Skip to main content

tv   Charles Knight Arlington to Appomattox  CSPAN  June 4, 2022 5:47pm-7:00pm EDT

5:47 pm
i want to introduce our guest author charles knight. he is a native of richmond. so kind of welcome back in a sense where he developed a love of history at a very early age. charles knight has worked at museums and historic sites for more than 20 years and have has given historical presentations to audiences all across the country. he is the author of valley thunder the battle of new market and the opening of the shenandoah valley campaign, may 18 1864, which was published in
5:48 pm
2010 and tonight. he's here to talk about his newest book from arlington to appomattox. robert e. lee's civil war day by 1861 to 1865. and so with that i'm going to turn the screen over to our guest author. great. thank you, kelly. and see him there we go. all right, and good evening everybody and it's my pleasure to be here with y'all and like kelly said tonight. i'm gonna be talking to you a little bit about my newest book from arlington to appomattox, which is kind of a an almanac or reference book if you will about excuse me about lee during the civil war. and make my brady box thing or brady bunch thing over here go away so i can actually see my slides. there we go. okay.
5:49 pm
i think the the best way to talk about what this book is is really to talk about what it's not. it's not your basic lead biography. i'm sure many of you are familiar with eb longs. book the civil war day by day. this is kind of like the same thing only done from a from a lead point of view so as much as i possibly could i recreate every day from mid april 1861 through mid-april of 1865 of lee's life talking about where he was we was writing to what he was doing. there's few instances where even was it was even able to find out what he was eating. so there's all kinds of minutiae in here. so if you're into lee or you want to know more about the lee family or what it was like to run an army during the civil war, i think you'll find lots of stuff to be interested in and from arlington to appomattox.
5:50 pm
and with that i will jump right in here and which is like that first, i'm gonna kind of split tonight's presentation in two things. i want to talk first a little bit about the lee historiography how we know what we know about lee and then for the second part, i'm going to jump in and highlight some of my favorites things some of the lesser known anecdotes about lee some of the things might be familiar to you. some of them probably are not but i'm start off here talking about the many many books that have been written about lee probably first and foremost and everybody's mind when it comes to lead biographies. is this one douglas freeman, of course from richmond a long time newspaper man turned historian. he probably knew more about robert e lee then maybe even at least children did freeman spent decades researching, excuse me researching leads life and the
5:51 pm
produced the four volume lead biography, which is still probably the the best biography that's out there on him. it's not exactly what you would call balanced. but freeman definitely had a bit of a hero complex there when it came to lee, but he uncovered all sorts of stuff. he literally spent decades researching leads life in addition to this biography. he edited a collection of lee papers. he did. of course the excuse me the three volume, please lieutenants as well as several other volumes and projects about lee so really nobody in the at least the early part of the 20th century knew more about robert e lee probably then douglas freeman and of course when he was finished with his leap project, he jumped head first into george washington and you know his work on washington really kind of dwarfs his lee work in some respects. but anyway, stupid much of what we know. about lee or at least the popular image of lee.
5:52 pm
a really comes from freeman's portrayal of lee when you think about lee you're really in a lot of cases the images and occurrences that come to mind are not necessarily true to history what you're getting really is freeman's version of lee and that stood for decades. i wasn't until probably the the 1960s is when you have people that are really starting to bring lee back down to earth to to rehumanize lee if you will and thomas connolly probably did more to pull lee down off the the pedestal freeman built for him than anybody else and of course, excuse me out of the the dozens of lee biographies that are out there today. they're other good ones that give them more balanced view of lee. um elizabeth pryor's book emery thomas's book and quite a few others. so there's definitely no shortage of material to turn for to turn to when us to learning
5:53 pm
about robert e lee as i'm sure many of you know. lean never wrote his members after the war within just a few months of appomattox. he shifted careers and became the president of what is now washington and lee university. but while he was there. he kept looking back on the the previous four years of his life and wanted to make sure that they were the the events and that time period were remembered and he was considering writing a history of at least his own campaigns or the history of the army in northern virginia, and it's later years, but he never got around to doing it. he started collecting materials, but he never really got very far. excuse me, getting over a cold. you'll have to excuse me. he wrote to one of his cousins a few months before his death that history of the events of the period talking about the war would be desirable and i've had it in view to write one of the campaigns in virginia in which i
5:54 pm
was particularly engaged. i've already collected some materials for the work, but i lack so much that i wish to obtain. i have not commenced the narrative and of course he died before he really got off the ground with that project and in a lot of quarters it was it was really considered a great loss that lee did not put anything to paper. here's a sample quote from from john gordon, of course did give us a great memoir a lot of it is made up and embellished in existed only in gordon's line. but gordon was a tremendous writer and unfortunately, lee was not the writer that gordon or chamberlain or grant or reporter alexander were lee if you read his writings, he wrote an introduction to his father's revolutionary war memoirs after the war and that is some of the driest stuff you'll ever read it will put you directly to sleep. so lee just you know out of all of his gifts all of his talents writing was not one of them, so i will respectfully disagree here with general gordon.
5:55 pm
it's probably better for lee and his his image in history that he did not write his memoirs because we probably think less of him just because of his lack of skills as a writer. that's not to say that he was not a good writer overall when it comes to just narrative history. that was not his thing. he had a very distinct right of style. he had a very good sense of humor. that's all that's evident when he's writing to family and friends, but just when he's writing for the general public it was something that he just did not have now while lee did not give us a history of his life or his time during the civil war many of his inner circle did and this is where i draw a lot of my material that i got in my book from is his inner circle. nobody spent more time with lee during the war then his personal staff and i'll talk quite a bit about them and we'll start off with this guy right here charles
5:56 pm
marshall. he served with lee for about three years. marshall was a lawyer from baltimore and if you've not heard of marshall, i guarantee you you are familiar with his work, please farewell order and appomattox was written by charles marshall. all of lee's campaign reports that you'll find in the official records were written by charles marshall all of his legal correspondence that dealt with washington or excuse me to deal with richmond in particular the conscription act of 1862 charles marshall's work yet again and shortly after general lee died his eldest son custis asked marshall if he would write a an article that the the college was going to publish about lee. they're working on a memorial volume about the general and custis asked marshall if he would do it and marshall declined. he didn't think he had the ability to do it and especially in the short window of time that custis needed it.
