Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

I had received a letter from my father telling me to come to him assoon as I had gotten my discharge from my company, so I proceeded atonce to his headquarters, which were situated near Orange Court House,on a wooded hill just east of the village. I found there the horsewhich he gave me. She was a daughter of his mare, "Grace Darling,"and, though not so handsome as her mother, she inherited many of hergood qualities and carried me well until the end of the war and forthirteen years afterward. She was four years old, a solid bay, andnever failed me a single day during three years' hard work. The Generalwas on the point of moving his headquarters down to Fredericksburg,some of the army having already gone forward to that city. I thinkthe camp was struck the day after I arrived, and as the General's handswere not yet entirely well, he allowed me, as a great favour, to ridehis horse "Traveller." Amongst the soldiers this horse was as wellknown as was his master. He was a handsome iron-gray with blackpoints--mane and tail very dark--sixteen hands high, and five yearsold. He was born near the White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, andattracted the notice of my father when he was in that part of theState in 1861. He was never known to tire, and, though quiet andsensible in general and afraid of nothing, yet if not regularlyexercised, he fretted a good deal especially in a crowd of horses.But there can be no better description of this famous horse than theone given by his master. It was dictated to his daughter Agnes atLexington, Virginia, after the war, in response to some artist whohad asked for a description, and was corrected in his own handwriting:

"If I were an artist like you I would draw a true picture of Traveller--representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest andshort back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead,delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Sucha picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict hisworth and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat, cold,and the dangers and sufferings through which he passed. He coulddilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable responseto every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts, throughthe long night marches and days of battle through which he has passed.But I am no artist; I can only say he is a Confederate gray. Ipurchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the autumn of 1861, andhe has been my patient follower ever since--to Georgia, the Carolinas,and back to Virginia. He carried me through the Seven Days battlearound Richmond, the second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg,the last day at Chancellorsville, to Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, andback to the Rappahannock. From the commencement of the campaign in1864 at Orange, till its close around Petersburg, the saddle wasscarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wilderness,Spottsylvania, Cold Harbour, and across the James River. He was almostin daily requisition in the winter of 1864-65 on the long line ofdefenses from Chickahominy, north of Richmond, to Hatcher's Run, southof the Appomattox. In the campaign of 1865, he bore me from Petersburgto the final days at Appomattox Court House. You must know the comforthe is to me in my present retirement. He is well supplied withequipments. Two sets have been sent to him from England, one fromthe ladies of Baltimore, and one was made for him in Richmond; but Ithink his favourite is the American saddle from St. Louis. Of allhis companions in toil, 'Richmond,' 'Brown Roan,' 'Ajax,' and quiet'Lucy Long,' he is the only one that retained his vigour. The firsttwo expired under their onerous burden, and the last two failed. Youcan, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait."

The general had the strongest affection for Traveller, which he showedon all occasions, and his allowing me to ride him on this long marchwas a great compliment. Possibly he wanted to give me a good hammeringbefore he turned me over to the cavalry. During my soldier life, sofar, I had been on foot, having backed nothing more lively than atired artillery horse; so I mounted with some misgivings, though Iwas very proud of my steed. My misgivings were fully realised, forTraveller would not walk a step. He took a short, high trot--a buck-trot, as compared with a buck-jump--and kept it up to Fredericksburg,some thirty miles. Though young, strong, and tough, I was glad whenthe journey ended. This was my first introduction to the cavalryservice. I think I am safe in saying that I could have walked thedistance with much less discomfort and fatigue. My father having thusgiven me a horse and presented me with one of his swords, also suppliedmy purse so that I could get myself an outfit suitable to my newposition, and he sent me on to join my command, stationed not far awayon the Rappahannock, southward from Fredericksburg.


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