On the afternoon of Thursday, March 24, looking very badly,1 General Lee left Lexington on the canal packet-boat for Lynchburg, to begin a tour for his health,2 as his father had done at the end of his career. If it had been a quiet journey on which he set out, it might have benefited him greatly and might perhaps have prolonged his life. As it was, his two months of travel probably hastened his death. Much of his time had to be spent on the railroads, and many of his days were crowded with all the incidents of a triumphant progress, full of excitement and most injurious to an impaired heart. Still, if his sands were running out so swiftly that a few months were of no great moment, there could not have been a more fitting close. Was he preparing to face his Maker? Did he ask himself if he had walked humbly in the ways of God's appointing? Had he chosen rightly and counselled with prudence after the war? If, on his knees in prayer, he put these heart-searching questions, the South was ready to answer them for him. The last and most beautiful chapter of his life was opening.
In its initial stage his travel was retired. After a wearying night on the canal and a tedious day on the railroad, he reached Richmond on the afternoon of Friday, March 25, and went to the Exchange and Ballard House.3 Too weak to go visiting or even to attend to some purchases Mrs. Lee had asked him to make, he remained quietly at the hotel and saw only the personal friends who called. The senate of Virginia, however, as soon as it learned he was in Richmond, unanimously extended him the privileges of the floor and would have been pleased to accord him a formal reception, an honor he declined in a characteristic letter.4 On p445 Saturday he had a two-hour examination by three of the leading physicians of the city, who told him they would study his case further and would report their findings to his doctor in Lexington. "I think I feel better than when I left Lexington, certainly stronger, but am a little feverish. Whether it is produced by the journey, or the toddies that Agnes administers, I do not know" — thus he reported himself to Mrs. Lee.5
The hotel at which he stopped in Richmond consisted of two buildings on opposite sides of Franklin Street, connected by an overhead bridge. The General was crossing this bridge with Agnes, one day during his visit, when he encountered the familiar figure of Colonel John S. Mosby, he of the renowned partisan rangers. "The General was pale and haggard," Mosby subsequently wrote, "and did not look like the Apollo I had known in the army." They exchanged greetings, and a little later Colonel Mosby called at the General's room for a social chat. "I felt oppressed by the great memories that his presence revived," Mosby wrote, "and while both of us were thinking about the war, neither of us referred to it."
Mosby left ere long, but soon was back again, bringing with him a man whose presence recalled the tragedy of Gettysburg and the dread day of Five Forks — General George E. Pickett. Mosby had met Pickett, by chance, just after he had left the room, and when he had remarked that he had called on their old commander, Pickett had said that he would pay his respects if Mosby would return with him, but that he did not want to be alone with Lee.
The General had not seen Pickett since Appomattox, if, indeed, he saw him then, and he had conducted no correspondence with him after the war. From Mosby's account it would seem that General Lee received Pickett with his full reserve, a reserve that could be icy and killing though coupled always with perfect courtesy. Sensing the unpleasantness of the meeting, Mosby got up in a few moments and Pickett followed him. Once outside the room, Pickett broke out bitterly against "that old man" who, p446 he said, "had my division massacred at Gettysburg."6 As far as is known, General Lee never afterwards referred to the meeting, or to General Pickett, but this was not an experience to be coveted for a man with heart-disease.
A much more welcome visitor was Colonel J. L. Corley, who had been Lee's chief quartermaster, an able and devoted man. Without hinting that he thought General Lee needed an escort, Colonel Corley decided he should accompany his old chieftain on his projected journey, and by one device or another, diplomatically prevailed upon the General to let him make the arrangements to attend him southward from Charlotte, where he offered to meet him on an agreed date. It was a service of the most considerate sort, unobtrusively rendered from love of his old leader, and it contributed immeasurably to lessen the discomfort of the trip.
On the afternoon of Monday, March 28, at 2 o'clock, the General and his daughter left Richmond for Warrenton, N. C. They reached their objective at 10 o'clock the same night and received warm welcome at Ingleside, the home of Mr. and Mrs. John White, who were known to Agnes, as were many others in the neighborhood, from her stay among them in the second year of the war. The next morning, March 29, the Whites supplied the General and his daughter with masses of white hyacinths, and Captain William J. White, John White's son, placed a team and vehicle at their disposal that they might go unaccompanied to the cemetery. "My visit . . . was mournful, yet soothing to my feelings," the General wrote Mrs. Lee. From the graveyard they drove to the home of Joseph Jones, where they were entertained at dinner, and then they returned to Captain White's house.7 A number of people called during the evening. "I was glad," Lee told his wife, "to have the opportunity of thanking the kind friends for their care of [Annie] while living and their attention to her since her death. I saw most of the ladies of the committee who undertook the preparation of the monument and the enclosure p447 of the cemetery. . . ."8 Perhaps this kindness disposed him to yield to the importunities of Mr. White's daughters, and to give them a lock of his hair, which is to this day one of the treasures of the family.9
Now began the public part of the tour — public not because Lee desired it so, but because the people heard of his coming and insisted on honoring him. The General left Warrenton that night, March 29, with Agnes, aboard a sleeping-car, the first on which he had ever ridden, but he was rendered wakeful by the novelty and the interruptions. At Raleigh, which was •some sixty miles distant, via the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, scores were waiting in the station. "Lee, Lee," they cried, and cheered him again and again. But had retired and no doubt was glad to escape an appearance.10 At another station on the way the same sounds of affectionate welcome reached Lee's ears.