5:57 pm
but that really that idea struck a chord with marshall and he realized that he and the others of lean staff did have access to the man that nobody else had and marshall and many of the others decided to set about writing about their time with lee now marshall got farther than lee but in the end it met with the same result marshall died before he finished his memoirs, but i'll quote piece of a letter here that marshall wrote to cassius lee the same cousin that that earlier leak was from the author should have access to the most authentic proof of all that he may state. he should have ample time to collect all facts and he should omit nothing that bears upon the subject. i had not been or have i now the means of writing the more extensive work the way i am using every means to prepare myself at some future time to do so, i'm preparing a life of the general talking about lee, which i hope to present within a year or 18 months provided i can get the material if i can do no more
5:58 pm
i shall collect all that i can and write all i know to be used by some future biographer and that is actually what marshall succeeded in doing? he collected all sorts of stuff. he started writing his memoirs there about three sizable chunks of it. they're not all connected. they're kind of disjointed pieces of the war the way he was writing it, but after marshall died his daughter found these and it was right about the time that i british general frederick maurice published a biography of lee this would be right about 1920 and marshall's daughter contacted this british general maurice and said and explain to him who she was, you know, charles marshall was my father and i found his papers and his incomplete memoirs. would you be interested in these now after maurice? i'm sure got over his initial shock and anger, you know every historian it never fails after your book is published. that's when people come to you with these sources that you
5:59 pm
want. so i'm sure he had the reaction that most of us would y why didn't you give this to me two years ago, but eventually he did collect it and he edited and edited it. put it out, and it was published in a volume called lee's aid to camp. it's still available today. and it's marshall's history of the war again. there are some sizable gaps in there because marshall never completed it, but marshall gives great insight into what it was like at headquarters and about working with lee. but nobody had closer contact with lee during the war then this young man walter taylor. taylor is with lee. we're almost the entire war. he joins lee the first week of may 1862. so there's only about three weeks or so of the war that taylor is not attached to lee in some way shape or form taylor would write several books and most of his letters from that time period survive and taylor
6:00 pm
is a great great source of information his two books now, they were written for public consumption. so they're somewhat filtered. he was not going to say anything bad about his former chief. neither did marshall when they're writing for public eye. they are very respectful towards toward lee when they're writing for private reasons or the writing to family or friends. that's when you get their true picture of lee taylor did not like lee despite his post or reverence for him. he they really did not get along all that. well, there was a huge age gap between them taylor was about the the age of lee's sons. so it's kind of a father son relationship there in terms of age, but it's reading taylor and some of these other guys private letters that you learn these things about lee that you wouldn't necessarily get from freeman and some of the other biographies lee had a horrible
6:01 pm
temper. his health was a lot worse than is really known today. and in fact taylor referred to him as the ty when lee got off on a on a mean streak so to speak he stuck with it for quite a while and he was just very unpleasant to be around quite a bit when he was in one of his moods, but of course you get that with anybody the people that you're around the most they're the ones that see the true you and that's that's what lee staff really witnessed for lee. but this is what taylor had to say in the introductions one of his books describing their relationship about how it was very respectful. there wasn't really the distinction that you would expect between the commanding general and these junior officers these young men on its staff refers to the camaraderie that they shared and unlike a lot of the federal generals who had large staff. you know, you think of mcclellan, you know, he's got this french prince on his staff. they didn't have that. it was his personal staff was
6:02 pm
anywhere from three to five guys throughout the entire war and none of them worked harder than taylor if you've seen the movie gettysburg, there's a scene in there. i think it's meaning of july 1st where the actor portraying taylor is talking to to leave. any they're talking about the workload and taylor says i would be offended if you got more staff. i can handle the work. that was not really taylor's attitude. he complained bitterly about the workload about how he was pulling more than his share on the rest of the staff and it wasn't until about late january early february 1865 when the others had a taste of what they were had to go through and the workload even though anyway enough about that move on talk a little bit more detail about taylor's writings. taylor he was from norfolk, virginia. he was a banker was a vmi graduate. he was actually the the auditor for the norfolk and petersburg. railroad. billy mahone's railroad immediately before the war both of his brothers also worked for
6:03 pm
the norfolk and petersburg. they served on mahone staff during the war, but when lee goes off to west virginia taylor's with him when lee goes to the south atlantic coast taylor's with him taylor is of course with him throughout all the campaigns of the army in northern virginia again, he's there for all but three weeks and the people at large especially after the war is over and you get the formation of the ucb and these people who are hungry to know more about their former chief. they're looking to walter taylor they want to know, you know, they're jealous of him. basically, you know you had access to this man that the rest of us can only dream about, you know, please tell us what it was like so taylor was often requested as we're marshall and some of the other staff to come speak at ucv meetings and reunions and whatnot taylor. very popular speaker whenever there was a reunion held in norfolk. it was usually reunion of mahone's brigade, but taylor was a very popular speaker because of the insight that he could
6:04 pm
offer about lee. and so when his first book comes out in 1877 called four years of lee people were looking forward to this thing. they couldn't wait to read it. and then they open it and it's nothing but a really by the numbers history the army of northern virginia. the title was very misleading. it's not about taylor's four years with lee. it's a history of the army in northern virginia and the numbers that it had in each campaign taylor as a banker. he was a numbers guy when we're the morning reports and casualty reports and whatnot were turned into headquarters taylor was the one who processed them. so nobody knew the strength of the army of northern virginia at various battles and campaigns better than taylor. so that's what he put the paper. and as more and more public disappointment became evident people were reaching out to him and finally by the turn of the century he gave in and he wrote another book. that was the one he should have written in the first place the more personal look at at his four years beside lee and that one is called general lee his
6:05 pm
