History Podcasts

General Robert E. Lee (1807-70)

General Robert E. Lee (1807-70)

General Robert E. Lee (1807-70)6

Robert E Lee will be remembered in History as one of the most honourable of soldiers and example of how to be an officer and a gentleman. Lee was a man of great presence standing nearly six feet tall with a noble bearing, dark eyes and a grey beard and moustache. He has become a symbol of the Southern States struggle and culture and will always have a special place in US History. When he took command of the Army of Northern Virginia on 1st June 1862 he was 55 years old, he had never commanded anything larger than four squadrons of cavalry. Yet this apparent lack of experience didn’t stop him leading the most important Confederate army for three years and achieving results far beyond the resources at his disposal.

Early Life

Robert Lee was born 19th January 1807 at Stratford in Westmoreland County Virginia. He was the third son of “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who had earned his fame as a cavalry commander during the American War of Independence. His mother Ann Hill Carter Lee mostly raised him; from whom it is said he learned patience, control and discipline, characteristics which would run strong in the adult Robert. In contrast to his mother the young Robert saw his father go from one failed venture to another and was determined to do better. His father’s poor business sense was later to impoverish the family and they moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where Robert spent a lot of his youth.

Robert entered West Point in 1825 and was a model cadet graduating in second place in 1829 and holding the never equalled record of graduating with no demerits! He was commissioned as a brevet second Lieutenant of engineers. He went on to help build the St Louis waterfront and worked on coastal forts in Brunswick and Savannah. It was during this time he married Mary Custis the granddaughter of George Washington and Martha Custis Washington. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1836 and then made a Captain two years later. As well as various engineering projects as mentioned above he also served for a time in the chief engineer’s office in Washington.

In 1845 the War between American and Mexico broke out and in 1846 Lee was posted to San Antonio, Texas as assistant engineer to the Army of General John E Wool. Captain Lee was given the vital task of mapping the area ahead for the advancing troops and even led some into battle, skills he would need 16 years later. During this Mexican war he also met some of those he would serve with and fight against in the civil war, such people as James Longstreet, Thomas Jackson, George Pickett and U.S Grant. Lee Distinguished himself at Buena Vista by making a courageous reconnaissance of the enemy positions. He was transferred to the Vera Cruz expedition where he made a good impression on General Winfield Scott, another Virginian, due to his manners, professionalism and skill. Scott was old school and took a liking to the well-mannered Captain Lee who had made George Washington his ideal and strove to emulate his hero. Lee continued to make a name for himself during the Mexico City campaign locating heavy batteries at Vera Cruz, providing the intelligence reports upon which the victory at Cerro Gordo (18th April 1847) was founded and sited the batteries before Chapultepec (13th September 1847), in which battle he was slightly wounded.

Lee returned from the Mexican war as an Army engineer and was appointed a Brevet Colonel due to his actions in the conflict. He spent the next few years at Fort Caroll, Baltimore, until in 1852 with a little reluctance he accepted the position of Superintendent at West Point. While in this post he made several improvements to the curriculum and in the instructional methods. In March 1855 he was given the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 2nd Cavalry in Texas, by the then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis. He was much absent from his regiment between 1857-1859 due to family probate problems and his wife’s serious illness. Between February 1860 and February 1861 he was given command of the Department of Texas. He had no sympathy with the secessionist sentiments at that time, but when pressed he admitted that if forced to choose he would side with Virginia. In February 1861 Winfield Scott recalled him to Washington. In March he was made Colonel of the 1st Cavalry and it was obvious he was been prepared for a senior command should war break out. As he spent most of this time near Washington D.C. he moved into Custis mansion which now overlooks the Arlington Military Cemetery. Thus Colonel Lee was available for duty to put down a believed rebellion at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, the site of a United States Arsenal. Colonel Lee, a young aide Lt. J. E. B. Stuart, and a detachment of U.S. marines, were rushed by train to Harper's Ferry where they were able to capture the radical abolitionist John Brown and his followers.

In April he was formally offered the command of the United States Army. History would had been very different if he had not refused. He explained to Scott that he could not bear arms against the Southern States. Scott replied that his resignation was the only answer and on 25th April 1861 he formally resigned following the news of Virginia’s succession and the beginning of the American Civil War.

Confederate Service

Lee was appointed commander of the Virginia State forces immediately on his resignation. He organised the mobilisation of the militia and the fortification of key positions with his normal great energy and skill, drawing on his engineering experience to select good strong points. In August 1861 he became a General and was named as a military advisor to President Davis. Lee found the next nine months frustrating - he had a high title but little real power while Confederate organisation was in a chaotic mess, co-ordinated action nearly impossible. Lee found himself caught between the clash of personalities of Jefferson Davis and the South’s military commander Joseph E. Johnston. This was to change in May when Johnston was wounded and Lee became his replacement, renaming the army under his command the Army of Northern Virginia.

General Lee found himself in a very difficult position, the Union General McClellan was threatening Richmond with 100,000 men (Peninsula Campaign), while three other Union Armies threatened General Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, while yet another was waiting to support McClellan at the Rappahannock River. General Lee summoned Jackson so he could join him in an offensive while he sent General Magruder to keep the union forces away from Richmond. Jackson fought a skilled withdrawal from the Shenandoah Valley and joined Lee for an offensive in late June which was known as the Seven Days’ Battle. This was a sound strategy but the Confederate forces lacked the experience to properly carry out such a complex plan, the Confederate supply and logistics was also not able to cope. Despite this and many mistakes from the top down, and nearly all the Confederate attacks failing the campaign did drive the Union forces away from Richmond and pinned them at a position on the James River known as Harrison’s Landing. Lee’s Army had been blooded and gained stocks of weapons, which the South badly needed, confidence and morale also improved. Lee made changes to the command structure learning from his experience and carefully watched how the Union armies manoeuvred.

In August General Lee lead his 55,000 strong army against General Pope, skilfully drawing the two Union armies apart and sending Jackson around the rear to raid the supply depots. Pope fell back to engage Jackson and on 30th August was caught between Jackson and Lee at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Lee’s great weakness demonstrated itself here. Lee was the perfect gentleman but when faced with a stubborn subordinate, in this case General Longstreet, he lacked assertiveness as he found such arguments distasteful. Lee also believed that his role was to bring the army to battle in the most favourable conditions and tactical direction on the battlefield was best left to divisional commanders. Considering the inexperience of many Southern commanders this was a bad mistake. This led to victory at the Second Battle of Bull run being under exploited and was to lead to a serious defeat a year later at Gettysburg.

In early September Lee invaded the North in the hope to encourage the European powers to recognise the Confederacy, by demonstrating military strength. Lee spilt his army into 3 parts over 25 miles possibly in an attempt to emulate a Napoleonic strategy. McClellan’s army was fully aware of the plan after a copy of Lee’s orders had been captured but proved too slow to make use of the scattered Confederate deployment, giving the Confederates two days to regroup at Antietam Creek. The battle, which followed on 17th September 1862, was one of the bloodiest of the war with over 12,000 casualties on each side in a single day. The battle was a tactical victory as Lee held the line but the invasion of the North had been halted and the chance of a strategic victory slipped through his fingers.

In the aftermath the Army in Virginia was reorganised into two corps, one under Jackson and one under Longstreet. In November the Army of the Potomac threatened Fredericksburg but was driven back with great loss on 13th December. In April 1863 under a new commander, General Hooker it crossed the Rappahannock River determined to find and destroy General Lee’s forces. The main Army crossed north of Fredericksburg with a secondary attack led by General Sedgwick striking through the town itself. Lee’s able cavalry commander Jeb Stuart kept him informed for the enemy’s movements, so Lee decided to strike against General Hooker, leaving Jubal Early with 10,000 men to defend the town he took his remaining 43,000 to engage Hooker. They met at Chancellorville on 1st May and Lee decided to gamble, dividing his forces yet again, facing Hookers 73,000 with only 17,000 while Jackson with 26,000 swept around the right flank of the Union forces. The plan was successful with Jackson smashing the right flank but being fatally wounded during the battle, a great personal and professional loss to Lee. Lee had to rush to Early’s aid as he faced superior numbers but Hooker had been forced to withdraw again. If Early had held without aid then the loss to the Union would have been even greater.

Lee was determined to keep the initiative and force the Union forces to react to him rather than the other way around. He once again invaded the North, his target to raise morale, gain badly needed supplies and drawn Union forces away from the attack on Vicksburg. Lee had divided the army into three corps under Generals Hill, Ewell, and Longstreet, but this reorganisation was still settling in when it came under pressure. As Lee’s forces entered Pennsylvania, Stuart left on a long raid, which left Lee without vital screening cavalry and intelligence. General Hill encountered a strong Union force near Gettysburg on 30th May and defeated it with Ewell’s support. Union reinforcements came to the aid of the now rallying Union forces on 1-2 July and took up position on Cemetery Ridge. On 2 July Lee’s weakness for not keeping tight control on his subordinates meant that Ewell hesitated on the left wing failing to take the vital point of Culp’s Hill while the Union forces continued to strengthen Cemetery Ridge. An early attack by Longstreet could have saved the situation but he was angry over an imagined slight on his abilities by Lee and delayed until the afternoon, leading to his decimation. On the 3rd July they attacked again (the famous Pickett’s charge) and were again driven off with massive casualties. The death toll on both sides was well over 20,000 but Lee with far fewer resources could not afford such losses. His forces fell back to Virginia and he offered his resignation, which was refused.

Between Gettysburg and May 1864 there were no major clashes between the Army of Virginia and the Union forces. Any desire of General Lee’s to go on the offensive again was frustrated by a shortage of men and supplies and requirements of other theatres of war. In May General Grant crossed the Rapidan River and drove towards Richmond. The Confederates were outnumbered two to one and were facing a vastly better equipped and supplied Union force. Lee’s troops were hungry and badly equipped with most horses and men sick, but despite this Lee inspired his men to achieve a series of defensive victories at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbour. Each time Lee predicted Grant’s next move and countered it. The month-long campaign cost Lee around 25,000 men but it cost Grant double that. Yet it was a fighting retreat - although it delayed the Union forces, defeat was now inevitable. Lee never got the chance to attack Grant’s army on the move or to divide it. With Longstreet wounded and Generals Ewell and Hill sick the burden on Lee was immense. Once brought to ground on the Petersburg-Richmond line Lee’s army could do little but be slowly worn away. The Army was drained by hunger and sickness and Union probing attacks as well as the drain of fighting in other areas. A feint towards Washington by Jubal Early at the beginning of 1865 failed. Lee was made General in chief of the Confederate Armies in February 1865 but the Army was past saving.

General Sherman’s advance into North Carolina in March 1865 made Lee’s defensive position untenable and he left with 35,000 men to try and link with General Johnston’s in the West. Grant followed and harried Lee’s disintegrating Army until by the time it was trapped and forced to surrender at Appomattox on 9th April only 7,500 men remained. Robert E Lee was paroled and allowed to return to Richmond. He was well respected by his victorious foes and still much loved by his men even in defeat. In September 1865 he accepted the presidency of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia. His last years were spent in academic work. He prided himself on obedience to civil authority and worked hard to aid the economic and cultural rehabilitation of the Southern States.

It is difficult to assess Lee as a General, he was in many ways fighting a loosing battle from the very start of the war, but achieved a great deal while constantly outnumbered and under resourced. His victories were costly and although he was an inspirational leader he often won only by pushing his forces to an all out effort which left them stretched too thin to exploit any victory. His diplomatic and polite manners lead him to be a democratic / consultative leader in a situation that at times required a more autocratic/ dictatorial style. He was certainly a better strategist than a tactician and with his tactical generals sick, wounded or dead by the end he was under a vast strain. Without doubt Lee was a gentle, pious, decent man who made the best of a doomed command beyond what anyone could have asked for. The death toil he saw weighed heavy upon him. He is almost unique among defeated Generals in a revolutionary war in that he entered retirement with the lasting respect of friend and enemy alike. He died 12th October 1870 at Lexington.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)

Robert E. Lee was the general of the war. What George Washington was to the American War of Independence, Lee was to the War for Southern Independence. But Robert E. Lee had no Admiral de Grasse, no French fleet blasting through the Federal blockade of Virginia’s coasts, no general Rochambeau marching at his side with an army of French regulars. He fought no half-hearted English generals who half-sympathized with the enemy and who were kept short of men by a cost-conscious Parliament. His enemy was vastly more powerful, its tenacity beyond compare, its willingness to embrace total war, a shock. And so Lee suffered what George Washington did not: ultimate defeat.

He gave birth not to a new country, but to memories of a Lost Cause. His country—his Virginia, the state of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, George Mason, John Marshall, and Patrick Henry—was put under federal military occupation and subjected to martial law that deprived many Virginians of their civil rights his house, seized by the Federal government, was turned into a national graveyard.

As the epitome of the defeated Confederacy, after a war more sanguinary and bitter than any in American history, one might assume that Lee would be a hated figure: reviled in the North as the slaughterer-inchief of the boys in blue, repudiated in the South as the man who failed.

But of course, that was not the verdict then or now. In the South, Robert E. Lee became an icon, a gleaming image of all that was right with the Lost Cause, a man whose deeply rooted love of his state, Christian piety, and chivalrous conduct validated a Southern ideal. In the North, too, Lee was seen as a noble adversary, a hero, in fact, for all Americans. Theodore Roosevelt, son of a Northern father and a Southern mother, said that Lee was “without any exception the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.”


Although the estimated number of General Lees used varies from different sources, according to former cast member Ben Jones ("Cooter" in the show), as well as builders involved with the show, 325 General Lees were used to film the series. Others claim about 255 were used in the series. Approximately 17 still exist in various states of repair. On average, more than one General Lee was used up per show. When filming a jump, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pounds (230 to 450 kg) of sand bags or concrete ballast was placed in the trunk to prevent the car from nosing over. Later in the series the mechanics would raise the front end of the car to keep it from scraping against the ramp causing it to lose speed, thereby providing a cushion for the driver upon landing. Stunt drivers report enjoying the flights but hating the landings. Despite the ballast, the landing attitude of the car was somewhat unpredictable, resulting in moderate to extremely violent forces, depending on how it landed. On many of the jumps the cars bent upon impact. All cars used in large jumps were immediately retired due to structural damage.

Chargers from model-years 1968 and 1969 (no 1970 Chargers were used until the 2005 movie) were sourced and converted to General Lee specifications (taillights, grills, etc.). Despite popular belief, according to all builders involved over the years, obtaining cars was not a problem until later years. By that time, the car was the star of the show and Warner Bros. (WB) moved building of the cars in-house to keep the cars consistent in appearance. Later in the show's run, when it got too hard and/or expensive to continue procuring more Chargers, the producers started using more "jump footage" from previous episodes. In the final season, radio-controlled miniatures were occasionally used, to the chagrin of several cast members.

Episodes 1 through 5 were filmed in the Georgia towns of Covington and Conyers in November and December 1978. Georgia episode cars consisted of six Dodge Chargers. The first General Lees were built by Warner Bros. and shipped to Georgia, where John Marendi (picture car coordinator) labeled the first three cars as "LEE 1", "LEE 2", and "LEE 3" (in no particular order) for film editing purposes.

LEE 1 was a second unit car with a full roll cage. It is a 383 V8-powered 1969 Charger equipped with air-conditioning, an AM/FM stereo, power steering, and power drum brakes. It was originally painted in code T3 "Light Bronze Metallic" with a tan interior, a black vinyl top and chrome rocker trim. The rocker trim was left on due to previously poor body work on the left quarter panel, the gas cap trim, and wheel well trim were missing so the trim was removed on LEE 2 and 3 to match. The chrome vinyl top trim was supposed to be removed but since the left quarter panel had been replaced and was very poorly installed the trim had to be left on to hide the body work and as a result most General Lees throughout the series had vinyl top trim. After the now-famous jump over Rosco P. Coltrane's police cruiser by stuntman Craig Baxley, it was stripped of its front seats and 1969-specific grill and taillight panel. LEE 1 was used once more as the "Richard Petty" tire test car in the fourth episode "Repo Men".

LEE 2, like LEE 1, was a second unit car with a full roll cage, a 383 V-8, a floor shifted automatic transmission and A/C. Originally painted B5 Blue with a black interior, the interior was repainted tan to match LEE 1 and 3 though its steering wheel remained black. It was used for the opening scene in "One Armed Bandits". In this scene, Bo and Luke were chasing Rosco's police cruiser with the General after Cooter stole it.