The journey continued all the next day, by way of Salisbury, Charlotte, and Columbia. As the presence of the General on the train soon was known, word was dispatched ahead by the railroad telegraphers. Former Confederates sent in fruit from the other cars. At every place where the train stopped for meals the proprietors of the restaurants served lunches and coffee on his car as soon as they learned the General would not alight. Salisbury had a band and a multitude to do him honor. So had Charlotte, where the faithful Corley reported himself. "Namesakes appeared on the way, of all sizes. Old ladies stretched their heads into the windows at way-stations and then drew back and said, 'He is mighty like his pictures' " — so Agnes wrote her mother. Columbia, S. C., was reached in a pouring rain, but presented a great crowd. Most of the stores had been closed. All the Confederate veterans had been mustered and, with a large number of other citizens, had been marched in procession to the station of the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad. Colonel Alexander Haskell was master of ceremonies, he who had commanded the Seventh North Carolina Cavalry and in October, p448 1864, had been wounded in battle with Butler. In the crowd, also, was General W. Porter Alexander, Longstreet's chief of artillery and the man who had conducted the bombardment that had preceded Pickett's charge. But there were no war reminiscences now, only smiles and handshakes and cheers. General Lee was forced to go to the platform, where he was introduced by Colonel Haskell and was met with a roar. He bowed his acknowledgments but made no speech.11
Finally. at 9:30 on the evening of March 30, nearly twenty-four hours after the General had left Warrenton, he reached Augusta, Ga., where he expected to spend the night, before going on to Savannah.12 Mayor Allen and a committee of citizens were at the station to receive him. The guest was placed in a carriage with the mayor, Miss Russell, and Alderman Stovall. Agnes and Colonel Corley rode in a second carriage with General McLaws, Colonel Rains, and Major T. P. Branch. The party was escorted to the Planter's Hotel, where others gathered to pay their respects.13 Lee was weary, for the journey had been exhausting,14 and he yielded to the appeal that he remain in Augusta a day and not attempt to go on to Savannah the next morning.
But if it was rest he sought, he did not find it. He had to hold a reception nearly the whole of the forenoon. "Crowds came," Agnes wrote her mother. "Wounded soldiers, servants, and workingmen even. The sweetest little children — namesakes — dressed to their eyes, with bouquets of japonica — or tiny cards in their little fat hands — with their names."15 Among the callers were friends of other days, and several of Lee's old generals, among them A. R. Wright and W. M. Gardner,16 as well as McLaws. The people must have thronged Lee, for it is recorded that a boy of thirteen, who wished to see him, had to worm his way through the crowd until, at length, he stood by the side of p449 the General and looked up at him in wondering reverence. This lad's name was Woodrow Wilson.17
That evening there was a serenade and another crowd. It was far too fast a pace for a man in Lee's condition. But what was he to do? How was he to deny himself to the women who had prayed for him, to the men who had fought with him, or to the parents of those who had fallen in his ranks?
The next day, April 1, the General and his daughter left the hotel with Colonel Corley for Savannah.18 A swift team carried him in a carriage to the station; his veterans mustered once again and gave him a rebel yell. He bowed and retired into the private car that had been attached to the train. But he was not quite through with generous Augusta. A boy of fourteen, who had climbed aboard, opened the door, rushed impulsively in and offered him a white rose he had plucked that morning and had brought into town with him. "General Lee," wrote the "boy" when he was past seventy, "laid aside his paper, rose from his seat, bowed with the grace of a Chesterfield, took the rose and said: 'I thank you, my son, and now with your permission I will present it to my daughter.' Miss Lee herself gave a gracious smile. 'I see by the books under you of arm that you are a schoolboy. Study hard and make a man of yourself.' "19
At some point on the journey of •160 miles to the familiar city of Lee's first engineering labors, a reception committee came aboard. It included former Quartermaster General Lawton, General J. F. Gilmer, who had been chief engineer of the War Department, Andrew Lowe, and others. In their company, a little after six, the General left the train at Savannah to face one of the largest crowds that ever assembled to welcome him. The people had been disappointed by his non-arrival the previous day20 and now they overflowed the train shed. His escort had difficulty in making a way for him to the open barouche that was p450 in waiting for him.21 Cheer followed cheer, until the General had to rise and bow his acknowledgments. The Negroes of the city and some of the Federal garrison joined cheerfully in the demonstration.
As soon as the cheering crowd would permit, Lee was driven to the home of General Lawton, at the corner of York and Lincoln Streets. Later in the evening he was taken to the residence of Andrew Lowe, where he was to sleep. "With the exception of an appearance of weariness, General Lee looks better than we expected to find him," The Savannah Republican reported, "yet, it appeared to us that an inexpressible sadness was visible in his features, momentarily, no doubt, and caused by the demonstrations of filial love and devotion thus shown him by a people whom he had striven in vain to liberate from political bondage."22
After the General had left, the Washington Comet Band and the Saxe Horn Band appeared in front of the Lawton house to serenade him. A crowd gathered quickly, and the bands alternated with selections. When "Dixie" was played, it seemed from the shouts as if the days of the Confederacy had come back again. In answer to the calls for the city's guest, General Lawton came out and thanked the people but asked them to excuse the old commander on account of weariness. He tactfully refrained from saying that General Lee was at Mr. Lowe's, as that, of course, would have started the crowd thither. The bands then struck up "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and presently marched off to serenade General Joseph E. Johnston, who was then residing in Savannah.23
A drive about the town the next morning, April 2, was followed by calls on the families he knew. After that came a dinner at Mr. Lowe's with a number of his comrades, among them General Joseph E. Johnston, General Lawton, and General Gilmer. It was the first time Lee had seen Johnston since the war. In his correspondence there is no reference to this fact or to the character p451 of their conversation, but it doubtless was cordial. During this visit to Savannah, the two were photographed to in the familiar picture that shows them, grizzled and old and feeble, seated on opposite sides of a small table.