campaigns in virginia 1906 and the title should really be switched because the content really does not it's not reflective of the titles of the of those two books if you want to read one of taylor's books, i would go for the later one. the general lee is campaigns, but the one the the 1906 book, but really taylor's great contribution to civil war scholarship was unintentional his letters to his primarily to his future wife betty saunders. were a gold mine of information most of them survived from about mid 1862 through to the end of the war they survive in the the norfolk public library? and that's where taylor is open and honest about lee and the inner workings of headquarters. that's where you find out when taylor and lee budhead. that's when you find out where lee's in a bad mood. that's where you find out where other staff officers and other generals are being critical and kind of second guessing lee and
6:06 pm
those papers were published in 1995 under the title leeds agent. it leaves out the post-war papers and that's where some of the really good stuff is when taylor is writing to the other members of lee staff as well as jackson staff and longstreet staff. so there's some good stuff that's not included in that as well the post-war stuff, but unfortunately betty saunders destroyed his letters from 1861 and the first half of 1862 and when taylor found out about that he was livid because he explained to her. please don't destroy my letters. i'm saving these because these are not just meant for your information. this is my memories of the war. he's told destroy them. so after she got the letter, that's it. please don't destroy them. she stop destroying them, but because his letters from 1861 in the first half of 62 do not survive. there's really scant information on lee in west virginia and on the south atlantic coast, and those are the two times that we really know the least about lee and it's primarily because
6:07 pm
taylor's letters do not survive from that time period and when you read his books, you can see that he was reflecting he was using those that as an outline to follow and the 61 and early 62 parts of the weakest part of his books because again, he was having to rely solely on memory. he didn't have his letters in front of him to refresh things in his mind. but taylor was not the only one to to write about their former commander. armistead long who was lee's military secretary beginning in late 61 and on up through about mid 63. he wrote a huge book called the memoirs of robert e. lee came out mid 1880s and not only is that a great source. it's amazing that he was able to do it long went blind in the process of writing this to the fact that he was actually able to get it finished is just fascinating to me and when you look at the manuscript that is housed at unc, it truly just looks like chicken scratch because by the end he was
6:08 pm
completely blind and obviously could not see what he was writing, but he did have somebody that could decipher what he was putting down fits you lee the general's nephew. he wrote a biography of lee that came out in the mid 1890s. that was really more to boost fits his political career than it was to bring anything new about the general to the forefront fitz was not a great commander. he really owed his the fact that his last name was lee and he built his political career off of the fact that his last name was lee, but he he offered a few insights into his uncle but not a lot you would expect more from him. lee's youngest son rob served briefly in the rock bridge artillery and then was an aid to his older brother rooney. he published a memoir of sort right around the turn of the century, and he also included some edited at least versions of lee's letters again, they were
6:09 pm
edited for public guys. so a lot of the personal and private stuff was cut out, but we offer lee junior offers a lot of good information on his father mentioned marshall already and and how his incomplete memoir so published in the the twenties by frederick maurice. thomas talcott, who was the son of lee's mentor andrew talcott the younger talcott here would serve on lee's staff for the first half of the war before. he went on to command an engineer regiment. he wrote a couple of articles for for public consumption charles venable talk more about him in just a minute, but he is a fascinating individual. he was a brilliant mathematician. he was a college professor. he strikes me is just being one of these guys who was too smart for his own good and he spoke his mind. he did not have a filter. he's kind of the i guess almost the civil war version of sheldon cooper, you know, brilliant and
6:10 pm
is not doesn't really understand the concept of not speaking his tongue venable would serve with lee from june of 62 on through the end of the war and venable, but it heads with lee more so than anybody else they were closer in age. and again venable was not afraid to speak his something was on his mind. it was immediately going to to come out of his mouth and that often times did not sit. well with lee he some of his letters to his wife survive. he wrote his memoirs and his wife wrote her memoirs, but neither one of them were ever published. they're sitting in the archives at uva and i that's what my next project is going to be is to publish venables no more, but there are some great great information that you find nowhere else not even any of the staff in the other staff officers mentioned some of the stuff that venable bus and if you've read my book, i would point out to you september 17th
6:11 pm
1862. there's a an incident in there that happened at sharpsburg that is ascribed to venable if you've read it, you know what i'm talking about if you don't well, you'll have to get the book to find out giles cook was another one who served on lee staff from tail end of the war his diary survives it i think it's at the virginia historical society. i remember now and he is a great for the closing days at petersburg in the appomattox, campa. but they were not the only ones robert chilton whose chief of staff some of his letters survived. there were actually at the museum of the confederacy archives and some of the other staff members. there's a francis smith. there was a nephew of the vmi superintendent who served on lee staff for a couple of weeks and i think was may and may and june of 1861 some of his letters survive john washington and we'll talk more about in just a minute who's kind of an overlooked and forgotten member of lee staff. his letters are scattered, but his wartime letters are fantastic. and this is what lee had to say about a person's letters and i
6:12 pm
think this is very true. it has been said that our letters are good representatives of our mind. they certainly present a good criterion for judging the character of the individual. this is what he was writing to his youngest daughter mildred a few years before the war and i think that is very true. you want to see what somebody's actually thinking read their personal letters. don't read what they wanted the public to to see read what they wanted. no one else. and of course lee's letters a good chunk of them. anyway by no means is this all of them were published during the centennial back in 61 a good sampling of leaves private letters and his official correspondence with richmond, and that's a great source right there. if you don't have it, i would suggest getting hold of that and that will give you a good measure of lee both as a person and as a general all right. now i want to jump in to some of the lee incidents from the book and the figure will start off with what was lee doing on this
6:13 pm
date in 1861. this is one that i actually knew off top. my head didn't have to look this one up, but i'll look it up anyway, july 29th. 1861 lee is on a train going from richmond to stand. he's on his way out to to western virginia. he was going to take command in the mountains out there in western, virginia. there was a suffice to say there are some command issues. i guess it's the best way to put it out in the mountains of what is now west virginia and lee had been sent out there to oversee what was going on. so he and taylor and john washington and two of the lee family slaves perry and meredith are on a train on the virginia central railroad from richmond headed out to stanton and he will arrive in stanton on the evening mail train, so probably right about this time in 1861 their train. having in stanton and they will detrain and head out to find lodging for the night and on the way they pass by the camp of the