LEE 3 was the first unit 1 close-up car and the first General Lee built by Warner Brothers it is seen in the first publicity photos. It was originally a F5 Medium Green Metallic R/T SE (Special Edition) model with a tan vinyl top. It was powered by a 440 Magnum engine with 375 HP, the car weighed 3,671-pound (1,665 kg). LEE 3 was equipped with A/C, power windows, a wood grain dash, and an AM radio. It also had a factory tachometer (which can be seen on "Repo Men"). This car had a tan leather interior and a removable roll bar that allowed installation of a camera for in-car shots. This car was painted 1975 Corvette Flame Red with a special base coat the base coat was used after they found LEE 1's paint appeared to be blotchy due to the direct application over factory paint, they had first been painted Chrysler code EV2 or "Hemi Orange". Eventually, the first three General Lees started to show visible damage, so the crew had to start making more. The first General Lee built in Georgia was a 1968 Charger converted to look like a 1969 the tail light panel, front grill, and front seats taken from LEE 1 were used. Interiors not originally tan were sprayed with SEM brand "Saddle tan" vinyl dye. The first three Georgia Lees had a set of crossed flags (a Confederate flag and checkered flag) on the panel between the rear window and trunk lid. Although four sets were created, only three were used. They were discontinued due to the continuity of the General Lee graphics, making it one less thing to be used. The three surviving cars went back to California and had the crossed flags removed upon reconditioning. The wheels were generally 14-by-7-inch (36 cm × 18 cm) American Racing brand "Vectors" throughout the show (with Carroll Shelby center caps) and were mainly mounted on P235/70R14 B. F. Goodrich Radial T/A tires with the blackwall side facing out.

LEE 1 was sold to professional golfer Bubba Watson at the 2012 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction for US$110,000 (US$121,000 after buyer premium). [2] [3] [4] [5] In the midst of the Confederate flag controversial ban, he declared his intention of repainting the car and removing the flag, but no actual proof of the change has emerged so far. [6]

The Veluzat era Edit

Andre and Renaud Veluzat built General Lees for WB from the second season into the fourth season. Viewers can also see two "Georgia" cars used often up into the early second season. LEE 3 and a specially caged car never appearing (but built) in Georgia were used heavily in early California episodes. The Veluzats were somewhat inconsistent in how they built the cars, so this is when the most variations from specification are found. The paint was any color orange they had on hand at the time, but there does appear to be some variance here: interiors were mostly dyed brown and occasionally SEM Saddle Tan. According to some sources, the Veluzats charged WB $250 a week per car for rental and a lump sum of $2000 to $3000 upon destruction of the vehicles this included police cars. WB mechanics had to maintain the cars at company expense.

The money generated by building General Lees financed the Veluzat family project of restoring Gene Autry's Melody Ranch it had burned in the 1960s. This ranch is where many classic Western films were shot, as well as the television series Gunsmoke. Today, it is a fully functional movie ranch where shows such as HBO's Deadwood are filmed.

The Warner Brothers era Edit

By 1983, Warner Brothers turned total control of building General Lees to Ken Fritz. Fritz didn't have the job long before he too was fired and at this point Warner Brothers moved full production in-house. The General Lee was now the highlight of the series, and WB received enormous amounts of Lee-specific fan mail that nit-picked the inconsistencies of the cars. Because of the fame of General Lee, WB had their staff mechanics build the cars to a specific appearance, even underneath. All graphics had to meet specifications, all side markers and rocker panel chrome trim were removed and roll bars and push bars had to meet an exact specification. However, some changes were made before the specifications were laid out: The push bar became wider, the interior became a light beige color, and the roll bars were covered in black foam padding. During this period, the only way to distinguish the 1968 conversions from the 1969 originals is by the shape of the dashboard padding.

As the WB era rolled on, finding the cars became difficult: Piper Cubs were hired to perform aerial searches for 1968 and 1969 Chargers amongst the populace the jumped cars were now no longer scrapped after one jump if deemed salvageable, and were repaired and used until they could no longer function and, as last resort, miniature radio-controlled models were also brought in toward the end of the series to replace most of the big jump stunts, thereby saving more cars—something that proved unpopular with many episode directors (including Tom Wopat) who felt that the models did not look realistic. By this time, there was also a rivalry for "TV's greatest car" with the Knight Rider series, leading to the models being used more and more for greater jumps to try to out-do that series. Taking full control also saved some money, as now WB had the ability to buy cars, recondition them, and use them without paying daily rental fees.

The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard feature film Edit

At the beginning of the movie, the General was a faded orange with a hand-painted "01" on the doors, black steel wheels, standard front bumper, and no Confederate Flag. Midway through the film, Cooter repairs the General after it is vandalized by Boss Hogg's hirelings. He repaints it a bright Hemi orange and adds the well-known trademarks (American Racing "Vector" 10-spoke "turbine" wheels, octagonal "01", black grille guard, Confederate flag on the roof, "Dixie" horn, and "General Lee" above the door window openings).

The movie General not only flies and makes controlled landings, but also drifts with the aid of professional drifter Rhys Millen. During jump scenes, some stunt cars were propelled under their own power by stunt drivers others had their engines and transmissions removed. The engineless Chargers were then launched without drivers by a gas-driven catapult similar in principle to those used on aircraft carriers. Approximately 24 1968 to 1970 Chargers were used in the film.

Unlike the television show era Lees, the movie cars used aftermarket graphic kits. The movie gave them new credibility and is no longer considered to be an inaccurate choice. Otherwise, except for the white letters on the Goodrich "Radial T/A" tires, the exterior of the movie's "close-up" General Lees varied little from the television show cars. The paint was "Big Bad Orange" (an American Motors Corporation color) rather than Corvette "Flame Red" the interior headliner was black instead of tan, an actual roll cage was used a three-spoke Grant wood-trimmed steering wheel replaced the standard wheel, an AM/FM stereo radio with Compact Disc player was installed in the dashboard and the interiors were a custom color vinyl fabric made to look like the dye/paint used in the later eras of the TV show. One still can differentiate the 1968 Chargers by looking at the dash pad, but now 1970 Chargers were thrown in the mix. The cars somewhat resembled a late 1990s to early 2000s (decade) General Lee clone, but the overall flavor of the General Lee is still obvious. On all of the cars, the back-up lights and side marker lenses were removed, the openings filled in.

Eleven of the cars used for the movie had been purchased from the Luedtke Auto Group. Many of the cars had been cut up to allow for inside camera views.

General Lee number 020 was the drift car used in the drifting scene around Lee Circle and was also the car racing the black Shelby at the end of the movie. It was the only 4-speed equipped cars and was the backup to car #005. The car contains a unique emergency brake handle near the shifter that allowed the stunt driver quick access to locking the rear brakes at will. Though it did sustain some damage during filming, it is fully road worthy and is privately owned by Troy Martinson in Minnesota. [ citation needed ]

Two of the General Lees (a 1969 R/T SE and a 1970 made to appear as a 1969) were temporarily sold to Warner Brothers by Everett "J.R." Barton of Wichita, Kansas, for $1.00 each then sold back to him for $1.25. They were picked up from him in Wichita and were transported to Baton Rouge, both in driving condition. The 1970 (made to 1969) car then had the engine removed, got the General Lee treatment then weight added to balance the car for the main Freeway jump. One other car was used before this car. The first one landed hard on its nose, broke, and careened right into the guardrail. Given its problematic landing it was not used for that scene. Mr. Barton's car, number 127, was then used for that scene. It was launched from a catapult system, much like that used on aircraft carriers. It flew the farthest of all the jumps in the film and truly did survive. This is the car that made that jump in the film. After the filming the cars were returned to Everett. Everett then put a motor back in the car and even in its jumped condition had driven it in a couple of parades. After keeping the car for eight years, he sold it to an individual that had it restored to show quality. It was restored by the men on the TV show Graveyard Cars in season 7. [ citation needed ]

Smallville homage Edit

Early in the fifth-season episode "Exposed" of the television series Smallville, former Dukes of Hazzard co-star Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) plays Kansas Senator Jack Jennings, old friend of Jonathan Kent, played by John Schneider (Bo Duke). Jennings fishtails his car into the Kent farmyard. The car is a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T, painted blue instead of orange, and lacking the General Lee 's distinctive insignia.

General Lee TV commercials Edit

In 2014 the General Lee was featured in a commercial spot for AutoTrader. [7] The commercial featured the General Lee with Dukes of Hazzard stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat. The series' theme song, "Good Ole Boys", can be heard playing during the commercial. The video was released on June 6, 2014.

Confederate flag controversy Edit

In the aftermath of the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, shooting deaths, there was a backlash against the Confederate battle flag, due to the flag's historical associations with slavery. [8] [9] In response, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. halted production of General Lee toy cars. [10] Ben Jones criticized the move, stating, "I think all of Hazzard Nation understands that the Confederate battle flag is the symbol that represents the indomitable spirit of independence which keeps us 'makin' our way the only way we know how.'" [11] John Schneider responded by stating, "I take exception to those who say that the flag on the General Lee should always be considered a symbol of racism. Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes." [12]

On July 2, 2015, golfer Bubba Watson, current owner of LEE 1, tweeted that he would be painting over the Confederate flag on the car's roof. [13] [14] This prompted Brian Grams, director of the Volo Auto Museum [15] (which already had another General Lee [16] ), to offer to purchase Watson's General Lee, citing how Watson's car was significant because it was used in the show's first season and would be worthy of inclusion in the museum's collection. His offer was turned down. [15] Watson confirmed in 2020 he still owned the car and that he had removed the flag. [16]

After demands in 2020 for removal of Confederate symbols, the Volo Museum refused to remove the car they had owned since 2005, another one used during the first season. Grams said no one had complained to the museum. [17]

Engines in the TV show General Lees varied they used 318, 383, and 440-cubic-inch engines. None of the TV series cars had the 426 Hemi, although in the 2005 The Dukes of Hazzard motion picture, Cooter replaced the "General's" original engine with a Chrysler 426 Hemi engine. However, the "close-up" Lees (except for the first one) were 383-powered. The special purpose built "Ski Car" (the car that was used for stunts involving driving on the left side or right side wheels with the opposite side wheels in the air) had a 318, as it was lighter weight. Most of the 'workhorse' stunt cars had 383s and 440s. The stunt drivers tended to prefer 440s (a higher performance engine) for jumps, so 440-powered stunt Lees were often saved for the higher and longer jumps. Also, though early sound effects led many people to believe otherwise, only a handful of Chargers had manual transmissions most had 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmissions.

The General Lee, except in the beginning of the movie, does not have opening doors. In the TV series, it is explained that racing cars have their doors welded shut, so the driver and passenger must slide in the window (as in NASCAR). This was often used for comedic effect when Uncle Jesse or Boss Hogg required help to squeeze through the window (in one episode, Sheriff Rosco hires a bounty hunter (Jason Steele in the show) to create a fake General Lee and trick the Dukes into driving it, at which point he promptly orders their arrest for auto theft. The fake car was easily identified because its doors opened. This limitation was not at first planned, but while filming the first chase (where Bo and Luke are chasing Cooter in Rosco's car), the passenger's door handle was damaged when it hit the mailboxes and could not be opened from the outside, so Tom Wopat (Luke) climbed though the window. The director loved the move so much, he had John Schneider (Bo) climb in, too. This is why only LEE 1 and 2 had full roll cages and all other General Lees had only a roll bar, which made it easier for the actors to get in and out. [ citation needed ] In the movie, the car has been repaired after being trashed, but the doors could not be fixed fast enough. For a running entry, Bo and Luke also slide over the hood rather than walk around the front of the car. However, in the prequel The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, the left door was welded shut while the right one was not.

Exhaust systems were basic: some had glasspack mufflers, but most had standard exhausts with the pipe cut just before the rear end. The exhaust sound that can be heard on most of the California-era episode General Lees is from a Thrush brand glasspack. The sounds came from the exhaust systems fitted to the "close-up" cars the parts used were Blackjack brand headers, dual exhausts, and the aforementioned Thrush mufflers. However, the sounds were dubbed in after the scene was filmed. According to Schneider, the General Lee's exhaust sounds were the same sound effects from the movie Bullitt. [18]

“General Robert E. Lee (1807-70) and Philanthropist George Peabody (1795-1869) at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, July 23-August 30, 1869.”

“General Robert E. Lee (1807-70) and Philanthropist George Peabody (1795-1869) at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, July 23-August 30, 1869.” By Franklin Parker and Betty J. Parker, 63 Heritage Loop, Crossville, TN 38571-8270. Email [email protected]

The hot spring health spas of Virginia were the first gathering places of southern and northern elites after the Civil War. It was at the Greenbrier Hotel, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the most popular of the hot spring spas, that Robert E. Lee and George Peabody met by chance for a few weeks during July 23-August 30, 1869. For each this meeting was a symbolic turn from Civil War bitterness toward reconciliation and the lifting power of public education.

Lee was then president of Washington College, Lexington, Virginia (1865-70, renamed Washington and Lee University from 1871). Peabody had just (June 29, 1869) doubled to $2 million his Peabody Education Fund, begun February 7, 1867, to advance public education in the South.

Historical circumstances had made both Lee and Peabody famous in their time, Lee’s fame more lasting Peabody’s, strangely, soon forgotten. Yet when they met in 1869 Peabody was arguably better known in the English speaking world and more widely appreciated.

For Lee, age 62, hero of the lost Confederate cause, it was next to the last summer of life. For Peabody, age 74, best known philanthropist of his time, it was the very last summer of life. They were the center of attention that summer of 1869 at “The Old White.” They ate together in the public dining room, walked arm in arm to their nearby bungalows, were applauded by visitors, and were photographed together and with others of prominence.

Robert E. Lee’s Father

Born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Robert Edward Lee was the son of Revolutionary War hero Henry Lee (1756-1818), popularly known as “Light Horse Harry.” Henry Lee was a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress (1785-88), member of the Virginia Convention for the Continental Congress (1788), served in Virginia’s General Assembly (1789-91), was Virginia Governor (1792-95), was appointed by George Washington to command troops to suppress the “Whiskey Insurrection” in Western Pennsylvania (1794), served in the U. S. Sixth Congress (1799-1801), and last served in the War of 1812.

Despite this impressive record (Congress voted him a gold medal for his American Revolutionary War exploits) Henry Lee was a less than satisfactory husband, a poor family breadwinner, an absentee father to his five children, was often hounded by creditors, and was several times imprisoned for debt. Robert E. Lee was age six when he last saw his father, who left to regain his health in the West Indies. Young Lee was age eleven when his father died. Robert E. Lee’s biographer, Emory M. Thomas wrote: “All his life, Robert Lee knew his father only at a great distance.”

Robert E. Lee’s Career

Robert E. Lee attended private schools in Alexandria, Virginia. At age 18, with family finances prohibiting attending a private college, Robert E. Lee, bent on a military career, applied for admission to the tuition free U. S. Military Academy, West Point, New York. His family and friends sent petitions and letters of recommendation to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun (1782-1850). In the summer of 1825 R. E. Lee entered West Point as one of 107 new cadets.

Forty-seven of that entering class graduated, Lee among them. He was an exemplary cadet, without a single demerit, held every cadet post of honor, and graduated second in his class of 1829. He was assigned to the engineer corps where he soon won a high reputation. On June 30, 1831, two years after graduating, he married Mary Randolph Custis, daughter of a grandson of Mrs. George Washington (Martha Washington, 1731-1802).

Distinguishing himself as chief engineer in river drainage and fort-building projects, he served in the Mexican War, where General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), valuing his military and engineering skills, constantly consulted him.

Lee was superintendent of West Point (1852-55). He was the United States military officer ordered to put down the John Brown (1800-59) insurrection at Harper’s Ferry federal arsenal, Virginia, October 16, 1859. Abolitionist Brown’s fanatical attempt to steal federal weapons in order to arm slaves for an insurrection against the South helped precipitate the bitter four-year Civil War.

Faced with the “irrepressible conflict,” General Winfield Scott reportedly told President Abraham Lincoln that Lee was worth 50,000 men. Lee was offered command of Federal forces, April 18, 1861, but declined. He told Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), who approached him on behalf of President Lincoln: “…though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern States.” Loyal to Virginia, Lee resigned from the United States Army, April 20, 1861.

In Richmond Virginia, at the request of the Virginia Convention, he was placed in command of the Virginia forces, April 23, 1861. Lee’s organizing ability, grasp of military strategy, and his integrity held out for four bitter Civil War years against overwhelming Union strength in numbers, manpower, and economic resources. Faced by inevitable crushing defeat Lee surrendered to General U. S. Grant, Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, April 9, 1865.

He told his defeated troops: “…You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that our merciful God extend to you his blessing and protection.”

With the Confederate cause lost, Lee sought obscurity and declined to lend his name to commercial ventures. When first invited to the presidency of small, obscure and struggling Washington College, Lexington, Virginia (August 1865), Lee hesitated. He wrote the trustees that he was “an object of censure” to the North, that his presence might “cause injury” to the college.

