Skip to comments.A Portrait in Letters (Newly Discovered Robert E. Lee)
Posted on 07/12/2007 6:04:07 AM PDT by RDTF
Two old steamer trunks sit in the rare-book room at the Virginia Historical Society, looking worn and forlorn. The smaller one was once red but the paint has faded to a dull rust. The larger one is brown with a piece of tin patching a hole in the top. On one side, a name is stenciled: "M. LEE."
That's Mary Custis Lee, Gen. Robert E. Lee's adventurous eldest daughter. In 1917, she stored these wooden trunks in the "silver vault" in the basement of Burke & Herbert Bank & Trust in Alexandria. A year later, she died at the age of 83. Her trunks sat in a dusty corner of the vault for 84 years, unclaimed, until E. Hunt Burke, the bank's vice chairman, discovered them in 2002.
Burke called his high school classmate Rob E.L. deButts Jr., who is Robert E. Lee's great-great-grandson. Together, the two men descended into the vault. Burke carried a basket of old keys.
"The first one I pulled out was a perfect fit," he says.
The trunks were stuffed with Lee family papers -- a priceless cache of 4,000 letters, photographs and documents. DeButts carted them to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, which houses the world's largest collection of Lee papers. He spent a week there, sitting at a desk in the research library, reaching into Mary Custis Lee's trunks and picking out treasures and trash.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
Stuff like this gives me goosebumps! Eagerly looking forward to what new information these trunks contain.
Yeeeeehaw!.......The Confederate Rosetta Stone!.........
I wonder if it says anything like “I foresee a future where whites will be legally discriminated against with minority quotas, set-asides, minority only scholarships, minority only boost in civil service tests, diversity programs, multiculturalism and such. Where colleges will teach socialism and vilify western culture and Christianity. Where illegal aliens will have more rights then citizens. Where boys will be taught to act like girls and girls will be taught to act like prostitutes. Where defending your country from attacks will be seen as crazy and where cowards and surrender monkeys will destroy America for their very own power...
Very interesting article. Thanks for the post.
ping for later
“Was Robert E. Lee’s daughter, in some perverse way, a forerunner of Rosa Parks?”
I don’t understand why it was “perverse.”
Thanks, enjoyed this. She was quite a lady. I am surprised that she never married.
In most high school History texts today, Lee is a nonperson. Because he fought for the side which upheld slavery he can’t be mentioned, or only mentioned in passing.
His military brillance, his character, his love of his country, Virginia are all unmentionables. Ask a teenager about Lee today, most of never heard of him.
And that’s the way it is.
“Ask a teenager about Lee today, most of never heard of him.”
But he’ll know how hip AlGore is. Makes me want to hurl!
I’m guessing, no.
It really is shocking where our nation is today. It can not last much longer on this course.
I caught that, too. The writer just couldn’t do the piece without somehow making SOME derogatory remark.
I took a minute to read a little about Mrs. Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee and found these two nice little nuggets.
“Again following the example of her mother, Mary Lee taught Arlington slave women to sew, read and write. Advocating the idea of eventual emancipation, Mary wanted to ensure that all of the enslaved people, would be able to support themselves when they were freed.”
“After the Civil War, Mary accompanied Robert to Lexington, Virginia where he became the president of Washington College, later named Washington & Lee University. Arlington was very important to her and she never quite got over its loss. Life is waning away, and with the exception of my own immediate family, I am cut off from all I have ever known & loved in my youth & my dear old Arlington I cannot bear to think of that used as it is now & so little hope of my ever getting there again. I do not think I can die in peace until I have seen it once more.
“Mary Lee did visit Arlington a few months before her death in 1873. Unable to get out of the carriage, one of her former slaves, brought her a drink of water from the well. I rode out to my dear old home but so changed it seemed but a dream of the pastI could not have realised (sic) it was Arlington but for the few old oaks they had spared & the trees planted by the Genl and myself which are raising their tall branches to the Heaven which seems to smile on the desecration around them.
We lived in Richmond for a time. A wonderful city. In some quarters, the War of Northern Aggression isn’t over yet, and the Yankees most certainly didn’t win.
I loved that town.
Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.
Robert E. Lee
Three cloth stars alone indicated a colonel in the confederate army, all general officers regardless of rank wore three stars in a wreath. Lee, for whatever reason, preferred to wear the colonel's rank on his uniform during the war.
I would love to sit there and review everything in there...
It's kind of interesting that General Lee's estate has become the closest thing we have to sacred ground in America. I think he'd be proud of it today.
Wasn’t he a Colonel in the Federal Army before he resigned? If so, maybe that had something to do with....speculation of course.
He was, and there is a lot of speculation why he insisted on wearing his old rank. If Lee himself ever explained why I'm not aware of it.
He was a colonel when he left the US Army, wasn’t he?
It is perverse if you think like a socialist. R.E. Lee's daughter was a racist, froth-at-the-mouth bigot, because her father was one of the top two or three racists in human history. Marse Robert was a bigot since he refused to allow the Federal Government to illegally trash the economy and laws of his state for some vague "high moral purpose."
Lee was a slave owner, and, like all slavers, raped and tortured his property on a regular basis. Did you know that, despite being a hereditary heir of the country's founding royalty, Lee was a traitor to his elite class?