6:14 pm
the true bar artillery where they are saluted as the general passes by so that's what lee was doing on this date in 1861. i tell you how many years ago that was but i'm not a math person. i'm a history person so i can't do that right off top my head. but anyway, okay. of course when lee first resigns his commission with the united states army, he goes to richmond. he's appointed to command of virginia's armed forces and this is perhaps one of the most thankless tasks that he preserved that he performs during the entire war. he really has to bring an army out of nothingness the state of course has militia units, but they're all over the place. they're in varying degrees of order some of the officers are there for political reasons. some of them have military training some of adults some of the units are of course better equipped and better trained than others and it's least jobs. take all this chaos and form it in to respectable fighting force. that's what he will spend the first few really months of the
6:15 pm
war doing from about mid april all the way up until his departure at the end of july 1861. he's trying to bring order out of this chaos organizing units getting important points fortified and garrison and then you add to it when the confederate government. relocates from montgomery to richmond, then you have conflicting orders, you know, the confederate war department wants one thing lee wants another thing. so it's it's just a very chaotic and very thankless task that he is performing at this time. i spends most of that time behind a desk. at his office in richmond. and the number of people that must have come into his office on a daily basis. i'm sure was well into the double digits, of course, very little of that is documented, but we know that he was being constantly besieged by office seekers by politicians wanting commissions my politicians who had constituents and friends that they wanted to get commissions for as well as some of his own family members coming in trying to get commissions as
6:16 pm
well. so he was just constantly busy probably spending anywhere from 18 to 20 hours a day at times in his office dealing with things and during this time. he's meeting almost daily with the governor with the governor's advisory council and then once the confederate government relocates with president davis and/or the secretary of war at that time, so he's just constantly constantly busy with administrative stuff, but he does find time to go into the field three times during yeah during this first of the war. in mid-may, he goes down to peninsula to it's in norfolk to inspect the fortifications there then at the end of the month. he goes north to manassas and then about a week after that in the first week of june. he goes down the peninsula to jamestown island yorktown williamsburg area to inspect the fortifications there. and on all three of these occasions, he does not like what he finds and all three of them
6:17 pm
results in a change of command more regard is we'll take command in northern virginia as a result of lee and we'll also see changes elsewhere as well john magruder on the on the peninsula. so lee is is very hands-on during this time period and he's a very involved with getting the commanders in in places that they need to go and initially he turns to men that either he knows personally or he knows by reputation. who does he put in command that at lynchburg jubal early? who does he put in command of the cavalry training camp richard yule. so these are people that that he served with of course beauregard he served with him in mexico. so people that he knows and and can trust joe johnston and her persperry is another example men that he knows and men that he can trust benjamin huger are huge. excuse me going down to wound up to be one of his not quite so good decisions, but lee knew
6:18 pm
huger from before the war and and trusted him and unfortunately, that one did not work out as well as some of the other okay, i mentioned that on this date in 1861 lee and taylor and this guy john washington are on their way to western virginia. john augustine washington. he is the last owner of mount vernon. he is the great grand nephew or something like that of george washington forget the exact relation, but it's something weird like that and he wound up inheriting mount vernon, which was in very sad shape at the time that he owned it. so, of course he sold it in 57 or 58 to the mount vernon ladies association. so this fellow john washington is indirectly responsible for preservation of mount vernon. now he joins lee's staff and early may of 1861 about the same time that taylor does within a couple days of one another. i suspect that they at least
6:19 pm
knew of each other both of them being from northern virginia and running in the same social circles. i imagine at least new of each other. they probably met on occasion, but they do not seem to have been very closely acquainted prior to washington's assignment to lee's staff. they very close french. well not close but a friendship developed between the two of them washington was probably the closest thing that lee had to a friend at that time despite their difference in rank. they're very close in age and again similar backgrounds and washington was likely very religious. in fact the three of them would all share a tent and west virginia they messed together in that tent it was their sleeping quarters as well as their office and washington would lead them in morning prayer as well as evening prayer and lee would say later that he got to know washington perhaps better during their few weeks together sharing a tent and in west virginia that
6:20 pm
he could have any other way. now it rains almost the whole time that lee is in west virginia, and he's trying to organize an attack against the union forces out there. they want to drive mcclellan and rosecrans back out of western virginia. push them back to ohio and reclaim that area even though it's not at all process session out there in the mountains. they still want to reclaim it since it is virginia territory and this is lee's first offensive and it goes horribly. it's kind of like the the seven days campaign or the initial plan if you will at mechanicsville in beaver, dam creek, but on a smaller scale lee was here's learning on the fly. he's learning on the job here and his plan was just too complicated. the various commands could not see each other one was the top of a mountain one's the bottom of a mountain. they're they're out of visual contact and the relatively green troops. his plan was just too complicated and it fizzles into
6:21 pm
nothingness. he had everybody in position, but the attack never comes off so in disgust lee was trying to organize or figure out a way to salvage something out of this campaign, so he sends washington and his son rooney out to reckon neuter the union position and try and figure out a way to get at them. well washington and rooney they have two or three of rooney's cowboy men with them. they're ambushed the federal psalm coming up this riverbend at the creek bed at that point, but they saw him coming up this ravine in the mountains and they set up an ambush form and this entire company opens fire on these four or five guys washington has killed. he's absolutely riddled with bullets. rooney's horses killed out from under him. he barely gets away. he uses washington's horse to escape and washington is killed. and i think this is the day september 13th 1861. this is the day that the war really first hit home for lee.