The Confederate officers Lee saw in Savannah were more numerous and better circumstanced than any he had met. He felt justified in presenting to them the plight and the needs of one of the most loyal and distressed of their comrades, General Samuel Cooper. Having learned on his last visit to Alexandria that Cooper was overtaxing his strength at hard, uncongenial work, in an effort to earn a living for his family, Lee proposed that his old associates raise a fund for General Cooper's relief. General Lawton and others quickly agreed. They collected some $300, after General Lee's departure. He added $100 on his own account and sent the whole to Cooper on August 4. "You must pardon me for moving in this matter," Lee then wrote his long-time companion-in‑arms.24
Lee was happy to greet old friends and to make new. Particularly was he pleased when the Mackays got back to town and re-opened their familiar house in Broughton Street.25 But he found the pace too hard, and in his letters home expressed regret that he had undertaken the long journey. "I wish I were back," he said, though he much appreciated the hospitality shown him.26
Declining an invitation from General Chilton to visit Columbus, Ga.,27 he planned to go down into Florida on April 8, and on the way to visit Cumberland Island, where his father was buried, but Agnes fell sick and that prevented his departure until Tuesday, April 12. He set out town aboard the steamer Nick King, which ran leisurely between Savannah and Palatka on the Saint John's River.28 With him and his daughter went his Savannah host, Andrew Lowe, "thinking Agnes and I were unable to take care of ourselves," as the General confided to Mrs. Lee. At Brunswick, where the people turned out to see him,29 the party p452 was joined by William Nightingale, grandson of General Nathanael Greene and successor to the ownership of Dungeness, the estate on which "Light-Horse Harry" Lee had died. When the boat tied up at Cumberland Island they went ashore to the burial ground. ". . . Agnes decorated my father's grave with beautiful fresh flowers," Lee wrote, and added simply: "I presume it is the last time I shall be able to pay to it my tribute of respect. The cemetery is unharmed and the grave is in good order, though the house of Dungeness has been burned and the island devastated."30
Entering historic Saint John's River, Lee and his daughter about 4 o'clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 13, touched at Jacksonville, Fla. As soon as the gang-plank was lowered, a committee from the city31 came aboard to greet the General in the upper saloon of the vessel. People streamed aboard until the Nick King was almost swamped. One by one, duly introduced, they passed and joyfully shook hands with Lee. As many more remained disappointed on shore, unable to get on the ship. To satisfy them, the General was asked to go on deck. When he walked out and stood where he could be seen, a strange thing happened: a complete silence fell on the throng, a silence of admiring reverence, as if the people thought it would be worse than discourtesy to applaud the old chieftain who embodied in their eyes the cause for which they had fought. ". . . The very silence of the multitude," reported The Jacksonville Union, spoke a deeper feeling than the loudest huzzas could have expressed."32
Jacksonville people were anxious for the General to stop there, but he had made his plans to go on to Palatka aboard the same vessel, and, as usual, he held to his schedule. So, after half an hour, the crowd left with tears and a "God-bless‑you" and the Nick King continued southward up the broad river, past a landscape that delighted the General.
The boat was to remain for the night of April 13 at Palatka, before beginning its return trip, and there it was met by another p453 old friend, whom Lee probably had not seen since he had sorrowfully said good-bye at Appomattox — Colonel R. G. Cole, chief commissary of the Army of Northern Virginia. He lived on a plantation near Palatka, and, of course, insisted on entertaining his old chief. As it was a pleasant, warm day, Lee could walk out of doors among Colonel Cole's orange-trees and pluck fruit from them. He enjoyed, also, the abundant, inviting fish.
The return voyage was quieter. About 4 P.M., April 14, the boat tied up at Jacksonville. As it was not to sail until 3 o'clock the next morning, the General and his party were escorted ashore, were driven about the town, and were entertained by Colonel Sanderson. From Jacksonville they went on to Savannah, where they arrived during the forenoon of Saturday, April 16.33
Lee then determined not to return home by the most direct route, but to come up the coast, so as to visit Charleston, S. C., and friends in Tidewater Virginia. On the morning of April 25 he left Savannah for Charleston,34 accompanied now only by Agnes, whose health was giving her father some concern. The political situation in South Carolina was tense at this time, and General Lee was anxious to escape all demonstrations that might heat blood and provoke a clash. Accordingly, he hoped that word of his coming might not precede him, but a telegram was sent by some admirer a short time before the train was due to reach the Carolina city, and a company of his friends met him at the station. They respected his wishes, however, and permitted him to be driven quietly to the home of W. Jefferson Bennett, who was to be his host.35 Major H. E. Young, the Charleston member of his staff, had planned to entertain him, but had bereavement in his family.36 Mr. Bennett was a citizen of wealth and standing, with two sons at Washington College. He had six attractive young people in his household, at 60 Montague Street, when General Lee arrived. All of them welcomed their guest with much awe and trembling, but were soon put at ease by his manner toward them.37
p454 Within a few hours the whole city began to clamor for a glimpse of him. That evening the Post Band serenaded. The next morning his old friends began to call. A delegation came to ask if he would not agree to hold a reception at one of the hotels, to give the public an opportunity of greeting him. He excused himself,38 but he could not escape the admiring homage of the people. Mr. Bennett thereupon announced a reception to the Confederate officers of Charleston, in honor of General Lee, and designated A. B. Murray to receive the guests at the door and to present them. Among others came Major Huston Lee, who during General Lee's service in the Carolinas, early in 1862, had been quartermaster in the Charleston district. As soon as the major entered the room, Lee said: "I have a crow to pick with you, Major." The former quartermaster at once inquired why. Lee challenged him: Had not the major been in Richmond on such-and‑such a date, and had he not gone to witness a review beyond the city? Lee thought he had seen him at that time. The major answered in astonishment that he had been there. "Then, why," concluded Lee, "did you not come up and speak to me?" Major Lee excused himself by saying he had not presumed to approach the commanding general, but he left the reception in amazement. He had met the General only two or perhaps three times, yet Lee had noticed him among the thousands at the review in the summer of 1862, and now, eight years after, instantly recalled both the man and the incident.39
