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From Middletown, New York, the author writes, "My head and heritage are both damnyankee , but my heart belongs to the Army of Northern Virginia" in spite of anything implied below. She L· currently working on a novel based on the life of Major John Pelham. A Surplus of Lees MARY ELIZABETH SERGENT It is a constant source of wonder why no enterprising publisher prepares an exhaustive chart to help the novice map his way through the most outstanding tangle of kinsmen waiting to trap the amateur Civil War historian. Consider, for example, the Lees. The Photographic History of the Civil War contains mention of seventeen Lees. Lee's Lieutenants, Book III, which might be called par for the course, lists eleven Lees as well as a Lee's Church, a Lee's Road, and naturally, Leesburg. Still another book of similar vintage lists thirteen Lees, and this book isn't even about Lee—it's about Stuart. Even a volume devoted to the life and letters of General George Armstrong Custer lists four Lees in its index , although most of its subject's encounters with Lees took place at the point of a saber. Since a great many of these Lees are related to each other, it is all exceedingly complicated. Others, of course, are not related at all, and that can be even more complicated. Early in my own study of the period, while mentally riding Virginia's byways with the troops of one Fitzhugh Lee, I was stunned to discover this footnote: "Do not confuse with Fitz Lee." This sent me to an army register in an effort to sort out at least some of the family. The register was not much help. It listed, as holding commissions in the United States Army between September, 1789, and March, 1903, sixty-two Lees! Six were veterans of the American Revolution. These presumably died before 1861. Another eighteen served their time during the second struggle with England, or in the War with Mexico. Most of these were safely on the shelf before the Civil War broke out. 69 70MART ELIZABETH SERGENT Nine more fought Indians on the plains after the War, or engaged the Spaniard along about the turn of the century. Among these is listed Fitzhugh Lee, Jr. Only a merciful Providence brought this lad into the world too late to be carried on the muster rolls of the Army of Northern Virginia. An army register is discouraging in another way. Printed by loyal sons of the Union, it is apt to break off in mid-career of some famous Confederate and announce bleakly, "Joined in the Rebellion against the United States." Unless he lived thirty more years and returned to the fold during the Spanish -American War, you will get no more about him from the army register. If he lived to don the blue coat of repentance it blandly ignores his intervening decades. Exception is made only when the offender died on the field while in a state of rebellion. In such cases the official register takes a certain grim pleasure in recording bare fact. Many of the Lees, of course, were "in rebellion," but not all. Fully twenty-two of them can be eliminated because they were citizens of states which remained in the Union. And these fought with the damnyankees to boot! Large numbers of them seem to have been from Connecticut, but one or two actually were natives of such places as Maine and Kansas. One, an obvious imposter, was bom in Ireland! You stood a better chance of getting into history as a Lee if you were a southern Lee. There was a Robert Lee in the Union Army—Robert M. Lee of Pennsylvania—but who ever heard of him? Lees properly southern and in rebellion are again divided into those from Virginia, and those whose forebears strayed into other states. Thus Charles Cochrane Lee, who was killed in a battle called Glendale, in June of 1862, is obviously destined for oblivion. He wore a gray uniform, but he came from North Carolina. Virginian Lees show a marked tendency toward similar Christian names. This complicates matters until you are as frustrated as a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 69-72
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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