6:22 pm
of course, you know, he'd been at war for several months now he lost his home. well several homes roman coke is going to fall the union forces pretty shortly and white house at rooney's plantation is also soon going to be occupied by the federal, but he's been forced out of arlington lost most of his possessions, but i think washington's death is when the war really hit home for lee and he writes several letters. he writes to washington's daughter. he writes to their a common cousin of washington and lee fellow by the name of turner and edward turner lived up in order to virginia, but these letters and he also writes a letter to to his wife as well but these letters of leaves talking about washington's death there's a range of emotion present in these letters that you don't see anywhere else. he goes from obvious sense of loss and despair to in the next
6:23 pm
sentence just out and out anger, you know, you can almost visualize the the veins popping out and his neck and he's just furious at the situation. so again, i think this is really the day that the war hit home for lee and this is letter that he writes to whoops. i mean do that. this is the letter that he writes to washington's daughter. informing her of his death and he tells her you know that your dear father and reconoiding reckoned the enemy's position yesterday came within the range of the fire of the enemy pickets and was instantly killed he fell in the cause to which he had devoted all his energies and and in which his noble heart was enlisted my intimate association with him for some months has more fully disclosed to me his great worth and double as many years of ordinary intercourse would have submit would have been sufficient to reveal we shared the same. event and warning and evening has its earnest devotion to almighty god elicited my grateful admiration and just as another example of how much lee
6:24 pm
affected by washington's death. just before rooney came back to leave with news at washington had been killed a courier came in with the message from washington. it was just an everyday little message the result of their reckon their reconnaissance so far and it said the road down to such and such up and third old water is clear. and again, there's no great military value in this letter, but it was signed by washington lee kept this little scrap of paper from washington turned it over on the back and wrote the notation. this is the last message i ever received from john a washington. he kept that with him. for the rest of the war and a couple weeks after appomattox. he sent it to louisa washington's daughter and again the outpouring of emotion in that letter it just yet it touches you, you know lee was obviously very deeply affected by washington's death. so this is one of those really i think overlooked episode but it had a profound impact on lee spent too much talking about this. let's get late somewhere else
6:25 pm
besides, west, virginia. he goes to the south, atlantic coast, south carolina, georgia north part of florida after his after his west virginia campaign, and he's put in charge of defending that area down there. he's not wild about this idea at all. in fact, he writes to one of his daughters tells her this is a forlorn. hope this is worse than west virginia. what what do they possibly expect me to do down here, but he actually does get things organized here again organization. it's a strong suit. he gets troops organized. he gets key points fortified. he gets the charleston and savannah railroad in operation in conjunction with the military that becomes his main line of defending the region. he does not have anywhere near enough troops to send every point so he comes up with this fantastic idea of keeping his troops on the railroad shuttling them back and forth letting the the federals have the coastline, but if they try and come inland he's gonna have a force to meet them via the railroad. and on one of his inspection tours down there.
6:26 pm
he visits his he visits his father's grave, of course light horse. harry lee, please father was revolutionary war hero great cavalry commander during the rev war and he was quite the the hero after the revolutionary war but his star fell quickly during the war of 1812 light horse. harry was vehemently opposed to war with britain, which was just the wrong opinion to have at the time and he was very nearly killed by a mob in baltimore because of his anti-war sentiment and he had also occurred numerous debts. they're the his debts are the reason that the family had to give up stratford hall and lee and his father were never close. so even though lee was stationed in savannah near his father's grave during the 1830s right after he graduated from west point. never went and visited him. he'd never visited the grave until sometime in early 1862 light horse. harry had really exiled himself to the bahamas and as he neared
6:27 pm
the end of his life he was on his way back, i guess to say goodbye to his family, but he fell ill and the both that he was on to put in. in georgia, and they stopped at the state that was owned by general nathaniel green another revolutionary war commander and lee died there several several days after arriving at at greens estate. he was buried in the cemetery there. and so when lee is stationed down here in early 1862, he goes and visits his father's grave and this is what he told his wife about it while at fernandina i went over to cumberland island and walked up to dungeoness the former residents of general green. it was my first visit to the house and i had the gratification at length to visiting my father of great. he died there you may recollect on his way from the west indies and was an interred in one corner of the family cemetery. the spot is marked by a plane marble slab with his name age and date of death. that's all he had to say about this visit. he didn't say when it happened. he didn't, you know record, you know, he didn't revel in this,
6:28 pm
you know, there's none of the emotion present that there were in any of the washington letters. you know, it's just oh, that's all my father's grave and he spends the rest of the letter really describing greens estate talking about the house. so this the distance between lee and his father, you know, it's very evident in this letter, you know, it's that they're the relationship was not there. after that in early 62 lee has brought back to richmond. there were rumors that he was going to be the new secretary of war and congress had actually cleared the way for that passing legislation making it legal for an active duty army officer to be secretary of war. so everybody thought hey, that's what lee is going to be doing. that's not what president davis had in mind lee is brought to richmond to be davis's military advisor. now davis was not one who wanted to be told what to do davis was a west pointer is mexican war veteran and considered himself a military genius.
6:29 pm
he did not need anyone else's advice or opinion on how to do things. he knew how to run the war. so lee is in a very difficult spot here with this new assignment. but he makes the most out of it. he and davis got along. well, they had a great relationship on up until the last few months of the war when things were falling apart around them, but lee knew how to work with davis, which was something that oh joe johnston and board guard did not know how to do salim makes the most of this and he uses this position and he's really the one calling a lot of the shots. he's the one moving the pieces on the chess board here. stonewalls valley campaign really comes about in large part because of lee johnston didn't want it to happen. we did so guess what it happened and here again quoting a letter to cassius lee i have been called here richmond very unexpectedly to me and have been placed on duty at this place under the direction of the president. i'm willing to do anything i can i can do to help the noble cause
6:30 pm
we are engaged in and to take any position the lower and more humble the physician more agreeable to me and the better qualified i should feel to fill it. i fear i shall be able to do little in the position assigned me and cannot hope to satisfy the feverish and excited expectation of our good people. that was something that lee was constantly fighting the the public were they always wanted victories and lead new that you had to prepare for things, you know, kind of the same type of thing that that rosecrans and me run into you know, the politicians want you to advance and to win but you can't do it until you're ready. so that's yet another thing that we had to to fight against here and one of the first things that he does in this new post the conscription act which was written by charles marshall. and signed by lee the league gets the credit, but it was marshall's writing. we will of course succeed to command of the army of northern virginia when johnston is
6:31 pm
wounded at seven pines lee's first major offensive there the seven days campaign does not go well for him, but it goes well enough that he drives mcclellan in the army of potomac away from richmond, and then he's able to turn his attention to northern virginia with the new force under john pope now lee respected just about every other commander that he was ever up against mcclellan. need even burnside, you know it lee respected them. he knew them and he thought that they were honest gentlemen, what's his name? the sedgwick was one of lee's favorite officers on the other side, but then there was john pope lee hayden pope lee had absolutely no use for john pope. he did not like him personally. he did not like the way that pope waged war so when he sent jackson up to northern, virginia, he didn't tell him just go defeat. oh, he told him to suppress hope and he constantly referred to both as a miscreant. you know, he he had absolutely
6:32 pm
no use for john pope. so i'm sure he took great delight in defeating. hope at second manassas, but lee has a couple of close calls on the way to to second manassas. he's very nearly captured by enemy cavalry on the way to thoroughfare gap. there's a detachment of enemy cavalry that appeared not far maybe is maybe as few as a 100 or 200 yards off in the distance when lee was out in advance of long streets force lee was the advanced guard of the army. there's nothing between him and these federals but the the federals did not attack as they did not realize who they were looking at and so lee very narrowly escapes there and then he has another close call when he arrives at jackson battlefield there groveton and the source for this is charles venable who joined lee staff just before the seven days campaign. on reaching the field of jackson's flight of the 28th lee ordered his staff to remain at the edge of the woods out of sight of the enemy while he went forward on foot to jackson
6:33 pm
skirmish line. he made his own observation of the condition of things on jackson's right on his return to the edge of the woods. he swiftly remarked a sharpshooter came near killing me just now we saw how near it was. this is cheek had been grazed by the bullet of the sharpshooter. this is one of those things where you know fraction of an inch one way or the other either kills him or misses him entirely, but it managed to just catch his cheek and leave a mark on there. venable is the only source for this. and lee's rock. lee's luck runs out after the battle when he breaks one wrist and severely sprains the other when traveler pulls him down somewhere near bull run. and so when the army of northern virginia goes through leesburg and into maryland on the other side of potomac lee is not valiantly writing the top his his gray charger as one might expect. no, he is in the back of an ambulance with both of his arms in a sling. he's not able to feed himself. he's not able to dress himself.
