Lee, George Washington Custis


Close of an ALS by Lee’s eldest son, aide to President Davis 1861-64, Brigadier & Major General, succeeded his father as 9th president of Washington & Lee University 1871-97


Type: Close of an ALS
Description: (1832-1913) USMA 1854, eldest son of R. E. & Mary Custis Lee, his grandfather was step-grandson and adopted son of George Washington and grandson of Martha Custis Washington. He was a CSA general, primarily an ADC to President Jefferson Davis and succeeded his father as president of Washington and Lee University.

At the beginning of his 3rd year at West Point, his father became Superintendent. His graduation class included J. E. B. Stuart, Wm. Dorsey Pender, and John Pegram. He was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, like his father, and served primarily in California, Georgia, and Florida. In 1859, 1st Lieut. Lee was stationed in Washington during the period of secession and Ft. Sumter. He resigned from the Army after Virginia seceded, 2 weeks after his father did, and offered his services to Virginia state forces. 

In July 1861 he was commissioned a captain of Confederate Engineers constructing Richmond fortifications. Lee accepted the position of aide to President Davis at the end of August, promoted to colonel, and so served for the next 3 years, often sent to assess the military and report to Davis. In 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign, he supervised engineers at Drewry’s Bluff.

In June 1863, he was promoted to brigadier general, discouraged from field command by Davis, but encouraged by his father. At Gettysburg, Custis Lee was given command of troops in Richmond. In 1864, he led Richmond’s local defenses against Grant and Butler and was given command of Richmond’s eastern defenses at Chaffin’s Bluff, and in 1864 was promoted to major general. He led troops in the field and was captured at Sayler’s Creek 3 days before his father surrendered on April 9, 1865.

In late 1865, he was hired as a professor at VMI until his father’s death, then became 9th president of Washington and Lee University 1871-97. In 1877, 7 years after his father’s death, Custis Lee sued to regain title to the family mansion, Arlington House and plantation, which had become Arlington Cemetery. His case, United States v. Lee, was decided in his favor in 1882. He regained the house and 1,100 acres surrounding it and, in 1883, sold the property to the US Government for $150,000.

3 x 5 ½ clipped close of an ALS: “I have the honor to be,/Very respectfully,/Yr friend & Svt/G. W. C. Lee”.

Condition: Fair, separation vertically at center carefully repaired, old tape stain affects some letters and “G” in signature.

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