More 'Battle For Arlington House' Information

Published 3:16 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013

Editor, The Herald:

In the interest of brevity, certain things were omitted from “The Battle For Arlington House” (The Farmville Herald of February 22, 2013), which readers are now asking about.

When Robert E. Lee was appointed Superintendent of West Point in 1852, Custis was already a student there. One can imagine his pride when he witnessed his son graduate first in the Class of 1854. This pride was tempered by the knowledge that a second son was almost never admitted, thus Rooney would have to go elsewhere.

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Rooney choose Harvard and, feeling grown-up, wanted his friends and family to stop calling him by his nickname. He wanted them to begin calling him Fitzhugh, which, lucky for us, they refused to do.

In his will, George Washington Parke Custis left Arlington to his grandson, George Washington Custis Lee, with lifetime rights to his daughter, Mary Anna. Thus, when Custis took up the fight for Arlington House in 1873, after his mother died, he was literally fighting for his inheritance. Nevertheless, since none of the Lee girls ever married, Custis shared a portion of the proceeds with his two surviving sisters, Mary Custis Lee and Mildred Childe Lee.

When Anne Carter Lee became sick in 1862, she was accompanied by her sister, Agnes, to Jones Springs, North Carolina, in the hope that the warm springs would help cure her. Instead, she died there of typhoid fever on October 20th, with only Agnes and her mother by her bed. She was buried there and it wasn't until 1870, just before he died, that General Lee visited her grave. In 1994 she became the last Lee to be removed to the Lee Chapel crypt at W&L, once again completing the family circle.

The obelisk guarding the now empty gravesite is still there, maintained by the State of North Carolina, but Jones Springs no longer exists. Since this is not an easy place to find, here is the inscription on the stone: ANNE C. LEE, DAUGHTER OF GENERAL R. E. LEE, AND MARY CUSTIS LEE / BORN AT ARLINGTON, JUNE 18TH, 1839 AND DIED AT THE WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WARREN COUNTY, N. C., OCTOBER 20TH, 1862. / PERFECT AND TRUE ARE ALL HIS WAYS / WHOM HEAVEN ADORES AND EARTH OBEYS. (In case you interested in visiting Annie's original gravesite, the GPS coordinates are N 36 16.935, W 78 14.196. It is on Annie Lee Road, just off NC 401, south of Vicksboro.)
Arlington was not the only Lee/Custis property occupied by the Yankees. Although an effort was made to safeguard these properties, all were eventually plundered and some, e.g., Rooney's home, White House, where Martha Custis married George Washington, were burned to the ground. Lee family heirlooms not stolen by soldiers wound up in the hands of the Federal government. After years of litigation, they were returned to the family in 1901.

Dr. Ray A. Gaskins