6:34 pm
so it's a very low point for lee there as he makes his entrance into maryland. forces, his army comes dangerously close to disaster there on the banks of antietam creek and he will withdraw back across the potomac in the northern virginia and it's while the the army is there in the lower shenandoah valley recuperating trying to recover from its from its sharpsburg losses that he learns of the death of one of his daughters annie lee. she and her mother had been vacationing in, north carolina. when annie was very suddenly stricken with some illness possibly a combination of illnesses and died very slow and painful death and she was buried on the originally on the family cemetery there at the resort just outside of warrenton, north carolina. she was moved eventually to washington and lee but leave was very touched by his daughter's death as you might expect and
6:35 pm
walter taylor provides us a glimpse at lee's reaction. this is taylor as he was witnessing lee receiving the news. one morning. the mail was received and the can't see it's behind the little brady box brady bunch box for here. the the letters were distributed as was the custom but no one knew whether any home news had been received by the general at the usual hour. he summoned me to his presence to know if there were any matters as any army routine upon which his judgment in action were desired the papers containing such cases were presented him. he reviewed and gave his orders in regard to them. i then left but for some cause returned in a few moments with my accustomed freedom entered his tent without announcement or ceremony when i was startled and shocked to see lee overcome with grief and open letter in his hands that letter contained the sad intelligence of his daughter's death. and lee subsequently had to inform his sons of their sister's death as well because it was right about this time custis came up from richmond to
6:36 pm
join the general and help him since he was still trying to recover from his his injured wrists. so this was a not just a military low point for lee he struck by personal tragedy here as well. and this is not the only tragedy that will strike him during the war in addition to his daughter's death. his only two grandchildren died during the war the first one rooney's i think it's his son actually dies during the during the seven days campaign. rooney would have another child that dies believe in. later in 1862 or early 1863 and lee's daughter-in-law rooney's wife. charlotte dies just after christmas of 1863. so lee is just repeatedly struck with these personal tragedies in addition to everything. he's going through militarily. so these are some of the things that you often don't find in a lot of the military histories of the war, you know, there's stuff affecting him. that's not on the battlefield.
6:37 pm
and his wife was a major cause of concern for him as well. i'll talk about that. just a second. i mentioned his the death of his grandchildren. this was the second one. she died as an infant in early december of 1862. so just a few weeks after annie's death. he learned said to his second grandchild has died and he writes a letter of condolence, of course to rooney's wife, charlotte. the lee's relationship with his family throughout the war is interested custis the oldest son. lee had a relationship with custis that he didn't have with any of the other children. he relied heavily on custis since lee was out in the field most of the time or at least having to tend to the army. he didn't have the attention to devote to a lot of the family things. so he relied on custis for this even though custis is an aid to president davis and has his own life going on here lee relied heavily on justice when it came to taking care of mary lee's
6:38 pm
wife lee look to custis when it came to making decisions for the for the younger children again. he looked to custis one of the big ones when it came time to finish up the the great stipulation of his father-in-laws will the the manunition of the the custis and eventually the the lee family slaves lee looked to custis to handle this and the the manning mission of the slaves was a huge thing. and that was the one of the main reasons why it took leave five years to settle his father-in-laws estate was because of his father-in-law hit the poor record-keeping that he had lee didn't even know how many slaves the family owned where they were who they were. so lee dumped this in custis's lap and say here you handle it. and when it came to dealing with military affairs lee was very frank with custis. he would complain to him when he wouldn't complain to anybody else. there was a famous quote during
6:39 pm
the petersburg campaign route lee complaints to custis. you know, i've just been up to richmond in the politicians don't want to do anything but eat peanuts. i can't even get my army fat. so custis was frequently lee's as sounding board when he needed to vent. he turned to justice and this is one of those instances right here in early 1863. every exertion should be made to getting the army on the strongest footing for vigorous work in the spring our salvation will depend on the next four months and yet i cannot even get regular promotions made to feel vacancies while congress seems to be laboring to pass laws to get easy places for some favorite or constituent or to get others out of active service entirely. i shall feel very much oblives to them if they will pass a law relieving me from all duty and legislating someone in my place better able to do it. so again custis is the sounding board here for his father quite frequently? and then there's mary lee's wife. she never seemed to understand that her husband was one of the
6:40 pm
highest ranking generals in the army. it was an active war going on. he had other things larger things to worry with in her petty problems. mary was very much a spoiled rich girl used to getting her way and she pouted quite often and you can see in a lot of leads writing to her where he's losing patience with her. she never would settle down throughout the entire war. she was constantly leading this nomadic existence going from place to place after she was forced out of arlington and just moving from place to place to place which caused lee great stress because he was always concerned that she was in a place of danger. he wanted her actually wanted her to come here to raleigh and live here during the war, but she want to know part of that. she didn't no anybody here, so she spends time bouncing back between cousins and friends and whoever would take her in up until the last year of the war when finally convinces her to settle into what had been his
6:41 pm
and custis's house on franklin street there a couple blocks from the state capitol. but she was constantly harping that that he didn't write to her enough or when he did. he didn't, you know, he wasn't telling her things and she was very uh careless in a lot of things. she would spend the winters at his request making socks and gloves for the men of the army. this is more symbolic thing than anybody than anything else, you know, obviously, they're not gonna make enough to clothe the entire army of northern virginia. they only produced a few hundred and but it was really a symbolic thing showing, you know, hey, look the commanding. general's wife is making me sacrifices the rest of the general public needs to do this as well. but one particular instance. i believe it was in summer or fall of 63. she was living with friends and what is now bedford out near lynchburg? and she was drawing army rations from the local quartermaster lee at that time was writing letters
6:42 pm
to richmond to the commissary general lucius northrop complaining about how he can't get his army fat and yet here's his own wife taking army rations when he found out about that. he went ballistic and that was what a few times where he could actually see him lose his temper in writing. so mary was an added cause of distress during the war and her health would fail and of course being stubborn. she was supposed to be confined to a wheelchair. he didn't want to do it and she fell and i think from the description it sounds like she broke her hip when she was staying out in fluvanna county. she was trying to walk on crutches on a tile floor and lost her balance and fell down and from the description. i'm pretty sure that she broke her hip anyway. before the spring campaign of 1863 police offers what is probably a heart attack and he's confined to a bedroom here in this mansion thomas yerby's mansion on his belvoir outside of fredericksburg.
