We welcomed Lee in 1870, remembered him for years

Posted by Bill Kirby on January 19, 2009 – 10:39 AM

Robert E. Lee had a reason to be fond of Augusta, and not just because he once found its Confederate powderworks useful.

Lee’s father, the Revolutionary War hero Lt. Col. “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, was instrumental in recapturing Augusta from British forces in 1781. His men constructed a tower from which they could fire into the enemy fort near the present site of St Paul’s Episcopal Church. With no place to hide, the Redcoats surrendered.

Lee, himself, visited our town after the Civil War — an event remembered for years.
He arrived March 30, 1870 at Augusta’s Union Station. No longer in good health — he would be dead in six months — his presence was celebrated with two days of visits, carriage rides and even serenades.

It ended, according to The Chronicle, as: “Mayor Allen and several other citizens accompanied him to the depot to bid him adieu The ladies loaded him with beautiful flowers, and one gave him a bottle of wine “

Lee thanked the assembly and received an ovation.
“His Augusta veterans mustered there and gave him a rousing salute — the Rebel yell.

Forty years later, a man who had been present at the departure recalled the incident with particular fondness.

Future President Woodrow Wilson said as a 13-year-old boy, he had squirmed to the front of the crowd, but had been afraid to shake hands with the famous old soldier.

© 2009 The Augusta Chronicle

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