Description

    The Anderson Family Fair Copy of Lee's Farewell Address

    Robert E. Lee Period Fair Copy of General Order, No. 9 Signed "R E Lee Genl." One page, 10" x 8.25", "Head. Quarters. A. N. Va. [Appomattox Court House, Virginia]," April 10, 1865. Following Grant's breakthrough of the Confederate lines after the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, Lee evacuated Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, leading his army west toward Appomattox where a supply train awaited him. His plan was to turn south and join forces with Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of Tennessee in North Carolina. Unfortunately, George Armstrong Custer's cavalry destroyed the three supply trains awaiting Lee at Appomattox on April 8. Lee arrived that night and immediately resolved to push on to Lynchburg the following morning, where another supply train could replenish his army. By the morning of the 9th, however, he found himself surrounded by Federal troops. He made one last desperate attempt, sending John B. Gordon to break through the Union cavalry guarding the western exit. When the attempt failed, Lee had no choice but to surrender. He negotiated a cease fire and, meeting Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the house of Wilmer McLean, surrendered himself and the Army of Northern Virginia.

    The following day, Lee's aide-de-camp, Col. Charles Marshall, at the insistence of the general, drafted General Order, No. 9, also known as Lee's Farewell Address. This copy has some very minor grammatical changes from most transcriptions and reads, in full: "After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them. But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of agreement officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection. With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell."

    Though we will never be sure who is responsible for the creation of this particular copy, the lower quality paper used in its production is consistent with that used by Confederate soldiers at the time. Interesting to note is the ink used to transcribe this order is the same ink that Lee used when he signed his name and leads one to believe that Lee was present at its creation. Also evident are three small thumbprints found near the lower left edge. It is not certain to whom they belong, but it is a distinct possibility that these prints belong to the great general. Light waterstaining along the lower right edge and lower left corner, causing slight smudging of "Genl" following Lee's signature. Two small ink spots at left edge. Folds are weakened with slight separation at places along the vertical fold, most notably at the upper edge and the intersections with the horizontal folds, resulting in very minor loss of paper, but not affecting the text. Very small holes dotted throughout the page (and mostly seen only when held to a light source), also not affecting the text, which, along with Lee's signature, is bold and bright.

    In a letter to Confederate General Bradley T. Johnson, dated September 27, 1887, Charles Marshall described the events surrounding his drafting of the Farewell Address: "General Lee's order to the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House was written the day after the meeting at McLean's house, at which the terms of the surrender were agreed upon. That night the general sat with several of us at a fire in front of his tent, and after some conversation about the army...in which his feelings toward his men were strongly expressed, he told me to prepare an order to the troops." Apparently it never occurred to Lee that, as he had surrendered himself and his army the previous day, he no longer had the authority to issue a military order. He continues: "The next day...many persons were coming and going, so that I was unable to write without interruption until about 10 o'clock, when General Lee, finding that the order had not been prepared, directed me to get into his ambulance...I sat in the ambulance until I had written the order, the first draft of which (in pencil) contained an entire paragraph that was omitted by General Lee's direction. He made one or two verbal changes, and I then made a copy of the order as corrected, and gave it to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general's office to write in ink. I took the copy...to the general, who signed it, and other copies were then made for transmission to the corps commanders and the staff of the army. All these copies were signed by the general, and a good many persons sent other copies which they had made or procured, and obtained his signature. In this way many copies of the order had the general's name signed as if they were originals, some of which I have seen." (Johnson, Robert Underwood, et al. [editors]. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 4. 1888.)

    This particular copy has been in the hands of the prominent Southern family of Joseph Reid Anderson (1813-1892), owner of Tredegar Iron Company in Richmond and a close friend of Robert E. Lee, for a century and a half. In the early months of the war, Anderson, a supporter of the southern cause, organized the Tredegar Battalion, a home defense unit comprised of 350 of his own workers. By August 1861, he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. His time in the army was short lived and he resigned his commission less than a year later to return to Tredegar. He soon became the largest supplier of iron goods to the Confederate government, producing, among other things, the armor plating and machinery for the CSS Virginia (Merrimack).

    His son, Archer Anderson (1838-1918), followed in the footsteps of his father and also served in the Confederate Army, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel and taking part in several prominent engagements. After the war, he was appointed secretary and treasurer of Tredegar Iron Company and was elected president of the company upon the death of his father. He had the honor of being the principal speaker at the dedication of Lee's statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, in 1890.

    Several other members of the Anderson family have also been prominent in the preservation of Southern history. Sally Archer Anderson, another daughter of Archer Anderson, was the second president of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society from 1912-1952 and was instrumental in preserving the White House of the Confederacy as well as other Confederate memorabilia. Frances Leigh Williams, a daughter of Mary Mason Williams, was a published author of several historical works and served as the family historian, working with many southern institutions by sharing letters and other ephemera in the family's collection.

    Whether Joseph Anderson received it initially and later gave it to Archer or it was given straight to Archer is unknown, but we do know that it was passed to Mary Mason Anderson, Archer Anderson's daughter. Mary Anderson then gave it to her daughter, Mary Mason Williams, who in turn gave it to her son, the current owner.


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    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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