Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter XIX: Lee's Letters to His Sons: The General as a railroad delegate

The Document

The letter to his son Fitzhugh is mostly upon business, but some of it relates to more interesting matters:

"Lexington, Virginia, April 17, 1869.

"My Dear Fitzhugh: I expect to go to Baltimore next Tuesday, if well enough. The Valley Railroad Company are very anxious for me to accompany their delegation to that city with a view of obtaining from the mayor or council a subscription for their road, and, though I believe I can be of no service to them, they have made such a point of it that it would look ill-mannered and unkind to refuse. I wish I could promise myself the pleasure of returning by the 'White House,' but I cannot. If I go to Baltimore, I must take time to pay certain visits and must stop a while in Alexandria. I shall, therefore, from there be obliged to return here. If I could stop there on my way to Baltimore, which I cannot for want of time, I would then return by the 'White House.' I shall hope, however, to see you and Rob during the summer, if I have to go down immediately after commencement. But it is so inconvenient for me to leave home now that I cannot say.... Poor little Agnes also has been visited by Doctor Barton of late, but she is on the mend. 'Life' holds her own. Both of her cats have fresh broods of kittens, and the world wags cheerily with her. Custis is well, and Mary is still in New York, and all unite with me in much love to you and my daughter Tabb and my grandson. I hope the latter has not formed the acquaintance of his father in the same manner as Warrington Carter's child.

"Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee.

"General Wm. H. Fitzhugh Lee."

In order to induce the city of Baltimore to aid them in building their railroad from Staunton to Salem, the Valley Railroad Company got together a large delegation from the counties through which it was proposed the line should pass, and sent it to that city to lay the plans before the mayor and council and request assistance. Among those selected from Rockbridge County was General Lee. Lexington at this time was one of the most inaccessible points in Virginia. Fifty miles of canal, or twenty-three of staging over a rough mountain road, were the only routes in existence. The one from Lynchburg consumed twelve hours, the other, from Goshen (a station on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad), from seven to eleven. On one occasion, a gentleman during his first visit to Lexington called on General Lee and on bidding him good-bye asked him the best way to get back to Washington.

"It makes but little difference," replied the General, "for whichever route you select, you will wish you had taken the other."

It was, therefore, the desire of all interested in the welfare of the two institutions of learning located in Lexington that this road should be built. My father's previous habits of life, his nature and his tastes made him averse to engaging in affairs of this character; but because of the great advantage to the college, should it be carried through, and a the earnest request of many friends of his and of the road, he consented to act. General John Echols, from Staunton, Colonel Pendleton, from Buchanan, Judge McLaughlin, from Lexington, were amongst those who went with him. While in Baltimore he stayed at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Tagart, whom he had met several summers at the White Sulphur Springs.

Next: Lionised in Baltimore

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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/chapter19c.html, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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