Having rejected calls for a guerilla or partisan war, Lee returned home after the surrender. The Lee family owned several homes there were inherited from George Washington Custis, Lee's father-in-law. However, these homes were all destroyed or taken (unlawfully, the Supreme Court would later find) by the Federal government. Their main home, in Arlington, was used during the war as a cemetery. It became Arlington National Cemetery. You can still visit the Lee home to this day, and it overlooks Washington and the National grave sites.
So after he returned from Appomattox, Lee moved in with his sickly wife and unwed daughters to a small home in Richmond. He was repeatedly offered money in exchange for using his name (for life insurance companies and other business ventures), but he declined out of honor, saying it would not be right to get paid for doing no work. The family did not have much money, as most of their belongings were stolen during the war by Federal solders. In fact, Lee's only suits to wear were his old uniforms, but he had his daughters remove all the insignia to avoid being accused of trying to act as an active Confederate. Most post-war photos you see of Lee are in these grey suits.
Lee took several trips south for the benefit of his wife to visit warm springs that would help her arthritis. Interestingly, on one of these trips, while passing through Augusta, GA, the future president, Woodrow Wilson, met Lee. Lee eventually was offered the presidency of a small college in Western Virginia, Washington College. Lee, in fact, was related to George Washington through marriage - Mary, Lee's wife, was Martha Washington's great granddaughter. It was beginning to get students home from the war, and it needed a new president. Lee, having been superintendent at West Point earlier in his life, felt this was a good fit, and he moved his family to Lexington, VA.
The college provide Lee with a president's home, and he began to focus on rebuilding the school, raising money for much needed buildings and a chapel, and instilling discipline in the college. Lee served with honor and distinction while here. He took a few trips, including one to Washington, DC where he met with U.S. Grant in the White House. It was even suggested by a New York newspaper that Lee be nominated for President of the United States. Lee had filed for his citizenship after taking an oath of loyalty to the Union, but it was "misfiled" and never acted upon until discovered in 1970 and approved by Congress.
Lee suffered a blood clot to the brain in October 1870, and he died in his home on the campus of the college on Oct. 12. His last words were recorded as "Tell (A.P.) Hill - He MUST come up!" and later, "Strike the tent!" Lee was later honored by all Americans and seen as the ultimate gentleman, husband, public servant and soldier. The college was renamed Washington & Lee University, and Lee is buried there (along with Traveller, his horse) in the chapel which was renamed the Lee Chapel.
The authoritative book on the subject is Charles Flood's LEE: THE LAST YEARS.
· 1 decade ago