War between the
Robert E. Lee
Seventy five years after the birth of George
Washington, Robert Edward, the fourth son of General Henry Lee and Anne Hill Carter was
born at Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia on the January 19, 1807. If he
inherited much from a long and illustrious line of paternal ancestors, he no less fell
heir to the strong characteristics of his mother's family, one of the oldest and best in
Virginia. The unselfishness, generosity, purity and faithfulness of the Virginia
Carters are widely known and they have always been "true to all occasions".
In his mother was personified all the gentle and sweet traits of a noble woman.
Her whole life was admirable and her love for her children beyond all other
thoughts. To her watchful care they were early confided by the long absence and
death of her distinguished husband.
Robert was four years old when his father
removed the family to Alexandria, six when they visited the West Indies for his health and
eleven when he died. If he was early trained in the way he should go, his mother
trained him. If he was "always good" as his father wrote, she labored to
keep him so. If his principles were sound and his life a success, to her, more than
to any other should the praise be given. This lovely woman, was the daughter of
Charles Carter of Shirley Plantation, who resided in his grand old mansion on the banks of
the James River, some twenty miles below Richmond, then as now, the seat of an open,
profuse, and refined hospitality and is still in the possession of the Carters.
Mrs. Henry Lee's mother was Anne Moore and her
grandmother a daughter of Alexander Spottswood, the soldier who fought with Marlborough at
Blenheim and was afterward sent to Virginia as Governor in 1710 and whose descent can be
traced in a direct line from King Robert the Bruce of Scotland.
Robert Edward Lee could look back on ling
lines of paternal and maternal ancestors, but it is doubtful whether he ever exercised the
privilege, in a letter to his wife, written in front of Petersburg, February 1865, he
says: "I have received your note. I am obliged to the party that took the time
and the trouble to find the Lee genealogy. I have no desire to have it
published and do not think it would afford sufficient interest beyond the immediate family
to compensate for the expense. I think the money had better be applied to relieving
He felt a natural pride in their achievements,
but no one knew better than he that in a republic and a great war, a man's ancestry could
not help him and that place and promotion depended upon individual merit. His
lineage has been traced because the descent of a celebrate man excites attention, just as
it is interesting to discover the source of a noble river whose blessings to commerce
could not be measured.
In consequence of the absence of the elder
brothers, the ill health of one sister and the youth of another, to Robert's care in a
measure, his mother was committed. After his father's departure to the tropics she
watched over his daily life with tender solicitude and he was, as his mother said, both a
daughter and a son to her. With filial devotion to her comfort, his hours out of
school were given. He waited on her, nursed her when she was sick, drove with her,
obeyed her every wish, and this reciprocal love was a goodly picture in old Alexandria to
those who saw mother and son in those days.
As Robert grew in years, he grew in grace.
He was like the young tree whose roots, firmly imbedded in the earth, hold it
straight from the hour it was first planted till it develops into majestic proportions.
With the fostering care of such a mother, the son must go straight, for she had
planted him in the soil of truth, morality and religion, so that his boyhood was marked by
everything that produces nobility of character in manhood. The handsome boy was
studious and sedate, popular with others, stood high in the estimation of his teacher and
his early inspiration was good, for his first thoughts were directed upon lofty
subjects by an excellent mother.
His birthplace and that of George Washington
were not only in the same county but only a short distance apart. The landscape of
that section of Virginia was the first that greeted the eyes of each. The Potomac
River in all its gradeur and beauty, flowed past Stratford as well as Pope's Creek.
Alexandria afterward became his town as it had been the town of Washington..
The married life of the two men was respectively passed at Mount Vernon and
Arlington, the same river rolling at their feet, while the old town stood dignified and
historic between the mansion proudly connecting the name and fame of their occupants.
The zeal and bloodline of this Scot proved him
a great statesman, Army General and leader of new Confederate States of America.
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