DIED: 1886 in Switzerland.
CAMPAIGNS: As Chief Quartermaster supplied all Mississippi Valley campaigns, including Vicksburg and Atlanta .
HIGHEST RANK ACHIEVED: Major General.
|Born on March 15, 1811 in West Point, Ohio, Allen was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduating in the bottom third of his class, he fought in the Mexican War, and was brevetted a major for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. He moved from the Artillery to the Quartermaster's Department, eventually being named chief quartermaster for the Pacific Department. Again, in the Civil War, he was appointed chief quartermaster, this time for the Union Department of the Missouri. Allen's challenge was to create an efficient and competent department out of a corrupt agency. He was successful, and he was placed in charge of the entire Mississippi Valley. Allen supplied all major and secondary operations in the region, including Gen. Ulysses Grant's Vicksburg campaign and Maj. Gen. Sherman's Atlanta campaign. Later, his sphere of duty was expanded to include all areas west of the Mississippi River, except for California. Allen ranked only behind Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs in responsibility, spending an estimated $111 million in his duties as quartermaster. After the war, he stayed in the army until his retirement in 1878. Allen died on August 5, 1886, while traveling abroad. He was buried in Switzerland.|
How Alcohol Has Shaped American History 10:53
"Since the beginning, drinking and taverns have been as much a part of American life as churches and preachers, or elections and politics," Susan Cheever writes in "Drinking in America: Our Secret History." (Pixabay) This article is more than 5 years old. Susan Cheever's latest book is "Drinking in America: Our Secret History." (Michael Falco)
Did you know the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because they were about to run out of beer? Or that taverns were where the American Revolution really took fire? Or that alcohol helped fuel the exploits of Ethan Allen during the American Revolution and Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War?
Susan Cheever writes about America's long relationship with alcohol in the new book "Drinking In America: Our Secret History." She discusses her research and her book with Here & Now's Robin Young.
Major General Patrick Brady
Former Major General Patrick Brady received many awards during his service for the United States. Most notably, he obtained the Medal of Honor during his service in Vietnam, which involved a harrowing mission to save soldiers who were in enemy territory as an expert helicopter pilot.
U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons Patrick Bailey
For the mission, he was assigned to retrieve two injured South Vietnamese soldiers pinned down in enemy territory and thick fog. He then maneuvered the helicopter so the rotors parted it and eventually transported them to safety. Brady went on to rescue over 5,000 wounded soldiers during his tours in Vietnam.
Battle of King’s Mountain
During the American Revolution, Patriot irregulars under Colonel William Campbell defeat Tories under Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of King’s Mountain.
Major Ferguson’s Tory force, made up mostly of American Loyalists from South Carolina and elsewhere, was the western wing of General Lord Cornwallis’ North Carolina invasion force. One thousand American frontiersmen under Colonel Campbell of Virginia gathered in the backcountry on the border of the two states to resist Ferguson’s advance. Pursued by the Patriots, Ferguson positioned his Tory force in defense of a rocky, treeless ridge named King’s Mountain. The Patriots charged the hillside multiple times, demonstrating lethal marksmanship against the surrounded Loyalists.
Unwilling to surrender to a nd of banditti,” Ferguson led a suicidal charge down the mountain and was cut down in a hail of bullets. After his death, some of his men tried to surrender, but they were slaughtered in cold blood by the frontiersmen, who were bitter over British excesses in the Carolinas. The Tories suffered 157 killed, 163 wounded, and 698 captured. Colonel Campbell’s force suffered just 28 killed and 60 wounded.
9. Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, Japan
This is a case in which a successful commander enjoyed an overwhelming victory, only to almost immediately squander the priceless opportunity it afforded him. Admiral Mikawa was an up-and-coming Japanese admiral known for his intelligence and sound judgment when he assumed command of the Japanese 8 th fleet at Rabaul in July of 1942. Just a month later, he was to lead this same fleet to one of Japan’s greatest naval victories of World War Two when, during the night of August 8-9, 1942, he slipped into the waters off Guadalcanal and sent four allied cruisers to the bottom in a little under one hour. In doing so, he left the Marines on Guadalcanal without sea protection and rendered the transports anchored off shore sitting ducks. However, just as complete victory—and the routing of the American forces on Guadalcanal—was all but imminent, the Admiral inexplicably broke off the attack and headed for home, thereby saving the U.S. Navy from further humiliation and destruction.
Had the man shown a bit more aggressiveness and sank the hapless transports, very likely the U.S. would have been forced to evacuate the Solomon Islands and the war would have been extended by months or, possibly, as long as a year. Rightfully criticized by his superiors for his timely blunder, he was given increasingly smaller and more isolated commands throughout the remainder of the war until being forcefully retired by the Japanese Navy in June of 1945, three months before the war ended. Not a bad officer, but an officer with bad timing.
Which Confederate statues were removed? A running list
The city of Dallas took it down off a monument in September in the midst of a national outcry over Confederate symbols, but months later the city still hasn't decided what to do with it.
More than 30 cities across the United States have removed or relocated Confederate statues and monuments amid an intense nationwide debate about race and history.
After a “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia in August to protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee resulted in the death of a woman who was demonstrating against white supremacy, other cities have decided to remove Confederate statues.
Many of the controversial monuments were dedicated in the early twentieth century or during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Discussions are under way about the removal of monuments in Houston, Atlanta, Nashville, Pensacola, Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, Richmond, Virginia, Birmingham, Alabama, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Here is a running list of all the monuments and statues that have been removed and the cities that have taken them down:
Under cover of darkness, city workers removed a statue in August 2017 of former Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney that had been on the State House’s front lawn for 145 years. Taney authored the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that African-Americans could not be U.S. citizens. The city’s Republican mayor said through a spokesman that it was removed “as a matter of public safety.”
The statues of four people with ties to the Confederacy – Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnson, John H. Reagan and former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg – were removed from pedestals on the University of Texas campus on Aug. 17, 2017. UT’s president said in a written statement the deadly clashes in Charlottesville made it clear “Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.” Separately, a 1,200-pound bronze statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis that was removed from UT’s campus in 2015 has now returned to the campus, at the Briscoe Center for American History.
The Austin school board voted to strip Confederate names from five district schools, though they haven’t been renamed yet. The board had previously renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary School in 2016.
The Austin City Council approved renaming Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told reporters she wanted to move “quickly and quietly” to take down four Confederate statues or monuments – statues of Lee and Thomas, J. “Stonewall” Jackson and monuments for Confederate Soldiers and Sailors and Confederate Women – from the city’s public spaces. Although the plan had been in the works since June 2017, the Baltimore City Council approved it only two days after the deadly events in Charlottesville. On March 10, 2018, the space where the Confederate statues had stood was rededicated to abolitionist and civil rights pioneer Harriet Tubman.