6:43 pm
and he's there for several weeks first he's cared for by lafayette guild the guy on the left there. he was the surgeon general of the army northern virginia and guild goes down with an illness. so his assistant samuel bemis takes over care for the general and he was not in good health during this time period but he does not bring any of his staff with him. he only brings i think it was meredith with him could have been perry. i don't remember which ralph taught my head, but that's all he brings with him a and v headquarters remains at amv headquarters on mine road. they would of course come and visit him during the day if there was stuff that needed his attention, but doctors orders he needed to to take it easy not to be concerned with the army at that point. so here during the first couple weeks of april, you know, you have to wonder you know, what if hooker had actually gone on the offensive here, you know long streets in suffolk, you know with jackson have commanded the army or would davis have had to send somebody else up to to take command of the army during lee's
6:44 pm
illness here, and we never really recovers from this he recovers from this out of it, but he suffers continuing effects from this illness throughout the war and it's part of what incapacitates him at at the north anna in may of 64. here's a running short on time here. so skip this this was just a quote from bemis talking about his treatments of lee and how impressed lee was her. how impressed bemis was with lee. um after gettysburg course lee is on the losing end of that fight. he tenders his resignation. jefferson. davis does not accept it, but this is an interesting letter of lee it's not lee's normal tone with the president and i suspect that he wrote this letter uh different in case they was actually did accept his resignation and this letter i think was made for publication. it never had to be published
6:45 pm
obviously because it is resignation is not accepted but this this letter is very different in in tone there and skip ahead a little bit here. to the winner encampment of 1863 1864 outside of orange courthouse these headquarters would be can't see what i'm pointing out. these headquarters was right over here on the shoulder of this mountain. he was sleeping under canvas throughout the entire winter. i did not want to move into a house. he had plenty of offers from local local folks to come move into their dwellings, but he would not do it. he preferred to to stay out in the open and share the same conditions as men. but davis comes to visit the army northern virginia in late november and he stays right here in this house bloomsbury, which is the home of francis jordan if you're familiar with with orange, this is just east of town. the old orange turnpike is right over here just out of you. this house is actually right
6:46 pm
beside orange international airport. well, the landing strip is just out of frame here. it's one of the oldest houses in in orange county, but during davis's stay he takes up residence here at the the jordan family home. and every morning lee comes over to get him and they will go over the current situation that this was supposed to be a morale building thing. davis was supposed to make speeches and review yules core and hillscor at this point, but it rains the entire time that he's there so their plans are literally rained out. so it turns into really just an extended conference between davis and lee during the one time. there's a break in the rain. they go up to the top of clark's mountain. i don't think they could see much because of the clouds, but davis wanted to see the federal army himself from up there at the observation post on clarks mountain, but within a day or so of davis giving up this idea and returning back to richmond mead goes on the offensive mine run
6:47 pm
campaign. so davis just nearly missed being at the front during an active campaign. and custis would of course accompanied davis and he stayed there with his father during the during the beginning of the line run campaign. that that christmas is a sad one for lee. he was in richmond after mine run meeting with davis. again davis was trying to get lee to go out to take over command from braxton bragg out in tennessee in georgia. and this was one of the prime examples of lee and his relationship with davis. not only did he talk davis out of doing this. he convinced davis to appoint joe johnston, you know if it's the spies he we talked him into pointing johnson to take command of the army instead, but a couple days before christmas instead of staying in richmond with most of his family. he goes back to orange to spend it with taylor and marshall inventable and he probably wished that he had stayed in richmond because charlotte fell definitely ill on christmas day
6:48 pm
and she died on the afternoon december 26th, and he did not have enough time to get back and see her before she died and at this time her husband rooney is in a prison camp in up north in. i think he was at fort delaware, i think. might have been new york harbor. i don't know. anyway, rooney was prisoner of war at this time, so he was not able to be with charlotte and her her dying moments either and lee was very greatly affected by charlotte's death. he thought of her as another daughter. he greatly cared for charlotte. and will fast forward to the overland campaign lee is very nearly killed yet again right here at this home called ellington. it was the fox family home overlooking the north anna. course we know about him trying to lead the texas brigade at the wilderness. he tried to lead two or three more attacks in person. that's spotsylvania. this one is not as dramatic. he's sitting on the porch right there drinking the glass of
6:49 pm
buttermilk waiting for some of the the other generals to come up to go ride the ride the line there and get a feel for the terrain. enemy artillery battery arrives on the other side of the north anna this house is within range. they see the horses and whatnot gathered out here in front. they throw a couple shells downrange one of them misses lee by a couple feet slams into the post on the porch right there and fails to explode. so lee has a close call with that and i can't prove this but i suspect that this buttermilk almost did him in as well. i think that the buttermilk that mr. fox gave him while lee was that his house was probably spoiled because lee within a couple hours of this comes down with a very surveyor severe stomach ailment the knocks him flat and again, i can't prove it, but i think he had food poisoning if you look at the the cause and effect here, it adds up in my mind and then that is kind of compounded by another
6:50 pm
illness that just completely knocks me out of action. for several almost a period of two weeks here at the north anna as well as atleast station to the pottermore creek and all the way to cold harbor lee is not himself. he's forced to move inside. he inventable will famously -- here at the north. anna venable went into deliver some message to him and lee was just absolutely, you know, obviously in agony and venable, you know, again the man had no filter told him, you know, tell richmond to send borgard you can't command this army like this. well, that's not really wanted to hear them got into it at that point and really left the army later. this ap hill was sick at the time you'll tell it that was ill at the time richard anderson was just you know still cutting his teeth at core command. jeb stuart was dead. so there's there's really command vacuum here at the highest level of the anv at the north anna. it's again, i think it's because there's buttermilk then we move on ahead well into the
