long distance fromyou all. I can do nothing until I learn what decision in my case ismade in Washington. All unite with me in much love.

"Very truly, your father,

"R. E. Lee."

The "case" referred to here was the indictment in June by a grandjury in Norfolk, Virginia, of Mr. Davis, General Lee, and others,for treason or something like it.

The Hon. Reverdy Johnson offered his professional services to myfather in this case, but there was no trial, as a letter from GeneralGrant to the authorities insisted that the parole given by him to theofficers and soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia should berespected. The following letter explains itself:

"Near Cartersville, Virginia, July 27, 1865.

"Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Baltimore, Md.

"My Dear Sir: I very much regret that I did not see you on your recentvisit to Richmond, that I might have thanked you for the interest youhave shown in my behalf, and you great kindness in offering me yourprofessional services in the indictment which I now understand ispending against me. I am very glad, however, that you had anopportunity of reading a copy of General Grant's letter of the 20thinst. to me, which I left with Mr. Macfarland for that purpose, andalso that he might show it to other officers of the Army of NorthernVirginia in my condition. I did not wish to give it greater publicitywithout the assent of General Grant, supposing that, if he desired itmade public, he would take steps to have it done. Should he consentto your request to have it published, I, of course, have no objection.But should he not, I request that you only use it in the manner I haveabove indicated. Again offering you my warmest thanks for your sympathyand consideration for my welfare, I am, with great respect,

"Your obedient Servant,

"R. Lee."

In another letter to me he tells of his visit to his brother CharlesCarter Lee in Powhatan County, which was an easy ride from "Derwent."He was very fond of making these little excursion, and Traveller,that summer, was in constant use:

"Near Cartersville, July 22, 1865.

"My Dear Rob: I have just returned from a visit to your Uncle Carter,and, among my letters, find one from some of your comrades to you,which I inclose. I was happy to discover from the direction that itwas intended for you and not for me. I find Agnes quite sick, andhave sent for the doctor, as I do not know what to do for her. Poorlittle thing! she seems quite prostrated. Custis, I am told, isbetter. He is still at Mrs. Cocke's. The rest of us are well. Isaw several of your comrades, Cockes, Kennons and Gilliams, who inquiredafter you all. Give my love to F. and Johnny, in which all here unite,and believe me most truly and affectionately

"Your father, R. Lee.

"Robert E. Lee."

In another letter he gives an account of a trip that he and Travellerhad taken across the river into Albemarle County:

"Near Cartersville, August 21, 1865.

"My Dear Bertus: I received only a few days ago your letter of the12th. I am very sorry to hear of your afflictions, but hope you haveshaken off all of them. You must keep your eyes open, you preciousboy, and not run against noxious vines and fevers. I have just returnedfrom a visit to Fluvanna. I rode up the gray and extended myperegrinations into Albemarle, but no further than the Green Mountainneighbourhood. I made short rides, stopping every evening with somefriend, and had a very pleasant time. I commended you to all the youngladies on the road, but did not know I was extolling a poisoned beau!You must go up and see Miss Francis Galt. Tell Fitzhugh I wrote tohim before I went away. I am glad to hear that your corn is so fine,and that you are making preparations to put in a good crop of wheat.I wish I had a little farm somewhere, to be at work too. Custis ispaying a visit to his friend, Captain Watkins, in Powhatan. He cameup for him last Saturday, and bore him off. He has got quite wellnow, and I hope will continue so. Agnes is also well, though stillfeeble and thin. Your mother, Life, and myself as usual. We havenot heard for some time from daughter. A report has reached us ofher being at Mr. Burwell's. Miss Mary Cocke and her brother Johnpaid us a short visit from Saturday to Monday, and several of ourneighbors have been over to spend the day. We have a quiet time,which is delightful to me, but I fear not so exhilarating to thegirls. I missed Uncle Carter's visit. He and his Robert rode up ona pair of colts while I was in Fluvanna, and spent several days. Iwish we were nearer you boys. I want to see you very much, but donot know when that can be. I hope Johnny is well. I have heardnothing from his father since we parted in Richmond, but hear thatFitz has gone to see his mother. All here send their best love toyou, and I pray that every happiness may attend you.

"Your devoted father,

"R. Lee."

"Bertus" was a contraction of Robertus, my father's pet name for meas a child. My afflictions were "poison-oak," chills, and fever.The letter to my brother Fitzhugh, here referred to, I also give:

"Near Cartersville, Cumberland County, Virginia, July 29, 1865.

"My Dear Fitzhugh: I was very glad to receive, by the last packetfrom Richmond, your letter of the 22d. We had all been quite anxiousto hear from you, and were much gratified to learn that you were allwell, and doing well. It is very cheering to me to hear of your goodprospects for corn and your cheerful prospects for the future. Godgrant they may be realised, which, I am sure, they will be, if youwill unite sound judgement to your usual energy in your operations.As to the indictments, I hope you, at last, may not be prosecuted. Isee no other reason for it than for prosecuting ALL who ever engagedin the war. I think, however, we may expect procrastination in measuresof relief, denunciatory threats, etc. We must be patient, and let themtake their course. As soon as I can ascertain their intention towardme, if not prevented, I shall endeavour to procure some humble, butquiet, abode for your mother and sisters, where I hope they can behappy. As I before said, I want to get in some grass country, wherethe natural product of the land will do much for my subsistence....Our neighbours are very kind, and do everything in the world to promoteour comfort. If Agnes is well enough, I propose to ride up to 'Bremo'next week. I wish I was near enough to see you. Give much love toRob and Johnny, the Carters and Braxtons. All here unite in love andbest wishes for you all.

"Most affectionately, your father,

"R. Lee."