The fire units of the town had a parade on the afternoon of April 27, and when they were dismissed the white companies assembled in Meeting Street, procured a band, and marched to the Bennett house. Their cheers brought the General to the portico, where he bowed his acknowledgments. This would not suffice. Introductions were demanded and much brief speech-making was staged. At General Lee's request, C. G. Memminger, former Confederate Secretary of the Treasury, expressed the General's appreciation of the compliment paid him. Still the firemen held on. "Just one word," they kept crying until, at last, the General thanked them in a few sentences and pleaded his indisposition as the reason for his silence. It was the nearest he was p455 brought to the embarrassment of a public address during the whole of his tour.40
Mr. Bennett had planned a general reception for the evening of the 29th, but had realized that many women and children would not venture on the streets at night, and consequently he invited some to call between 1 and 3 P.M., while those who had escorts were bidden for the evening. Between the two affairs a very notable dinner was served.41 The guests were as much surprised at the General's memory for names as Major Lee had been. He chatted for a few moments with all who were presented to him, and then, when they came to go, he shook hands with each again and called every one of them by name. To a little girl who had given him a flower, he said as she was leaving with her mother, "See, Rosa, I have not lost your flower!"42
It was, altogether, a great event, which The Charleston Courier grew eloquent in describing: "Old and young, the gray beards and sages of the country, the noble, pure, honorable, poor and wealthy, with hardly an exception, were present, and glad to do him honor. Stately dames of the old school, grandmothers of seventy, and a long train of granddaughters, all flocked around the noble old chief, glad of a smile, of a shake of the hand; and happy was the girl of twelve, or fourteen, who carried away on her lips the parting kiss of the grand old soldier." General Lee seemed feeble and weary that evening, but he was pleased to observe the good cheer of the people. "It is so grateful," he said, "to see so much elasticity among your people; and I am astonished to see Charleston so wondrously recuperated after all her disasters."43
So far as the records show, General Lee did not revisit in Charleston any of the scenes of his labors in the first winter of the war. He kept away purposely from the places that revived the memories of the war, not only in the South Carolina port, but wherever he travelled. After 1865 he went to five cities only p456 that were connected with his own military operations — Richmond, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, Charleston, and Savannah. Aboard train or on steamer he passed by the Richmond-Petersburg defenses, and several times he used the railroad that crossed the old battleground of Culpeper, but on horseback he never rode over any of the fields where his troops had been engaged, except for his journey to Pampatike, soon after the surrender. All this was deliberate. Had he been able to do so he would have ploughed up the trenches and would have followed the example he applauded "of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife."44
On April 28 the General left Charleston for Wilmington, where he had been invited to stop.45 The northward route was by way of Florence to Meares Bluff.46 There, when the cars stopped, a committee came to Lee's seat and asked him if he would go aboard a special train that had been sent out from Wilmington and would precede the regular locomotive to that city. The General consented, perforce, and left his coach to make the transfer. As he stepped to the platform, there was word of command, the roll of a drum, and a line of boys in gray uniforms presented arms as their band started to play. They were the cadets of •Cape Fear Academy, under charge of one of Lee's old brigadiers, R. E. Colston, but they must have seemed tragically like the thousands Lee had beheld during the early days of the war, before their uniforms of gray had become bloody rags. If the General was affected by the sight of these cadets, he said nothing. He passed the cadets in silence and went aboard the special train, into a car where only a few passengers were seated. They received him, according to a chronicler of the times, with "a suppressed whisper of admiration, respectfully restrained," but when those who had clambered down to get a first glimpse of him came back into the coach, they began to crowd about him, to his evident embarrassment. In answer to questions, he said he would stop at Wilmington, probably for a day, but he begged that there be no further demonstration.
Arriving at the brave old town that must have revived dark p457 memories of Fort Fisher, he was escorted by the cadets to the home of George Davis, who had been attorney general in the Confederate cabinet.47 There, at last, was privacy, and with it, old acquaintanceship. For Mrs. Davis was an Alexandria woman, daughter of Doctor Orlando Fairfax, whose family had been friends of the Lees and Custises back in the peaceful old days before the politicians had revived the slavery question.48
A night of quiet, and then another day of crowds and receptions. Friends by the score called on him at the Davis house. The whole corps of the Cape Fear Academy came at his request, probably because he did not want them to feel that he was unappreciative of the honor they had sought to do him the previous evening. A dinner given by Mr. Davis brought to the house other friends and the celebrities of the town. Despite the crowded day, the General found time to call on Bishop Thomas Atkinson, who had been rector of a church in Baltimore when Lee had been stationed in that city.49
On April 30 Lee left Wilmington and went by way of Weldon to Portsmouth, Va., where he was to take the ferry across the Elizabeth River to Norfolk. As usual, word of his coming had preceded him and had brought a vast throng to the station. When he left the train a new surprise awaited him: Wilmington had welcomed him with a line of cadets; Portsmouth received him with a roaring salute. Some of the young men of the town had borrowed from one of the fire companies a cannon bearing the name of a contemporary journalist of passing fame, "Brick" Pomeroy, whom General Lee had met in Richmond at the beginning of his tour.50 With this gun they fired rounds in the General's honor. And, as a fitting companion when artillery was barking, there in the van of the crowd, waiting to greet his old chief, was Colonel Walter H. Taylor. With him, General Lee walked to the ferry, while the crowd outdid "Brick" Pomeroy in noisy greeting. ". . . Those shouts," noted the veracious annalist of Norfolk, "were not of the measured 'hip‑hip-hurrah' p458 kind now in vogue, but were the genuine old-fashioned Confederate yells. . . ."51 Behind Lee, as he slowly went aboard the ferry boat, were some hundreds of admiring Portsmouth people, anxious to have a sight of him or to share his company. He went into a cabin for the brief run across the river, and there he might have been overrun by enthusiastic admirers had not some of his friends guarded the door. Outside, Roman candles and rockets were being fired to notify the waiting multitude on the Norfolk side that the general was aboard. Before the boat was across the stream, the United Fire Company of Norfolk opened in salute with its cannon and continued to fire until the ferry was far in the slip. When Lee stepped ashore, the great throng began to cheer as loudly as had their neighbors on the other side of the Elizabeth. Amid the din of their welcoming shouts, with the rebel yell as a sharp, continuing accompaniment, the General was escorted to a carriage and was driven off quickly with Colonel Taylor.52 His Norfolk stopping-place was the fine, quiet home of Doctor William Selden, bounded by Freemason Street, Botetourt Street, and the river.53
