Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter XI: The Idol of the South: The General's interest in young people

The Document

My father was always greatly interested in the love affairs of his relatives, friends, and acquaintances. His letters during the war show this in very many ways. One would suppose that the general commanding an army in active operations could not find the time even to think of such trifles, much less to write about them; but he knew of very many such affairs among his officers and even his men, and would on occasion refer to them before the parties themselves, very much to their surprise and discomfiture. Bishop Peterkin, of West Virginia, who served on the staff of General Pendleton, tells me of the following instances, in illustration of this characteristic:

"It was in the winter of 1863-4, when we were camped near Orange Court House, that, meeting the General after I had come back from a short visit to Richmond, he asked after my father, and then said, 'Did you see Miss ---?' and I replied, 'No, sir; I did not.' Then again, 'Did you see Miss ---?' and when I still replied 'No,' he added, with a smile, 'How exceedingly busy you must have been.'

"Again--at the cavalry review at Brandy Station, on June 8, 1863-- we had galloped all around the lines, when the General took his post for the 'march past,' and all the staff in attendance grouped themselves about him. There being no special orders about our positions, I got pretty near the General. I noticed that several times he turned and looked toward an ambulance near us, filled with young girls. At At last, after regiments and brigades had gone by, the Horse Artillery came up. The General turned and, finding me near him, said, 'Go and tell that young lady with the blue ribbon in her hat that such-and-such a battery is coming.'

"I rode up and saluted the young lady. There was great surprise shown by the entire party, as I was not known to any of them, and when I came out with my message there was a universal shout, while the General looked on with a merry twinkle in his eye. It was evidently the following up on his part of some joke which he had with the young lady about an officer in this battery."

Next: His happy home life

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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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