J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Light Horse Harry Lee”

A Horse Soldier and His Mount

One of the people I truly admire from the Civil War is Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Although the political climate today reflects negatively on him, Lee was, in reality, an amazing patriot, husband, father and leader. His soldiers loved him, and after the war, the entire country did, too. He was given a position as president of Washington and Lee University (then Washington College), which he humbly accepted. Lee only lived five more years, and passed away in 1870. He is interred in the Chapel on campus.

Lee was a dedicated military man, having graduated from West Point at the top of his class. His father was the famous Light Horse Harry Lee, who was a hero in the Revolutionary War. His wife, Mary Custis Lee, was a descendant of George Washington. Lee came from a long line of Virginia’s elite.

When the war broke out, Lee was faced with a very difficult decision. He chose his beloved state of Virginia over the Union, and reluctantly gave up his position with the U.S. military. He released his in-law’s slaves at the start of the war. Always the gentleman, Lee told his soldiers not to take or destroy anything when they entered Northern Territory, and that they should be required to pay with Confederate currency, since that’s all the men had, even though their money wasn’t worth anything.

In honor of General Lee’s upcoming birthday, I’d like to post a few articles about him, his life, and his service. This first article is about his beloved horse, Traveller. Lee had many horses during the course of the war, but Traveller was his favorite. You can read more about Traveller and Lee’s other horses in my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray.

Horses in Gray Cover

There are few relationships more appreciated than that of a horse soldier and his mount. During the American Civil War, over a million horses perished in service to their respective causes. Few of them are remembered and revered today as much as Robert E. Lee’s horse,Traveller. Buried at Lee Chapel, at the same site as his commander, this dappled grey American Saddle bred was known for his speed, strength and courage in combat. Lee acquired him in 1862, and rode him throughout the war and beyond.

In a letter penned during the war, Lee describedhis horse to Mrs. Lee’s cousin, Markie Williams,who wished to paint a portrait of Traveller. Hewrote: “If I was an artist like you, I would drawa true picture of Traveller; representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest, short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth, and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold; and the dangers and suffering through which he has passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts through the long night-marches and days of the battle through which he has passed.”

traveller

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 43, issue no. 1, January 2019)

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In Honor of Two Famous Generals

This week marks the birthdays of two famous Confederate generals: Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee’s birthday was yesterday, January 19, and Jackson’s birthday is tomorrow, January 21.

RobertELee

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807. He was a son of the famous Revolutionary War hero, “Light Horse Harry” Lee. Robert E. Lee’s upbringing was atypical of Virginia gentry. Although his first home was at Stratford Hall (a beautiful plantation in Virginia that is now a tourist attraction), Lee’s family moved to Alexandria when he was four because his father was thrown into debtor’s prison. Robert E. Lee was accepted into West Point Military Academy in 1825, where he excelled and graduated at the top of his class with no demerits. He served as a military engineer, and married Mary Custis, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, at Arlington House.

After fighting in the Mexican War, Lee continued with the United States military until Virginia seceded in April, 1861. He then decided to stay true to his state, so he resigned his commission. He served under Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who eventually gave Lee total control of the Confederate Army. During the first two years of the war, Lee and Jackson fought side-by-side in several battles.

Following his surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Lee served as the President of Washington and Lee University in Lexington. His tenure was short-lived, however. He died on October 12, 1870, and is buried on campus. Lee was a true patriot, hero, and gentleman. He was deeply religious, and was greatly admired and respected by his men, as well as his students and the citizens of Lexington.

Stonewall_Jackson_-_National_Portrait_Gallery

Thomas J. Jackson, born on January 21, 1824, was also a deeply religious man. He was sometimes ridiculed for his peculiar, eccentric behavior. Jackson was extremely shy, but after a harsh upbringing, he learned to read, and managed to graduate from West Point in 1846. He fought in the Mexican War, where he met Robert E. Lee. In 1851, Jackson became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia, where his teaching methods received criticism. His first wife died in childbirth, but he remarried a few years later.

When the Civil War broke out, Jackson was assigned to Harpers Ferry, where he commanded the “Stonewall Brigade.” His strategic military genius helped win battles at First and Second Manassas, the Peninsula and Valley Campaigns, and the Battle of Fredericksburg. During the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863, Jackson was mistaken for the enemy by his own men and wounded. His arm was amputated, and it was thought he would recover. But after eight days, he succumbed to pneumonia. He died on May 10, 1863, and is buried in Lexington Cemetery (his left arm is buried at Ellwood Manor).

Lee and Jackson were two of the most prolific generals of the Civil War. Their religious conviction and military genius will always be admired and revered. Both men, along with Jefferson Davis, are featured in the carving on Stone Mountain, Georgia.

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