Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

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Chapter IV: Army Life of Robert the Younger: Death of his daughter Annie

The Document

After the army recrossed the Potomac into Virginia, we were camped for some time in the vicinity of Winchester. One beautiful afternoon in October, a courier from headquarters rode up to our camp, found me out, and handed me a note from my father. It told me of the death of my sister Annie. As I have lost this letter to me, I quote from one to my mother about the same time. It was dated October 26, 1862:

"...I cannot express the anguish I feel at the death of our sweet Annie. To know that I shall never see her again on earth, that her place in our circle, which I always hoped one day to enjoy, is forever vacant, is agonising in the extreme. But God in this, as in all things, has mingled mercy with the blow, in selecting that one best prepared to leave us. May you be able to join me in saying 'His will be done!' ...I know how much you will grieve and how much she will be mourned. I wish I could give you any comfort, but beyond our hope in the great mercy of God, and the belief that he takes her at the time and place when it is best for her to go, there is none. May that same mercy be extended to us all, and may we be prepared for His summons."

In a letter to my sister Mary, one month later, from "Camp near Fredericksburg":

"...The death of my dear Annie was, indeed, to me a bitter pang, but 'the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.' In the quiet hours of the night, when there is nothing to lighten the full weight of my grief, I feel as if I should be overwhelmed. I have always counted, if God should spare me a few days after this Civil War has ended, that I should have her with me, but year after year my hopes go out, and I must be resigned...."

To this daughter whose loss grieved him so he was specially devoted. She died in North Carolina, at the Warren White Sulphur Springs. At the close of the war, the citizens of the county erected over her grave a handsome monument. General lee was invited to be present at the ceremonies of the unveiling. In his reply, he says:

"...I have always cherished the intention of visiting the tomb of her who never gave me aught but pleasure;... Though absent in person, my heart will be with you, and my sorrow and devotions will be mingled with yours.... I inclose, according to your request, the date of my daughter's birth and the inscription proposed for the monument over her tomb. The latter are the last lines of the hymn which she asked for just before her death."

A visitor to her grave, some years after the war, thus describes it:

"In the beautiful and quiet graveyard near the Springs a plain shaft of native granite marks the grave of this beloved daughter. On one side is cut in the stone, 'Annie C. Lee, daughter of General R. E. Lee and Mary C. Lee'--and on the opposite--'Born at Arlington, June 18, 1839, and died at White Sulphur Springs, Warren County, North Carolina, Oct. 20, 1862.' On another side are the lines selected by her father,

"'Perfect and true are all His ways
Whom heaven adores and earth obeys.'"

Next: His son Robert raised from the ranks

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee, http://www.historyofwar.org/source/acw/lee_letters/chapter04f, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),
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