Mantee County removed a Confederate soldiers memorial obelisk on Aug. 24 after the city commission voted 4-3 to take it down and place it in storage. The monument, which had stood there for more than 90 years, was accidentally broken into two pieces when city workers removed it. The removal came after days of protests from residents and activists, most of whom were in favor of taking it down, and it cost $12,700 to remove.
Plaques honoring Lee were removed from an episcopal church’s property on Aug. 16, 2017 and the governor called on the Army to remove the names of Lee and another Confederate general from the streets around a nearby fort. “It was very easy for us to say, ‘OK, we'll take the plaques down,'” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, who called them “offensive to the community.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a review of all the city’s public art to identify “symbols of hate” for possible removal.
A bronze statue of Robert E. Lee, formally called the Robert Edward Lee Sculpture, was removed in mid-September 2017 from Robert E. Lee Park, which was also named in honor of the Confederate general. The Dallas City Council voted 13-1 to remove the statue, which has stood in Lee Park for 81 years.
The park was dedicated to Lee by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 during a renaming ceremony of the park.
Three Confederate monuments were removed from a city park Friday morning. A city spokesperson said the plaques were going to be cleaned up and taken to a nearby museum. The decision to remove them did not require public input, the spokes-person told FOX35, because they were donated and not purchased with taxpayer funds.
Protesters toppled the "Silent Sam" statue that has stood on the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus since 1913 on Aug. 20. More than 200 people had gathered and were chanting "hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue has got to go." In a statement, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt called the act "unlawful and dangerous," adding that law enforcement were investigating the incident. The statue had been a source of controversy, with school officials claiming that state law prevented them from removing it.
A nearly-century old statue of a Confederate soldier was toppled not long after Charlottesville by protesters associated with the Workers World party. North Carolina Central University student Takiyah Thompson, along with three others, were arrested and charged with felonies in the days following. As the bronze statue lay crumpled on the ground, protesters could be seen kicking it on social media. A Worthington assistant city manager said the community seeks to be one that “promotes tolerance, respect and inclusion.”
A statute of Lee was removed from the entrance to Duke University Chapel on Aug. 19, 2017 and is set to be preserved in some way to study the university's "complex past."
"I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university," university President Vincent Price wrote in statement to the school.
A monument to Lee was removed in August 2017 by Franklin workers.
A chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the removal of a monument to Confederate soldiers known locally as “Old Joe” that stood in front a building in downtown Gainesville for 113 years. It was moved to a private cemetery outside the city in August 2017.
The state's capital city on Aug. 18, 2017 removed a memorial to Confederate soldiers that had been in a public park since 1916. the granite fountain, which was dismantled, had been donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. City Parks and Recreation Director Amy Teegarden told the Spokesman-Review that the fountain initially will be stored in a city warehouse -- but it could be reassembled at a future date.
A Confederate monument was boxed up in summer 2017 and is slated to be removed. The Missouri division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy had asked Kansas City Parks and Recreation to find a new home for it.
Two 130-year-old Confederate statues were removed from downtown Lexington on October 18 after the state's attorney general issued an opinion giving the city permission to take them down and move them to a private cemetery. Lexington used private funds to take the statues, of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and John Breckinridge, a former U.S. Vice President and the last Confederate Secretary of War. Private funds will cover the cost of their upkeep in the cemetery.
A large stone monument commemorating Confederate veterans was taken down Aug. 16 from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery after hundreds of people demanded its removal. The 6-foot granite marker was loaded into a pickup truck and taken to a storage facility. A petition calling for it to be taken down had garnered 1,300 signatures.
A statue of a Confederate soldier was removed from the University of Louisville campus after a legal battle between the city residents, the mayor and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It was relocated to Brandenburg, Kentucky, which hosts Civil War reenactments.
A plaque honoring Confederate soldiers was removed Aug. 17 from a cemetery not long after residents and city leaders began calling for it to be taken down. “The Civil War was an act of insurrection and treason and a defense of the deplorable practice of slavery,” said Mayor Paul Soglin in a statement. “The monuments in question were connected to that action and we do not need them on city property.”
Crews removed two Confederate statues from Memphis parks on Dec. 20 after the city sold them to a private entity. The City Council voted unanimously earlier in the day to sell both Health Sciences and Fourth Bluff Parks where the Confederate statues, of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, were located.
The legendary Ryman Auditorium, where stars like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn made their Grand Ole Opry debuts, quietly moved a sign on Sept. 21 hanging from the venue's upper level that read "1897 Confederate Gallery." Honoring an 1897 reunion of Confederate veterans at the Ryman, the sign had been shrouded over the years but has now been permanently removed from the main auditorium and added to a museum exhibit that explains the history of the 125-year-old music hall.
New Orleans city workers removed four monuments in April dedicated to the Confederacy and opponents of Reconstruction. The city council had declared the monuments a public nuisance. The monuments removed were of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, Davis and Lee. Also removed was the Liberty Place Monument, which commemorated a Reconstruction Era white supremacist attack on the city’s integrated police force. The mayor plans to replace them with new fountains and an American flag.
Busts of Lee and Jackson were removed overnight on Aug. 17 from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College. Prior to its removal, Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. had said "there is nothing great about two men who committed treason against the United States to fight to keep the institution of slavery in tact.”
A Confederate statue known as "Johnny Reb" was moved in June 2017 by officials from Lake Eola Park to Greenwood Cemetery in response to public outcry about it being symbolic of hate and white supremacy. A spokesperson for Orlando’s mayor told Fox News that city officials are working with historians on a new inscription to put the monument “in proper historical perspective.”
The Richmond school board voted 6-1 on June 18, 2018 to rename J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School to Barack Obama Elementary School. The process began several months prior and involved input from students, teachers, administrators and local stakeholders. Virginia is home to the largest number of Confederate monuments and symbols in the country.
A 13-ton bronze Confederate statue that had stood for decades next to Rockville’s Red Brick Courthouse was relocated in July next to a privately run Potomac River ferry named for a Confederate general. The relocation cost about $100,000, according to the Washington Post.
A plaque honoring Davis was quietly removed Aug. 16, 2017 from a downtown park. “This morning I ordered the immediate removal of a plaque honoring the Confederacy at Horton Plaza Park,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer told the Los Angeles Times. “San Diegans stand together against Confederate symbols of division.”
A Confederate statue was removed from Travis Park overnight Sept. 1, 2017 after the City Council voted 10-1 in favor of taking it down the previous day. There were no protesters during or after the removal, according to local media reports. "This is, without context, a monument that glorifies the causes of the Confederacy, and that's not something that a modern city needs to have in a public square," said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg following the council vote.
A Jefferson Davis highway marker was removed in 2016.