Knowing that Lee’s name and fame would attract students, the trustees persisted. Lee accepted. His biographer Emory M. Thomas wrote that Lee quickly “established himself as a presence in Lexington,” and that in the five years of life left to him (1865-1870) became “the savior of Washington College.”

Greenbrier Hotel, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

The first inn at what is now the Greenbrier Hotel, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, was built in 1780, long before West Virginia became a state in 1863. It was a favorite resort for southern elites who gathered there to meet relatives and friends, to rest and recuperate, and to drink and bathe in its healthful mineral springs. Lee, with heart trouble, needing rest, was an occasional health spa visitor, particularly at the Greenbrier.

At the Greenbrier the summer of 1868, Lee heard that some young northern visitors were receiving a frosty reception. He asked the young southern women who surrounded him if one of them would go with him to greet and welcome the young northern guests.

The young lady accompanying him, Christina Bond, asked, “General Lee, did you never feel resentment towards the North?” She recorded his quiet reply, “I believe I may say, looking into my own heart, and speaking as in the presence of my God, that I have never known one moment of bitterness or resentment.” The next summer of 1869 at the Greenbrier he met George Peabody for the first and only time.

George Peabody’s Career

George Peabody was third of eight children born to a poor family in Danvers (renamed Peabody, April 13, 1868), 19 miles from Boston, Massachusetts. After four years in a district school (1803-07) and four years apprenticed in a general store (1807-10), the 16-year-old in 1811 worked in his oldest brother’s clothing store in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

His father’s death that year (May 13, 1811) left the family in debt, their Danvers home mortgaged, with the mother and five younger siblings forced to live with relatives. The Great Fire in Newburyport (May 31, 1811) occurred eleven days after his father’s death. The fire, coming as it did during an economic depression in New England, led many to leave that town and migrate to the South.

An improvident paternal uncle whose Newburyport store had burned in the fire encouraged his 16-year-old nephew, George Peabody, to open with him a drygoods store in Georgetown, District of Columbia. Needing credit, backed by Newburyport merchant Prescott Spaulding’s (1781-1864) recommendation, Peabody secured a $2,000 consignment of goods, basis of his first commercial venture in the Georgetown drygoods store (1812).

His uncle soon left for other enterprises. Young Peabody operated the store and was also a pack peddler selling goods to homes and stores in the D. C. area. With Washington, D. C., under siege by the British he volunteered and served briefly in the War of 1812.

Fellow soldier and older experienced merchant Elisha Riggs, Sr. (1779-1853), took the 19-year-old Peabody as traveling junior partner in Riggs, Peabody & Co. (1814-29), Georgetown, D.C. The firm, which imported clothing and other merchandise for sale to U. S. wholesalers, moved in 1815 to Baltimore and by 1822 had Philadelphia and New York City warehouses.

Peabody early took on the support of his family. He sent clothes and money to his mother and siblings, and by 1816, at age 21, he paid off the family debts and restored his mother and siblings to their Danvers home. Handling the Peabody home deed, Newburyport, Massachusetts, lawyer Ebon Mosely wrote George Peabody (December 16, 1816): “I cannot but be pleased with the filial affection which seems to evince you to preserve the estate for a Parent.”

Peabody paid for the education at Bradford Academy (now Bradford College), Bradford, Massachusetts, of five younger relatives. He bought a house in West Bradford for his relatives studying at the academy, where his mother also lived for several years.

He later paid for the complete education of nephew Othniel Charles Marsh (1831-99), first U. S. paleontologist at Yale University nephew George Peabody Russell (1835-1909), Harvard-trained lawyer, niece Julia Adelaide (née Peabody) Chandler (b. 1835), and others.

George Peabody’s Philanthropic Motive: ”Deprived, as I was…”

Peabody’s May 18, 1831, letter to a nephew named after him, George Peabody (1815-32), son of his oldest brother David Peabody (1790-1841), hinted at his motive for educating his relatives and for his later philanthropies. Particularly fond of this nephew, Peabody paid for his schooling at Bradford Academy and received regular reports of his nephew’s progress. When this nephew asked his uncle for financial help to attend Yale College, Peabody replied in a poignant letter.

Peabody wrote his nephew: (his underlining): “Deprived, as I was, of the opportunity of obtaining anything more than the most common education, I am well qualified to estimate its value by the disadvantages I labour under in the society [in] which my business and situation in life frequently throws me, and willingly would I now give twenty times the expense attending a good education could I now possess it, but it is now too late for me to learn and I can only do to those who come under my care, as I could have wished circumstances had permitted others to have done by me.” Sadly, this favorite nephew died at age 17 on September 24, 1832, in Boston of scarlet fever, his potential unfulfilled.

Selling Maryland’s Bonds Abroad

As purchasing partner in the United States and abroad for Riggs, Peabody & Co. (renamed Peabody, Riggs & Co., 1829-48), Peabody made four buying trips to Europe during 1827-37.

In the mid-1830s several states began internal improvement of roads, canals, and railroads requiring European investment capital through state bonds sold abroad. The U.S. was then developing, expanding, and hence a borrowing nation through U.S. state bonds sold abroad. In 1836 the Maryland legislature voted to finance the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On his fifth trip abroad, February 1837, Peabody represented both his firm and was also appointed one of three agents to sell abroad Maryland’s $8 million bond issue.

In the financial Panic of 1837 the two other agents returned home without success. Peabody remained in London the rest of his life (1837-69), 32 years, except for three visits to the United States. Nine U. S. states in financial difficulty, including Maryland, stopped interest payments on their bonds sold abroad. Peabody faced a depressed market, with British and European investors angry at nonpayment of interest on their U. S. state bonds.

Peabody bombarded Maryland officials with letters urging that interest payments on Maryland bonds be resumed, and retroactively. His letters were published in U. S. newspapers. Abroad, he also publicly assured foreign investors that interest nonpayment was temporary and that repayment would be retroactive. He finally sold his part of the Maryland bonds to London’s Baring Brothers. The Panic of 1837 eased. The nine defaulting states resumed their bond interest payments. Peabody’s faith that they would do so was justified and appreciated. His financial integrity became known to an ever-wider circle in the U.S. and abroad.

Some minor fame came to Peabody when the Maryland Legislature (1847-48), realizing what he had done, voted him unanimous thanks for upholding its credit abroad and for declining the $60,000 commission due him.

He had not wanted to burden the Maryland state treasury during its financial difficulty. In transmitting these resolutions of thanks, Maryland Governor Philip Francis Thomas (1810-90) wrote Peabody, “To you, sir…the thanks of the State were eminently due.”

George Peabody as London-Based U.S. State Bonds Broker-Banker

In London, Peabody gradually reduced his trade in drygoods and commodities. Under the firm name of George Peabody & Co. (1838-64) he made the transition from merchant to international banker. He sold U. S. state bonds to finance roads, canals, and railroads helped sell abroad the second Mexican War bonds bought, sold, and shipped European iron and later steel rails for U. S. western railroads and helped finance the Atlantic Cable Co.

Asked in an interview, August 22, 1869, how and when he made most of his money, the London-based securities broker and international banker said, “I made pretty much of it in 20 years from 1844 to 1864. Everything I touched within that time seemed to turn to gold. I bought largely of United States securities when their value was low and they advanced greatly.”

J.S. Morgan, Later, J.P. Morgan Partnership

Often ill and urged by business friends to take a partner, Peabody on October 1, 1854, at age 59, took as partner Boston merchant Junius Spencer Morgan (1813-90), whose 19-year-old son John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) began his banking career as New York City agent for George Peabody & Co., London. On retirement, October 1, 1864, unmarried, without a son, and knowing on retirement and death he would no longer control his firm, Peabody asked that his name be withdrawn.

George Peabody & Co. (1838-64) continued in London as J. S. Morgan & Co. (1864-1909), Morgan Grenfell & Co. (1910-18), Morgan Grenfell & Co., Ltd. (1918-89), and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell (since 1989), a German-owned international banking firm.

Peabody was thus the root of the J. P. Morgan international banking firm. He spent the last five years of his life (1864-69) looking after his philanthropic institutions, begun in 1852 with the motto: “Education: a debt due from present to future generations.”

George Peabody, Philanthropist

Peabody early told intimates and said publicly in 1850 that he would found a useful educational institution in every town and city where he had lived and worked. His 1827 will left $4,000 for charity. His 1832 will left $27,000 for educational philanthropy out of a $135,000 estate.

George Peabody Founded Seven Peabody Libraries

Ultimately his philanthropic gifts of some $10 million included seven Peabody institute libraries, with lecture halls and lecture funds. These were, like the lyceums and the later chautauquas, the adult education centers of their time.

Later, Andrew Carnegie’s (1835-1919) libraries and other funds, John D. Rockefeller’s (1839-1937) funds and foundations, Henry Ford’s (1863-1947) funds, and those of others far surpassed Peabody’s philanthropy. But it was Peabody’s gifts which first initiated, first set policies, patterns, and inspired the later vast educational foundation movement.

The seven Peabody Institute Libraries are in: Peabody, Danvers, Newburyport, and Georgetown (all in Massachusetts) and in Baltimore, where the Peabody Institute of Baltimore (from 1857, total gift $1.4 million) consisted of a unique reference library whose books from European estates Peabody, through agents, bought and shipped to Baltimore. The Library of Congress early borrowed from the Peabody Institute Library of Baltimore’s rare book collection.

The Peabody Institute of Baltimore also had an art gallery, lecture hall and lecture fund, a Conservatory of Music, and gave annual prizes to Baltimore’s best public school students. In 1982 the Baltimore Reference Library and the Peabody Conservatory of Music became part of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Other Peabody libraries are in 6-Thetford, Vermont, where he visited his maternal grandparents at age 15, and in 7-Georgetown, D.C.

George Peabody’s Three Museums of Science

He endowed the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University (anthropology) the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University (paleontology), both 1866 and what is now the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts (1867), containing maritime history and Essex County historical documents, including most of George Peabody’s letters and papers.

George Peabody’s Other Gifts

He gave the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of Mechanic Arts (Baltimore) $1,000 for a chemistry laboratory and school (1851) Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, $25,000 for a mathematics professorship (1866) Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, $25,000, for a mathematics and civil engineering professorship (November 1866) and former general, then President Robert E. Lee’s Washington College (renamed Washington and Lee University, 1871), Lexington, Virginia, $60,000 for a mathematics professorship (September 1869).

He gave $20,000 publication funds each to the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore (November 5, 1866), and the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston (January 1, 1867). He gave to the United States Sanitary Commission to aid Civil War orphans, widows, and disabled veterans $10,000 (1864). To the Vatican charitable San Spirito Hospital, Rome, Italy, he gave $19,300 (April 5, 1867). He built a Memorial Congregational Church in his mother’s memory in her hometown, Georgetown, Massachusetts, $70,000 (1866).

For patriotic causes he gave to the Lexington Monument in what is now Peabody, Massachusetts, $300 (1835) the Bunker Hill Memorial, Boston, Massachusetts, $500 (June 3, 1845) and the Washington Monument, Washington, D. C., $1,000 (July 4, 1854).

The Peabody Education Fund for the South

His most influential U. S. gift was the $2 million Peabody Education Fund (PEF, 1867-1914) to promote public schools in the eleven former Confederate states plus West Virginia, added because of its poverty. For 47 years the PEF helped promote public schools in the devastated post-Civil War South, focusing on public elementary and secondary schools, then on teacher training institutes and normal colleges, and finally on rural public schools.

Without precedent, the PEF was the first multimillion dollar U.S. educational foundation. Historians have cited its example and policies as the model forerunner of all subsequent significant United States educational funds and foundations.

Famous in his time, largely forgotten since, even underrated by most historians, George Peabody was in fact the founder of modern American philanthropy.

Many of the over 50 distinguished PEF trustees (during 1867-1914) who held high offices in the U. S. were also trustees of other later, larger, and richer funds and foundations. They thus helped spread the PEF’s influence far and wide.

The common goal of these late nineteenth century, early twentieth century funds and foundations was to use private foundation wealth as levers to help solve education, health, and economic welfare problems in the U. S. South, elsewhere in the U. S., and worldwide.

High Offices Held by PEF Trustees

Twelve of the over 50 PEF trustees were state legislators, two were U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justices, six were U.S. ambassadors, seven U.S. House of Representatives members, two U. S. generals, one U. S. Navy admiral, one U. S. Surgeon-General, three Confederate generals, seven U.S. Senators, three Confederate Congressmen, two church bishops, six U. S. cabinet officers, three U.S. presidents (U.S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Grover Cleveland), or eight U.S. presidents if Peabody Normal College and its predecessor institutions are included, and three financiers.

The three financiers who were PEF trustees included J. P. Morgan, himself an art collector and philanthropist of note Anthony Joseph Drexel (1826-93), inspired as PEF trustee to found Drexel University, Philadelphia and Paul Tulane (1801-87), inspired as PEF trustee to found Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Permitted to disband when their mission was accomplished, the PEF trustees gave (in 1914): $474,000 to fourteen state university colleges of education in the South $90,000 to Winthrop Normal College, South Carolina and funds to the Southern Education Fund, Atlanta, still aiding African-American education. The bulk of the PEF, $1.5 million (required matching funds made it $3 million), went to George Peabody College for Teachers (1914-79), Nashville, sited next to Vanderbilt University, which still thrives as Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (hereafter PCofVU, since 1979).

Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

Traced genealogically in Nashville for some 227 years (1785-2012), Davidson Academy (1785-1806) was chartered by North Carolina eleven years before Tennessee’s statehood rechartered as Cumberland College (1806-26) rechartered as the University of Nashville (1826-75) rechartered as Peabody Normal College (1875-1909, created and supported by the PEF) rechartered as George Peabody College for Teachers (1914-79), which continues as PCofVU (from 1979).

Faced with greater class and race divisions and with greater financial difficulties than counterpart colleges in other U.S. sections, what is now Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (voted in recent years top U.S. Teacher Education Institution) rose phoenix-like again and again to produce educational leaders for the South, the nation, and the world.

Peabody Homes of London

Wanting to do something for the working poor of London, Peabody followed social reformer Lord Shaftesbury’s (1801-85) suggestion–that low-cost housing was the London poor’s greatest need. Peabody gave a total of $2.5 million (from March 1862) to subsidize low rent model housing for London’s working poor.

Some 50,000 low income Londoners (March 2012) lived in some 20,00 Peabody apartments on some 90 estates in most of London’s boroughs. The Peabody Trust, which built and administers the Peabody Homes of London, valued at some $2 billion, is Peabody’s most successful philanthropy (and least known by Americans).

George Peabody’s Last U.S. Visit

Long ill, sensing his end was near, George Peabody made his last four-month U. S. visit, June 8 to September 29, 1869, to see family and friends and to add gifts to his U. S. institutes. Greatly weakened, he was met in New York City by intimates who also sensed this as his last U.S. visit.

The New York Times, June 9, 1869, reported his arrival “in advanced age and declining health….” “Wherever he goes,” the article read, “he is worried by begging letters from individuals expecting him to get them out of some scrape… Now that he is in America he should be left to the quiet and repose he so greatly needs.”

He went to Boston (June 10, 1869), then rested in Salem, Massachusetts, at nephew George Peabody Russell’s (1835-1909) home.

On July 6, 1869, his nephew wrote to his uncle’s intimate business friend William Wilson Corcoran (1798-1888), who was at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: “…Mr. Peabody…is weaker than when he arrived…. He has…decided to go to the White Sulphur Springs…[and asks you to] arrange accommodations for himself, and servant, for Mrs. Russell and myself.”

In mid-June 1869 Peabody quietly visited the Boston Peace Jubilee and Music Festival and listened to the chorus. At intermission, Boston Mayor Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff (1810-74) announced Peabody’s presence, which brought “a perfect storm of applause.”

In a Sunday, June 20, sermon closing the Boston Peace Jubilee, the Reverend William Rounseville Alger (1822-1905) mentioned that George Peabody had done more to keep the peace between Britain and America than a hundred demagogues to destroy it.

On June 29, 1869, in more than doubling his fund for southern education, he wrote his trustees: “I now give you additional bonds [worth] $1,384,000….. I do this [hoping] that with God’s blessing…it may…prove a permanent and lasting boon, not only to the Southern States, but to the whole of our dear country….” He added $50,000 to his first Peabody Institute Library (Peabody, Massachusetts, total gift $217,600). At the July 14, 1869, dedication of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, Massachusetts (to which he gave a total of $100,000), he said: “I can never expect to address you again collectively…. I hope that this institution will be…a source of pleasure and profit.”

At a July 16, 1869, reception, Peabody Institute Library, Peabody, Massachusetts, his 30 guests who arrived by special train from Boston included former Massachusetts Governor Clifford Claflin (1818-1905), Boston Mayor Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (1811-74), and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94). Poet Holmes read aloud a poem titled “George Peabody” written specially for the occasion.

