PICTURE PICKETT AS ENEMY OF LEE
[Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va., March 21, 1911]
In an article in the April number of Munsey's Magazine, Colonel John S. Mosby tells of a remarkable incident between General Robert E. Lee and General George E. Pickett occurring some years after the close of the War Between the States. It makes reference to an arrest of General Pickett on General Lee's order, and shows bad feeling between the two Confederate leaders. The article is entitled "Personal Recollections of General Lee," and is in part as follows:
I met General Lee a few times after the war, but the days of strife were never mentioned. I remember the last words he spoke to me about two months before his death at a reception that was given to him in Alexandria. When I bade him good-by, he said: "Colonel, I hope we shall have no more wars."
In March 1870, I was walking across the bridge that connected the Ballard and Exchange Hotels in Richmond and, to my surprise, I met General Lee and his daughter. The general was pale and haggard, and did not look like the Apollo I had known in the army. After a while I went to his room; our conversation was on current topics. I felt oppressed by the great memories that his presence revived and while both of us were thinking about the war, neither of us referred to it.
After leaving his room I met General Pickett, and told him that I had just been with Lee. He remarked that if I would go with him he would call and pay his respects to the general, but he did not want to be alone with him. So I went back with Pickett: the interview was cold and formal, and evidently embarrassing to both commanders. It was their only meeting after the war.
In a few minutes, I rose and left the room, together with General Pickett. He then spoke to me very bitterly of General Lee, calling him "that old man."
"He had my division massacred at Gettysburg," Pickett said.
"Well, it made you immortal," I replied.
I rather suspect that Pickett gave a wrong reason for his unfriendly feelings. In May 1892 at the University of Virginia, I took breakfast with Professor Venable, who had been on Lee's staff. He told me that some days before the surrender at Appomattox General Lee ordered General Pickett under arrest, I suppose for the Five Forks affair. I think the professor said he carried the order. I remember very well his adding that on the retreat Pickett passed them, and that General Lee said, with deep feeling: "Is that man still with this army?"
Miss Stiles of This City, Was Present at Meeting Between Lee and Pickett
Publication in The Times-Dispatch of last Tuesday of a portion of an article on General Robert E. Lee has brought to light a most remarkable coincidence. The article mentioned recalled a meeting between General Lee and General George E. Pickett in Richmond in March 1870 and stated that the meeting was stiff and that the men were embarrassed. This was explained by Colonel Mosby to the effect that there was ill feeling between them as the result of an alleged arrest of General Pickett by order of General Lee, after the battle of Five Forks.
The publication of this article in The Times-Dispatch has caused a great deal of comment. But it has now developed that a Richmond woman Miss K. C. Stiles was present at the very interview mentioned by Colonel Mosby. Miss Stiles gives a different account of the meeting from that of the other living participant, and adds a most interesting fact that on the very day General Lee had been advised by physicians that his days were numbered.
She has written her recollections of the affair for The Times-Dispatch, as follows:
Editor of The Times-Dispatch:
Sir - In your paper of March 21 you speak of an article in Munsey's Magazine by Colonel Mosby, in regard to Generals Lee and Pickett, and especially of a visit they paid to General Lee in the Ballard House in this city the latter part of March 1870. It so happens that General Lee and his daughter, Agnes, were always my friends, and that very morning, when I went to the hotel to see them, I found them in the parlor talking to General Pickett and Colonel Mosby. They all rose immediately, and General Lee introduced me to them in his own cordial, dignified manner.
I did not see the stiffness that Colonel Mosby spoke of. We chatted together a while, and then those gentlemen took leave. It would not have been wonderful if there had been stiffness of some kind, for not far from where we were sitting there were twenty or more tourists, listening to and gazing at General Lee, and he was proving himself even a greater hero than we knew, for his physicians had told him that day he might live five years, but that any sudden cold would take him off. Yet his manner was cheerful as usual and interested in the arrangements Agnes was making for the trip South.
Colonel Mosby should know by now that the military courts of the world some years ago announced that the greatest captain of the nineteenth century was General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. So that his place in history is assured.
K. C. Stiles
I have just read in today's Times-Dispatch a letter signed by a Miss Stiles in wh. she takes exception to my account of an interview between General Lee and Pickett on the 8th of March 1870.
