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.
Since my husband has left, he has been writing me urging me to leave Arlington. I do not wish to leave my home. This is the house my father built and the house where I have raised my children. It is my deepest hope that my grandchildren will come here. But now with civil war I do not want to think of what could happen. In April I recieved letters urging me to leave. I resisted leaving for sometime; the spring has been so beautiful and the flowers in the garden so lovely, but last week my cousin Orton Williams came rushing up to the house exclaiming that the Union troops were getting ready to take Arlington. I was in a rush then to get everything together for an immediate departure. Thankfully the Lord took pity and Orton returned saying that the army had been delayed. Several days later my cousin resigned his commission and joined the Confederacy. This war has torn my heart in two. I am angry at the North for forcing their beliefs on us and for pushing us until this war broke out. At the same time I love the united country that my family fought so hard for. I am disheartened to see another of my family forsake the unified country.
After Orton left I had to move quickly to make all of the family valuables as safe as possible. I have sent the silver and many of Washington’s papers as well as my family and my husband’s family papers to Robert who is still in Richmond. I have locked books and engravings in some closets while carpets and drapes have gone into the attic. Washington china has been stowed away in the basement. I pray that these beloved family treasures will be safe for as long as I am away from home. I have already sent my daughters Mary and Agnes to Aunt Maria at Ravensworth. I feel that there is still so much in the house that should be sent away or locked up for safety but there is no time.
I have written to my husband several times about the difficulty of leaving our home. The weather is so nice and the flowers have never looked as nice as they do this spring. I would greatly prefer to remain at home and have my children around me. But this is not to be. I have turned over the house keys to my trusted servant Selina Grey. I have gone to join my daughters at Ravensworth and I wonder when I will ever see my family home again.
I have been in a state of shock and sadness. My husband has resigned his commission in the United States Army and has now joined the Virginia Provisional Army. I have told him that I would support his decision no matter what he chose but I cannot help but feel as though he has made the wrong choice. How can he turn his back on his country? The country his father fought to create? I do not want to know what my father would have thought about this decision either. His pride in the country and in his step father, General George Washington, would have made it impossible for him to see what is happening now.
Now that my husband had sided against the United State he tells me that I will have to leave my home. He has already left to go to Richmond and continues to write to me about the importance of leaving. I do not want to even think about leaving my home, the place I was raised and where I raised my children. My parents are buried here and my life is here. Where would I go? I do not believe that I will have to leave my home and that while my husband is thinking of my safety, he is being overly cautious.
My children are reacting to the news of their father’s resignation and his commission in the Virginia forces. Our sons are conflicted and do not know if they should follow their father or their country. I do not know what my daughters make of these events. At times I do not think they fully understand what is going on around them.
I have four daughters. Each one is a credit to the family. Their father is a very proud Papa of them. Each day before breakfast when he is home he goes and collects roses in the garden and places a flower next to the place of each girl in the family. The largest bloom he places at my seat and then the second largest goes to the eldest daughter and the small bud goes to the youngest. In this sweet way he lets them know that he loves them. My husband is one of the best men that I know. He loves us so much and I know that the time he spends away from us is just as painful for him as it is for us. Fortunately there has been a lively correspondence between the entire family when we are separated.
With the current unrest escalating as a mother I fear for my daughters. They are all young and I do not want their life to be more complicated than life can be. I hope God will grant this mother’s prays for her daughters.
My eldest daughter Mary Custis Lee and was a strong willed girl, and is now a strong willed woman. She was my second child born in 1835 and is now 26; within the family circle we call her Daughter. Her birth was very difficult on me. Thank the Lord I was at home and my mother was able to help me. After Mary was born I had to take to bed for several months and still many years later I am not myself. Mary likes to travel and will be away from home for weeks on end. As the oldest of my four girls Mary has been lucky enought to have her own bed chamber although sometimes I wonder if her sisters would want to share a room with her. She does have a tendancy to do as she pleases. I do not know what will happen to her should there be war. She would not be happy having to stay in one place and I would fear for her saftey if she continued to travel. What would happen is she were to be caught on enemy ground? Though I love her very much sometimes I feel she can be a most trying child to me.
My second daughter, Anne Carter Lee (Annie as we call her), was born in 1839. She is now 22 and a lovely young lady. When she was born she had a red colored birthmark on her face, her father called her Little Raspberry because of it. Her birth was much easier than Mary’s – truly a blessing. Alas as small children are wont to do her little hands found a pair of scissors and pierced her right eye. She was blinded and forever has a scar. At so young an age my little girl was so burdened. It is difficult to write of Annie without also writing of my next child and third daughter, Eleanor Agnes Lee. Agnes (her family pet name) was born in 1841 only 20 months after Annie and the two became fast friends. She is now 20. It seemed, and still does, that the two are not often apart. To us, the family, they became known as the girls. They even share the same room. When Agnes arrived her Papa said that he could have dispensed with her for a year or two more. However, she was in such haste to greet him, he is now very glad to see her. And I have to admit I felt the same. With war looming I am nervous for both my girls. Annie is a bit frail and I do now know what will become of her. Agnes has a beau and he is with the United States military. What will she do if he ends up opposing the side her family is on? What if he is, God forbid, killed in battle? My heart breaks for my children to have to grow in a time made so difficult. How this country could some so far from the teachings and beliefs of George Washington is unbearable. I pray with all my heart everyday that the world will right itself and all will be calm.