The Missouri Civil War Museum oversaw the removal in late June 2017 of a 32-foot granite and bronze monument from Forest Park, where it had stood for 103 years. It shouldered the costs of removal and will hold the monument in storage until a new home can be found for it. The agreement stipulates the monument can be re-displayed at a Civil War museum, battlefield or cemetery. In Boone County, a rock with a plaque honoring Confederate soldiers that had been removed from the University of Missouri campus was relocated a second time after the Charleston AEM church massacre to a historic site commemorating a nearby Civil War battle.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman ordered city workers to remove a bronze Confederate marker at noon on Aug. 15, 2017 after determining that it was on city property. It’s being held in storage until a new home can be found for it. "The plaque recognizing a highway named after Stonewall Jackson has been removed and we will attempt to locate its owner,” Kriseman said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.
The stewards of the National Mall announced this week that the exhibit alongside the Thomas Jefferson Memorial will be updated to showcase his status as both one of the country's founders and a slaveholder. "We can reflect the momentous contributions of someone like Thomas Jefferson, but also consider carefully the complexity of who he was," an official with the Trust told the Washington Examiner. "And that's not reflected right now in the exhibits."
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker introduced a bill in Sept. 2017 to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol Building.
The National Cathedral voted that same month to take down two stained-glass windows of Confederate generals. The removal could take a few days and workers seen putting up scaffolding around the windows to start the process.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed a bill to replace a statue of a Confederate general at the U.S. Capitol with one of Mary McLeod Bethune, a black woman who founded a school that became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. She'll become the first black female to be honored in Statuary Hall.
Worthington removed a historic marker Aug. 18 outside the former home of a Confederate general.
American Heroes: General Robert E. Lee – Patriot or Traitor?
'Lee was legend incarnate—tall, gray, one of the handsomest and most imposing men who ever lived, dressed that day in his best uniform, with a sword belted at the waist.'
Bruce Catton’s description of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse
Many Americans were and are torn in their view of General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), the famed Confederate Army commander. Lee has been applauded for his gentlemanly demeanor and shrewd military expertise he stands in the American military pantheon alongside Washington, Jackson, Grant, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Patton, and Powell. Yet there is an obvious difference between all these men and Robert E. Lee, for Lee not only fought for the American flag, he also fought against it. Robert E. Lee was, by traditional definitions of the term, a traitor.
Robert Edward Lee was born in Virginia in 1807, the son a Revolutionary War hero. Married to a great-grand daughter of Martha Washington, he belonged to the elite of Virginia planter society. An inheritor of the South's famed martial spirit, Lee graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1829. He built dams and dikes along the upper Mississippi with the Army Engineers, and later served as a cavalry officer on the Texas frontier. He was tested in battle in the Mexican War, and had attained the rank of Army Lieutenant Colonel when he rousted John Brown and his men from Harper’s Ferry in 1859. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln quite naturally offered Lee a command in the Union army, but the Virginian turned him down. He betrayed his oath of office in order to follow what he honestly believed to be a more important obligation—his duty to defend his native Virginia. He saw himself as a Virginian first and an American second. As such, he brilliantly led Confederate troops through three long years of war.
The Constitution of the United States defines as a treasonable offense any 'act of war' against the United States or any 'aid and comfort' given to enemies of the United States. Certainly, the Confederate States of America, through secession, had left the United States and become the Union’s enemy. Yet, as noted, Abraham Lincoln always contended the South had really never left the Union and could not legally do so. At war’s end, there were no “treason trials” of former Confederates leaders, and, although the 14th amendment to the Constitution stripped former Confederates of their vote and citizenship, those who lived into the 1880s and 1890s saw all of those rights thoroughly restored.
Was Robert E. Lee a 'traitor'? A number of Americans would, with some reluctance, stop short of that pronouncement. In their love and respect for Lee and their reluctance to brand him a traitor, some Americans have made Jefferson Davis the scapegoat for southern separatism. Davis is branded the 'traitor' to his country while Lee is revered as a southern gentleman who gave his all to the 'Lost Cause' of the Confederate States of America. Certainly, Lee and Davis (alongside many others) were both technically traitors to the Union they had sworn to defend—and they both defended Southerners' 'right' to enslave millions of their fellow human beings.
Yet there was a difference between Lee and Davis, and it can be seen in how each exited the Civil War. At war's end, Jefferson Davis did not surrender he fled South, trying to rally the Confederacy to fight on and perhaps form a government in exile. He was arrested, imprisoned for two years, and then released without further punishment. He retired to a fine home on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, writing his memoirs and defending his secessionist views and actions to the very end.
Near Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee knew he was beaten. Urged by a fellow officer to take to the mountains and lead a guerilla war against the Yankees, Lee refused. He retorted that further resistance was futile and would only bring more bloodshed and a 'state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.' 'There is nothing for me to do but go and see General Grant,' he concluded, 'and I would rather die a thousand deaths.' He met and surrendered to Grant, and ordered all of his men to do the same. After Lee departed Appomattox Courthouse, Grant sternly told his own troops, 'the rebels are our countrymen again.' General Robert E. Lee was not charged with treason and he spent no time in jail. During the brief five years that he lived following the Civil War, Robert E. Lee became the president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee) in Virginia. Interestingly, whenever Lee marched the Washington College military cadets onto and off the campus parade grounds, he declined to march in step with his 'troops.' He died on October 12, 1870, respected in the North for his character and beloved in the South for his fighting ability.
Sources: Bruce Catton, This Hallowed Ground (New York: Washington Square Press, 1961), 466-82 James MacPherson, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), 519-20.
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GENERAL ROBERT ALLEN, USA - History
Funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities
supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text scanned (OCR) by Fiona Mills
Images scanned by Fiona Mills
Text encoded by Carlene Hempel and Natalia Smith
First edition, 1999
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Call number E185.97.L48 1918 (Rare Book Collection, UNC-CH)
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South .
Pagination added to the electronic edition.
Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as " and " respectively.
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Spell-check and verification made against printed text using Author/Editor (SoftQuad) and Microsoft Word spell check programs.
Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
- Lee, William Mack, b. 1835.
- Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Anecdotes.
- African Americans -- Virginia -- Biography.
- Clergy -- Virginia -- Biography.
Celine Noel and Sam McRae
revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
Natalia Smith, project manager,
finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
finished TEI/SGML encoding
finished scanning (OCR) and proofing.
REV. WM. MACK LEE
Still Residing in the South
HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF REV. WM. MACK LEE BODY SERVANT OF GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE THROUGH THE CIVIL WAR. . . COOK FROM 1861 to 1865 . . .
Copyrigthed year 1918, by Rev. Wm. Mack Lee STILL LIVING UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE SOUTHERN STATES
GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE AND OTHER GENERALS for whom Rev. William Mack Lee cooked four years during the Civil War, when he was servant to General Robert E. Lee--1861-1865
HISTORY OF THE LIFE of Rev. Wm. Mack Lee
I was born June 12, 1835, Westmoreland County, Va. 82 years ago. I was raised at Arlington Heights, in the house of General Robert E. Lee, my master. I was cook for Marse Robert, as I called him, during the civil war and his body servant. I was with him at the first battle of Bull Run, second battle of Bull Run, first battle of Manassas, second battle of Manassas and was there at the fire of the last gun for the salute of the surrender on Sunday, April 9, 9 o'clock, A. M., at Appomatox , 1865.
