Mary Anna Custis Lee

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Mary Anna Custis Lee with her son, Robert E. Lee, Jr., in 1845. She is around 37 years old in this picture.

Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee (1 October 1808 – 5 November 1873) was the wife of Confederate Army military officer Robert E. Lee. She was also his third cousin. They married at her parents' home, and had seven children together.

Life[change | change source]

She born in Clarke County, Virginia on 1 October 1808; although her birth appears in the Custis family Bible and in records kept by her mother to have happened in 1807. She was born at the Annefield plantation when her mother's coach stopped there during a journey.[1] She was well educated, having learned both Latin and Greek.

She liked talking about politics with her father and later her husband. She kept current with all the new literature. After her father died, she edited and published his writings as Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington, by his Adopted Son George Washington Parke Custis, with a Memoir of this Author by his Daughter[2] in 1859.

She was a small but spirited woman. She knew her third cousin, Robert E. Lee, since childhood. She also dated Governor of Texas, Sam Houston.

Mary and Robert were married at her parents' home, Arlington House, on 30 June 1831. They had three sons and four daughters together: George Washington Custis "Custis", William H. Fitzhugh "Rooney", Robert Edward Jr., Mary, Eleanor Agnes (called Agnes), Anne, and Mildred Lee.

When the American Civil War began, her husband Robert and their sons were all called to service in Virginia. She didn't evacuate her home until 15 May 1861. Robert wrote to his wife saying:

War is inevitable, and there is no telling when it will burst around you . . . You have to move and make arrangements to go to some point of safety which you must select. The Mount Vernon plate and pictures ought to be secured. Keep quiet while you remain, and in your preparations . . . May God keep and preserve you and have mercy on all our people.[3]

After the war, the Lees lived in Powhatan County for a short time before moving to Lexington. Robert E. Lee would become the president of the Washington College. Mary Anna Custis Lee visited her old home, the Arlington House, one last time in 1873.She hardly recognized the estate except for a few old oaks and some of the trees that she and Robert had planted.[4][5]

She eventually got severe rheumatoid arthritis. Mary Anna Custis Lee died at 66 years old. She is buried next to her husband at the Lee family crypt at Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University.

References[change | change source]

  1. Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (July 1969). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Annefield" (PDF). Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission.
  2. Custis, G.W. Parke. Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington by G. W. Parke Custis, of Arlington. Compiled from Files of the National Intelligencer, etc. Washington: William H. Moore, 1859. ASIN B000ITPZ4Y.
  3. Lee, Captain Robert E. (son). Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee. New York, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1904. ISBN 978-1-4326-2231-2
  4. DeVito, Carlo (2015). Mrs. Lee's Rose Garden: The True Story of the Founding of Arlington National Cemetery. Simon & Schuster. pp. 91–94. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  5. "Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee:Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial". NPS.Gov. National Park Service. Retrieved May 23, 2016.

Other websites[change | change source]