Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Lee, Pickett, and Mosby

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 3, 2019

In 1870, not long before Robert E. Lee’s death, John Singleton Mosby visited him while both happened to be in Richmond. Mosby recalled accompanying George Pickett when the latter wanted to call on Lee, but didn’t want to do so alone:


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?”​


I don’t know if Mosby actually said to Pickett, “it made you immortal,” but that sounds a lot like Mosby’s clear-eyed bluntness.

Also, true.

5 Responses

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  1. OhioGuy said, on March 3, 2019 at 10:44 am

    This does sound like Mosby, one of my two favorite Confederates. While I haven’t studied the issue of Pickett’s charge extensively, I’ve always been left with two impressions: Pickett wasn’t very bright, and Lee was ultimately culpable, since he ordered the charge. Lee’s animosity toward Pickett, I think, was an attempt to assuage his own sense of guilty for ordering one of the worst maneuvers of the entire war. He needed a scapegoat. I may be entirely wrong in this assessment, but that’s kind of how it appears to this Yankee not immersed in the Cult of Lee.

  2. Michael Vaughan said, on March 6, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Lee should have let Longstreet be his guiding light.

  3. Andy Hall said, on March 28, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    Reblogged this on Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog and commented:

    Over the left couple of days, this post has received an unusual number of hits. I suspect this is due to Fort Pickett being in the news as it’s renamed as Fort Barfoot.

    In any event, this seems like a good excuse to revisit this post from 2019.

  4. ExileDawg said, on March 29, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    Have you ever examined why Lee’s descendants refuse to allow public access to his papers?

    • Andy Hall said, on March 29, 2023 at 10:28 pm

      I have not looked into that myself. The late Elizabeth Brown Pryor was able to get more access that others when researching “Reading the Man,” and discusses some of the challenges there. Given the controversy in some circles that book sparked, it seems likely that those families holding papers still under seal may be less inclined now to share them, which is a shame.

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