I said and I repeat that the meeting was cold and formal. Both were under constraint. We were not in a parlor as Miss Stubbs says but in Gen. Lee's room. We were not five minutes in the room & I suppose we were about leaving when she to our relief walked in. I was very slightly acquainted with Pickett & know nothing of his differences with Gen. Lee. But General Hunton told me that Col. Chas. Marshall told him that Lee ought to have had Pickett shot. Nobody can point to a word I ever wrote disparaging to Gen. Lee. I did criticize his report of Gettysburg because (1) it is not true; (2) because it does as much injustice to himself as to Stuart; (3) in defense of Lee I said he must have signed without reading it.
Jno. S. Mosby
[Letter is in a private collection. A copy also exists in the files of the Virginia Historical Society.]
I neither propose or desire to intrude in matters which do not concern me, but when a respected friend, long dead, is placed in a false light, I claim the right to intervene in his behalf. I refer to the statement by Col. John S. Mosby, recently published in the Times-Dispatch, that General Pickett was placed under arrest by General Lee, (he supposes because of something which happened at Five Forks). I am a confident witness of the fact that nothing discreditable to General Pickett did happen at Five Forks and that he was not placed under arrest by General Lee for any cause, at any time, or place. I was at that time surgeon of Hunton's Brigade (formerly Pickett's) and which, then, was the leading Division of Anderson's, formerly Longstreet's Corps. My regiment was, therefore, the leading regiment of Anderson's Corps and I was one of the group of mounted officers at the head of the column on march. I was General Pickett's personal medical advisor, and continued to be such until the time of his death. We rode together a greater part of the way during the retreat of our army from Petersburg to Appomattox. We escaped together from the battlefield at Sailor's Creek and were constantly together until we reached Appomattox. I repeat it, therefore, with all confidence, that I am a competent witness to the fact that he was never under arrest, but remained in command of his Division until the last scene at Appomattox. Further, I saw General Pickett meet General Lee at Dinwiddie Courthouse without the slightest show of embarrassment on the part of either. We were expecting an attack by General Meade at any moment. Pickett was in command of his Division and the manner of General Lee was perfectly cordial.
That General Pickett commanded his Division in its last battle at Sailor's Creek is a fact that is known to the writer, who was near him throughout the day, and at nightfall, as previously stated, escaped from the field in company with him. I, therefore, positively affirm that it is a matter within my personal knowledge that no arrest of General Pickett, by General Lee, ever occurred, and that no interruption of personal relations between the two men ever took place.
While the writer was a member of the faculty at Blacksburg, General Pickett was often there and in that vicinity doing an insurance business. The writer was his medical advisor and saw much of him, and he often referred in our conversation to war incidents, and spoke of General Lee always in terms of the highest veneration and respect. I have never felt any personal unkindness to Col. Mosby, but certainly all right minded men must deplore the disposition to attack and disparage his former associates in arms in their lost righteous cause. No one has questioned his right to leave the Democratic Party, to declare himself a Republican, to seek and obtain Federal office; and now in helpless old age, when they have cast him off and no one has cast these things in his teeth, what can he hope to gain by disparaging such men as Pickett?
The youngest hero of our lost cause is an old man now. It is sad to see old men, companions in a lost cause, who stand tottering on the verge of eternity, casting slurs upon each other, and even upon the reputations of the dead, their former companions in arms.
What do they hope to gain by defaming the dead? What must our children think of such things? Would you teach them to despise the cause in which their fathers fought and fell, and the very graves in which their ashes repose? Comrades, in the name of God, in the name of the dead, who sleep, let us at last have peace among surviving heroes of our lost cause.
M. G. Elzey
"There seems no real factual support for the alleged animosity between Pickett and the Old Man, or for Lee's dismissal of Pickett. Apparently all we have to go on for the dismissal is that Walter Taylor wrote Fitz Lee that he had written such an order, and Mosby seems to be the chief witness for any actual exchange of coldness between Pickett and Lee after the war. Pickett, like any man with a strong personality (say, J.E.B. Stuart) made enemies as easily as he made friends but that the glory that accrued to him for Gettysburg aroused a jealousy in men who had never liked him (as Hunton, Haskell and Otey), and they felt compelled to denigrate him."
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