6:51 pm
petersburg operations here and early october. this would be right after the presence be about a week after capture of fort harrison. lee is trying to organize a countertop to push the federals all of them back south of the james and he's meeting with porter alexander charles field robert hooke richard anderson and a couple of others to work out and attack plan for the morning of october 7th. and the long story short after they all agree on the plan lee says, all right. i'm getting up at 2 o'clock tomorrow morning as i pass your camp. i expect you to be ready to go and fall in with my staff as we as we move along so everybody is in agreement, you know, two o'clock is going to be the hour. that's the key to this story lee is moving at 2 o'clock. well the next morning rolls around leads up shortly after midnight. he leaves at one he gets to porter alexander's headquarters, and he's living in alexander is not ready for him and been the same story back at a&b
6:52 pm
headquarters. nobody was ready for him. there was no breakfast. nobody was up except for good old venable and venables trying to tell him well nobody's ready because it's not time. you said two o'clock. look at your watch old man. it's one o'clock would give us time. we're not ready. this isn't what you said and lee was adamant. no, i said one o'clock. we would move when they get to to alexander's headquarters repeat the same story. alexander's not ready. available goes to fetchen and explains to him. you know, i know you're not ready. we weren't ready either. he swears that he said one o'clock and lee was just in a foul mood that morning and refused to admit that he was wrong and he was absolutely livid and he took this out on venable supposedly. he did not speak to venable for the better part of a week after this episode and this is perhaps the the best example that you have of lee and his temper. just taking it out on everybody around him at this point his his
6:53 pm
temper did improve a little bit once the battle got going and things were going and initially his way but not for venable. he did not he did not forgive venable for several days afterwards. this is one of my favorite lee episodes lee would have three headquarters during the siege of petersburg violet bank, which was on a hill overlooking the appomattox river on the north side of the river then he moved to this place the beasley house which is in downtown petersburg. and then from here, he would move out to the turnbull house edge hill out towards fort greg, but he's at the beasley house for not quite a month. there's a great house taylor thought he had really locked out when he found this vacant house and he moved in and took it over his headquarters, but then he found out why there was nobody there the owners had moved out because they had rented this house to a newly wed couple. they wanted to move into their house. it is their honeymoon after all they show up and there's all these officers. there's general lee and their house and they won't leave so
6:54 pm
they waited until lee went to richmond to meet with davis later in november and they told taylor time's up get out. so they fixed army of northern virginia headquarters from their house and this is both taylor and leave the very amusing accounts of this episode. and when lee comes back from from richmond you right to the train station. there's a courier waiting for him says i'm here to take you to your new headquarters general. he's like what new headquarters. what do you mean? why is it new? why did we move and then that's when they explain to him. the reason that they had to vacate but taylor leaves a fantastic account about choosing their new headquarters at edge hill. this is getting almost done here. the only house available was one two miles from town so we came to edge hill and here i am finally fixed in the parlor with piano sofas lounges pictures rocking chair etc. everything is fine as possible for winter campaign. after fixing the general and staff i concluded i would have to occupy one of the miserable
6:55 pm
little back rooms of the house. so mr. turnbull headed that i should take the parlor and this decided me. i believe the general was pleased with his room and on entering mine remarked up. you're finally fixed. couldn't you find any other room? no i said, but this will do i can make myself tallerly comfortable here. leave a struck dumb with amazement at my impudence and soon vanished and this was one of those things where you know, lee must have had a glint in his eye here as taylor took the the best room in the house for himself and gave lee one of the smaller back rooms and lee would complain to mary in the first letter that he writes in this house door to my bedroom doesn't even close all of turnbulls dogs and cats come in the room because it's the only one that can get into that's a fireplace that to me is just very amusing about taylor pulling rank on the general here and giving leave one of the smaller rooms. edgehill does not survive the
6:56 pm
the sage of petersburg april 2nd 1865 of the bad day for lee for a number of reasons. that's of course the day that grant breaks through his lines ap hill is killed just down the road from edgehill. he finds out that his daughter. agnes is still in petersburg. she'd come down a few days before to visit her father but because of everything sheridan was doing out around dinwiddie and five forks. they were never able to connect up. he thought she'd gone back to richmond. he finds out while everything is collapsing around him that no. agnes is still in petersburg. so he finds an officer sends him into petersburg and tells him find my daughter get her out of here and he does so he puts her on the last train out of petersburg before the train stopped running. she gets back to richmond just in time for me evacuation fire. so, you know pick one, you know, which one's worse and then after things finally stabilize and he's told richmond that the time to evacuate richmond and petersburg is here and he's
6:57 pm
making arrangements for this walter taylor comes to him that evening and says general can i go to richmond? i'd like to get married and one can only imagine what lee's reaction was to this initially but read to it and gave taylor permission to to go up to the capitol. so he was married to buddy saunders in the middle of the
6:58 pm
night rejoined the army the next day on the march through chesterfield county towards amelia courthouse. and of course, that was a march that would lead me to appomattox and the surrender there and from there he would return back to richmond and tried to figure out what to do with what was left of his life at that point and i want to leave you with this quote from freeman.
6:59 pm
today during women's history month. we're incredibly fortunate to welcome jared kearney assistant director and curator at the james monroe museum in fredericksburg, virginia. for a presentation that will showcase a selection of original items from the life of elizabeth court, right monroe. elizabeth monroe's story is a fascinating one from her childhood in new york through her experiences as wife of the minister to france and later fifth us president. jared will illustrate elizabeth's life using museum collections that have


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on