Today is my wedding anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 30 years. I cannot believe that we have been married for so long and that this anniversary will not be spent with my husband. We met when I was a very young girl and he was only a boy. When we were older and he started courting me I was nervous about his job and relationship with God. After a long engagement and several postponements we were married on a rainy June day. While it was raining outside inside we celebrated with our family and friends for several days. While I loved my husband I found the change in my lifestyle difficult to accept. I had never lived so far away from my family and life was difficult. After the birth of my first child I decided to move home. After that my husband and I made our life at Arlington.
At that house and with my parents we raised seven children together and made a happy life. We had our disagreements and issues. He had not yet embraced Christ yet and I am not as prompt as he would like me to be but we have had a good life together. And now on this anniversary we remember our wedding during a war that our sons are fighting in and with the threat of death all around us.
I feel the pain of our separation more acutely today and the loss of our home adds to that pain. To not have the comfort of home while I worry about the life of my husband and children pains me greatly. But I have the memories and I shall hold those close to me. I pray for my family and thank God for the blessings he has given me. My husband has been a blessing in my life; God has made a wonderful match in us.
My house has been taken over by the United States Military. They are not occupying the building as of yet but I fear any day they will invade my home. My cousin Markie Williams, who has stayed loyal to the United States, was able to visit Arlington and retrieve some of her possessions. She saw the family cat and the servants that we had to leave behind. I fear that the treasures that I was forced to leave at Arlington will be taken or destroyed by the Union forces. For years my family was the caretaker of Washington’s memory. We have many of his possessions and letters. I could not take everything with me when I was forced to leave my home and so many things had to be locked in the attic and in cupboards. Markie was not able to bring all of these things back to safety with her either. She was able to save Anne’s letters and my father’s painting, The Battle of Monmouth, which once hung in the U. S. Capitol. How far we have fallen.
I have come to realize that I will no longer be able to return home anytime soon. It does not appear that the war will end as soon as it was once thought. I cannot express the sorrow that I feel when I think of not returning home. My heart has been crushed into such small pieces I feel as if they could blow away. I feel as though the country has turned its back on me and my family. We have done nothing but uphold the memory of Washington and the values and beliefs of the country.
If it wasn’t to relieve the minds of my husband and sons, who are performing their duty, I would not have stirred from the house even if the whole Northern Army were to surround it. I wonder if it would have been better had I stayed at the house. Would these zealous patriots who are risking their lives to preserve the Union founded by Washington come and take the home of his great granddaughter away? Now, whatever I have thought, and even now think, of the commencement of this horrible conflict, our duty is plain—to resist unto death. In God is our only hope.
The press has been busy spreading falsehoods about my husband. In the daily newspaper’s they call him a traitor and an ingrate. How can this be? My husband gave the United States years of duty and service. Nothing broke his heart more than to have to resign his commission. One newspaperman wrote, “Lee once professed to greatly venerate the memory and example of the great Washington. He even married the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis who never tired of writing and eloquently portraying the virtues and eminent deeds of the Father of his Country if he could have lived until now, he would have good cause to be bowed down in grief and sorrow to behold his son-in-law following in the footsteps of Benedict Arnold.”
How can someone say this about my husband who wanted nothing more than for civil war to be averted? He did not make his decision lightly. It taxed him greatly as it has many of his friends. Our family has given everything it can for this country. It is not our fault that President Lincoln has assembled such an army that it could only be his intent to crush the South.
Can people not realize that the decision to fight against the army he served has cost my husband a great deal? Friends and family alike have turned their back on him and refuse to understand. The North has caused people to choose between the country and their state. How can people choose between a country they have never seen all of and a state in which they have lived all their lives? Would the press have my husband fight against his fellow Virginians? Is it not enough that he suffers as he fights against his friends and mentors?
This war has caused grief among the entire country. The blame should fall on those who could not compromise to save this glorious union not the men who have chosen to fight.
After having to flee my home I have gone to live with my Aunt Maria at Ravensworth. When I first arrived I believed that I would be able to return to Arlington within a few weeks. Sadly this has not been the case. I have been at Ravensworth for three weeks now and do not see my return to Arlington occurring anytime soon. The United States military has occupied my home. I was heartened to learn that they had not disturbed the house itself but had rather set up their headquarters on the lawns. This news was very good but I soon learned that the occupying soldiers were disrespecting my home and the servants there. I had an overseer come and find me to explain what the soldiers were doing at Arlington.
It was after this meeting that I finally understood that the country had turned on me and my family, accusing us of turning our back on everything we had fought for. I am left homeless, not even able to get or send to Alexandria where my funds are deposited to obtain means for my support… The whole country is filled with men, women & children flying in terror. I fear there is nothing but the special protection of Heaven which can save Arlington from ruin. Having my home taken from me and being unable to have my children safe and near me has been a bitter pill to swallow. Tho’ every hearth in the South is open to me however humble, still I feel desolate & houseless most especially as the time approaches to have all my children assembled at the happy season when they come home from vacation, but I will try to say from my heart, “God’s Will be done to me & mine” even should He slay us.
While at Ravensworth my husband began to fear for my safety and again urged me to leave. I have accepted several invitations from friends and relatives to visit but I worry about becoming a burden and I do wish to return to my home again. My eldest daughter Mary is my companion but it is a job that is new and difficult for her. I fear for my children during this time. I do not want my sons to die fighting a war that should not be fought and I fear for the spiritual life of all of my children. I pray for my family and for my country.