Two days later (July 18, 1869) Holmes described Peabody in a letter to U.S. Minister to Britain John Lothrop Motley (1814-77) as “the Dives who is going to Abraham’s bosom and I fear before a great while….” On July 22, 1869, longtime friend Ohio Episcopal Bishop Charles Pettit McIlvaine (1799-1873) wrote to Peabody’s philanthropic advisor Robert Charles Winthrop (1809-94): “The White Sulphur Springs will, I hope, be beneficial to our excellent friend but it can be only a very superficial good. [His] cough is terrible, and I have no expectation of his living a year….”

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, July 23-Aug. 30, 1869

This was the background when Peabody arrived by special train at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, July 23, 1869. Present was Tennessee Superintendent of Public Instruction and later U.S. Commissioner of Education John Eaton, Jr. (1829-1906).

John Easton wrote in his annual report: “Mr. Peabody shares with ex-Governor Wise the uppermost cottage in Baltimore Row, and sits at the same table with General Lee, Mr. Corcoran, Mr. Taggart, and others…. Being quite infirm, he has been seldom able to come to parlor or dining room, though he has received many ladies and gentlemen at the cottage…. His manners are singularly affable and pleasing, and his countenance one of the most benevolent we have ever seen.”

Peabody’s confinement to his cottage prompted a meeting on July 27, 1869, at which former Virginia Governor Henry Alexander Wise (1806-76) drew up resolutions of praise read in Peabody’s presence the next day (July 28, 1869) in the “Old White” hotel parlor. The resolutions read in part: “On behalf of the southern people we tender thanks to Mr. Peabody for his aid to the cause of education…and hail him ‘benefactor.’”

Peabody, seated, replied, “If I had strength, I would speak more on the heroism of the Southern people. Your kind remarks about the Education Fund sound sweet to my ears. My heart is interwoven with its success.”

The George Peabody Ball

Merrymakers at the “Old White” held a Peabody Ball on August 11, 1869. Too ill to attend, Peabody heard the gaiety from his cottage.

Historian Perceval Reniers wrote of this Peabody Ball: “The affair that did most to revive [the Southerners’] esteem was the Peabody Ball…given to honor…Mr. George Peabody…. Everything was right for the Peabody Ball. Everybody was ready for just such a climax, the background was a perfect build-up. Mr. Peabody appeared at just the right time and lived just long enough. A few months later it would not have been possible, for Mr. Peabody would be dead.”

The PEF’s first administrator Barnas Sears (1802-80), present at White Sulphur Springs that July 23-Aug. 30, 1869, recorded why Peabody’s presence there was important to the PEF’s work in promoting public education in the South. Sears wrote: “…both on account of his unparalleled goodness and of his illness among a loving and hospitable people [he received] tokens of love and respect from all, such as I have never before seen shown to any one. This visit…will, in my judgment, do more for us than a long tour in a state of good health….”

Famous Photos of George Peabody and Robert E. Lee

Peabody, Lee, and others were central figures in several remarkable photos taken at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on August 12, 1869. In the main photograph the five individuals seated on cane-bottomed chairs were, left to right: Turkey’s Minister to the U.S. Edouard Blacque Bey (1824-95) General Robert E. Lee, George Peabody, William Wilson Corcoran, and Richmond, Virginia, judge and public education advocate James Lyons (1801-82).

Standing behind the five seated figures were seven former Civil War generals, their names in dispute until correctly identified in 1935 by Leonard T. Mackall of Savannah, Georgia (from left to right): James Conner (1829-83) of South Carolina, Martin W. Gary (1831-81) of South Carolina, Robert Doak Lilley (1836-86) of Virginia, P.G.T. Beauregard (1818-93) of Louisiana, Alexander Robert Lawton (1818-96) of Georgia, Henry Alexander Wise (1806-76) of Virginia, and Joseph L. Brent (b.1826) of Maryland.

There is also a photo of Peabody sitting alone and a photo of Lee, Peabody, and William Wilson Corcoran sitting together.

George Peabody’s Gifts to Robert E. Lee

That August 1869 Peabody gave Lee a small private gift of $100 for Lee’s Episcopal church in Lexington, Virginia, in need of repairs (William Wilson Corcoran also gave $100). Peabody also gave to Lee’s Washington College Virginia state bonds he owned worth $35,000 when they were lost on the ship Arctic, a Collins Line steamer, sunk with the loss of 322 passengers on September 27, 1854, 20 miles off Cape Race, Newfoundland.

Peabody ‘s petition to the Virginia legislature to reimburse him for the lost bonds had been unsuccessful when he gave Lee’s college the value of the bonds for a mathematics professorship. Eventually the value of the lost bonds and the accrued interest, $60,000 total, were paid by the State of Virginia to Washington and Lee University With wry humor Lee’s biographer C.B. Flood described George Peabody’s gift: “It was generosity with a touch of Yankee shrewdness: you Southerners go fight it out among yourselves. If General Lee can’t get [this lost bond money] out of the Virginia legislature, nobody can.”

Peabody left White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, August 30, 1869, in a special railroad car provided by longtime friend, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad President John Work Garrett (1820-84). Lee rode a short distance in the same car with Peabody. They parted, never to meet again.

Peabody recorded his last will (September 9, 1869) in New York City, had his tomb built at Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts (September 10, 1869), ordered a granite sarcophagus to mark his grave, and boarded the Scotia in New York City September 29, 1869. He landed at Queenstown, Ireland, October 8, 1869, and was rushed to rest at the London home of longtime business friend Sir Curtis Miranda Lampson (1806-85), where he died November 4, 1869.

R.E. Lee Sent His Photograph

On Sept. 25, 1869, at the request of Peabody Institute Librarian Fitch Poole (1803-73, Peabody, Massachusetts), Lee sent Poole a photograph of himself, adding that he would “feel honoured in its being placed among the ‘friends’ of Mr. Peabody, who can be numbered by the millions, yet all can appreciate the man who has [illumined] his age by his munificent charities during his life, and by his wise provisions for promoting the happiness of his fellow creatures.”

R. E. Lee on George Peabody’s Death

Reading of Peabody’s death in London (November 4, 1869), Robert E. Lee wrote (November 10, 1869) to Peabody’s nephew George Peabody Russell, who had been with his uncle in White Sulphur Springs and there had met Lee: “The announcement of the death of your uncle, Mr. George Peabody, has been received with the deepest regret wherever his name and benevolence are known and nowhere have his generous deeds–restricted to no country, section or sect–elicited more heartfelt admiration than at the South. He stands alone in history for the benevolent and judicious distribution of his great wealth, and his memory has become entwined in the affections of millions of his fellow-citizens in both hemispheres.”

“I beg, in my own behalf,” Lee continued, “and in behalf of the Trustees and Faculty of Washington College, Virginia, which was not forgotten by him in his act of generosity, to tender the tribute of our unfeigned sorrow at his death. ¶With great respect, Your obedient servant R.E. Lee.”

Concern Over Lee’s Attending Peabody’s Funeral

Lee had been invited to attend Peabody’s final funeral service and eulogy, South Congregational Church, Peabody, Massachusetts, followed by burial in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts, February 8, 1870. But Peabody’s intimates feared that Lee’s attendance might evoke an ugly incident. After President Lincoln’s assassination, Congressional radical Republicans, bent on revenge, crushed the defeated South with military rule. This anger was also strong among New England abolitionists.

Robert Charles Winthrop, Peabody’s philanthropic advisor and president of the PEF trustees, who was to deliver Peabody’s funeral eulogy February 8, 1870, feared that Lee’s attendance might bring on a demonstration. On February 2, 1870, Winthrop wrote two private and confidential letters, the first to Baltimorean John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870): “There is apprehension here, that if Lee should come to the funeral, something unpleasant might occur, which would be as painful to us as to him. Would you contact friends to impart this to the General? Please do not mention that the suggestion came from me.”

Winthrop also wrote to Corcoran: “I write to you in absolute confidence. Some friends of ours, whose motives cannot be mistaken, are very anxious that Genl. Lee should not come to the funeral next week. They have also asked me to suggest that. Still there is always apprehension that from an irresponsible crowd there might come some remarks which would be offensive to him and painful to us all. I am sure he would be the last person to involve himself or us, needlessly, in a doubtful position on such an occasion.”

Winthrop continued to Corcoran: “The newspapers at first said that he was not coming. Now, there is an intimation that he is. I know of no one who could [more] effectively give the right direction to his views than yourself. Your relation to Mr. Peabody & to Mr. Lee would enable you to ascertain his purposes & shape his course wisely…. I know of no one else to rely on.”

One of the two Washington College trustees who planned to attend Peabody’s funeral had earlier written to Corcoran (January 26, 1870): “I first thought that General Lee should not go, but have now changed my mind. Some of us believe that if you advise the General to attend he would do so. Use your own discretion in this matter.”

Lee Too Ill to Attend

Lee explained in a January 26, 1870, letter to William Wilson Corcoran: “I am sorry I cannot attend the funeral obsequies of Mr. Peabody. It would be some relief to witness the respect paid to his remains, and to participate in commemorating his virtues but I am unable to undertake the journey. I have been sick all the winter, and am still under medical treatment. I particularly regret that I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you. Two trustees of Washington College will attend the funeral. I hope you can join them.”

On the same day Winthrop wrote his letters (February 2, 1870), Lee wrote his daughter Mildred Childe Lee (1846-1904) that he was too ill to attend: “I am sorry that I could not attend Mr. Peabody’s funeral, but I did not feel able to undertake the journey, especially at this season.”

Corcoran too replied to Winthrop that Lee had no intention of coming. Corcoran could not imagine, he wrote, that so good and great a man as Lee would receive anything but a kind reception. Himself ill, Corcoran wrote to Lee his regret that he could not attend to pay his respects to “my valued old friend.” Peabody’s intimates were relieved at confirmation that Lee’s illness would definitely keep him from the funeral.

George Peabody’s Trans-Atlantic Funeral Overview

Lee, Corcoran, and much of the English-speaking reading public, awed by Peabody’s unusual 96-day transatlantic funeral, awaited its final scene: Robert Charles Winthrop’s eulogy and Peabody’s final burial (both February 8, 1870). Peabody’s funeral was unprecedented in length, pomp, and ceremony was marked by cold stormy weather involved the highest officials of England and the United States was vastly publicized in the press of both countries and was observed in person by many thousands of Britons and Americans.

The Peabody funeral included: 1-Westminster Abbey service (November 12, 1869) and temporary burial there for 30 days (November 12-December 11, 1869). When Peabody’s will became known requiring burial in Salem, Massachusetts, 2-the British cabinet decided (November 10, 1869), at Queen Victoria’s suggestion, to return his remains for burial in the U. S. on Her Majesty’s Ship HMS Monarch, Britain’s newest and largest warship, repainted for this grim occasion slate gray above the water line, with a specially built mortuary chapel.

Next came a 3-U. S. government decision (made between November 12-15, 1869) to send the United States corvette USS Plymouth from Marseilles, France, to accompany HMS Monarch to the United States. Then followed 4-transfer (December 11, 1869) of Peabody’s remains from Westminster Abbey, London, on a special funeral train to Portsmouth, England, impressive ceremonies at the transfer of remains from Portsmouth dock to HMS Monarch, specially outfitted as a funeral vessel.

Next came the 5-transatlantic crossing of HMS Monarch and the USS Plymouth (December 21, 1869 to January 25, 1870) from Spithead near Portsmouth, past Ushant, France, to Madeira Island off Portugal, to Bermuda, and north to Portland, Maine, chosen by the British Admiralty because of its deeper harbor.

A covert rivalry had early erupted between 6-Bostonians and New Yorkers about which city could provide the more solemn ceremony as receiving port. Thinking themselves the center of northeast society and fashion, each was disappointed when the British Admiralty chose Portland, Maine, whose deeper harbor more safely accommodated HMS Monarch‘s large size.

A contemporary news account described the petty jealousy: “When the mighty men of Boston knew that England’s…”Monarch” was bringing the body of the great philanthropist to his last resting place, they called a meeting and decided with what fitting honors and glories it would be received…. but, when the telegraph flashed the astounding news that little Portland was to be the port…all was changed….[Bostonians were sure] that the Portlanders…would blunder….”

On January 14, 1870, on President U. S Grant’s approval, 7-U. S. Navy Secretary George Maxwell Robeson (1829-97) ordered Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (1801-70), a PEF trustee, to command a U.S. naval flotilla to meet HMS Monarch and USS Plymouth in Portland harbor, Maine (January 25, 1870). HMS Monarch‘s captain then requested, on behalf of Queen Victoria, 8-that the coffin remain aboard the Monarch in Portland harbor for two days (January 27-28, 1870).as a final mark of respect.

Thousands of visitors, drawn to the spectacle, viewed the coffin in the somberly decorated Monarch‘s mortuary chapel. Peabody’s remains then 9-lay in state in Portland City Hall (January 29-February 1, 1870), viewed by thousands. 10-A special funeral train from Portland, Maine, bore the remains to Peabody, Massachusetts (February 1, 1870). 11-Lying in state of Peabody’s remains took place at the Peabody Institute Library (February 1-8, 1870).

The final ceremony, the press announced to an awed public, was to be 12-Robert Charles Winthrop’s funeral eulogy at the South Congregational Church, Peabody, Massachusetts, attended by New England governors, mayors, Queen Victoria’s son Prince Arthur, and other notables (February 8, 1870). Final burial would then follow at 13-Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts.

Why Such Unprecedented Funeral Honors?

Daily reports on Peabody’s sinking condition in London had appeared in the British press. After his death the London Daily News recorded (November 8, 1869): “We have received a large number of letters, urging that the honours of a public funeral are due to the late Mr. Peabody’s memory.” The Dean of Westminster Abbey, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-81), was in Naples, Italy, November 5, 1869, when he read of Peabody’s death. Years later he recorded: “I was in Naples, and saw in the public papers that George Peabody had died. Being absent, considering that he was a foreigner, and at the same time, by reason of his benefactions to the City of London, entitled to a burial in Westminster Abbey, I telegraphed to express my wishes that his interment there should take place.”

U.S.-British Angers Over: The Alabama Claims

Peabody died during tense, near warlike U. S.-British angers over two U. S. Civil War incidents, the Alabama Claims (1864-72) and the Trent Affair (September 8, 1861). CSS Alabama was a notorious British-built Confederate raider which sank 64 northern cargo ships during 1862-64.

Without a navy, with its southern ports blockaded by the North, Confederate agents slipped secretly to England, bought British-built ships, armed them as Confederate raiders, renamed them Alabama, Florida, Shenandoah, and others, which sank northern ships and cost northern lives and treasure.

Officially neutral in the U. S. Civil War, British officials were continually reminded of their breach of neutrality by U. S. Minister to Britain Charles Francis Adams (1807-86). Official U. S. demands for reparations for damages from British-built raiders (from1862) were resolved at a Geneva international tribunal (1871-72), requiring Britain to pay the United States $15.5 million indemnity.

At Peabody’s death, November 4, 1869, this Alabama Claims controversy was unresolved and tense. Americans were angry Britons were resentful. A desire to defuse angers over the Alabama Claims was one reason British officials first, and then United States officials to surpass them, outdid each other in unusual homage to Peabody’s remains during his transatlantic funeral.

U.S.-British Angers Over The Trent Affair

There was also lingering resentment over the still rankling November 8, 1861Trent Affair. On the stormy night of October 11, 1861, four Confederate emissaries, seeking aid and arms from Britain and France, evaded the Union blockade at Charleston, South Carolina, went by ship to Havana, Cuba, and there boarded the British mail ship Trent, bound for Southampton, England.

The Trent was illegally stopped in the Bahama Channel, West Indies (November 8, 1861) by USS San Jacinto‘s Captain Charles Wilkes (1798-1877). Confederates James Murray Mason (1798-1871, from Virginia), John Slidell (1793-1871, from Louisiana), and their male secretaries were forcibly removed and imprisoned in Boston harbor’s Fort Warren Prison.

Anticipating possible war with the U. S. over the Trent Affair, Britain sent 8,000 troops to Canada. But United States jingoism subsided. President Abraham Lincoln reportedly told his cabinet, “one war at a time,” gentlemen, got the cabinet on December 26, 1861, to disavow the illegal seizure, and released the Confederate prisoners on January 1, 1862. But British resentment lingered.

Besides softening near-war U .S.-British tensions, another reason behind the Peabody funeral honors was British leaders’ sincere appreciation for Peabody’s gift of homes for London’s working poor. Many marveled that an American would give that kind of gift in that large amount to a city and country not his own. Britons also valued Peabody’s two decades of efforts to improve United States-British relations.