The following is a list of co-generals who fought with Marse Robert in the Confederate Army: Generals Stonewall Jackson, Early, Longstreet, Kirby, Smith, Gordon from Augusta , Ga. Beauregard from Charleston, S. C., Wade Hampton, from Columbia, S. C., Hood, from Alabama, Ewell Harrison from Atlanta, Ga., Bragg, cavalry general from Chattanooga, Tenn., Wm. Mahone of Virginia, Pickett, Forest, of Mississippi, Mosby, of Virginia, Willcox, of Tennessee, Lyons, of Mississippi, Charlimus, of Mississippi, Sydney Johnston, Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Marse Robert, and Curtis Lee, his son.
The writer of this little book, the body servant of Gen. Robert E. Lee, had the pleasure of feeding all these men at the headquarters in Petersburg, the battles of Decatur, Seven Pines, the Wilderness, on the plank road between Fredericksburg and Orange County Court House, Chancellorsville, The Old Yellow Tavern, in the Wilderness, Five Forks, Cold Harbor, Sharpsburg, Boonesville, Gettysburg, New Market, Mine Run, Cedar Mountain, Civilian, Louisa Court House, Winchester and Shenandoah Valley.
At the close of the struggle, General Lee said to General Grant: "Grant, you didn't whip me, you just overpowered me, I surrender this day 8,000 men I do not surrender them to you, I surrender on conditions it shall not go down in history I surrendered the Northen Confederate Army of Virginia to you. It shall go down in history I surrendered on conditins you have ten men to my one my Page 4
men, too, are barefooted and hungry. If Joseph E. Johnston could have gotten to me three days ago I would have cut my way through and gone back into the mountains of North Carolina and would have given you a happy time." What these conditions were I do not know, but I know these were Marse Robert's words on the morning of the surrender: "I surrender to you on conditions."
At the close of the war I did not know A from B, although I had been preaching two years before the war. I was married six years before the war. My wife died in 1910. I am the father of eight daughters and I have twenty-one grand children and eight great-grand children. My youngest child is 42 years old.
I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.
The following from the Bedford Bulletin, a paper published in the town of Bedford, Va., which town I am now visiting, situated in the mountains in full view of the famous Peaks of Otter while soliciting means here to finish my church near Norfolk, I caught inspiration to give the readers of this little book, my friends, and friends and admirers of Marse Robert, a brief history of his body servant and cook, the Rev. William Mack Lee, and will, I hope, cause you to purchase one at the price named on back of same, as I will never be able to write another I am too old.
Lee's Body Servant Here.
"Rev. William Mack Lee, one of the best known colored men in the South, is in town this week making an effort to raise funds to complete the payment on his church near Norfolk. He is a Baptist minister and built the church at a cost of $5,500, of which all has been paid except about $500, and he wants to raise this before he returns home.
"He was born on the plantation of Gen. Robert E. Lee, in Westmoreland County, 81 years ago, and at the outbreak of the civil war went to the front as the body servant of his distinguished master. He cooked and waited on the Southern chieftian during the entire four years of the war, being with him at the surrender at Appomatox. The fact that the war had set him free was of small moment to him, and he stayed with his old master until his death. He is a negro of the old type, distinguished looking, polite in manner, and, despite his age, is straight, firm of step and Page 5
bids fair to serve his congregation for many more years. The first day he was in town, he went to the old Burwell homestead, now the home of Mr. John Ballard, because he and his master had stopped there while on a visit to Bedford, soon after the war, and was greatly disappointed to find that the last member of the Burwell family was dead.
"He will be in town all of this week, and if you want to help him pay for his church you will find him on the streets or some one will tell you where he can be found. "
I have been preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ the best I knew, with my limited preparation, for 57 years. My master, at his death, left me $360 to educate myself with. I went to school. I studied hard at the letter, but my greatest learning came from Jesus Christ. God sent me out to preach, and when God sends a man out, he is qualified both with the Holy Ghost and the Spirit. He makes his words sharp as a two-edged sword, and his feet as a burning pillar of brass.
I was ordained in Washington, D.C., July 12, 1881, as a Missionary Baptist preacher. The beginning of my work as an ordained minister was with the Third Baptist Church, Northwest, Washington, D.C., which I built with 20 members, at a cost of $3,000. This church increased from 20 to 500 members during my pastorate. I also built another church in the same city, a frame building, 20 x 36 feet long, at a cost of $2,000. I took this church with 8 members and left it with 200 at the close of two years.
My next pastorate was at Cantorsville, about eight miles northeast of Baltimore, Md., in Baltimore county. There were 12 members of this church, when I took charge. I erected for a house of worship a frame building 22 x 38 at a cost of $3,500. At the end of four years the membership had increased from 12 members to 365. I resigned this charge and took a church in Norfolk county, Virginia, six miles from the city of Norfolk. In this little town called Churchland, I erected a brick building, stone front, for a house of worship, at a cost of $5,500, in the year 1912, all of which has been paid, with the exception of about $500. When I began the building of this last house for God, I sought aid from abroad. I went into three states and by the help of the Lord, and good friends of Virginia, North and South Carolina, I have succeeded in raising over $5,000 for this last project. I preached in 36 counties in South Carolina in 1915, 28 counties in North Carolina, and 23 counties in Virginia. The following is a lst of cities and towns that responded to my call for help in relieving the ndebtedness Page 6
of my church:--Virginia: Norfolk, Portsmouth, Berkley, Brambleton, Newport News, Hampton, Cape Charles, Eastville, Pocomoke City, Charles City, Suffolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Crewe, Blackstone, Petersburg, Ivor, Waverley, Zuni, Appomattox, Bedford, Roanoke and Hollins. South Carolina: Columbia, Charleston, Summersville, Kingtree, Lake City, Bennettsville, Florence, Mullen, Hartsville, Darlington, Marion, Dillon, Latta, Sumpter, Spartansburg, Orangeville, and Branchville. North Carolina: Raleigh, Wilmington, Rocky Mount, Goldsboro, Greensville, Greensboro, Selma, Clinton, Tarboro, Little Washington, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Wilson, Windsor, Kinston, LaGrange Beaufort, Durham, Hamlet, Rockingham, Gibsonville, Lovington, Ahoskie, Tunis, Reidsville, Winchester.
Having stayed on Marse Robert's plantation 18 years after the war and with limited schooling, I am not ashamed to give my history to the world that it might cause some of the young negroes who have school advantages from childhood and early youth, to consider life more seriously and if men of my type had lived in their time, how far they would exceed them along lines of religious, educational and business activities. I contribute my success to my teaching from God. When John was writing on the Isle of Patmos, God appeared to him and said, "Write no more, John, seal up what thou hast written." John fell face foremost. God said, "Rise upon your feet, fear not, I am he who was persecuted, seal up what has been writen and write no more." The apostle Paul says the letter kills a man, but the word of God makes him alive in our Lord Jesus Christ. A man gets nothing for starting a journey, but gets pay for being faithful and, holding out to the end. If a man lives according to the ten commandmants , he will be blessed, because the chief word in the decalogue, obedience and obedience to God is service to man.