Faithful to long habit, Lee insisted on attending Sunday morning worship the day after his arrival, and he invited one of his host's daughters, Miss Caroline Selden, to go with him. ". . . The street was lined with adoring crowds," Miss Selden wrote. "For one block before reaching Christ Church we had almost to force our way through a narrow pathway they seemed to have left for him. Every hat was in the air, but being Sunday the homage was very quiet, and I well remember that he held his hat in his hand all the way."54
When Sunday was passed, William E. Taylor, father of Colonel Walter H. Taylor, gave a very elaborate dinner, at which a number of Norfolk men were invited to meet the General. The Taylors were an old family, with a wealth of silver, china, and p459 glass, and they did their utmost to provide an evening of honor for the man whom Colonel Taylor so loyally had served.55
The Seldens tendered Lee a reception on the night of May 4, when many of his soldiers came to shake his hand and to gaze once more — and for the last time — on his calm countenance. They represented every station in life and many units of the Army of Northern Virginia. It probably was at this time that "Bryan" called to see him, the faithful "Bryan" of war-time headquarters. Another caller was a man who linked Lee with an earlier captain after whom many of his officers had sought to model: Emanuel J. Myers, eighty-nine and feeble, was brought to the Seldens' and was introduced to General Lee. On his coat he wore the cross of the Legion of Honor which he had received as a member of the Old Guard from the hands of Napoleon himself.56
This dinner, the reception, and a professional conference with Doctor Selden, who was a physician of high standing, consumed nearly all the General's strength. Rain kept him from making at least one anticipated call. On May 5 he bade farewell to his host's family and quietly left the city on the steamer that ran up the James to the river plantations he intended to visit.57 His one regret was that so many residents of Norfolk were leaving their city to get work. "Virginia needs her young men," he said.58
First he stopped again at the lower of the three Harrison estates called Brandon. The mistress of Lower Brandon, Mrs. Isabella Ritchie Harrison, and her kin were people he had known long and affectionately. The atmosphere was that he loved best. There were no crowds to cheer him, no receptions to tire him. He could relax — almost for the first time since March 24, when he had left Lexington. He drove to the other Brandons, saw all his friends and connections in the neighborhood, went to church on Sunday, May 8,59 wrote a few family letters and enjoyed the delights of the place. "Brandon is looking very beautiful," he told Mrs. Lee, "and it is refreshing to look at the river. The garden is filled with flowers and abounds in roses. The yellow jasmine is p460 still in bloom and perfumes the atmosphere." He was being now to talk of returning to Lexington and methodically set the tentative date for May 24, precisely two months from the time he had left home.60
From Brandon, Lee went to Shirley, by pre-arrangement with Hill Carter.61 He arrived with Agnes on Tuesday, May 10, and spent there the better of two days, in calm like that of Brandon, and doubtless in much happiness of soul. In 1868, it will be remembered, he had expressed a desire to go once more to Shirley, and had questioned whether he ever would do so again: now he was there, with a surer premonition that he was looking for the last time on the garden, on the fine old house, and on Peale's famous portrait of his hero, Washington. No record of his stay at Shirley remains except the epigram of "one of the daughters of the house," who has since died. She recalled "the great dignity and kindness of General Lee's bearing," his willingness to autograph his pictures for them, and his old fondness for having his hands tickled. "We regarded him with the greatest veneration." She concluded: "We had heard of God, but here was General Lee!"62
While the General had been in Savannah, Mrs. Lee had carried out a long-cherished plan of visiting Rooney at the White House. The General had not believed she would go,63 and when he had urged her in March to begin her preparations for the journey, she had replied, rather disdainfully, she had "none to make; they have been made years ago."64 On April 20 she had arrived in Richmond by the James River and Kanawha Canal65 and had then taken the railroad to the White House.66 General Lee planned to join her there and to visit his sons on their farms, and he would have driven directly across country from Shirley had not Agnes decided to accompany him. As her baggage would have required a wagon, which would have had to cover •twenty-five miles p461 of bad roads, the General decided to go on to Richmond by steamer and finish the journey by rail. He accordingly left the old Carter plantation on Thursday, May 12, and arrived at Rooney's home that evening.
Aside from a few familiars, there were no other guests at the White House. The General was free to rest and to play with his small grandson and namesake, to whom he was much attached. During his stay he rode over alone to spend a brief time with his bachelor son Robert at his plantation. The General knew, of course, that Robert lived in the former overseer's house at Romancoke while planning to build a home. He knew, too, that men who were struggling with the land and "keeping bach," in the Virginia phrase, did not live elaborately. But he was not prepared for what he saw when Robert drove him up to the entrance. The house was small and crude in design, was seventy-five years old, and had a roof that because of disrepair sagged in the middle. The interior was even worse. "My father," wrote Robert, "always dignified and self-contained, rarely gave any evidence of being astonished or startled. His self-control was great and his emotions were not on the surface, but when he entered and looked around my bachelor quarters he appeared really much shocked."67 Robert was so much better off at the time than he had been in the early days of his venture at Romancoke that he had some pride in his advancement, and consequently he was not, perhaps, altogether prepared for his father's dismay. However, with his usual tact, the General relieved all possible embarrassment by making a jest of Robert's surroundings. When, however, they sat down at table, supplied with a scant store of battered and nondescript china and cutlery, the father could not withhold suggestion that the son might advantageously lay out a small sum to improve the equipment of the "mansion."68
Lee's only other visit was to White Marsh, the home of Doctor Prosser Tabb, in Gloucester County. Mrs. Tabb was "Cousin Rebecca" to the whole Lee family and had been a favorite with General Lee for forty years. She had been most urgent that he come to see her and permit the young people of the household to get acquainted with him. He and Robert drove to West Point, p462 put their conveyance aboard the Baltimore steamer, and went very comfortably to Cappahoosic Wharf. When the boat reached the landing the passengers crowded in so much to the port side, in order to see the General, that the gangway was below the level of the wharf. The captain had to order all of them to starboard so as to right the ship, whereupon Robert got his vehicle ashore. It was late afternoon by this time, and as it was getting chilly, the younger man drove rapidly to save his father from exposure to the night air. The General made no comment, but he did not fail to observe the hard treatment of the horse. So much was he distressed by it that he told several people, "I think Rob drives unnecessarily fast," a remark that youth in every generation has heard.