Prime Minister Gladstone

On November 9, 1869, in a major speech at the Lord Mayor’s Day banquet, Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1808-98) referred to British-U.S. difficulties and then mentioned Peabody’s death: “You will know that I refer to the death of Mr. Peabody, a man whose splendid benefactions…taught us in this commercial age…the most noble and needful of all lessons–…how a man can be the master of his wealth instead of its slave [cheers].”

“And, my Lord Mayor,” Gladstone continued, “most touching it is to know, as I have learnt, that while, perhaps, some might think he had been unhappy in dying in a foreign land, yet so were his affections divided between the land of his birth and the home of his early ancestors, that…his [wish] has been realized–that he might be buried in America, [and] that it might please God to ordain that he should die in England [cheers]. My Lord Mayor, with the country of Mr. Peabody we are not likely to quarrel [loud cheers].”

Prime Minister Gladstone’s cabinet met at 2:00 P.M., November 10, 1869, and confirmed Queen Victoria’s suggestion of a Royal Navy ship to return Peabody’s remains. Peabody funeral researcher Allen Howard Welch wrote: “The Queen, in fact, was personally grieved, and it was her own request that a man-of-war be employed to return Peabody to his homeland.”

In the handing over ceremony of Peabody’s remains from U .S. Minister to Britain John Lothrop Motley to HMS Monarch‘s Captain John Edmund Commerell (1829-1901), December 11, 1869, Portsmouth, England, U. S. Minister Motley explained: “The President of the United States, when informed of the death of George Peabody, the great philanthropist, at once ordered an American ship to convey his remains to America.

“Simultaneously, the Queen appointed one of Her Majesty’s ships to perform that office. This double honor from the heads of two great nations to a simple American citizen is, like his gift to the poor, unprecedented. The President yields cordially to the wish of the Queen.”

Praise for the Peabody Homes of London, 1862

Peabody’s housing gift for London’s working poor was announced March 12, 1862, while the U. S. and Britain still raged over the September 1861 Trent Affair. Peabody’s gift evoked surprise and admiration in the British press, a sampling of which follows.

London Times, March 26, 1862: “Mr. George Peabody has placed £150,000 in the hands of a committee to relieve the condition of the poor of London. It is seldom that good works are done on such a scale as this one by an American in a city where he is only a sojourner…. [He] gives while he lives to those who can make no return…. He does this in a country not his own, in a city he may leave any day for his native land. Such an act is rare….”

London Daily Telegraph, March 27, 1862: “The noble gift of Mr. Peabody actually takes away the public breath…and sends a thrill through the public heart…. A man gives his fortune during his lifetime for an object going back to a resolution he had held more than a quarter of a century…to elevate the poor. Party strife and national bickering have not changed this good American wars and rumours of wars have not turned him…from his…purpose.”

London Morning Herald, March 27, 1862: “One of the merchant princes of the world has just presented [London] with a gift for which thousands will bless his name…. Whilst his countrymen are warring…with each other, this generous American is working out…good-will among his adopted people.”

London Sun, March 27, 1862: ” How can England ever go to war with a nation whose leading man among us thus sympathizes with and blesses her poor? Who of us will not set the deed of Mr. Peabody…against that of Captain Wilkes….?”

London Review, March 29, 1862: “From America of late has come war, desolation, and animosity. The close ties of…friendships that linked Englishmen and Americans…seemed dissolved…. In the midst of this comes Mr. Peabody’s gift to discard prejudices on both sides of the Atlantic. We have had a desperate family quarrel, and almost come to blows Mr. Peabody…by a well-timed act…awakens…better sentiments.” Leeds Mercury, March 27, 1862: “An American citizen has now come forward to excite the wonder and admiration of the world.”

When friend and sometime agent Horatio Gates Somerby (1805-72), a Vermont-born London resident genealogist, sent Peabody these London newspaper clippings, Peabody replied: “I had not the least conception that it would cause so much excitement over the country.”

British Honors

British honors evoked by Peabody’s gift to London included membership in the ancient guild of the Clothworkers’ Company of London (July 2, 1862). He was granted the Freedom of the City of London (July 10, 1862), the first of only five American so honored others being President U. S. Grant, June 15, 1877 President Theodore Roosevelt, May 3, 1910 General John J. Pershing, July 18, 1919 and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 1, 1945.

Peabody had been denied membership in London’s Reform Club (1844) when Americans were disdained because nine U. S. states had stopped interest payments on their bonds sold abroad. When payment was resumed retroactively Peabody, who had publicly urged this course, was admitted to the Parthenon Club (1848), the City of London Club (1850), and the most prestigious Athenaeum Club (March 12, 1862).

The Fishmongers’ Company of London made Peabody an honorary member (April 18, 1866). When Oxford University granted him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (June 26, 1867), undergraduates cheered, waved their caps, and beat the arms of their chairs with the flat of their hands. Jackson’s Oxford Journal (June 29, 1867) recorded: “The lion of the day was beyond a doubt, Mr. Peabody.”

Peabody’s seated statue, sculptured and cast by Salem, Massachusetts-born William Wetmore Story (1819-95), paid for by public subscription, was unveiled July 23, 1869, on London’s Threadneedle Street, near the Royal Exchange, by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. The only four statues of Americans in London include George Peabody (1869), Abraham Lincoln (1920), George Washington (1921), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1948).

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria’s advisors had informed Her Majesty that, when asked privately, Peabody had declined either a baronetcy or the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. To accept would be to lose his U. S. citizenship, which he felt he could not do.

Her Majesty’s Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell (1792-1878) suggested instead a letter from the Queen and the gift of a miniature portrait of the Queen, such as was given to foreign ambassadors who signed a treaty with Britain.

The Queen’s letter to Peabody, March 28, 1866, expressed thanks for his “noble act of more than princely munificence…to relieve the wants of her poor subjects residing in London. It is an act…wholly without parallel…. “The Queen…understands Mr. Peabody to feel himself debarred from accepting [other] distinctions.” [She asks him instead] “to accept a miniature portrait of herself, which she will have painted for him, and which…can…be sent to him in America.”

Peabody thanked the Queen by letter on April 3, 1866. He received Her Majesty’s miniature portrait from British Ambassador Sir Frederick Bruce (1814-67) in Washington, D.C., March 1867. It was 14″ long by 10″ wide, had been especially painted for him by British artist F. A. C. Tilt, baked on enamel, and set in a sold gold frame, said to have cost $70,000. It was deposited in a specially built vault, with Peabody’s other honors, in the Peabody Institute Library, Peabody, Massachusetts.

John Bright to the Queen on George Peabody

British statesman and Member of Parliament John Bright (1811-89), who had befriended Peabody from 1867 and had gone fishing with him on the Shannon River, Limerick, Ireland, dined with the Queen, December 30, 1868. Bright recorded in his diary the conversation: “Some remarks were made about Mr. Peabody: it arose from something about Ireland, and my having been there on a visit to him. [The Queen] remarked what a very rich man he must be, and how great his gifts.”

[Bright recorded that Peabody] “told me how he valued the portrait [the Queen] had given him, that he made a sort of shrine for it, and that it was a thing of great interest in America. Peabody then “said to me, ‘The Americans are as fond of your Queen as the English are.’ To which she replied, ‘Yes, the American people have also been kind to me.’.”

Queen Victoria’s Second Letter to Peabody

Leaving London suddenly on what he knew would be his last U. S. visit, Peabody was in Salem, Massachusetts, when he received Queen Victoria’s second letter. She wrote (June 20, 1869): “The Queen is very sorry that Mr. Peabody’s sudden departure has made it impossible for her to see him before he left England, and she is concerned to hear that he is gone in bad health.”

The Queen continued: “She now writes him a line to express her hope that he may return to this country quite recovered, and that she may then have the opportunity, of which she has now been deprived, of seeing him and offering him her personal thanks for all he has done for the people.”

Publishing the Queen’s letter, the New York Times added: “Queen Victoria has paid our great countryman a delicate and graceful compliment. Mr. Peabody left England unexpectedly, his departure known only to a few friends. His feeble health became known to the Queen through London newspapers. With her goodness of heart which Americans never fail to appreciate she sent him a personal letter.” On July 19, 1869, Peabody replied, assuring the Queen of his “heartfelt gratitude.”

Queen Victoria’s Last Contact

Learning of Peabody’s hasty return to London (October 8, 1869), before she knew of his precarious condition, she asked her privy councilor Arthur Helps (1813-75) to invite Peabody to visit her at Windsor Castle. Helps wrote to Sir Curtis Lampson in whose London home Peabody rested (Oct. 30, 1869): “‘Regarding Mr. Peabody, the Queen thinks the best way would be for her to ask him down to Windsor for one or two nights, where he could rest–and need not come to dinner, or any meals if he feels unequal to it but where she could see him quietly at any time of the day most convenient to him.”

But it was too late. Largely unconscious his last days, Peabody died November 4, 1869.

Chief among Peabody’s U. S. honors was the U. S. Congressional Resolution of Thanks and Gold Medal for his PEF, passed in the U.S. Senate (March 8, 1867), in the U. S. House (March 9, 1867), and signed by President Andrew Johnson (March 16, 1867), who welcomed Peabody at the White House (April 25, 1867). These, his Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University (July 17, 1867), and his other honors received in the U. S. and England, are displayed in the Peabody Institute Library, Peabody, Massachusetts.

Winthrop’s Eulogy, February 8, 1870

All was ready for the final act: Winthrop’s eulogy of George Peabody, February 8, 1870, a bitterly cold day. Thousands poured into tiny Peabody, Massachusetts, by special morning trains which ran full from Boston. Large crowds were quiet and respectful. The 50 state troopers had little to do but give directions.

South Congregational Church filled quickly. Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Arthur (1850-1942), in the seventh pew from the pulpit, held all eyes. His retinue, including British Minister to the U. S. Sir Edward Thornton, sat nearby.

Behind Prince Arthur sat HMS Monarch Captain John E. Commerell, USS Plymouth’s Captain William H. Macomb, Admiral Farragut’s staff, Massachusetts Governor William Claflin, Maine Governor Joshua L. Chamberlain, the mayors of eight New England cities, Harvard University President Charles William Eliot (1834-1926), and others.

On the first six rows sat Peabody’s relatives, elderly citizens who knew him in youth, and the trustees of his institutes and funds. Anthems were sung. Scripture was read. Robert Charles Winthrop rose to give the eulogy.

Robert Charles Winthrop was the descendant of an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a Harvard University graduate, trained in Daniel Webster’s law office, member and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Peabody’s philanthropic advisor, and the PEF board of trustees president.

Winthrop began: “What a career this has been whose final scene lies before us! Who can contemplate his rise from lowly beginnings to these final royal honors without admiration? His death, painless and peaceful, came after he completed his great dream and saw his old friends and loved ones.”

Winthrop continued: “He had ambition and wanted to do grand things in a grand way. His public charity is too well known to bear repetition and I believe he also did much private good which remains unknown. The trusts he established, the institutes he founded, the buildings he raised stand before all eyes.”

“I have authority for saying,” Winthrop continued, “that he planned these for many years, for in private talks he told me all he planned and when I expressed my amazement at the magnitude of his purpose, he said to me with guileless simplicity: ‘Why Mr. Winthrop, this is no new idea to me. From the earliest of my manhood, I have contemplated some such disposition of my property and I have prayed my heavenly Father, day by day, that I might be enabled, before I died, to show my gratitude for the blessings which He has bestowed upon me by doing some great good to my fellow-men.’”

The words underlined above are engraved on Peabody’s marker in Westminster Abbey, London, where his remains rested for 30 days, November 12-December 11, 1869. That marker and the above words on it were refurbished for the February 12, 1995, bicentennial ceremony of Peabody’s birth held in London’s Westminster Abbey.

Winthrop further said: “To measure his gifts in dollars and pounds or in the number of people served is inadequate. He did something more. The successful way he arranged the machinery of world-wide philanthropy compels attention. It is a lesson that cannot be lost to history. It has inspired and will continue to inspire others to do likewise. This was the greatness of his life.”

“Now, all that is mortal of him,” Winthrop said, “comes back, borne with honors that mark a conquering hero. The battle he fought was the greed within him. His conquest was the victory he achieved over the gaining, hoarding, saving instinct. Such is the conqueror we make ready to bury in the earth this day.

Winthrop continued: “And so was fulfilled for him a prophecy he heard once as the subject of a sermon, on which by some force of reflection lingered in his mind and which he more than once mentioned to me: ‘And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear nor dark but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, or night: but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light.’”

Winthrop said that Peabody first heard this text, Zechariah 14: 6-7, in a sermon by the Reverend Dr. John Lothrop (1772-1820) of Brattle Street, Boston, date not known.

Winthrop concluded: “And so we bid thee farewell, noble friend. The village of thy birth weeps. The flower of Essex County stands at thy grave. Massachusetts mourns her son. Maine does honor to thee. New England and Old England join hands because of thee. The children of the South praise thy works. Chiefs of the Republic stand with royalty at thy bier. And so we bid thee farewell, friend of mankind.”

Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Mass.

The New York Times described the final burial scene at Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts, on February 8, 1870: “There were about two hundred sleigh coaches in the procession. The route was shortened somewhat in consequence of the prevalence of the storm. On arriving at the Peabody tomb, there was no special service, the coffin being placed reverently therein, after which the procession returned to the Institute, and the great pageantry attending the obsequies of the great philanthropist was ended.”

Harmony Grove Cemetery’s 65 acres of avenues and walks, first laid out in 1840, had been a thick walnut grove when Peabody was a boy. He could see it from the attic of the house where he was born. On a knoll where he had once played he had chosen the family burial plot on Anemone Ave., lot number 51.

There, where he had brought together the remains of his mother, father, sisters, and brothers, he was laid to rest. Ninety-six days of unprecedented funeral honors had ended. His works remain. Public memory of him has since grown dim, except at his institutes and among those who care to search the records.

Memory has also dimmed of those few days that summer of 1869 at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, when two old men, one from Massachusetts, the other from Virginia, turned from Civil War strife to the healing power of education. One, a lifelong soldier, had become president of a struggling college the other, a volunteer for 14 days in the War of 1812, merchant, London-based banker, and creator of philanthropic institutions.

The two old men walked arm in arm, enjoyed each other, spoke of educating new generations, of reconciliation, of healing, and of better days to ahead.

END OF MANUSCRIPT. Corrections, errors, suggestions appreciated: [email protected]

About the Parkers: 24 of their book titles are listed in:

Marriage and Family

While he was stationed at Fort Monroe, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808�), great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and step-great-granddaughter of George Washington, the first president of the United States. They were married on June 30, 1831 at Arlington House, her parents' house just across from Washington, D.C. The 3rd U.S. Artillery served as honor guard at the marriage. They eventually had seven children, three boys and four girls:

  1. George Washington Custis Lee (Custis, 𠇋oo”) 1832� served as Major General in the Confederate Army and aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis unmarried
  2. Mary Custis Lee (Mary, �ughter”) 1835� unmarried
  3. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (“Rooney”) 1837� served as Major General in the Confederate Army (cavalry) married twice surviving children by second marriage
  4. Anne Carter Lee (Annie) 1839� unmarried
  5. Eleanor Agnes Lee (Agnes) 1841� unmarried
  6. Robert Edward Lee, Jr. (Rob) 1843� served as Captain in the Confederate Army (Rockbridge Artillery) married twice surviving children by second marriage
  7. Mildred Childe Lee (Milly, “Precious Life”) 1846� unmarried

All the children survived him except for Annie, who died in 1862. They are all buried with their parents in the crypt of the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Lee is also related to Helen Keller, through Helen's mother, Kate.

Important Decisions and Virginia

After these events were over Robert remained in Virginia until Feb of 1860. He then returned to San Antonio and his command in Texas. On March 15 he left San Antonio for Fort Ringgold and Fort Brown to pursue Juan N. Cortina. The election of 1860 brought Abraham Lincoln into the office of President of the United States of America. With that came secession by South Carolina in December followed by 6 other southern states. He was in San Antonio in June of 1860 and was recorded on the census there. His wife and children were at Arlington in Virginia. He returned home to Arlington and was recorded again on the census of 1860 with his family in August. Lt. Col. Lee was ordered back to Washington by General Scott in Feb of 1861. Texas seceded from the Union in February of 1861. Lee had been promoted to Colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry on 16 Mar 1861.

After the formation of the Confederate States of America there was a demand for the surrender of all U.S. military forts within the Confederacy. Lincoln would not surrender Fort Sumter and instead attempted to resupply the fort from the sea. On April 12, 1861 after negotiations failed, Confederate batteries under the command of General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter. Lee's home state of Virginia seceded on April 23, 1861,

Though he denounced Virginia's secession from the Union, Lee refused Abraham Lincoln's invitation to take command of the entirety of the Union Army, stating he would ". never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty." He resigned from U.S. Army on 25 Apr 1861.