In addition to my pastoral duties I found time to look after the bodily wants of my fellowman as well as his spiritual needs. To this end I organized the State Benevolent Association of Virginia, for colored people, at Charlottesville in 1887. In 1888 I organized at Washington, D. C., the Supreme Grand Lodge United States Benevolent Association of the District of Columbia. The district associations of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania are under jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge, whose office and building is located at 428 R Street, N. W., Washington. I am elected Grand Chief for life at a salary of $50 per month and traveling expenses.
This association pays sick dues and death benefits and aids its members while out of employment by allowing a weekly sum of $2.00 for 4 weeks each, or until employment is secured, and gives each unfortunate a chance to pay back same to the Association in easy installments of 25 cents a month until the amount has been paid, so advanced by the Association's Treasurer. The brotherhood requires its members to help those find employment who are not employed.
I have some gavels made out of the poplar where Marse Robert bade farewell to his comrades and instructed them to go home and make themselves good citizens and may I urge those who read this book, especially my people, to take the advice of the humble writer, try to make yourselves good citizens by being industrious, save your money, educate yourselves, buy property, etc., let your religion be more practical and less sentimental. The best friends we have are the Southern people who know all about our raising, and if we colored people want to get along well with the white people, we must show our behavior to, respect and be obedient to them. These are my views to our race.
Your respectable, obedient servant,
REV. WM. MACK LEE.
General Robert E. Lee's cook and body servant of the Civil War.
Still limping from a yankee bullet, an old darkey, with a grizzled beard and an honest face, hobbled into the office of the World-News at a busy hour yesterday.
"Kin you white folks gimme a little money fur my church?" he asked, doffing his tattered as he bowed.
The aged negro cocked his head on one side. "What, I ain't gwine ter turn away Ole Marse Robert's nigger is yer? You didn't know dat I was Gen. Robert Lee's cook all through de wah, did yer?" Every reporter in the office considered that introduction sufficient, and listened for half an hour to William Mack Lee, who followed General Robert E. Lee as body guard and cook throughout the Civil War. When the negro lifted his bent and broken figure from a chair to take his leave every man in the office reached into his pocket, for a contribution.
"The onliest time that Marse Robert ever scolded me," said William Mack Lee, "in de whole fo' years dat I followed him through the wah, was, down in de Wilderness--Seven Pines-- near Richmond. I remembah dat day jes lak it was yestiday. Hit was July the third, 1863.
"Whilst we was in Petersburg, Marse Robert had done got him a little black hen from a man and we named the little black hen Nellie. She was a good hen, and laid mighty nar every day. We kep' her in de ambulants, whar she had her nest.
Prepared Feast From Small Supply.
"On dat day--July the third--we was all so hongry and I didn't have nuffin in ter cook, dat I was jes' plumb bumfuzzled. I didn't know what to do. Marse Robert, he had gone and invited a crowd of ginerals to eat wid him, an' I had ter git de vittles. Dar was Marse Stonewall Jackson, and Marse A. P. Hill, and Marse D. H. Hill, and Marse Wade Hampton, Gineral Longstreet, and Gineral Pickett and sum others.
"I had done made some flanel cakes, a little tea, and some lemonade, but I 'lowed as how dat would not be enuff fo' dem gemm'n. So I had to go out to de ambulants and cotch de little black hen, Nellie.
There was a tear in William Mack Lee's voice, but in his eye I fancied that I saw the happy light that always dances in the eyes of his race at the thought of a fowl for cooking.
"I jes' had to go out and cotch little Nellie. I picked her good, and stuffed her with breod stuffin, mixed wid butter. Nellie had been gwine wid us two years, and I hated fer to lose her. We had been gettin' all our eggs from Nellie.
"Well, sir, when I brung Nellie inter de commissary tent and set her fo' Marse Robert he turned to me right fo' all dem gimmin and he says: 'William, now you have killed Nellie. What are we going to do for eggs?"
' No, you didn't William I'm going to write Miss Mary about you. I'm going to tell her you have killed Nellie.'
"Marse Robert kep' on scoldin' me mout dat hen. He never scolded 'bout naything else. He tol' me I was a fool to kill de her whut lay de golden egg. Hit made Marse Robert awful sad ter think of anything bein' killed, whedder der 'twas one of his soljers, or his little black hen."
Lee Wept Over Jackson's Death.
"I have even seed him cry. I never seed him sadder dan dat gloomy mownin' when he tol' me 'bout how Gineral Stonewall Jackson had been shot by his own men.
"He muster hurd it befo' but he never tol' me til' nex' mawnin'.
"'How come yer ter say dat, Marse Robert?' I axed him. 'Yo ain't bin in no battle sence yestiddy, an' I doan see yo' arm bleedin'.
"'I'm bleeding at the heart, William,' he says, and I slipped out'n de tent, 'cause he looked lak he wanted to be by hisself.
"A little later I cum back an' he tol' me dat Gineral Jackson had bin shot by one of his own soljers. The Gineral had tol' 'em to shoot anybody goin' or comin' across de line. And den de Gineral hisself puts on a federal uniform and scouted across de lines. When he comes back, one of his own soljers raised his gun.
"'Dey said dat de sentry was hard o' hearin'. Anyway, he shot his Gineral an' kilt him.
Tells of His Own Wounds.
"On July de twelf, 1863, I was shot myself," continued the old darkey, heaving a deep sigh as he withdrew his thoughts from the death of General Stonewall Jackson.
"Yer see dat hole in my head? Dat whar a piece er de shell hit me. Anudder piece struck me nigh de hip.
"I had jes give Marse Robert his breakfas' an' went to git old Traveler fer him to ride ter battle. Traveler was Marse Robert's horse what followed him 'round same as a dog would, and would never step on de dead men, but allers walked betwixt and aroun' 'em.
"I went out an' curried and saddled Traveler. I hyeard dem jack battery guns begin to pop an' bust an' roah. I saddled Traveler and tuck him in front o' Marse Robert's tent.
"Jes' as Marse Robert cum out'n his tent a shell hit 35 yards away. It busted, and hit me, an' I fell over.
"I must o' yelled, 'cause Marse Robert said he ain't never hyeard no noise like de wan I hollered. He cum over and tried to cheer me up, an' I hollered lak one o' dem jackass guns.
"Marse Robert lafed so hard 'cause he said he ain't never seed a nigger holler so loud. An' den he called for de ambulants an' dey tuck me ter de hospital."
Loyal to Famous Master.
William Mack Lee has all the praise in the world for "Marse Robert." He tells many interesting incidents of the Southern hero's life in the tent and field.
