Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter III: Letters to Wife and Daughters: From Mr. Davis's Memorial Address

The Document

Mr. Davis, in an address before a memorial meeting at Richmond in 1870, speaking of General Lee in this campaign, said:

"He came back, carrying the heavy weight of defeat, and unappreciated by the people whom he served, for they could not know, as I knew, that, if his plans and orders had been carried out, the result would have been victory rather than retreat. You did not know it; for I should not have known it had he not breathed it in my ear only at my earnest request, and begging that nothing be said about it. The clamour which then arose followed him when he went to South Carolina, so that it became necessary on his departure to write a letter to the Governor of that State, telling him what manner of man he was. Yet, through all this, with a magnanimity rarely equalled, he stood in silence, without defending himself or allowing others to defend him, for he was unwilling to offend any one who was wearing a sword and striking blows for the Confederacy."

After returning to Richmond, my father resumed his position as advisor and counsellor to Mr. Davis. From there he writes to my mother, who had left the Hot Springs and gone on to "Shirley," on James River:

"Richmond, November 5, 1861.

"My Dear Mary: I received last night your letter of the 2d, and would have answered it at once, but was detained with the Secretary till after 11 P. M. I fear now I may miss the mail. Saturday evening I tried to get down to you to spend Sunday, but could find no government boat going down, and the passenger boats all go in the morning. I then went to the stable and got out my horse, but it was near night then and I was ignorant both of the road and distance and I gave it up. I was obliged to be here Monday, and as it would have consumed all Sunday to go and come, I have remained for better times. The President said I could not go to-day, so I must see what can be done to-morrow. I will come, however, wherever you are, either Shirley or the White House, as soon as possible, and if not sooner, Saturday at all events.... I am, as ever, Yours,

"R. E. Lee."

Next: Defense of Southern ports

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee, http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/lee_letters/chapter03e.html, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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