Death of Lee Shocked the City As No Other
News of the death of Robert E. Lee, beloved
chieftain of the Southern army, whose strategy mainly was responsible for the
surprising fight staged by the Confederacy, brought a two-day halt to Richmond's
The general died in the peace of his home at
Lexington at 9:30 A. M., October 12, 1870. His end marked the close of his
efforts, as president of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University,
to educate the youth of the country, a task he selected above all others after
the surrender at Appomattox.
Died Paroled Prisoner
Five years had passed since he last gave
orders to his army, but Lee never was pardoned by the Federal Government. He
died a paroled soldier of a quondam enemy force.
During his last few years, the white-haired
old man manifested no bitter feeling for the North. In fact, he tried whenever
opportunity afforded to restore peace and harmony, urging people of the South to
forget their Lost Cause and to work diligently to restore the country which the
enemy had torn down.
Lee never took the oath of allegiance. He once
told General Meade he had no personal reasons for not doing so, but that he did
not intend to end his standing as a paroled prisoner of war until he knew what
policy the Federal Government would pursue toward the South.
Then came President Jackson's proclamation,
offering amnesty and pardon to all except a few who were required to make
special application. Lee was among this latter group. Accordingly, he wrote both
General Grant and the President, but his pardon did not come.
Crepe on Every Door
Richmond was affected deeply by the death of
the man who had kept the Yankees away from her door for so long a time. Public
buildings were draped and almost every home in the city had crepe upon its door.
The United States Flag was placed at half mast here.
Although the burial was held at Lexington on
October 15, Richmond observed the day as if interment were to follow here. Bells
were tolled from morning until night.
The City Council held a special session and
asked that Lee's body be brought to Hollywood, where already lay several other
heroes of the Confederacy, but the remains were kept at Lexington and later were
placed in a crypt at the Lee Memorial Chapel on the campus of Washington and
Lee, where they lie beneath the recumbent statue of the great soldier prepared
by Edward V. Valentine, Richmond sculptor.
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