Hearty welcome and a large company of kinsfolk and friends awaited Lee at the Tabb homestead. A pleasant evening was followed by a long night's rest, with Robert and his father sleeping in the same bed, because of the crowded house. It was the first time this had happened in many years, and the General remarked the fact, recalling affectionately that when Robert had been a little lad he had begged to sleep with him.
After breakfast the next morning the General walked through the gardens and then went for a drive with Doctor Tabb and Robert, under the care of the doctor's overseer, Graves by name. Lee praised Graves's husbandry and wholly won his heart, whereupon Doctor Tabb told the General that the man was one of the old soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia and had fought to the end at Appomattox. Lee, of course, proceeded to extol him the more.
The overseer made no pretenses. "Yes, General," he said, "I stuck to the army, but if you had in your entire command a greater coward than I was, you ought to have had him shot."
Lee was much amused and repeated the answer when he got back to the house. "That sort of coward makes a good soldier," he said.
Declining the reception the Tabbs wished to give him, the General rested as much as he could, had dinner with some special guests, and enjoyed talk with his young cousins. It was while chatting with one of them that Lee made the remark that has p463 been, in some sense, the slogan of Virginia ever since. The youthful kinswoman had asked despairingly what fate held for "us poor Virginians." Earnestly the General answered:
"You can work for Virginia, to build her up again, to make her great again. You can teach your children to love and cherish her."
After a night made restless by his fear that he might oversleep himself, Lee caught the steamer early the next morning and went back up the river with his son. Robert left the boat at West Point, in order to take his horse home, and the General went on to the White House, where the steamer stopped and Rooney met him. Another period of rest at Fitzhugh's, and then, with many farewells, he took the train for Richmond on the morning of May 22, ten days after his arrival at the White House.69 Mrs. Lee remained, but Agnes accompanied him, and Robert went up for the day as a filial guard of honor.70
From May 22 to May 26 the General remained in Richmond. He went shopping at least once and bought a set of heavily plated knives and forks, which he sent to Robert. Much of his time was given over to medical examination by the Richmond doctors who had gone over him before he began his Southern tour. "I am to have a great medicine talk tomorrow," he wrote rather grimly on the day of his arrival.71
He had to endure, also, what must have seemed, in prospect, equally distasteful — measurement for a bust that was to be made of him. But the young artist who did the work was gentle, deft, and considerate, a cultured man and a good conversationalist. The General and he soon understood each other. When the p464 sculptor, E. V. Valentine, remarked that the war had greatly altered his fortunes, General Lee answered quietly — his humor was never boisterous — that "an artist ought not to have too much money."72 Later, as the conversation turned again to adversity, Lee observed, "Misfortune nobly borne is good fortune." Valentine at the time thought this was original with General Lee, but subsequently, in reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, he found the sentence there. ". . . No more appropriate epitaph," wrote Mr. Valentine, "could be carved on the tomb of the great Virginian." The sculptor could not have known at the time, of course, that Lee got his admiration for Marcus Aurelius from his father, who placed that emperor high among his venerated immortals.
The artist at length completed his measurements, and explained that he would have to go to Lexington to do the modelling, and could do so either immediately or in the autumn. He gave no reasons, but the young statuary understood that Lee thought his end was near at hand.
On May 26, Lee left Richmond for the last time. He had remained as quiet as possible during his stay in the city and had acquainted few of his friends with his presence. It is likely that on his final departure from the capital he had defended for three years, there were few at the station to bid him farewell. He passed from the central scene of his life's drama as though he had been the humblest actor on its stage.
Apparently the route he took was to Charlottesville by the old Virginia Central, thence to Lynchburg by the Orange and Alexandria, now the South, and on to Lexington by the packet.73 He reached home on the morning of May 28, two months and four days from the time he had left.
Physically, he was little the better for the tour. The day after his arrival in Savannah the General had written Mrs. Lee, "I p465 think I am stronger than when I left Lexington, but otherwise can see no difference."74 Five days later he had said, "I hope I am a little better. I seem to be stronger and to walk with less difficulty, but it may be owing to the better streets of Savannah. . . . I do not think travelling in this way procures me much quiet and repose."75 Again, on April 11 he had written, "The warm weather has dispelled some of the rheumatic pains in my back, but I perceive no change in the stricture in my chest. If I attempt to walk beyond a very slow gait, the pain is always there. It is all true what the doctors say about its being aggravated by any fresh cold, but how to avoid taking cold is the question. It seems with me to be impossible. Everything and anything seems to give me one. I meet with much kindness and consideration, but fear that nothing will relieve my complaint, which is fixed and old. I must bear it."76
He had enjoyed his trip up the Saint John's River more than any other part of his tour, and when he had returned to Savannah he had felt improvement, but he found some of his symptoms aggravated. "I hope I am better," he had repeated on April 18, "I know I am stronger, but I still have the pain in my chest whenever I walk. I have felt it also occasionally of late when quiescent, but not badly, which is new."77 He had continued under heavy strain, with calls, receptions, much letter-writing in answer to invitations, and endless interruptions by visitors. Savannah physicians who had examined him for about an hour on April 18, at the instance of friends, had confirmed the previous diagnosis but had been somewhat encouraging in their agreement that the heart had not been injured, and that the pericardium might not be involved. Lee had not tied to the hope they had held out. ". . . Perhaps their opinion is not fully matured," he had said.78
The visits to Charleston and Wilmington had been particularly wearing, because so many social events had been crowded into so p466 brief a time. He probably had been at his lowest ebb when he had reached Norfolk and had found some rest at Doctor Selden's. Reports that he had heart disease had now become public property,79 and at Wilmington he had told friends that he was sure his ailment was of the heart and that it was incurable.80
He had begun to gain some ground from the time he had gone to Brandon.81 In fact, if he had not sought quiet when he did, it is altogether probable that he would have died on the road. When he had reached the White House, Mrs. Lee had been disturbed at his appearance. "He looks fatter," she had observed, "but I do not like his complexion, and he seems still very stiff."82 Now that he was home, though he seemed buoyed up for the time, there was no real improvement: his malady was progressive.
