Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee


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I saw but little of my father after we left West Point. He went toTexas, as I have stated, in '55 and remained until the fall of '57,the time of my grandfather's death. He was then at Arlington abouta year. Returning to his regiment, he remained in Texas until theautumn of '59, when he came again to Arlington, having applied forleave in order to finish the settling of my grandfather's estate.During this visit he was selected by the Secretary of War to suppressthe famous "John Brown Raid," and was sent to Harper's Ferry in commandof the United States troops.

From his memorandum book the following entries were taken:

"October 17, 1859. Received orders from the Secretary of War in person,to repair in evening train to Harper's Ferry.

"Reached Harper's Ferry at 11 P.M.... Posted marines in the UnitedStates Armory. Waited until daylight, as a number of citizens wereheld as hostages, whose lives were threatened. Tuesday about sunrise,with twelve marines, under Lieutenant Green, broke in the door of theengine-house, secured the insurgents, and relieved the prisonersunhurt. All the insurgents killed or mortally wounded, but four,John Brown, Stevens, Coppie, and Shields."

Brown was tried and convicted and sentenced to be hanged on December 2,1859. Colonel Lee writes as follows to his wife:

"Harper's Ferry, December 1, 1859.

"I arrived here, dearest Mary, yesterday about noon, with four companiesfrom Fort Monroe, and was busy all the evening and night gettingaccommodation for the men, etc., and posting sentinels and piquets toinsure timely notice of the approach of the enemy. The night haspassed off quietly. The feelings of the community seem to be calmeddown, and I have been received with every kindness. Mr. Fry is amongthe officers from Old Point. There are several young men, formeracquaintances of ours, as cadets, Mr. Bingham of Custis's class, SamCooper, etc., but the senior officers I never met before, exceptCaptain Howe, the friend of our Cousin Harriet R---.

"I presume we are fixed here till after the 16th. To-morrow willprobably be the last of Captain Brown. There will be less interestfor the others, but still I think the troops will not be withdrawntill they are similarly disposed of.

"Custis will have informed you that I had to go to Baltimore the eveningI left you, to make arrangements for the transportation of thetroops.... This morning I was introduced to Mrs. Brown, who, with aMrs. Tyndall and a Mr. And Mrs. McKim, all from Philadelphia, had comeon to have a last interview with her husband. As it is a matter overwhich I have no control I referred them to General Taliaferro [GeneralWilliam B. Taliaferro, commanding Virginia troops at Harper's Ferry].

"You must write to me at this place. I hope you are all well. Givelove to everybody. Tell Smith [Sydney Smith Lee, of the United StatesNavy, his brother] that no charming women have insisted on taking careof me as they are always doing of him--I am left to my own resources.I will write you again soon, and will always be truly and affectionatelyyours,
"Mrs. M. C. Lee. R. E. Lee"