The old negro is here now trying to raise $418 with which to complete a fund of $5,000, most of which he has already secured, for building a church. He has built four churches and is now working on his fifth.
Among the white churches contributing to his fund are nine Baptist, eight Methodist, and six Episcopalians, in Norfolk, four Baptst in Danville, and churches in Lynchburg, Bedford, Crew, Blackstone and Appomattox.
William Mack Lee was born in Westmoreland County, Va., at the old Stafford House, on the Potomac River, 1835. He is 84 years old. He was raised by General Lee as his personal servant.
"Tell de white folks heah to be good ter me an' my church," says William. "Tell 'em not ter turn away Robert's ole nigger."
How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be
One afternoon in May 1861, a young Union Army officer went rushing into the mansion that commanded the hills across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. "You must pack up all you value immediately and send it off in the morning," Lt. Orton Williams told Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee, who was away mobilizing Virginia's military forces as the country hurtled toward the bloodiest war in its history.
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Mary Lee dreaded the thought of abandoning Arlington, the 1,100-acre estate she had inherited from her father, George Washington Parke Custis, upon his death in 1857. Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington, had been adopted by George Washington when Custis' father died in 1781. Beginning in 1802, as the new nation's capital took form across the river, Custis started building Arlington, his showplace mansion. Probably modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, the columned house floated among the Virginia hills as if it had been there forever, peering down upon the half-finished capital at its feet. When Custis died, Arlington passed to Mary Lee, his only surviving child, who had grown up, married and raised seven children and buried her parents there. In correspondence, her husband referred to the place as "our dear home," the spot "where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world." If possible, his wife felt an even stronger attachment to the property.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops had fired on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, prompting a number of states from the Deep South to join in rebellion. President Abraham Lincoln, newly installed in the White House, called up 75,000 troops to defend the capital. As the spring unfolded, the forces drifted into Washington, set up camp in the unfinished Capitol building, patrolled the city's thoroughfares and scrutinized the Virginia hills for signs of trouble. Although officially uncommitted to the Confederacy, Virginia was expected to join the revolt. When that happened, Union troops would have to take control of Arlington, where the heights offered a perfect platform for artillery—key to the defense or subjugation of the capital. Once the war began, Arlington was easily won. But then it became the prize in a legal and bureaucratic battle that would continue long after the guns fell silent at Appomattox in 1865. The federal government was still wrestling the Lee family for control of the property in 1882, by which time it had been transformed into Arlington National Cemetery, the nation's most hallowed ground.
Orton Williams was not only Mary Lee's cousin and a suitor of her daughter Agnes but also private secretary to General in Chief Winfield Scott of the Union Army.
Working in Scott's office, he had no doubt heard about the Union Army's plans for seizing Arlington, which accounts for his sudden appearance there. That May night, Mrs. Lee supervised some frantic packing by a few of the family's 196 slaves, who boxed the family silver for transfer to Richmond, crated George Washington's and G.W.P. Custis' papers and secured General Lee's files. After organizing her escape, Mary Lee tried to get some sleep, only to be awakened just after dawn by Williams: the Army's advance upon Arlington had been delayed, he said, though it was inevitable. She lingered for several days, sitting for hours in her favorite roost, an arbor south of the mansion. "I never saw the country more beautiful, perfectly radiant," she wrote to her husband. "The yellow jasmine in full bloom and perfuming the air but a death like stillness prevails everywhere."
The general, stranded at a desk in Richmond, feared for his wife's safety. "I am very anxious about you," he had written her on April 26. "You have to move, & make arrangements to go to some point of safety. War is inevitable & there is no telling when it will burst around you."
By this time, he almost certainly knew that Arlington would be lost. A newly commissioned brigadier general in the Confederate Army, he had made no provision to hold it by force, choosing instead to concentrate his troops some 20 miles southwest, near a railroad junction at Manassas, Virginia. Meanwhile, Northern newspapers such as the New York Daily Tribune trained their big guns on him—labeling him a traitor for resigning his colonel's commission in the Union Army to go south "in the footsteps of Benedict Arnold!"
The rhetoric grew only more heated with the weather. Former Army comrades who had admired Lee turned against him. None was more outspoken than Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, a fellow West Point graduate who had served amicably under Lee in the engineer corps but now considered him an insurgent. "No man who ever took the oath to support the Constitution as an officer of our army or navy. should escape without loss of all his goods & civil rights & expatriation," Meigs wrote to his father. He urged that Lee as well as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who also had resigned from the federal Army to join the enemy, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis "should be put formally out of the way if possible by sentence of death [and] executed if caught."
When Johnston resigned, Meigs had taken his job as quartermaster general, which required him to equip, feed and transport a rapidly growing Union Army—a task for which Meigs proved supremely suited. Vain, energetic, vindictive and exceptionally capable, he would back up his belligerent talk in the months and years ahead. His own mother conceded that the youthful Meigs had been "high tempered, unyielding, tyrannical. and very persevering in pursuit of anything he wants." Fighting for control of Arlington, he would become one of Lee's most implacable foes.
By mid-May, even Mary Lee had to concede that she could not avoid the impending conflict. "I would have greatly preferred remaining at home & having my children around me," she wrote to one of her daughters, "but as it would greatly increase your Father's anxiety I shall go." She made an eerily accurate prediction: "I fear that this will be the scene of conflict & my beautiful home endeared by a thousand associations may become a field of carnage."
She took a final turn in the garden, entrusted the keys to Selina Gray, a slave, and followed her husband's path down the estate's long, winding driveway. Like many others on both sides, she believed that the war would pass quickly.
On May 23, 1861, the voters of Virginia approved an ordinance of secession by a ratio of more than six to one. Within hours, columns of Union forces streamed through Washington and made for the Potomac. At precisely 2 a.m. on May 24, some 14,000 troops began crossing the river into Virginia. They advanced in the moonlight on steamers, on foot and on horseback, in swarms so thick that James Parks, a Lee family slave watching from Arlington, thought they looked "like bees a-coming."
The undefended estate changed hands without a whimper. When the sun rose that morning, the place was teeming with men in blue. They established a tidy village of tents, stoked fires for breakfast and scuttled over the mansion's broad portico with telegrams from the War Office. The surrounding hills were soon lumpy with breastworks, and massive oaks were felled to clear a line of fire for artillery. "All that the best military skill could suggest to strengthen the position has been done," Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper reported, "and the whole line of defenses on Arlington Heights may be said to be completed and capable of being held against any attacking force."
The attack never materialized, but the war's impact was seen, felt and heard at Arlington in a thousand ways. Union forces denuded the estate's forest and absconded with souvenirs from the mansion. They built cabins and set up a cavalry remount station by the river. The Army also took charge of the newly freed slaves who flocked into Washington after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. When the government was unable to accommodate the former slaves in the capital, where thousands fell sick and died, one of Meigs' officers proposed that they be settled at Arlington, "on the lands recently abandoned by rebel leaders." A sprawling Freedmen's Village of 1,500 sprang to life on the estate, complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union's war effort. "One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves," a visiting journalist would report in the Washington Independent in January 1867.