Precisely what that malady was, his physicians whether neither agreed nor positive. The diagnosis of simple pericarditis tentatively made in 1870 did not adequately explain his symptoms then and does not satisfy the present-day clinician. The illness of 1863, from which his trouble dated, may have been an acute pericarditis secondary to his throat infection. Later, he probably had a combination of maladies. His serious heart condition was almost certainly angina pectoris rather than "rheumatism," as he thought. This angina, his principal malady, may have been accompanied by a chronic adhesive pericarditis. In addition he had some arthritis and a hardening of the arteries, which was rapid after 1866, if the changes shown in his photographs may be accepted as evidence. These two major conditions, the angina and the arteriosclerosis, evidenced the effects of the war and of the reconstruction on a system that had originally been very strong.83
The psychological effect of the southern tour on Lee himself is not easily determined, because he said very little about it. He must have felt deep satisfaction, of course, that the South was looking courageously to the future and was laboring to recover p467 what had been lost during the war. Personally, it was not his nature to indulge any pride in the affection the people displayed, though he was gratefully appreciative of their kindness to him. In general, the effects were cumulative of those that followed his visit to Petersburg in November, 1867, when, for the first time, he had seen how the Southern people were shaking off the war. The only difference was that he now felt his end was at hand. He had paid his final visit of respect to the grave of his daughter and to the burial-place of his father and the early home of his mother. For the last time he had greeted many of those who had executed his orders and had fought his battles. He had consciously said farewell.
The impressions made on the public by the tour were all favorable and in many ways helpful. It meant much to the generation of Woodrow Wilson to have seen General Lee. So it was, also, with those elders who had read of his campaigns but had never looked upon him. As for his old soldiers, the memories of their days of triumph overcame, in his presence, the hard realities of life. Their cause was personified and glorified in him and they felt themselves enriched by their association with him. Even in the North, among people of liberal mind, his avoidance on his travels of everything that would keep alive the old animosities aroused a measure of admiration. "It will be seen," The New York World commented, "that the 'Southern heart' is still fired by emotions that kindled the late civil strife, and it is pleasant to witness the dignified and temperate course of General Lee in the midst of these heart-felt orations [ovations?]. The name of Lee is identified with the most heroic deeds of the war for independence, and it is pleasant in these latter days to find it connected with words and acts of fraternal reconciliation and pacification."84
1 Riley, 130‑31.
2 Lexington Gazette, March 25, 1870.
3 Richmond Enquirer, March 26, 1870.
4 Journal of the Senate of Virginia, 1869‑70, pp227, 230.
5 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, March 29, 1870. This letter (R. E. Lee, Jr., 388‑89) was written from Richmond and is misdated. It obviously was penned on March 27, for it referred to the fact that Agnes had gone to church. Agnes's letter of April 3, to her mother (ibid., 391), shows that General left Richmond on March 28. Lee's autograph "7's" and "9's" looked very much alike.
6 Memoirs of Col. John S. Mosby, 380‑81.
7 For the initials of the Messrs. White and for interesting facts regarding them, the writer is indebted to Mrs. Catherine Pendleton Arrington, of Warrenton, N. C. Captain White purchased for North Carolina, from John Key of Kinghorn, Scotland, husband of his aunt, the swift India steamer Lord Clyde, which subsequently was rechristened Advance. This vessel, which Mr. Key fitted out at his own expense, became the most successful of the Wilmington blockade runners. See P. M. Wilson: Southern Exposures, 57‑58.
8 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 2, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 390; Agnes Lee to Mrs. R. E. Lee, April 3, 1870; ibid., 391‑92.
9 Letter of Mrs. Catherine Pendleton Arrington to the writer, Jan. 19, 1928.
10 The people of Raleigh were under the impression that the General intended to stop there (Richmond Enquirer, March 28, 1870, quoting the Raleigh Sentinel).
11 Columbia Phoenix, quoted in Savannah Republican, April 2, 1870.
12 The sources for this part of the journey are R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 2, 1870, and Agnes Lee to Mrs. R. E. Lee, April 3‑4, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 390‑94. From this point on, newspaper reports supplement the family letters.
13 Constitutionalist, quoted in Richmond Dispatch, April, 1870; Augusta Chronicle, quoted in Savannah Republican, April 1, 1870.
14 R. E. Lee, Jr., 390.
15 Agnes Lee to Mrs. R. E. Lee, April 3, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 393.
16 General Gardner had been under Lee's command only for a short time, see 6 C. M. H., 417‑18.
17 Woodrow Wilson: Robert E. Lee, An Interpretation, 11‑12.
18 Lee, prior to this time, had twice been invited warmly to Savannah and, in declining, had said it would have afforded him much pleasure to visit the city (R. E. Lee to unnamed correspondent, Dec. 5, 1868; Jones, 270).
19 William H. Fleming in The Augusta Herald, Sept. 14, 1930, quoting The Atlanta Journal.
20 Savannah Republican, April 1, 1870.
21 Lee rode with General Lawton. The young son and namesake of the Georgian was on a small seat in the same vehicle.
22 Savannah Republican, April 2, 1870.
23 Savannah Republican, April 2, 1870. Agnes Lee's letter of April 3, loc. cit., gave the added information that the bands alternated with their music.
24 R. E. Lee, Jr., 421.
25 Miss Katharine Stiles related (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907) that Lee told her to write the absent Mackays that "the old man" was not able to go to the mountains for a visit and that they must come back to town in order that he might see them once again.
26 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 2 and 7; R. E. Lee, Jr., 390 and 394‑95.