Me either, I've studied this history more than most but less than a lot of people. I don't recall coming across that piece of info. Though I never really thought about til now either....back to the books! LOL
In a similar but much more humble vein, a woman that I go to church with presented me with a old tin box. She had no one to leave the contents to and knowing my love of history thought I would be best to inventory and conserve the items. When I opened it I was amazed to find a beautiful collection of artifacts that were owned and carried by her Great Grandfather who was a Sgt with the 141st NY Vol. during the war. Best of all was a bundle of letters tied in ribbon. Over 300 of them from 1862 to 1868 almost all were from him to his future wife. Most of them are describing camplife and being on the march with Sherman. Its mostly a love story set against the backdrop of the war. I assembled them in the order he wrote them and began the task of deciphering the faded and spidery writing. It took me about four months to get them all in clear text. Originally I simply wished for my friend to meet her ancestor. She had once tried to read them but gave up. When I presented her with the stack of pages I watched her hands tremble as he held the first page and she began to cry. Later she suggested that it might make a good book. I agreed and with her permission it is in process of being published both as a book and as a screen play. The photographs and relics are very nice some of them are things I’ve never seen before. It should be out sometime this Fall.
Could be why his men were so loyal. In his heart and in his actions he was really just one of them, a southern American fighting for his home against an encroaching federalist government.
Okay, I was just perusing this thread for historical interest, and as a Southerner whose ancestors fought for the Union (and a product of the Federalist/Whig political tradition--America's true conservative tradition) I don't really fit into any easy category, since I'm opposed both to worship of the Confederacy and hatred of the South. And as a Theocrat, I don't even regard slavery as inherently wrong (provided it is practiced within Divine guidelines).
HOWEVER--this attack on morality is simply too much. "Morality" simply means G-d's Laws, and G-d's Laws are the only laws there really are. How ironic that "paleoconservatives" who are supposed to be "theocons" are attacking morality!
Henotheism and religious subjectivism are the true inner secrets of "palaeoconservatism," which is why their attacks on universal morality and advocacy of disparate local customs sounds so much like the Left's mantra "deze are de wayz of our pipples."
Further ironies: "western civilzation" and chr*stianity being defended from liberals whose main clients are Fundamentalist Protestants (Blacks) and inquisition Catholics (illegal Mexican immigrants). Sounds chr*stian and "western" to me!
General Lee may have been a patriot to Virginia, but he fought against the United States of America. That's fine if you don't claim to be an American (rather than a state) patriot. But to claim to love the United States of America while cheering a man who fought against it simply makes no sense.
I'm afraid the Jeffersonian/Calhounian "compact theory" is once again on the rise and being adopted by "conservatives." FCOL, doesn't anyone remember America's original conservatives--the Hamiltonian Federalists???
Once again, please remember that I am a Southerner and have no use for South-haters, nor do I dismiss slavery has inherently immoral, so please kindly refrain from the usual charges against those who don't identify with the Confederacy (though I certainly don't demonize it).
General Lee encouraged his daughters to remain at home to care for their invalid mother. In addition, the daughters suffered poor health as well.
==> “ Guess I will need a digital camera fast enough to not need a flash. Any suggestions anyone?” <==
Look for a very high ISO number. This is analogous to film speed, and indicates the effective sensitivity of the sensor to light. However, in digital cameras this is usually achieved by electronic means that introduce noise (random variations) into the picture. The alternative is a better lens that gathers more light, a more expensive solution.
I think his men were loyal to him because he won far more often than he lost.
Not to get off the subject of the thread (letters from the daughter of one of this nation’s finest heroes) but I have to say what you just typed has to be the most warped messed up nonsense I’ve ever read. Course you would believe Hamilton’s ilk was the original ‘conservatism’. You claim to be a theocrat who supports slavery in the ‘right’ condition? No doubt about it, you’re a yank through and through...
“I dont understand why it was perverse.”
Because the war that her father led was infinitely more about keeping slaves than states rights.
Try proof-reading that post bigboy.
On Sept. 23, 1862 — a few days after Lee’s army retreated to Virginia after an unsuccessful invasion of Maryland — the general wrote to Mary on a piece of cheap blue paper. Now, nearly 144 years later, the words are barely legible. “We had two hard fought battles in Maryland and did not consider ourselves beaten as our enemies supposed,” he wrote. “We were greatly outnumbered and opposed by double if not treble our strength and yet we repulsed all their attacks, held our ground and retired when it suited our convenience.”
That’s an interesting spin on the Battle of Antietam, an event that Abraham Lincoln considered a Union victory.
Actually, this is an interesting ‘spin’ by the Washington Post about the battle of Antietam / Sharpsburg.
Lee’s view is historically accurate. Lincoln claimed it was a ‘victory’ for the simple reason he was desperate to offer up the Emancipation Proclamation.
Between McClellan’s cowardice, and the ‘vaunted’ Pinkerton’s completely and totally fabricated ‘intelligence reports’ stating Lee had 200,000 troops when he had at best 37,000 the battle that should have ended the war right then and there was mismanaged to a degree thats unbelievable.
In 1874, the Lee family filed suit to reclaim its Arlington estate. In 1882, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in the family’s favor, saying, in essence, that the government cannot seize a man’s land simply because he has led an army of rebellion against that government. Of course, the family members did not want to live in a cemetery, so they agreed to accept $150,000 for the land — a huge sum in those days.
Another ‘wow’. I had no idea they sued and won, and were paid for the property.
I dont understand why it was perverse.
Perhaps because she treated negro slaves back then better than black American leaders treat black Americans today ;-(
“Dear Plantation Forum, I never knew the stories in your newspaper were true, until one night when Stonewall Jackson and I encountered a woman named Mary Todd who invited us for some supper...”