Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter XX: The New Home in Lexington: Visits to "Ravensworth" and "The White House"

The Document

After all the arrangements connected with this sad event had been completed, my father went up to "Ravensworth" to see "Aunt Maria," who had always been a second mother to his brother. There, amid the cool shades of this lovely old home, he rested for a day or two from the fatigues of travel and the intense heat. During this visit, as he passed the room in which his mother had died, he lingered near the door and said to one present:

"Forty years ago, I stood in this room by my mother's death-bed! It seems now but yesterday!"

While here he determined to go back to Lexington via Richmond, and to run down thence to the "White House" to see his grandson. He arrived there on Friday, July 30th. On Sunday he wrote to my mother:

"White House, New Kent, August 1, 1869.

"My Dear Mary: I arrived here on Friday last and found them all well. Our daughter Tabb has not been altogether well, and shows its effects. Her baby, I think, would also be improved by mountain air. I have therefore persuaded her to accompany me and join you at the Baths. We shall leave Richmond, if nothing prevents, on Tuesday morning, 3d inst., and hope to reach the Baths that evening in the stage from Goshen. I have written to Mr. Peyton, requesting him to prepare a good room for Tabb and her little family as near you as convenient, and trust we may reach there in health and comfort at the time appointed. I hope I shall find you well and comfortable, and Markie in the enjoyment of every good. How are the poor little children? My previous letters will have informed you of everything important. I will supply all omissions when I see you. Custis is here, much improved. I have not yet seen Rob. Farmers here are threshing out their wheat, which occupies them closely. Fitzhugh's is turning out well, and he hopes to gather a fair crop. Robert came up last Wednesday with his friend Mr. Dallam, and went down Thursday. He was very well. Custis arrived Saturday week. Mr. Kepler is here and will preach at St. Peter's this morning. I hope to attend. Mr. Kepler says his health is much improved. Fitzhugh doses him with cholagogue. Good-bye. Affectionately yours,

"R. E. Lee."

St. Peter's was the old Colonial church a few miles away, in which General Washington and Mrs. Custis were married about one hundred years prior to this time. Mr. Kepler, the pastor, preached there twice a month. He lived in Richmond, and, to keep him free from fever-and-ague, my brother dosed him freely with cholagogue whenever he came down into the malarial country. I came up from Romancoke Sunday morning, arriving in time to be present at the christening of my nephew, which ceremony was decided on rather hurriedly in order that the grandfather might stand as godfather. After returning from the morning service at St. Peter's, where we all went, it was decided that the mother and child should go to the mountains with my father. As there were some preparations for the summer to be made, his daughter and her baby went to Petersburg that afternoon, agreeing to meet the General in Richmond Monday night and start for the Rockbridge Baths Tuesday morning. On Monday, he writes to a friend, with whom he had intended to stop for a day on his way back to Lexington:

"White House, New Kent County, August 1, 1869.

"...I had promised myself the pleasure of seeing you on my way to Lexington, of spending with you one short day to cheer and refresh me; but I shall travel up in a capacity that I have not undertaken for many years--as escort to a young mother and her infant, and it will require the concentration of all my faculties to perform my duties even with tolerable comfort to my charge.... I go up with my daughter, I may say this time, too, my youngest daughter [his daughter-in-law, Mrs. W. H. F. Lee], to place her with her mama at the Rockbridge Baths, the waters of which I hope will invigorate both mother and child, who have been wearied and weakened by the long attack of whooping-cough from which the latter has suffered. I came down from Richmond to spend Sunday and was fortunate enough to find here my three sons, but I am sorry to say but one daughter.... Most truly yours,

"R. E. Lee."

Next: Meetings with interesting people at White Sulphur Springs

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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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