Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter VI: The Winter of 1863-4: General Lee's illness

The Document

When we learned that General Lee was ill--confined for a day or two to his tent, at the time he was confronting General Grant on the North Anna--this terrible thought forced itself upon us: Suppose disease should disable him, even for a time, or, worse, should take him forever from the front of his men! It could not be! It was too awful to consider! And we banished any such possibility from our minds. When we saw him out again, on the lines, riding Traveller as usual, it was as if some great crushing weight had been suddenly lifted from our hearts. Colonel Walter H. Taylor, his adjutant-general, says:

"The indisposition of General Lee...was more serious than was generally supposed. Those near him were very apprehensive lest he should be compelled to give up."

General Early also writes of this circumstance:

"One of his three corps commanders [Longstreet] had been disabled by wounds at the Wilderness, and another was too unwell to command his corps [A. P. Hill], while he (General Lee) was suffering from a most annoying and weakening disease. In fact, nothing but his own determined will enabled him to keep the field at all; and it was then rendered more manifest than ever that he was the head and front, the very life and soul of the army."

Next: Chapter VII: Fronting the Army of the Potomac

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee,, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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