A day late, but…
While some may reflect on various aspects of the lives of Lee and Jackson, on their day, here in Virginia, I’d dare say that the heaviest focus is likely on their lives during four years of war, yet while hardly giving time to consider the complexities of family ties caused for the decisions at the beginning of the war.
For me, one of those complexities offers an opportunity to consider just how deep Southern Unionism went. That’s right; Lee and Jackson had something quite interesting in common, in that they had sisters who were devout Unionists.
I’ve touched briefly on Jackson’s sister, Laura Jackson Arnold, before… of course it’s interesting that her Unionism even impacted the relationship with her husband, Jonathan Arnold.
Anne Kinloch Lee Marshall, a sister of Robert E. Lee, was also a Unionist… and it was quite clear to the future Confederate general, as he prepared a letter to his sister informing of his decision to resign from the U.S. Army…
April 20, 1861
Mrs. Anne Marshall
My Dear Sister:
I am grieved at my inability to see you. I have been waiting for a more convenient season, which has brought to many before me deep and lasting regret.
Now we are in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole South is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for the state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native State.
With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relative, my children, my home. I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State (with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed) I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword.
I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right. To show you the feeling and struggle it has cost me I send you a copy of my letter of resignation. I have no time for more. May God guard and protect you and yours and shower upon you everlasting blessings, is the prayer of
Your devoted brother,
R. E. Lee
Despite her brother’s decision, she still recognized him for his military talents, once noting that she doubted the Federals “can whip Robert.”
In fact, Anne’s son, Louis Henry Marshall, found himself on the staff of one of those Union officers who tried to “whip” Lee… albeit General John Pope didn’t have what it really took to bring Lee down.
Louis was a graduate of West Point (1849), and spent his early years in “Indian Territory”. During his time there, he married Florence Murray Burke, at Ft. Washita, in 1854. Entering the Civil War as a captain, at some point, Louis secured a position as aide-de-camp for Pope… something that bothered Robert E. Lee, greatly. Lee noted, “I’m sorry to find him in such bad company”, and, “I could forgive [him] for fighting against us, but not his joining Pope.” Interestingly, Louis just missed getting “bagged” by his first cousin, Rooney Lee, during the Second Manassas campaign. Louis rose from captain to colonel, by the end of the war.
Sadly, there’s nothing much about any wartime exchanges, if any existed, between Anne and her brother, Robert, and, with her death in 1864, the siblings’ families grew further apart. After the war, when Anne’s widow husband, William, joined Louis in his move for California, it’s said that Lee sadly remarked that he heard nothing further from the Marshalls.
It was indeed a war of divided families, with divided sentiments, even going so deeply as to intimately touch the personal lives of two Confederate icons.