March of 1870 General Robert E. Lee began his two-month journey to visit
two family graves – daughter Annie and that of his father, “Light Horse
Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame. He wrote his son Fitzhugh that
“I wish to witness Annie’s quiet sleep . . . and to feel that her pure
spirit is waiting in bliss in the land of the blessed.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
The Remarkable Robert E. Lee
train now puffed into North Carolina . . . With only a ninth of the
South’s population, North Carolina had furnished a fifth of all the
soldiers who fought, and a fourth of all that died in action.
Reconstruction Governor] Holden would be impeached for “high crimes and
misdemeanors,” found guilty and removed from office.
impeachment is demanded by a sense of public virtue and due regard to
the honor of the state. He is an exceedingly corrupt man and ought to
be placed before the people as a public example of a tyrant condemned
Republican] admitted: “One of the greatest evils affecting society in
North Carolina is the incompetent and worthless State and federal
officials now in power. They are for the most part pestiferous ulcers
feeding upon the body politic.”
Charlotte] the ovation was overwhelming. By now, word had been flashed
ahead by railroad telegraphers. The General, moving south on the
Charlotte, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad, would soon be in South
Carolina. On they rolled over the clicking track, into the deeply
wounded and largely unreconstructed Deep South. Lee watched the
landscape change, smelled the west spring flowers, saw the woodlands
rich in magnolia trees and red buds . . .
the physical situation was lovely, the human landscape was not. Sidney
Andrews, an early visitor, had found in South Carolina “enough woe and
want and ruin and ravage to satisfy the most insatiate heart.” [The
enemy] had done more damage in South Carolina, pillaging a path across
the State forty miles wide.
A New York Herald correspondent who followed the whole campaign wrote:
for wholesale burnings, pillage and devastation committed in South
Carolina, magnify all I have said of Georgia some fifty-fold, and then
throw in an occasional murder, ‘jis to bring an old hard-fisted cuss to
his senses,” and you have an idea of the whole thing.”
still permeated Statehouse, courthouse, courtroom and city hall. Dixie
had been subject to such immorality and private plundering that
government seemed transformed into an engine of destruction.
antics of the South Carolina [Reconstruction] legislature scandalized
the nation. Having installed two hundred six richly embossed cuspidors,
the carpetbaggers and Negroes stripped he cupboard clean. “They took
everything they desired,” noted the Senate clerk, Josephus Woodruff,
“from swaddling cloth and cradle to the coffin and the undertaker.” The
“Rule of the robbers” had begun and it would last long after General Lee
had come and gone.
of ability, as well as lack of morality, brought on the sorry mess. In
South Carolina’s 1868 Convention, seventy-six of the delegates were
newly-emancipated Negroes, of whom only seventeen were taxpayers. Their
governor, Ohio-born R.K. Scott, was induced to sign one of the more
notorious pieces of legislation while he was intoxicated.
some of these things, Lee must have been sick at heart as he pulled
into decimated Columbia. Rain was pouring down. Confederate veterans,
used to rainy musters, defied the weather and marched smartly to the
railroad station. Alexander Haskell, who had commanded the Seventh South
Carolina Cavalry, was there; so was General Porter Alexander who had
conducted the Gettysburg bombardment preceding Pickett’s Charge.
the usual acclaim and bravado, the train continued its journey westward
through Lexington and Aiken counties toward the Georgia border. Besides
all her man-inflicted woes, Georgia had suffered almost total crop
failures in 1865 and 1866. Natives had tried to survive on roots and
berries; the weak had starved to death. The stately rice plantations
had disappeared, along with the larger cotton plantations. The problem
was not how to plant new crops, but how to survive at all.
thing, at least, was left to those who crowded to the stations whenever
the train stopped; their respect for Robert E. Lee. What a burden it
must have been for him to have realized this! That he could see this,
understand it, and yet not be puffed up by pride, is one of the
remarkable and admirable features of Robert E. Lee.”
(Lee After the War, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1963, pp. 188-192)