My youngest daughter, Mildred Childe Lee, born in 1846 is now 15. In the family we call her Precious Life because she brings joy into any room she is in. She is a sweet girl and growing so fast. I must admit that my faults as a parent have done the most harm to Precious Life. Sometimes her behavior is most improper and her doting father does not help either. When she was younger I felt how much to blame I am for permitting her behavior and hoped God would be merciful to her & change her heart before Satan has taken possession of it. She has not yet devoted herself to God and I worry about her soul. She is a very active child and speaks out some. As she has grown I believe her good nature has come through and that her father and I have not let her stray from God’s path. I do not believe that Precious Life understands what is happening in the country right now. I write to her at school and she writes back concerning her wardrobe. With her reaching maturity as this conflict escalates I fear for what will become of her life. I would like to see her happy in life but should war happen I do not know if happiness is in God’s plan.
Now that their father has resigned from the United States military I fear for my daughters future even more. I can only hope that God will guide them and that they will feel His embrace forever.
I cannot believe what God has wrought in my life. Last night my husband came down the stairs and said to me the question is settled. Here is my letter of resignation. I do not know how he can do this but I told him whichever way you go will be in the path of duty. You will think it right, and I shall be satisfied. But how can I be satisfied when I feel my heart breaking over my husband leaving the country of his birth and family. A country that his family helped build. He has worked so hard his entire life being of service in the military. How can a man so patriotic now have to fight against his country? What will happen if he sees friends on the other side of his gun? And what will the family think! I know of very few in our family that want to see war break out and still fewer who will be glad to hear of his resignation. My poor husband does not think of what faces him he only thinks of what his conscience tells him.
Now that their father has resigned from his post I do not know what my sons will do. They have always admired their father and tried to emulate him in every way. Two of them have had careers in the military and my youngest wanted to go to West Point. Will they now too join with Virginia and leave the United States behind? I can not bear to see what God had helped create now be destroyed by men. How can this happen?
My husband has told me that should war break out that we will have to leave our home. I cannot bring myself to think of leaving Arlington. It would bring to end all that my family has worked for. What would we do with all of Washington’s things? How could I know they would be safe from thieves? I do not want to believe that I will have to leave my family home, the home I grew up in and the home that I have raised my children in. This home has been a place of peace and reverence for the country and George Washington. My father worked his entire life so that people would never forget the work that George Washington did to bring the country together. To have defeated the British and won independence only to be torn apart by our own hands seems an awful fate for the country. I pray that God will intervene and save the land that I love so dearly.
My daughter Agnes went into DC today to visit some friends and do some errands for me. She visited several places of interest. Agnes first left the house which overlooks DC. From the front of Arlington House you can see the beginnings of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building being built. It is a glorious view that we have here at Arlington House. My husband feels that should war break out our property will become much fought over by both the United States military and the Confederate forces. I pray that this will not happen and that my family home will be safe.
Agnes first went to the White House to see where President Lincoln lives. She saw both the front and the back of the White House. She was disappointed to not to see a glimpse of the President but told me she was very proud to see where the man who promoted her father lived. I do not know how I feel about President Lincoln. He has done so much to hasten the break between the states.
After visiting the White House Agnes went to see the the Corcoran Gallery building site. This building has been under construction since 1859. The exterior of the building is almost complet Agnes says. She was able to see the front of the building and front door. She said that the work was beautifully done.
My daughter then went to see the Washington Monument. The monument has not yet been finished but our family is so proud to see a national memorial to General Washington. My father was raised by George and Martha Washington and spent his life keeping the memory of Washington alive. I cannot remember a time when my father was not talking to someone about his step grandfather. It is disappointing to see that the monument has not been finished sooner. It was started in 1848 and it is now 13 years later. If our nation needs a symbol of unity and reminder of how hard our grandfathers fought for our country it is now and the monument should be finished as soon as possible. I must say that Agnes was very active and despite such hot weather was able to visit many buildings and friends. God has blessed me in the health of my youngest child.
After seeing the Washington Monument Agnes went to the patent office. The building was started in 1836 under the presidency of Andrew Jackson and is still not complete. The distressing events of the past year and a lack of funding for the project have led to a delay in finishing the building. Agnes said the building was lovely though and was lucky enough to go inside and see part of the building that had been finished. After going around town all day Agnes was very tired and came home. She regaled the family with amusing stories of her travels and we were all glad to know she had a good time.
The pictures that you see in this post were taken on Monday April 4, 2011. All of the sites shown here were built or in the process of being built when the Lee’s lived at Arlington House. There is no evidence that Agnes Lee visited any of these sites.