Lee was born at Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to Henry Lee III and Anne Hill Carter Lee on January 19, 1807. [5] His ancestor, Richard Lee I, emigrated from Shropshire, England to Virginia in 1639. [6]

Lee's father suffered severe financial reverses from failed investments [7] and was put in debtors' prison. Soon after his release the following year, the family moved to the city of Alexandria which at the time was still part of the District of Columbia (it retroceded back to Virginia in 1847), both because there were then high quality local schools there, and because several members of Anne's extended family lived nearby. In 1811, the family, including the newly born sixth child, Mildred, moved to a house on Oronoco Street. [8]

In 1812 Lee's father moved permanently to the West Indies. [9] Lee attended Eastern View, a school for young gentlemen, in Fauquier County, Virginia, and then at the Alexandria Academy, free for local boys, where he showed an aptitude for mathematics. Although brought up to be a practicing Christian, he was not confirmed in the Episcopal Church until age 46. [10]

Anne Lee's family was often supported by a relative, William Henry Fitzhugh, who owned the Oronoco Street house and allowed the Lees to stay at his country home Ravensworth. Fitzhugh wrote to United States Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, urging that Robert be given an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Fitzhugh had young Robert deliver the letter. [11] Lee entered West Point in the summer of 1825. At the time, the focus of the curriculum was engineering the head of the United States Army Corps of Engineers supervised the school and the superintendent was an engineering officer. Cadets were not permitted leave until they had finished two years of study and were rarely allowed off the Academy grounds. Lee graduated second in his class, behind only Charles Mason [12] (who resigned from the Army a year after graduation). Lee did not incur any demerits during his four-year course of study, a distinction shared by five of his 45 classmates. In June 1829, Lee was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. [13] After graduation, while awaiting assignment, he returned to Virginia to find his mother on her deathbed she died at Ravensworth on July 26, 1829. [14]

Ancestors of Robert E. Lee
16. Richard Lee II
8. Henry Lee I
17. Laetitia Corbin [ahn 1]
4. Henry Lee II
18. Richard Bland
9. Mary Bland
19. Elizabeth Randolph [ahn 2]
2. Henry Lee III
20. John Grymes
10. Charles Grymes
21. Alice Towneley
5. Lucy Grymes
22. Edmund Jennings
11. Frances Jennings
23. Frances Corbin [ahn 1]
1. Robert E. Lee
24. Robert "King" Carter
12. John Carter
25. Judith Armistead
6. Charles Carter
26. Edward Hill III
13. Elizabeth Hill
27. Elizabeth Williams
3. Anne Hill Carter
28. Augustine Moore Sr.
14. Bernard Moore
29. Elizabeth Todd
7. Anne Butler Moore
30. Alexander Spotswood
15. Anne Catherine Spotswood
31. Anne Butler Brayne

On August 11, 1829, Brigadier General Charles Gratiot ordered Lee to Cockspur Island, Georgia. The plan was to build a fort on the marshy island which would command the outlet of the Savannah River. Lee was involved in the early stages of construction as the island was being drained and built up. [15] In 1831, it became apparent that the existing plan to build what became known as Fort Pulaski would have to be revamped, and Lee was transferred to Fort Monroe at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula (today in Hampton, Virginia). [16] [ citation not found ]

While home in the summer of 1829, Lee had apparently courted Mary Custis whom he had known as a child. Lee obtained permission to write to her before leaving for Georgia, though Mary Custis warned Lee to be "discreet" in his writing, as her mother read her letters, especially from men. [17] Custis refused Lee the first time he asked to marry her her father did not believe the son of the disgraced Light-Horse Harry Lee was a suitable man for his daughter. [18] She accepted him with her father's consent in September 1830, while he was on summer leave, [19] and the two were wed on June 30, 1831. [20]

Lee's duties at Fort Monroe were varied, typical for a junior officer, and ranged from budgeting to designing buildings. [21] [ citation not found ] Although Mary Lee accompanied her husband to Hampton Roads, she spent about a third of her time at Arlington, though the couple's first son, Custis Lee was born at Fort Monroe. Although the two were by all accounts devoted to each other, they were different in character: Robert Lee was tidy and punctual, qualities his wife lacked. Mary Lee also had trouble transitioning from being a rich man's daughter to having to manage a household with only one or two slaves. [22] Beginning in 1832, Robert Lee had a close but platonic relationship with Harriett Talcott, wife of his fellow officer Andrew Talcott. [23]

Life at Fort Monroe was marked by conflicts between artillery and engineering officers. Eventually, the War Department transferred all engineering officers away from Fort Monroe, except Lee, who was ordered to take up residence on the artificial island of Rip Raps across the river from Fort Monroe, where Fort Wool would eventually rise, and continue work to improve the island. Lee duly moved there, then discharged all workers and informed the War Department he could not maintain laborers without the facilities of the fort. [24]

In 1834, Lee was transferred to Washington as General Gratiot's assistant. [25] Lee had hoped to rent a house in Washington for his family, but was not able to find one the family lived at Arlington, though Lieutenant Lee rented a room at a Washington boarding house for when the roads were impassable. [26] [ citation not found ] In mid-1835, Lee was assigned to assist Andrew Talcott in surveying the southern border of Michigan. [27] While on that expedition, he responded to a letter from an ill Mary Lee, which had requested he come to Arlington, "But why do you urge my immediate return, & tempt one in the strongest manner[?] . I rather require to be strengthened & encouraged to the full performance of what I am called on to execute." [16] Lee completed the assignment and returned to his post in Washington, finding his wife ill at Ravensworth. Mary Lee, who had recently given birth to their second child, remained bedridden for several months. In October 1836, Lee was promoted to first lieutenant. [28]

Lee served as an assistant in the chief engineer's office in Washington, D.C. from 1834 to 1837, but spent the summer of 1835 helping to lay out the state line between Ohio and Michigan. As a first lieutenant of engineers in 1837, he supervised the engineering work for St. Louis harbor and for the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Among his projects was the mapping of the Des Moines Rapids on the Mississippi above Keokuk, Iowa, where the Mississippi's mean depth of 2.4 feet (0.7 m) was the upper limit of steamboat traffic on the river. His work there earned him a promotion to captain. Around 1842, Captain Robert E. Lee arrived as Fort Hamilton's post engineer. [29]

While Lee was stationed at Fort Monroe, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808–1873), great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and step-great-granddaughter of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Mary was the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington's stepgrandson, and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis, daughter of William Fitzhugh [30] and Ann Bolling Randolph. Robert and Mary married on June 30, 1831, at Arlington House, her parents' house just across the Potomac from Washington. The 3rd U.S. Artillery served as honor guard at the marriage. They eventually had seven children, three boys and four girls: [31]

    (Custis, "Boo") 1832–1913 served as major general in the Confederate Army and aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis, captured during the Battle of Sailor's Creek unmarried (Mary, "Daughter") 1835–1918 unmarried ("Rooney") 1837–1891 served as major general in the Confederate Army (cavalry) married twice surviving children by second marriage (Annie) June 18, 1839 – October 20, 1862 died of typhoid fever, unmarried (Agnes) 1841 – October 15, 1873 died of tuberculosis, unmarried (Rob) 1843–1914 served as captain in the Confederate Army (Rockbridge Artillery) married twice surviving children by second marriage (Milly, "Precious Life") 1846–1905 unmarried

All the children survived him except for Annie, who died in 1862. They are all buried with their parents in the crypt of the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. [32]

Lee was a great-great-great-grandson of William Randolph and a great-great-grandson of Richard Bland. [33] He was a second cousin of Helen Keller's grandmother, [34] and was a distant relative of Admiral Willis Augustus Lee. [35]

On May 1, 1864, General Lee was present at the baptism of General A.P. Hill's daughter, Lucy Lee Hill, to serve as her godfather. This is referenced in the painting Tender is the Heart by Mort Künstler. [36] He was also the godfather of actress and writer Odette Tyler, the daughter of brigadier general William Whedbee Kirkland. [37]

Lee distinguished himself in the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). He was one of Winfield Scott's chief aides in the march from Veracruz to Mexico City. [38] He was instrumental in several American victories through his personal reconnaissance as a staff officer he found routes of attack that the Mexicans had not defended because they thought the terrain was impassable.

He was promoted to brevet major after the Battle of Cerro Gordo on April 18, 1847. [39] He also fought at Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec and was wounded at the last. By the end of the war, he had received additional brevet promotions to lieutenant colonel and colonel, but his permanent rank was still captain of engineers, and he would remain a captain until his transfer to the cavalry in 1855.

For the first time, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met and worked with each other during the Mexican–American War. Close observations of their commanders constituted a learning process for both Lee and Grant. [40] The Mexican–American War concluded on February 2, 1848.

After the Mexican War, Lee spent three years at Fort Carroll in Baltimore harbor. During this time, his service was interrupted by other duties, among them surveying and updating maps in Florida. Cuban revolutionary Narciso López intended to forcibly liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. In 1849, searching for a leader for his filibuster expedition, he approached Jefferson Davis, then a United States senator. Davis declined and suggested Lee, who also declined. Both decided it was inconsistent with their duties. [41] [42]

The 1850s were a difficult time for Lee, with his long absences from home, the increasing disability of his wife, troubles in taking over the management of a large slave plantation, and his often morbid concern with his personal failures. [43]

In 1852, Lee was appointed Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. [44] He was reluctant to enter what he called a "snake pit", but the War Department insisted and he obeyed. His wife occasionally came to visit. During his three years at West Point, Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee improved the buildings and courses and spent much time with the cadets. Lee's oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, attended West Point during his tenure. Custis Lee graduated in 1854, first in his class. [45]

Lee was enormously relieved to receive a long-awaited promotion as second-in-command of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Texas in 1855. It meant leaving the Engineering Corps and its sequence of staff jobs for the combat command he truly wanted. He served under Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston at Camp Cooper, Texas their mission was to protect settlers from attacks by the Apache and the Comanche.

In 1857, his father-in-law George Washington Parke Custis died, creating a serious crisis when Lee took on the burden of executing the will. Custis's will encompassed vast landholdings and hundreds of slaves balanced against massive debts, and required Custis's former slaves "to be emancipated by my executors in such manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper, the said emancipation to be accomplished in not exceeding five years from the time of my decease." [46] The estate was in disarray, and the plantations had been poorly managed and were losing money. [47] Lee tried to hire an overseer to handle the plantation in his absence, writing to his cousin, "I wish to get an energetic honest farmer, who while he will be considerate & kind to the negroes, will be firm & make them do their duty." [48] But Lee failed to find a man for the job, and had to take a two-year leave of absence from the army in order to run the plantation himself.

Lee's more strict expectations and harsher punishments of the slaves on Arlington plantation nearly led to a slave revolt, since many of the slaves had been given to understand that they were to be made free as soon as Custis died, and protested angrily at the delay. [49] In May 1858, Lee wrote to his son Rooney, "I have had some trouble with some of the people. Reuben, Parks & Edward, in the beginning of the previous week, rebelled against my authority—refused to obey my orders, & said they were as free as I was, etc., etc.—I succeeded in capturing them & lodging them in jail. They resisted till overpowered & called upon the other people to rescue them." [48] Less than two months after they were sent to the Alexandria jail, Lee decided to remove these three men and three female house slaves from Arlington, and sent them under lock and key to the slave-trader William Overton Winston in Richmond, who was instructed to keep them in jail until he could find "good & responsible" slaveholders to work them until the end of the five-year period. [48]

By 1860 only one slave family was left intact on the estate. Some of the families had been together since their time at Mount Vernon. [50]

The Norris case

In 1859, three of the Arlington slaves—Wesley Norris, his sister Mary, and a cousin of theirs—fled for the North, but were captured a few miles from the Pennsylvania border and forced to return to Arlington. On June 24, 1859, the anti-slavery newspaper New York Daily Tribune published two anonymous letters (dated June 19, 1859 [51] and June 21, 1859 [52] ), each claiming to have heard that Lee had the Norrises whipped, and each going so far as to claim that the overseer refused to whip the woman but that Lee took the whip and flogged her personally. Lee privately wrote to his son Custis that "The N. Y. Tribune has attacked me for my treatment of your grandfather's slaves, but I shall not reply. He has left me an unpleasant legacy." [53]

Wesley Norris himself spoke out about the incident after the war, in an 1866 interview printed in an abolitionist newspaper, the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Norris stated that after they had been captured, and forced to return to Arlington, Lee told them that "he would teach us a lesson we would not soon forget." According to Norris, Lee then had the three of them firmly tied to posts by the overseer, and ordered them whipped with fifty lashes for the men and twenty for Mary Norris. Norris claimed that Lee encouraged the whipping, and that when the overseer refused to do it, called in the county constable to do it instead. Unlike the anonymous letter writers, he does not state that Lee himself whipped any of the slaves. According to Norris, Lee "frequently enjoined [Constable] Williams to 'lay it on well,' an injunction which he did not fail to heed not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done." [49] [54]

The Norris men were then sent by Lee's agent to work on the railroads in Virginia and Alabama. According to the interview, Norris was sent to Richmond in January 1863 "from which place I finally made my escape through the rebel lines to freedom." But Federal authorities reported that Norris came within their lines on September 5, 1863, and that he "left Richmond . with a pass from General Custis Lee." [55] [56] Lee freed the Custis slaves, including Wesley Norris, after the end of the five-year period in the winter of 1862, filing the deed of manumission on December 29, 1862. [57] [58]

Biographers of Lee have differed over the credibility of the account of the punishment as described in the letters in the Tribune and in Norris's personal account. They broadly agree that Lee had a group of escaped slaves recaptured and that after recapturing them he hired them out off of the Arlington plantation as a punishment however, they disagree over the likelihood that Lee flogged them, and over the charge that he personally whipped Mary Norris. In 1934, Douglas S. Freeman described them as "Lee's first experience with the extravagance of irresponsible antislavery agitators" and asserted that "There is no evidence, direct or indirect, that Lee ever had them or any other Negroes flogged. The usage at Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia among people of Lee's station forbade such a thing." [59]

In 2000, Michael Fellman, in The Making of Robert E. Lee, found the claims that Lee had personally whipped Mary Norris "extremely unlikely," but found it not at all unlikely that Lee had ordered the runaways whipped: "corporal punishment (for which Lee substituted the euphemism 'firmness') was (believed to be) an intrinsic and necessary part of slave discipline. Although it was supposed to be applied only in a calm and rational manner, overtly physical domination of slaves, unchecked by law, was always brutal and potentially savage." [60]

In 2003, Bernice-Marie Yates's The Perfect Gentleman, cited Freeman's denial and followed his account in holding that, because of Lee's family connections to George Washington, he "was a prime target for abolitionists who lacked all the facts of the situation." [61]

Lee biographer Elizabeth Brown Pryor concluded in 2008 that "the facts are verifiable," based on "the consistency of the five extant descriptions of the episode (the only element that is not repeatedly corroborated is the allegation that Lee gave the beatings himself), as well as the existence of an account book that indicates the constable received compensation from Lee on the date that this event occurred." [62] [63]

In 2014, Michael Korda wrote that "Although these letters are dismissed by most of Lee's biographers as exaggerated, or simply as unfounded abolitionist propaganda, it is hard to ignore them. . It seems incongruously out of character for Lee to have whipped a slave woman himself, particularly one stripped to the waist, and that charge may have been a flourish added by the two correspondents it was not repeated by Wesley Norris when his account of the incident was published in 1866. . [A]lthough it seems unlikely that he would have done any of the whipping himself, he may not have flinched from observing it to make sure his orders were carried out exactly." [64]

Lee's views on race and slavery

Several historians have noted the paradoxical nature of Lee's beliefs and actions concerning race and slavery. While Lee protested he had sympathetic feelings for blacks, they were subordinate to his own racial identity. [65] While Lee held slavery to be an evil institution, he also saw some benefit to blacks held in slavery. [66] While Lee helped assist individual slaves to freedom in Liberia, and provided for their emancipation in his own will, [67] he believed the enslaved should be eventually freed in a general way only at some unspecified future date as a part of God's purpose. [65] [68] Slavery for Lee was a moral and religious issue, and not one that would yield to political solutions. [69] Emancipation would sooner come from Christian impulse among slave masters before "storms and tempests of fiery controversy" such as was occurring in "Bleeding Kansas". [65] Countering Southerners who argued for slavery as a positive good, Lee in his well-known analysis of slavery from an 1856 letter (see below) called it a moral and political evil. While both Robert and his wife Mary Lee were disgusted with slavery, they also defended it against abolitionist demands for immediate emancipation for all enslaved. [70]