As the war had heated up in June 1862, Congress passed a law that empowered commissioners to assess and collect taxes on real estate in "insurrectionary districts." The statute was meant not only to raise revenue for the war, but also to punish turncoats like Lee. If the taxes were not paid in person, commissioners were authorized to sell the land.
Authorities levied a tax of $92.07 on the Lees' estate that year. Mary Lee, stuck in Richmond because of the fighting and her deteriorating health, dispatched her cousin Philip R. Fendall to pay the bill. But when Fendall presented himself before the commissioners in Alexandria, they said they would accept money only from Mary Lee herself. Declaring the property in default, they put it up for sale.
The auction took place on January 11, 1864, a day so cold that blocks of ice stopped boat traffic on the Potomac. The sole bid came from the federal government, which offered $26,800, well under the estate's assessed value of $34,100. According to the certificate of sale, Arlington's new owner intended to reserve the property "for Government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes."
Appropriating the homestead was perfectly in keeping with the views of Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Gen. William T. Sherman and Montgomery Meigs, all of whom believed in waging total war to bring the rebellion to a speedy conclusion. "Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it," Sherman wrote.
The war, of course, dragged on far longer than anyone expected. By the spring of 1864, Washington's temporary hospitals were overflowing with sick and dying soldiers, who began to fill local cemeteries just as General Lee and the Union commander, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, began their blistering Forty Days' Campaign, exchanging blows from Virginia's Wilderness to Petersburg. The fighting produced some 82,000 casualties in just over a month. Meigs cast about for a new graveyard to accommodate the rising tide of bodies. His eye fell upon Arlington.
The first soldier laid to rest there was Pvt. William Christman, 21, of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was buried in a plot on Arlington's northeast corner on May 13, 1864. A farmer newly recruited into the Army, Christman never knew a day of combat. Like others who would join him at Arlington, he was felled by disease he died of peritonitis in Washington's Lincoln General Hospital on May 11. His body was committed to the earth with no flags flying, no bugles playing and no family or chaplain to see him off. A simple pine headboard, painted white with black lettering, identified his grave, like the markers for Pvt. William H. McKinney and other soldiers too poor to be embalmed and sent home for burial. The indigent dead soon filled the Lower Cemetery—a name that described both its physical and social status—across the lane from a graveyard for slaves and freedmen.
The next month, Meigs moved to make official what was already a matter of practice: "I recommend that. the land surrounding the Arlington Mansion, now understood to be the property of the United States, be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose," he wrote Stanton on June 15, 1864. Meigs proposed devoting 200 acres to the new graveyard. He also suggested that Christman and others recently interred in the Lower Cemetery should be unearthed and reburied closer to Lee's hilltop home. "The grounds about the Mansion are admirably adapted to such a use," he wrote.
Stanton endorsed the quartermaster's recommendation the same day.
Loyalist newspapers applauded the birth of Arlington National Cemetery, one of 13 new graveyards created specifically for those dying in the Civil War. "This and the [Freedmen's Village]. are righteous uses of the estate of the Rebel General Lee," read the Washington Morning Chronicle.
Touring the new national cemetery on the day that Stanton signed his order, Meigs was incensed to see where the graves were being dug. "It was my intention to have begun the interments nearer the mansion," he fumed, "but opposition on the part of officers stationed at Arlington, some of whom. did not like to have the dead buried near them, caused the interments to be begun" in the Lower Cemetery, where Christman and others were buried.
To enforce his orders—and to make Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees—Meigs evicted officers from the mansion, installed a military chaplain and a loyal lieutenant to oversee cemetery operations, and proceeded with new burials, encircling Mrs. Lee's garden with the tombstones of prominent Union officers. The first of these was Capt. Albert H. Packard of the 31st Maine Infantry. Shot in the head during the Battle of the Second Wilderness, Packard had miraculously survived his journey from the Virginia front to Washington's Columbian College Hospital, only to die there. On May 17, 1864, he was laid to rest where Mary Lee had enjoyed reading in warm weather, surrounded by the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine. By the end of 1864, some 40 officers' graves had joined his.
Meigs added others as soon as conditions allowed. He dispatched crews to scour battlefields for unknown soldiers near Washington. Then he excavated a huge pit at the end of Mrs. Lee's garden, filled it with the remains of 2,111 nameless soldiers and raised a sarcophagus in their honor. He understood that by seeding the garden with prominent Union officers and unknown patriots, he would make it politically difficult to disinter these heroes of the Republic at a later date.
The last autumn of the war produced thousands of new casualties, including Lt. John Rodgers Meigs, one of the quartermaster's four sons. Lieutenant Meigs, 22, was shot on October 3, 1864, while on a scouting mission for Gen. Philip Sheridan in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He was returned with solemn honors to Washington, where Lincoln, Stanton and other dignitaries joined his father for the funeral and burial in Georgetown. The loss of his "noble precious son" only deepened Meigs' antipathy toward Robert E. Lee.
"The rebels are all murderers of my son and the sons of hundreds of thousands," Meigs exploded when he learned of Lee's surrender to Grant on April 9, 1865. "Justice seems not satisfied [if] they escape judicial trial & execution. by the government which they have betrayed [&] attacked & whose people loyal & disloyal they have slaughtered." If Lee and other Confederates escaped punishment because of pardons or paroles, Meigs hoped that Congress would at least banish them from American soil.
Lee avoided the spectacle of a trial. Treason charges were filed against him but quietly dropped, almost certainly because his former adversary, Grant, interceded on Lee's behalf with President Andrew Johnson. Settling in Lexington, Virginia, Lee took over as president of Washington College, a struggling little school deep in the Shenandoah Valley, and encouraged old comrades to work for peace.
The Lees would spend the postwar years trying to retake possession of their estate.
Mary Lee felt a growing outrage. "I cannot write with composure on my own cherished Arlington," she wrote to a friend. The graves "are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency. If justice & law are not utterly extinct in the U.S., I will have it back."
Her husband, however, kept his ambitions for Arlington hidden from all but a few advisers and family members. "I have not taken any steps in the matter," he cautioned a Washington lawyer who offered to take on the Arlington case for free, "under the belief that at present I could accomplish no good." But he encouraged the lawyer to research the case quietly and to coordinate his efforts with Francis L. Smith, Lee's trusted legal adviser in Alexandria. To his elder brother Smith Lee, who had served as an officer in the Confederate navy, the general admitted that he wanted to "regain the possession of A." and particularly "to terminate the burial of the dead which can only be done by its restoration to the family."
To gauge whether this was possible, Smith Lee made a clandestine visit to the old estate in the autumn or winter of 1865. He concluded that the place could be made habitable again if a wall was built to screen the graves from the mansion. But Smith Lee made the mistake of sharing his views with the cemetery superintendent, who dutifully shared them with Meigs, along with the mystery visitor's identity.