27 R. E. Lee to R. H. Chilton, MS., April 7, 1870; Chilton Papers.
28 Savannah Republican, April 14, 1870.
29 Brunswick Appeal of April 15, quoted in Savannah Republican, April 17, 1870.
30 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 18, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 398.
31 It consisted of Colonel Sanderson, Colonel Daniels, Colonel Fleming, Doctor Maxwell, and H. T. Boyd.
32 Quoted in The Savannah Republican, April 16, 1870.
33 Savannah Republican, April 17, 1870.
34 Savannah Republican, April 26, 1870.
35 Charleston Courier, April 26, 1870.
36 Letter of A. R. Young to the writer, Nov. 8, 1927.
37 Letter of A. B. Murray to the writer, Nov. 17, 1927. Mr. Murray, who has kindly supplied details of this part of the General's visit, was one of the young members of the Bennett household.
38 Charleston Courier, April 27.
39 A. B. Murray, loc. cit.
40 Charleston Courier, April 28, 1870.
41 Mrs. R. E. Lee to Mildred or Mary Lee, May 9, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 405; A. B. Murray, loc. cit.
42 A. B. Murray, loc. cit.
43 Charleston Courier, April 29, 1870. Captain F. W. Dawson (op. cit., 169) noted that busy as Lee was, he arranged a private interview in order that young Mrs. Dawson might be presented to him.
45 Charleston Courier, April 30, 1870; Wilmington Journal, March 27, 1870.
46 This appears as Mars Bluff on the map in O. R. Atlas, Plate 139.
47 Wilmington Journal, April 29, 1870. For this and other references to General Lee's visit to Wilmington, the author is indebted to Miss Emma Woodward, head of the public library of Wilmington, N. C. For Davis, see 1 C. M. H., 601.
48 R. E. Lee, Jr., 401.
49 Wilmington Journal, April 30, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 401.
50 R. E. Lee, Jr., 389.
51 Burton: History of Norfolk, 133.
52 Norfolk Journal, May 2, 1870. For this and other references to this visit, the writer is indebted to the Carnegie Library of Norfolk.
53 Now the residence of C. W. Grandy, to whom, and to whose aunt, Miss Caroline Selden, daughter of Doctor Selden, the author is indebted for information regarding the General's stay in Norfolk. Louis Jaffé, editor of The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, also most generously supplied data.
54 Letter of Miss Caroline Selden to C. W. Grandy, MS., Aug. 2, 1926.
55 Miss Selden, loc. cit.
56 Miss Selden, loc. cit.; R. E. Lee, Jr., 402; Norfolk Journal, May 6, 1870.
57 Norfolk Landmark, Jan. 18, 1911.
59 This statement that he attended church rests on oral tradition in the community.
60 R. E. Lee, Jr., 404.
61 R. E. Lee to Hill Carter, MS., May 4, 1870; Shirley MSS.
62 R. E. Lee, Jr., 405.
63 R. E. Lee, Jr., 378.
64 R. E. Lee to W. H. F. Lee, March 22, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 386.
65 Richmond Enquirer, Richmond Dispatch, April 21, 1870.
66 While there, Mrs. Lee received some boxes of old letters, "with some other debris," as she said, "of what the Yankees had left of a once happy and well-filled house." She destroyed the whole (Mrs. R. E. Lee to Mrs. W. Hartwell Macon, MS., June, n. d., 1870; Johnston MSS.).
67 R. E. Lee, Jr., 407.
68 R. E. Lee, Jr., 407.
69 The account of Lee's visit, particularly of his stay at Romancoke and White Marsh, is paraphrased from R. E. Lee, Jr., 406 ff. Captain Lee had excellent memory and a strong sense of humor, and for the events of his father's career that he witnessed he is the most intimate and delightful of biographers. If he had spent more time with his father during and after the war, the world probably would have received from him an admirable life of General Lee.
70 R. E. Lee to G. W. C. Lee, MS., May 20, 1870; Duke Univ. MSS.; Mrs. R. E. Lee to Mrs. W. Hartwell Macon, MS., c. May 25, 1870, Johnston MSS.
71 R. E. Lee to Mildred Lee, May 23, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 411. Doctor M. H. Houston, one of the examining physicians, on June 10, 1870, addressed a letter to Doctor S. M. Bemiss of New Orleans, who in 1863 had attended General Lee. Doctor Houston wished to know something of General Lee's previous illness, and in discussing the case gave the fullest available account of General Lee's symptoms. "The diagnosis is obscure," Doctor Houston wrote, "but the symptoms point to chronic pericarditis" (Bemiss MSS., courteously placed at the writer's disposal by S. M. Bemiss, of Richmond).
72 E. V. Valentine, in Riley, 147. This is an expansion of an article printed originally in The Outlook of Dec. 22, 1906.
73 Richmond Enquirer, May 27, 1870; Richmond Dispatch, May 30, 1870, quoting The Lynchburg Republican. Before he left Richmond, Lee wrote Mildred: "If Sam [one of his servants] is well enough, and it should be otherwise convenient, he could meet me with Lucy and the carriage or with Traveller. If not, I will get a seat up in the omnibus" (R. E. Lee, Jr., 411).
74 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 2, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 390.
75 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 7, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 394‑95. This letter is wrongly dated April 17 in Captain Lee's book, but it appears in its proper place chronologically.
76 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 11, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 397.
77 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 18, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 399.
78 R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, April 18, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 399.
79 Savannah Republican, April 29, 1870.
80 R. E. Lee, Jr., 401.
81 R. E. Lee to Mildred Lee, May 7, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 403; R. E. Lee to Mrs. Lee, May 7, 1870; ibid., 401.
82 Mrs. R. E. Lee to Mary or Mildred Lee, May 9‑13, 1870; R. E. Lee, Jr., 405.
83 For a critique of the available data on General Lee's maladies, the writer is indebted, through Doctor Allen W. Freeman, to the kindness of Doctor Lewellys F. Barker, the distinguished emeritus professor of medicine in Johns Hopkins University. The detailed findings of Doctor Barker are given in Appendix IV-7.
84 New York World, quoted in Richmond Enquirer, May 4, 1870.
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