Robert E. Lee and His Father
“As not infrequently happens with unwanted children, Robert presently became his mother’s inseparable companion and the chief comfort of her life. It is no wonder, the child was so handsome and sweet-tempered. Some have held that Robert e. Lee was a Carter, not a Lee, and certainly in temperament, in character, in method, in sense of responsibility, in habit of mind and taste,—always excepting that supreme taste for military life,—the Confederate leader bore little resemblance to Light Horse Harry.
In mental tranquility and spaciousness of outlook the man seemed more adapted to Shirley beside the James than to Stratford on the Potomac. The fact is that Robert Lee’s association both with Stratford and his father was slight. Properly he was not a Stratford Lee; the house in which he was born was not that of his ancestors; only the circumstance that Henry Lee had married his second cousin, Matilda, and thus acquired a life tenure on the estate, made it Robert Lee’s birthplace.
Nor could Robert have had vivid memories of his father. From Robert’s second year to his fourth Henry Lee was in a debtors’ prison; the next year he underwent a terrible experience that left him a disfigured invalid, and in 1813, when Robert was six years old, the battered veteran, now fifty-seven, left Virginia never to return. Probably Robert E. Lee’s most lasting memory of his father was when the old man, with gray hair, bent shoulders, face scarred with recent injuries, almost blind, took the child in his arms, kissed him good-bye, and left his home in search of health. Virginia never knew the presence of Light horse Harry again, until, exactly one-hundred years afterward, in 1913, his body was brought back from the distant island in which he died and placed in the chapel of Lexington, Virginia, beside that of his famous son.”
(The Lees of Virginia, Burton J. Hendrick, Little, Brown and Company, 1935, page 392)