Lee argued that slavery was bad for white people but good for black people, [71] claiming that he found slavery bothersome and time-consuming as an everyday institution to run. In an 1856 letter to his wife, he maintained that slavery was a great evil, but primarily due to adverse impact that it had on white people: [72]

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. [73]

Lee's father-in-law G. W. Parke Custis freed his slaves in his will. [74] In the same tradition, before leaving to serve in Mexico, Lee had written a will providing for the manumission of the only slaves he owned. [75] Parke Custis was a member of the American Colonization Society, which was formed to gradually end slavery by establishing a free republic in Liberia for African-Americans, and Lee assisted several ex-slaves to emigrate there. Also, according to historian Richard B. McCaslin, Lee was a gradual emancipationist, denouncing extremist proposals for the immediate abolition of slavery. Lee rejected what he called evilly motivated political passion, fearing a civil and servile war from precipitous emancipation. [76]

Historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor offered an alternative interpretation of Lee's voluntary manumission of slaves in his will, and assisting slaves to a life of freedom in Liberia, seeing Lee as conforming to a "primacy of slave law". She wrote that Lee's private views on race and slavery,

"which today seem startling, were entirely unremarkable in Lee's world. No visionary, Lee nearly always tried to conform to accepted opinions. His assessment of black inferiority, of the necessity of racial stratification, the primacy of slave law, and even a divine sanction for it all, was in keeping with the prevailing views of other moderate slaveholders and a good many prominent Northerners." [77]

On taking on the role of administrator for the Parke Custis will, Lee used a provision to retain them in slavery to produce income for the estate to retire debt. [74] Lee did not welcome the role of planter while administering the Custis properties at Romancoke, another nearby the Pamunkey River and Arlington he rented the estate's mill. While all the estates prospered under his administration, Lee was unhappy at direct participation in slavery as a hated institution. [75]

Even before what Michael Fellman called a "sorry involvement in actual slave management", Lee judged the experience of white mastery to be a greater moral evil to the white man than blacks suffering under the "painful discipline" of slavery which introduced Christianity, literacy and a work ethic to the "heathen African". [78] Columbia University historian Eric Foner notes that:

Lee "was not a pro-slavery ideologue. But I think equally important is that, unlike some white southerners, he never spoke out against slavery" [79]

By the time of Lee's career in the U.S. Army, the officers of West Point stood aloof from political-party and sectional strife on such issues as slavery, as a matter of principle, and Lee adhered to the precedent. [80] [81] He considered it his patriotic duty to be apolitical while in active Army service, [82] [83] [84] and Lee did not speak out publicly on the subject of slavery prior to the Civil War. [85] [86] Before the outbreak of the War, in 1860, Lee voted for John C. Breckinridge, who was the extreme pro-slavery candidate in the 1860 presidential election, not John Bell, the more moderate Southerner who won Virginia. [87]

Lee himself owned a small number of slaves in his lifetime and considered himself a paternalistic master. [87] There are various historical and newspaper hearsay accounts of Lee personally whipping a slave, but they are not direct eyewitness accounts. He was definitely involved in administering the day-to-day operations of a plantation and was involved in the recapture of runaway slaves. [88] One historian noted that Lee separated slave families, something that prominent slave-holding families in Virginia such as Washington and Custis did not do. [71] In 1862, Lee freed the slaves that his wife inherited, but that was in accordance with his father-in-law's will. [89]

Foner writes that "Lee's code of gentlemanly conduct did not seem to apply to blacks" during the War, as he did not stop his soldiers from kidnapping free black farmers and selling them into slavery. [79] Princeton University historian James M. McPherson noted that Lee initially rejected a prisoner exchange between the Confederacy and the Union when the Union demanded that black Union soldiers be included. [71] Lee did not accept the swap until a few months before the Confederacy's surrender. [71]

After the War, Lee told a congressional committee that blacks were "not disposed to work" and did not possess the intellectual capacity to vote and participate in politics. [89] Lee also said to the committee that he hoped that Virginia could "get rid of them," referring to blacks. [89] While not politically active, Lee defended Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson's approach to Reconstruction, which according to Foner, "abandoned the former slaves to the mercy of governments controlled by their former owners." [90] According to Foner, "A word from Lee might have encouraged white Southerners to accord blacks equal rights and inhibited the violence against the freed people that swept the region during Reconstruction, but he chose to remain silent." [89] Lee was also urged to condemn the white-supremacy [91] organization Ku Klux Klan, but opted to remain silent. [87]

In the generation following the war, Lee, though he died just a few years later, became a central figure in the Lost Cause interpretation of the war. The argument that Lee had always somehow opposed slavery, and freed his wife's slaves, helped maintain his stature as a symbol of Southern honor and national reconciliation. [87] Douglas Southall Freeman's Pulitzer prize-winning four-volume R. E. Lee: A Biography (1936), which was for a long period considered the definitive work on Lee, downplayed his involvement in slavery and emphasized Lee as a virtuous person. Eric Foner, who describes Freeman's volume as a "hagiography", notes that on the whole, Freeman "displayed little interest in Lee's relationship to slavery. The index to his four volumes contained 22 entries for 'devotion to duty', 19 for 'kindness', 53 for Lee's celebrated horse, Traveller. But 'slavery', 'slave emancipation' and 'slave insurrection' together received five. Freeman observed, without offering details, that slavery in Virginia represented the system 'at its best'. He ignored the postwar testimony of Lee's former slave Wesley Norris about the brutal treatment to which he had been subjected." [87]

Both Harpers Ferry and the secession of Texas were monumental events leading up to the Civil War. Robert E. Lee was at both events. Lee initially remained loyal to the Union after Texas seceded. [92]

Harpers Ferry

John Brown led a band of 21 abolitionists who seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859, hoping to incite a slave rebellion. President James Buchanan gave Lee command of detachments of militia, soldiers, and United States Marines, to suppress the uprising and arrest its leaders. [93] By the time Lee arrived that night, the militia on the site had surrounded Brown and his hostages. At dawn, Brown refused the demand for surrender. Lee attacked, and Brown and his followers were captured after three minutes of fighting. Lee's summary report of the episode shows Lee believed it "was the attempt of a fanatic or madman". Lee said Brown achieved "temporary success" by creating panic and confusion and by "magnifying" the number of participants involved in the raid. [94]


In 1860, Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee relieved Major Heintzelman at Fort Brown, and the Mexican authorities offered to restrain "their citizens from making predatory descents upon the territory and people of Texas . this was the last active operation of the Cortina War". Rip Ford, a Texas Ranger at the time, described Lee as "dignified without hauteur, grand without pride . he evinced an imperturbable self-possession, and a complete control of his passions . possessing the capacity to accomplish great ends and the gift of controlling and leading men." [95]

When Texas seceded from the Union in February 1861, General David E. Twiggs surrendered all the American forces (about 4,000 men, including Lee, and commander of the Department of Texas) to the Texans. Twiggs immediately resigned from the U.S. Army and was made a Confederate general. Lee went back to Washington and was appointed Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry in March 1861. Lee's colonelcy was signed by the new president, Abraham Lincoln. Three weeks after his promotion, Colonel Lee was offered a senior command (with the rank of Major General) in the expanding Army to fight the Southern States that had left the Union. Fort Mason, Texas was Lee's last command with the United States Army. [96]

Resignation from United States Army

Unlike many Southerners who expected a glorious war, Lee correctly predicted it as protracted and devastating. [97] He privately opposed the new Confederate States of America in letters in early 1861, denouncing secession as "nothing but revolution" and an unconstitutional betrayal of the efforts of the Founding Fathers. Writing to George Washington Custis in January, Lee stated:

The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the acts of the North, as you say. I feel the aggression, and am willing to take every proper step for redress. It is the principle I contend for, not individual or private benefit. As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and institutions, and would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for "perpetual union," so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. [98]

Despite opposing secession, Lee said in January that "we can with a clear conscience separate" if all peaceful means failed. He agreed with secessionists in most areas, rejecting the Northern abolitionists' criticisms and their prevention of the expansion of slavery to the new western territories, and fear of the North's larger population. Lee supported the Crittenden Compromise, which would have constitutionally protected slavery. [99]

Lee's objection to secession was ultimately outweighed by a sense of personal honor, reservations about the legitimacy of a strife-ridden "Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets", and his duty to defend his native Virginia if attacked. [98] He was asked while leaving Texas by a lieutenant if he intended to fight for the Confederacy or the Union, to which Lee replied, "I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty". [100] [99]

Although Virginia had the most slaves of any state, it was more similar to Maryland, which stayed in the Union, than to the Deep South a convention voted against secession in early 1861. Scott, commanding general of the Union Army and Lee's mentor, told Lincoln he wanted him for a top command, telling Secretary of War Simon Cameron that he had "entire confidence" in Lee. He accepted a promotion to colonel of the 1st Cavalry Regiment on March 28, again swearing an oath to the United States. [101] [99] Meanwhile, Lee ignored an offer of command from the Confederacy. After Lincoln's call for troops to put down the rebellion, a second Virginia convention in Richmond voted to secede [102] on April 17, and a May 23 referendum would likely ratify the decision. That night Lee dined with brother Smith and cousin Phillips, naval officers. Because of Lee's indecision, Phillips went to the War Department the next morning to warn that the Union might lose his cousin if the government did not act quickly. [99]

In Washington that day, [97] Lee was offered by presidential advisor Francis P. Blair a role as major general to command the defense of the national capital. He replied:

Mr. Blair, I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state? [102]

Lee immediately went to Scott, who tried to persuade him that Union forces would be large enough to prevent the South from fighting, so he would not have to oppose his state Lee disagreed. When Lee asked if he could go home and not fight, the fellow Virginian said that the army did not need equivocal soldiers and that if he wanted to resign, he should do so before receiving official orders. Scott told him that Lee had made "the greatest mistake of your life". [99]

Lee agreed that to avoid dishonor he had to resign before receiving unwanted orders. While historians have usually called his decision inevitable ("the answer he was born to make", wrote Douglas Southall Freeman another called it a "no-brainer") given the ties to family and state, an 1871 letter from his eldest daughter, Mary Custis Lee, to a biographer described Lee as "worn and harassed" yet calm as he deliberated alone in his office. People on the street noticed Lee's grim face as he tried to decide over the next two days, and he later said that he kept the resignation letter for a day before sending it on April 20. Two days later the Richmond convention invited Lee to the city. It elected him as commander of Virginia state forces before his arrival on April 23, and almost immediately gave him George Washington's sword as symbol of his appointment whether he was told of a decision he did not want without time to decide, or did want the excitement and opportunity of command, is unclear. [12] [99] [97]

A cousin on Scott's staff told the family that Lee's decision so upset Scott that he collapsed on a sofa and mourned as if he had lost a son, and asked to not hear Lee's name. When Lee told family his decision he said "I suppose you will all think I have done very wrong", as the others were mostly pro-Union only Mary Custis was a secessionist, and her mother especially wanted to choose the Union but told her husband that she would support whatever he decided. Many younger men like nephew Fitzhugh wanted to support the Confederacy, but Lee's three sons joined the Confederate military only after their father's decision. [99] [97]

Most family members, like brother Smith, also reluctantly chose the South, but Smith's wife and Anne, Lee's sister, still supported the Union Anne's son joined the Union Army, and no one in his family ever spoke to Lee again. Many cousins fought for the Confederacy, but Phillips and John Fitzgerald told Lee in person that they would uphold their oaths John H. Upshur stayed with the Union military despite much family pressure Roger Jones stayed in the Union army after Lee refused to advise him on what to do and two of Philip Fendall's sons fought for the Union. Forty percent of Virginian officers stayed with the North. [99] [97]

Early role

At the outbreak of war, Lee was appointed to command all of Virginia's forces, but upon the formation of the Confederate States Army, he was named one of its first five full generals. Lee did not wear the insignia of a Confederate general, but only the three stars of a Confederate colonel, equivalent to his last U.S. Army rank. [103] He did not intend to wear a general's insignia until the Civil War had been won and he could be promoted, in peacetime, to general in the Confederate Army.

Lee's first field assignment was commanding Confederate forces in western Virginia, where he was defeated at the Battle of Cheat Mountain and was widely blamed for Confederate setbacks. [104] He was then sent to organize the coastal defenses along the Carolina and Georgia seaboard, appointed commander, "Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida" on November 5, 1861. Between then and the fall of Fort Pulaski, April 11, 1862, he put in place a defense of Savannah that proved successful in blocking Federal advance on Savannah. Confederate fort and naval gunnery dictated nighttime movement and construction by the besiegers. Federal preparations required four months. In those four months, Lee developed a defense in depth. Behind Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River, Fort Jackson was improved, and two additional batteries covered river approaches. [105] In the face of the Union superiority in naval, artillery and infantry deployment, Lee was able to block any Federal advance on Savannah, and at the same time, well-trained Georgia troops were released in time to meet McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. The city of Savannah would not fall until Sherman's approach from the interior at the end of 1864.

At first, the press spoke to the disappointment of losing Fort Pulaski. Surprised by the effectiveness of large caliber Parrott Rifles in their first deployment, it was widely speculated that only betrayal could have brought overnight surrender to a Third System Fort. Lee was said to have failed to get effective support in the Savannah River from the three sidewheeler gunboats of the Georgia Navy. Although again blamed by the press for Confederate reverses, he was appointed military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the former U.S. Secretary of War. While in Richmond, Lee was ridiculed as the 'King of Spades' for his excessive digging of trenches around the capitol. These trenches would later play a pivotal role in battles near the end of the war. [106]

Commander, Army of Northern Virginia (June 1862 – June 1863)

In the spring of 1862, in the Peninsula Campaign, the Union Army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan advanced on Richmond from Fort Monroe to the east. McClellan forced Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of Virginia to retreat to just north and east of the Confederate capital.

Then Johnston was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, on June 1, 1862. Lee now got his first opportunity to lead an army in the field – the force he renamed the Army of Northern Virginia, signalling his confidence that the Union army would be driven away from Richmond. Early in the war, Lee had been called "Granny Lee" for his allegedly timid style of command. [107] Confederate newspaper editorials objected to him replacing Johnston, opining that Lee would be passive, waiting for Union attack. And for the first three weeks of June, he did not attack, instead strengthening Richmond's defenses.

But then he launched a series of bold attacks against McClellan's forces, the Seven Days Battles. Despite superior Union numbers and some clumsy tactical performances by his subordinates, Lee's attacks derailed McClellan's plans and drove back part of his forces. Confederate casualties were heavy, but McClellan was unnerved, retreated 25 miles (40 km) to the lower James River, and abandoned the Peninsula Campaign. This success completely changed Confederate morale and the public's regard for Lee. After the Seven Days Battles, and until the end of the war, his men called him simply "Marse Robert", a term of respect and affection.

The setback, and the resulting drop in Union morale, impelled Lincoln to adopt a new policy of relentless, committed warfare. [108] [109] After the Seven Days, Lincoln decided he would move to emancipate most Confederate slaves by executive order, as a military act, using his authority as commander-in-chief. [110] But he needed a Union victory first.

Meanwhile, Lee defeated another Union army under Gen. John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run. In less than 90 days after taking command, Lee had run McClellan off the Peninsula, defeated Pope, and moved the battle lines 82 miles (132 km) north, from just outside Richmond to 20 miles (32 km) south of Washington.