While the Lees worked to reclaim Arlington, Meigs urged Edwin Stanton in early 1866 to make sure the government had sound title to the cemetery. The land had been consecrated by the remains buried there and could not be given back to the Lees, he insisted, striking a refrain he would repeat in the years ahead. Yet the Lees clung to the hope that Arlington might be returned to the family—if not to Mrs. Lee, then to one of their sons. The former general was quietly pursuing this objective when he met with his lawyers for the last time, in July 1870. "The prospect does not look promising," he reported to Mary. The question of Arlington's ownership was still unresolved when Lee died, at 63, in Lexington, on October 12, 1870.
His widow continued to obsess over the loss of her home. Within weeks, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to examine the federal claim to Arlington and estimate the costs of removing the bodies buried there.
Her proposal was bitterly protested on the Senate floor and defeated, 54 to 4. It was a disaster for Mary Lee, but the debate helped to elevate Arlington's status: no longer a potter's field created in the desperation of wartime, the cemetery was becoming something far grander, a place senators referred to as hallowed ground, a shrine for "the sacred dead," "the patriot dead," "the heroic dead" and "patriotic graves."
The plantation the Lees had known became less recognizable each year. Many original residents of Freedmen's Village stayed on after the war, raising children and grandchildren in the little houses the Army had built for them. Meigs stayed on, too, serving as quartermaster general for two decades, shaping the look of the cemetery. He raised a Greek-style Temple of Fame to George Washington and to distinguished Civil War generals by Mrs. Lee's garden, established a wisteria-draped amphitheater large enough to accommodate 5,000 people for ceremonies and even prescribed new plantings for the garden's borders (elephant ears and canna). He watched the officers' section of the cemetery sprout enormous tombstones typical of the Gilded Age. And he erected a massive red arch at the cemetery's entrance to honor Gen. George B. McClellan, one of the Civil War's most popular—and least effective—officers. As was his habit, Meigs included his name on the arch it was chiseled into the entrance column and lettered in gold. Today, it is one of the first things a visitor sees when approaching the cemetery from the east.
While Meigs built, Mary Lee managed a farewell visit to Arlington in June 1873. Accompanied by a friend, she rode in a carriage for three hours through a landscape utterly transformed, filled with old memories and new graves. "My visit produced one good effect," she wrote later that week. "The change is so entire that I have not the yearning to go back there & shall be more content to resign all my right in it." She died in Lexington five months later, at age 65.
With her death, her hopes for Arlington lived on in her eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, known as Custis. For him, regaining the estate was a matter of both filial obligation and self-interest: he had no inheritance beyond the Arlington property.
On April 6, 1874, within months of his mother's funeral, Custis went to Congress with a new petition. Avoiding her inflammatory suggestion that Arlington be cleared of graves, he asked instead for an admission that the property had been taken unlawfully and requested compensation for it. He argued that his mother's good-faith attempt to pay the "insurrectionary tax" of $92.07 on Arlington was the same as if she had paid it.
While the petition languished for months in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Meigs worried that it would "interfere with the United States' tenure of this National Cemetery—a result to be avoided by all just means." He need not have worried. A few weeks later, the petition died quietly in committee, attended by no debate and scant notice.
Custis Lee might have given up then and there if not for signs that the hard feelings between North and South were beginning to soften. Rutherford B. Hayes, a Union veteran elected on the promise of healing scars from the Civil War, was sworn in as president in March 1877.
Hayes hardly had time to unpack his bags before Custis Lee revived the campaign for Arlington—this time in court.
Asserting ownership of the property, Lee asked the Circuit Court of Alexandria, Virginia, to evict all trespassers occupying it as a result of the 1864 auction. As soon as U.S. Attorney General Charles Devens heard about the suit, he asked that the case be shifted to federal court, where he felt the government would get a fairer hearing. In July 1877, the matter landed in the lap of Judge Robert W. Hughes of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Hughes, a lawyer and newspaper editor, had been appointed to the bench by President Grant.
After months of legal maneuvering and arguments, Hughes ordered a jury trial. Custis Lee's team of lawyers was headed by Francis L. Smith, the Alexandrian who had strategized with Lee's father years before. Their argument turned upon the legality of the 1864 tax sale. After a six-day trial, a jury found for Lee on January 30, 1879: by requiring the "insurrectionary tax" to be paid in person, the government had deprived Custis Lee of his property without due process of law. "The impolicy of such a provision of law is as obvious to me as its unconstitutionality," Hughes wrote. "Its evil would be liable to fall not only upon disloyal but upon the most loyal citizens. A severe illness lasting only ninety or a hundred days would subject the owner of land to the irreclaimable loss of its possession."
The government appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court—which ruled for Lee again. On December 4, 1882, Associate Justice Samuel Freeman Miller, a Kentucky native appointed by President Lincoln, wrote for the 5 to 4 majority, holding that the 1864 tax sale had been unconstitutional and was therefore invalid.
The Lees had retaken Arlington.
This left few options for the federal government, which was now technically trespassing on private property. It could abandon an Army fort on the grounds, roust the residents of Freedmen's Village, disinter almost 20,000 graves and vacate the property. Or it could buy the estate from Custis Lee—if he was willing to sell it.
He was. Both sides agreed on a price of $150,000, the property's fair market value. Congress quickly appropriated the funds. Lee signed papers conveying the title on March 31, 1883, which placed federal ownership of Arlington beyond dispute. The man who formally accepted title to the property for the government was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln, secretary of war and son of the president so often bedeviled by Custis Lee's father. If the sons of such adversaries could bury past arguments, perhaps there was hope for national reunion.
The same year the Supreme Court ruled in Custis Lee's favor, Montgomery Meigs, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, was forced out of the quartermaster's job. He would remain active in Washington for another decade, designing and overseeing construction of the Pension Building, serving as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution and as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was a frequent visitor to Arlington, where he had buried his wife, Louisa, in 1879. The burials of other family members followed—among them his father, numerous in-laws and his son, John, reburied from Georgetown. Their graves, anchoring Row 1, Section 1 of the cemetery, far outnumbered those of any Lee relatives on the estate.
Meigs joined his family in January 1892, age 75, after a brief bout with the flu. He made the final journey from Washington in fine style, accompanied by an Army band, flying flags and an honor guard of 150 soldiers decked out in their best uniforms. His flag-draped caisson rattled across the river, up the long slope to Arlington and across the meadow of tombstones he had so assiduously cultivated. With muffled drums marking time and guidons snapping in the chill wind, the funeral procession passed Mary Lee's garden and came to a halt on Meigs Drive. The rifles barked their last salute, "Taps" sounded over the tawny hills and soldiers eased Montgomery C. Meigs into the ground at the heart of the cemetery he created.
Adapted from On Hallowed Ground, by Robert M. Poole. © 2009 Robert M. Poole. Published by Walker & Company. Reproduced with permission.