Lee now invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania, hoping to collect supplies in Union territory, and possibly win a victory that would sway the upcoming Union elections in favor of ending the war. But McClellan's men found a lost Confederate dispatch, Special Order 191, that revealed Lee's plans and movements. McClellan always exaggerated Lee's numerical strength, but now he knew the Confederate army was divided and could be destroyed in detail. However, McClellan moved slowly, not realizing a spy had informed Lee that McClellan had the plans. Lee quickly concentrated his forces west of Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, where McClellan attacked on September 17. The Battle of Antietam was the single bloodiest day of the war, with both sides suffering enormous losses. Lee's army barely withstood the Union assaults, then retreated to Virginia the next day. This narrow Confederate defeat gave President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to issue his Emancipation Proclamation, [111] which put the Confederacy on the diplomatic and moral defensive. [112]

Disappointed by McClellan's failure to destroy Lee's army, Lincoln named Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside ordered an attack across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Delays in bridging the river allowed Lee's army ample time to organize strong defenses, and the Union frontal assault on December 13, 1862, was a disaster. There were 12,600 Union casualties to 5,000 Confederate one of the most one-sided battles in the Civil War. [113] After this victory, Lee reportedly said, "It is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it." [113] At Fredericksburg, according to historian Michael Fellman, Lee had completely entered into the "spirit of war, where destructiveness took on its own beauty." [113]

After the bitter Union defeat at Fredericksburg, President Lincoln named Joseph Hooker commander of the Army of the Potomac. In May 1863, Hooker maneuvered to attack Lee's army via Chancellorsville, Virginia. But Hooker was defeated by Lee's daring maneuver: dividing his army and sending Stonewall Jackson's corps to attack Hooker's flank. Lee won a decisive victory over a larger force, but with heavy casualties, including Jackson, his finest corps commander, who was accidentally killed by his own troops. [114]

Battle of Gettysburg

The critical decisions came in May–June 1863, after Lee's smashing victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The western front was crumbling, as multiple uncoordinated Confederate armies were unable to handle General Ulysses S. Grant's campaign against Vicksburg. The top military advisers wanted to save Vicksburg, but Lee persuaded Davis to overrule them and authorize yet another invasion of the North. The immediate goal was to acquire urgently needed supplies from the rich farming districts of Pennsylvania a long-term goal was to stimulate peace activity in the North by demonstrating the power of the South to invade. Lee's decision proved a significant strategic blunder and cost the Confederacy control of its western regions, and nearly cost Lee his own army as Union forces cut him off from the South. [115]

In the summer of 1863, Lee invaded the North again, marching through western Maryland and into south central Pennsylvania. He encountered Union forces under George G. Meade at the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania in July the battle would produce the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War. With some of his subordinates being new and inexperienced in their commands, J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry being out of the area, and Lee being slightly ill, he was less than comfortable with how events were unfolding. While the first day of battle was controlled by the Confederates, key terrain that should have been taken by General Ewell was not. The second day ended with the Confederates unable to break the Union position, and the Union being more solidified. Lee's decision on the third day, against the judgment of his best corps commander General Longstreet, to launch a massive frontal assault on the center of the Union line turned out to be disastrous. The assault known as Pickett's Charge was repulsed and resulted in heavy Confederate losses. The general rode out to meet his retreating army and proclaimed, "All this has been my fault." [116] Lee was compelled to retreat. Despite flooded rivers that blocked his retreat, he escaped Meade's ineffective pursuit. Following his defeat at Gettysburg, Lee sent a letter of resignation to President Davis on August 8, 1863, but Davis refused Lee's request. That fall, Lee and Meade met again in two minor campaigns that did little to change the strategic standoff. The Confederate Army never fully recovered from the substantial losses incurred during the three-day battle in southern Pennsylvania. The historian Shelby Foote stated, "Gettysburg was the price the South paid for having Robert E. Lee as commander."

Ulysses S. Grant and the Union offensive

In 1864 the new Union general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, sought to use his large advantages in manpower and material resources to destroy Lee's army by attrition, pinning Lee against his capital of Richmond. Lee successfully stopped each attack, but Grant with his superior numbers kept pushing each time a bit farther to the southeast. These battles in the Overland Campaign included the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor.

Grant eventually was able to stealthily move his army across the James River. After stopping a Union attempt to capture Petersburg, Virginia, a vital railroad link supplying Richmond, Lee's men built elaborate trenches and were besieged in Petersburg, a development which presaged the trench warfare of World War I. Lee attempted to break the stalemate by sending Jubal A. Early on a raid through the Shenandoah Valley to Washington, D.C., but Early was defeated early on by the superior forces of Philip Sheridan. The Siege of Petersburg lasted from June 1864 until March 1865, with Lee's outnumbered and poorly supplied army shrinking daily because of desertions by disheartened Confederates.

General in Chief

As the South ran out of manpower the issue of arming the slaves became paramount. Lee explained, "We should employ them without delay . [along with] gradual and general emancipation". The first units were in training as the war ended. [117] [118] As the Confederate army was devastated by casualties, disease and desertion, the Union attack on Petersburg succeeded on April 2, 1865. Lee abandoned Richmond and retreated west. Lee then made an attempt to escape to the southwest and join up with Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee in North Carolina. However, his forces were soon surrounded and he surrendered them to Grant on April 9, 1865, at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. [119] Other Confederate armies followed suit and the war ended. The day after his surrender, Lee issued his Farewell Address to his army.

Lee resisted calls by some officers to reject surrender and allow small units to melt away into the mountains, setting up a lengthy guerrilla war. He insisted the war was over and energetically campaigned for inter-sectional reconciliation. "So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South." [120]

The following are summaries of Civil War campaigns and major battles where Robert E. Lee was the commanding officer: [121]

  • Oak Grove: Stalemate (Union withdrawal)
  • Beaver Dam Creek: Union victory
  • Gaine's Mill: Confederate victory
  • Savage's Station: Stalemate
  • Glendale: Stalemate (Union withdrawal)
  • Malvern Hill: Union victory

After the war, Lee was not arrested or punished (although he was indicted [1] ), but he did lose the right to vote as well as some property. Lee's prewar family home, the Custis-Lee Mansion, was seized by Union forces during the war and turned into Arlington National Cemetery, and his family was not compensated until more than a decade after his death. [126]

In 1866 Lee counseled southerners not to resume fighting, of which Grant said Lee was "setting an example of forced acquiescence so grudging and pernicious in its effects as to be hardly realized". [127] Lee joined with Democrats in opposing the Radical Republicans who demanded punitive measures against the South, distrusted its commitment to the abolition of slavery and, indeed, distrusted the region's loyalty to the United States. [128] [129] Lee supported a system of free public schools for blacks but forthrightly opposed allowing blacks to vote. "My own opinion is that, at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways," Lee stated. [130] Emory Thomas says Lee had become a suffering Christ-like icon for ex-Confederates. President Grant invited him to the White House in 1869, and he went. Nationally he became an icon of reconciliation between the North and South, and the reintegration of former Confederates into the national fabric. [131]

Lee hoped to retire to a farm of his own, but he was too much a regional symbol to live in obscurity. From April to June 1865, he and his family resided in Richmond at the Stewart-Lee House. [132] He accepted an offer to serve as the president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, and served from October 1865 until his death. The Trustees used his famous name in large-scale fund-raising appeals and Lee transformed Washington College into a leading Southern college, expanding its offerings significantly, adding programs in commerce and journalism, and incorporating the Lexington Law School. Lee was well liked by the students, which enabled him to announce an "honor system" like that of West Point, explaining that "we have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman." To speed up national reconciliation Lee recruited students from the North and made certain they were well treated on campus and in town. [133]

Several glowing appraisals of Lee's tenure as college president have survived, depicting the dignity and respect he commanded among all. Previously, most students had been obliged to occupy the campus dormitories, while only the most mature were allowed to live off-campus. Lee quickly reversed this rule, requiring most students to board off-campus, and allowing only the most mature to live in the dorms as a mark of privilege the results of this policy were considered a success. A typical account by a professor there states that "the students fairly worshipped him, and deeply dreaded his displeasure yet so kind, affable, and gentle was he toward them that all loved to approach him. . No student would have dared to violate General Lee's expressed wish or appeal." [134]

While at Washington College, Lee told a colleague that the greatest mistake of his life was taking a military education. [135] He also defended his father in a biographical sketch. [136]

President Johnson's amnesty pardons

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon to persons who had participated in the rebellion against the United States. There were fourteen excepted classes, though, and members of those classes had to make special application to the President. Lee sent an application to Grant and wrote to President Johnson on June 13, 1865:

Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Mil. Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April '61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Virginia 9 April '65. [137]

On October 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he signed his Amnesty Oath, thereby complying fully with the provision of Johnson's proclamation. Lee was not pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. [137]

Three years later, on December 25, 1868, Johnson proclaimed a second amnesty which removed previous exceptions, such as the one that affected Lee. [138]

Postwar politics

Lee, who had opposed secession and remained mostly indifferent to politics before the Civil War, supported President Andrew Johnson's plan of Presidential Reconstruction that took effect in 1865–66. However, he opposed the Congressional Republican program that took effect in 1867. In February 1866, he was called to testify before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction in Washington, where he expressed support for Johnson's plans for quick restoration of the former Confederate states, and argued that restoration should return, as far as possible, to the status quo ante in the Southern states' governments (with the exception of slavery). [139]

Lee told the committee that "every one with whom I associate expresses kind feelings towards the freedmen. They wish to see them get on in the world, and particularly to take up some occupation for a living, and to turn their hands to some work." Lee also expressed his "willingness that blacks should be educated, and . that it would be better for the blacks and for the whites." Lee forthrightly opposed allowing blacks to vote: "My own opinion is that, at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways." [140] [141]

In an interview in May 1866, Lee said: "The Radical party are likely to do a great deal of harm, for we wish now for good feeling to grow up between North and South, and the President, Mr. Johnson, has been doing much to strengthen the feeling in favor of the Union among us. The relations between the Negroes and the whites were friendly formerly, and would remain so if legislation be not passed in favor of the blacks, in a way that will only do them harm." [142]

In 1868, Lee's ally Alexander H. H. Stuart drafted a public letter of endorsement for the Democratic Party's presidential campaign, in which Horatio Seymour ran against Lee's old foe Republican Ulysses S. Grant. Lee signed it along with thirty-one other ex-Confederates. The Democratic campaign, eager to publicize the endorsement, published the statement widely in newspapers. [143] Their letter claimed paternalistic concern for the welfare of freed Southern blacks, stating that "The idea that the Southern people are hostile to the negroes and would oppress them, if it were in their power to do so, is entirely unfounded. They have grown up in our midst, and we have been accustomed from childhood to look upon them with kindness." [144] However, it also called for the restoration of white political rule, arguing that "It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws that would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power." [145]

In his public statements and private correspondence, Lee argued that a tone of reconciliation and patience would further the interests of white Southerners better than hotheaded antagonism to federal authority or the use of violence. Lee repeatedly expelled white students from Washington College for violent attacks on local black men, and publicly urged obedience to the authorities and respect for law and order. [146] He privately chastised fellow ex-Confederates such as Jefferson Davis and Jubal Early for their frequent, angry responses to perceived Northern insults, writing in private to them as he had written to a magazine editor in 1865, that "It should be the object of all to avoid controversy, to allay passion, give full scope to reason and to every kindly feeling. By doing this and encouraging our citizens to engage in the duties of life with all their heart and mind, with a determination not to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fears of the future, our country will not only be restored in material prosperity, but will be advanced in science, in virtue and in religion." [147]


Lee was born at Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on January 19, 1807. [3] His parents were American Revolutionary War General and Governor of Virginia, Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, and his wife, Anne Carter Lee. [4] In 1818, Lee's father died in the West Indies without ever seeing his son again. [4] Robert was raised by his mother in Alexandria, Virginia. [4]

Lee and George Washington were both descendants of Augustine Warner, Sr. and his wife, Mary Towneley Warner. [5] Lee was descended through their daughter, Sarah. Washington was descended through their son, Augustine, Jr. Lee and Washington were third cousins, twice removed. [5]

Lee attended Eastern View, a school in Fauquier County, Virginia. [6] He may have attended schools in Shirley, Virginia, and in Alexandria, Virginia. His mother instructed him in the Episcopalian faith. [6] Lee attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, and graduated second in the class of 1829. [7]

On June 30, 1831, Lee married Mary Custis at Arlington House. [8] She was the granddaughter of George Washington's stepson, John Parke Custis. [9] They made their home at Arlington House. They had seven children.

Lee fought in the Mexican–American War under General Winfield Scott as a captain. [10] Later, Scott wrote about Lee calling him "the very best soldier I ever saw in the field." [10] After the war, Lee helped the army build forts. In 1855, Lee became a lieutenant colonel, and joined a cavalry regiment. As a Colonel, Lee was called on to stop the "slave rebellion", otherwise known as John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. [10] Brown's raid was ended in less than an hour by Lee. [10]

Lee inherited a number of slaves with Arlington House. [11] He proved not to be a very good slave master. [11] He tried kindness and refused to use torture. But the slaves knew their freedom had been granted them in the will and refused to work. [11] Lee wanted to grant them their freedom but needed them to help him see out the work at Arlington House. [11] Personally, Lee hated slavery calling it an "evil" to both blacks and whites. [11] But he thought it had to be ended gradually or the economy of the South would wikt:collapse. [11] But Lee did agree with other Southerners thinking that blacks were inferior. He believed God would work out the problem in his own time. [11] Lee, like Thomas Jefferson had mixed feelings about slavery. [11]

The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 caused several states to secede in protest. This put Lee in a difficult position. The newly formed Confederate States of America offered Lee the rank of brigadier general. [4] Lee did not respond to the offer. Winfield Scott offered him command of the army of U.S. volunteers. He didn't answer this offer, either. Between April 12–14, 1861, U.S. troops were bombarded at Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina. The same day Virginia seceded from the Union. Lee did not support secession but he could not fight his own state of Virginia. [4] Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission on April 22, 1861, at Arlington House. [8] He told his friends that he would not be a part of an invasion of the South. [12] Several days later he accepted command of all Virginia forces. [12]

At first, Lee did not command any soldiers in battle. Instead, he helped Confederate president Jefferson Davis make military decisions. In 1862, he became the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He would lead the army for the rest of the war. He would win many battles, even though the Union army in the battles had more men and weapons. At the Battle of Gettysburg, he tried to invade the Union in order to end the war. But his army was defeated and he had to retreat back into Virginia.

During 1864 and 1865, Lee fought Union general Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. During the end of 1864 and the beginning of 1865, Lee and Grant fought near Richmond, Virginia in a series of battles called the Siege of Petersburg. In April 1865, Grant forced Lee to retreat from Richmond. After a series of battles, Grant surrounded Lee near Appomattox Courthouse and forced Lee to surrender. Before he surrendered, he said "I would rather die a thousand deaths than surrender".

President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation granting amnesty and pardon to those Confederates who were a part of the rebellion against the United States. [13] It contained 14 exempted classes and members of these groups had to make an application to the President of the United States asking for a pardon. [13] Lee sent an application to General Grant. On June 13, 1865, Lee wrote to President Johnson:

"Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Mil. Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April '61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Va. 9 April '65." [13]

On October 2, 1865, Lee became president of Washington College in Virginia. [13] That same day Lee signed his Amnesty Oath as required by President Johnson. But Lee was not pardoned and his citizenship was not restored. [13]

His amnesty oath was found over a hundred years later in the National Archives. [13] It appears United States Secretary of State William H. Seward had given the application to a friend to keep as a souvenir. [13] The State Department had simply ignored Lee's application and it was never granted. [13] In a 1975 Joint resolution by the United States Congress, Lee's rights as a citizen were restored with the effective date of June 13, 1865. [13] The act was signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford on August 5, 1975. [13]

Lee had a stroke on September 28, 1870 and died on October 12, 1870. Washington College changed its name to Washington and Lee University in Lee's honor. Lee's birthday is celebrated in several southern states as a holiday.

Lee, a member of a prominent Virginia family, was the son of "Light Horse Harry" Lee, a hero of the American Revolution. His older brother, Sydney Lee, served as commandant at Annapolis, commanded Commodore Perry's flagship in the Japan expedition, and later served in the Confederate Navy. Robert graduated from West Point in 1829, second in his class of forty-six. He then served at various forts along the east coast before being assigned chief engineer for the St. Louis, Missouri, harbor. During the Mexican War Lee served on the staff of General Winfield Scott in the Vera Cruz expedition, receiving in succession the brevets of major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel. After the war Lee returned to supervise construction of fortifications until appointed superintendent of West Point, a position he held from 1852 to 1855. Later he was transferred from the engineer corps and assigned as lieutenant colonel of the 2d Cavalry. In late 1859 the abolitionist John Brown made his raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry Lee, on leave in Washington, was sent with a force of marines from the Navy Yard to capture the raiders. In early 1861 Lee was promoted to colonel of the 1st Cavalry, his commission signed by the newly elected Abraham Lincoln. However, when he was offered command of forces that would invade the South, Lee resigned his commission.

In late April he was appointed major general and commander of Virginia military forces. A month later, when Virginia became part of the Confederacy, Lee was commissioned first a brigadier general in the Confederate Army (no higher rank having been created at that time) and later general. In March 1862 he became the military adviser to President Jefferson Davis. At the beginning of June Lee succeeded the wounded General Joseph E. Johnston in command of the Army of Northern Virginia in charge of defending Richmond. Lee led his army through a series of victories-at the Battles of the Seven Days, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville-punctuated by reverses at Antietam and Gettysburg. In February 1865 Lee was appointed general in chief of the Confederate armies but two months later, on 9 April, he was forced to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. After the war Lee accepted the presidency of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia, and served there until his death. (The school's name was later changed to Washington and Lee University.)

Related Features

The Army of Northern Virginia

The Army of Northern Virginia, commonly referred to as "Lee's Army," was the Confederacy's main fighting force in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War.

Letters from Lee

General Lee explains his reasoning behind his resignation from the U.S. Armed Forces.

Surrender Documents

The official surrender document of Lee's troops to the Union Army, signed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.