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Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education :: Forums :: General :: General Discussion
 
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Robert E. Lee part 2 (The Norris Letter)
Moderators: gpthelastrebel, Patrick
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gpthelastrebel
Wed Dec 29 2010, 03:03PM

Registered Member #1
Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 3698
*This thread will be a work in progress as I try to run down all of the accusations made by Mark Douglas. I will be using Elizabeth Pryor’s book as one of my sources. I will also note the date I edit this thread and the source from which I gather information. Below is the Wesley Norris letter in which Douglas "embellished" a bit to make his point.

Again all sources I post may or may not be the same sources as what Douglas used. I have invited Douglas to come to this forum and post his sources.

GP
*******************************************************************


http://butternutandblue.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/robert-e-lee-takes-communion/


"Lee paid six times the normal bounty to get one young girl back –14 or 15 years old. When bounty hunters brought her to him, he immediately taunted her, had her stripped to her waste, and tortured. The first overseer refused to torture the girl, Lee didn’t even miss a beat. He hired someone else to do the torture — and Lee stood by screaming at the girl while she was tortured.
Mark Douglas"
*******************************************************************

This is what I have found, The Wesley Norris letter. This account is supposed to be true according to Pryor and Douglas. "Reading The Man" Pryor page 261-----
"Except for one thing all facts are verfiable."



My name is Wesley Norris; I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis; after the death of Mr. Custis, Gen. Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy; it was the general impression among the slaves of Mr. Custis that on his death they should be forever free; in fact this statement had been made to them by Mr. C. years before; at his death we were informed by Gen. Lee that by the conditions of the will we must remain slaves for five years; I remained with Gen. Lee for about seventeen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859; we had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the North, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and Gen. Lee notified of our arrest; we remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington; we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget; he then ordered us to the barn, where, in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly [censored] Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to “lay it on well,” an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover Court-House jail, my sister being sent to Richmond to an agent to be hired; we remained in jail about a week, when we were sent to Nelson county, where we were hired out by Gen. Lee’s agent to work on the Orange and Alexander railroad; we remained thus employed for about seven months, and were then sent to Alabama, and put to work on what is known as the Northeastern railroad; in January, 1863, we were sent to Richmond, from which place I finally made my escape through the rebel lines to freedom; I have nothing further to say; what I have stated is true in every particular, and I can at any time bring at least a dozen witnesses, both white and black, to substantiate my statements: I am at present employed by the Government; and am at work in the National Cemetary on Arlington Heights, where I can be found by those who desire further particulars; my sister referred to is at present employed by the French Minister at Washington, and will confirm my statement.
"Reading The Man , Pryor, pages 260-261

Now according to the testimony of Norris they ran away in 1859 which was well before they were supposed to be freed. .He and his cousin were brought back and given a whipping. She was given 20 lashes while Norris was given 50. Nowhere in Norris letter does it say the girl was tortured or that Lee was screaming . In fact this is the exact passage from the letter ---

“Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to “lay it on well,” an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done”

I say so? Is this the worst you can find on Lee? How many other slave owners whipped their slaves? Lee was well within his rights to administer punishment. Didn’t the Northern slave traders subject their captives to much worse treatment? If this happened to every slave, would it justify the actions of Sherman, Lincoln and Grant? It appears this posting by Douglas is nothing more than someone looking for minute details to tarnish the reputation of Robert E. Lee, who after all was just a man. However truth is truth and if this is factual, post the facts, no need to embellish the story with your words and and different presentation of fact.

Washed with brine??? Lee was then taking care of their wounds. Brine or salt water has long been known to be both a pain reliever and a healer.


http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4898741_treating-wounds-salt-water.html
GP -- (12-29-10)


[ Edited Wed Dec 29 2010, 09:46PM ]
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Lady Val
Wed Dec 29 2010, 09:35PM
Registered Member #75
Joined: Sat Nov 01 2008, 03:22PM
Posts: 475
Lee was not Jesus, neither did he present himself as such. He would have been enraged by what he considered (rightly so) a breach of trust between the slaves and their late master who had declared that they were to be freed after five years!. Most probably, had they belonged to Lee personally, he would have been more forgiving, but they had caused him to fail in his own duty (and duty was something that Lee took very seriously!) and therefore were victims of his wrath for not only their betrayal of his dead father-in-law, but because they had caused him to fall short of his duty.

We must not see Robert E. Lee as some sort of Mahatma Ghandi type. He was a man of his time and he was quite capable of anger as has been testified. His opinion of and behavior towards poor George Pickett certainly reveals that he was a strict taskmaster. How many Confederate deserters were hanged or shot in Lee's army? He certainly didn't step in and save them all however sad he might have been regarding his duty to keep the discipline in the army. Had he allowed these slaves to simply run away or, if captured to be let off, then his command of the situation would have been considerably lessened and it might well have been that the rest would have done the same thing.

Remember, too, Lee needed the slaves to recoup the losses suffered by his father-in-law and to clear up the plantation's debts. Frankly, he made the work to help clear up the debts so that they could be freed. Had he allowed the plantation to go into default, those same slaves would have been sold to recoup the debt and they would never have been freed, at least according to the existing situation. From what I see of Lee's behavior here, the anger is justifiable as he would have seen this behavior as a betrayal of not only their former master and himself, but of their fellow slaves who might have had to be sold off if the debts were not cleared up.

The situation might sound awful to us, but it was certainly not unusual those days - and not just in the South.
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gpthelastrebel
Wed Dec 29 2010, 09:50PM

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Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 3698
What you say is true and verified by several websites I have visited. I gotta say I love it when we can take apart a post piece by piece and prove it wrong. Sorta puts all the Yankee arguments in the proper perspective wouldn't you say???

Do you have anything on the "paid six times" for the return of the slave girl statement???

GP
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Lady Val
Thu Dec 30 2010, 12:15AM
Registered Member #75
Joined: Sat Nov 01 2008, 03:22PM
Posts: 475
I know nothing of this situation but what you have printed. Of course, there is nothing to prove that the testimony of the slave is true in whole or even in part. He wouldn't be the first slave to exaggerate how badly he was treated! Then I cannot imagine the overseer unwilling to give a whipping to runaways unless it was of such severity as to be fatal. We are altogether too ready to accept Norris' testimony at face value and given that lies have been told before, why not now?
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gpthelastrebel
Thu Dec 30 2010, 05:43AM

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Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 3698
I am just going with the idea it is true. In my opinion by doing that and printing the letter we can clearly see how the story has been "enhanced" somewhat.

GP


PS---
Nearly forgot. Emailed Bill today I think he has info to post however the signup feature is giving him problems.

[ Edited Thu Dec 30 2010, 05:44AM ]
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gpthelastrebel
Mon Jul 14 2014, 03:29PM

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Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
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http://www.nps.gov/arho/historyculture/slavery.htm

Slavery at Arlington
From its earliest days, Arlington House was home not only to the Custis and Lee families who occupied the mansion, but also to dozens of slaves who lived and labored on the estate.

For nearly sixty years, Arlington functioned as a complex society made up of owners and slaves, whites and blacks. To some observers, on the surface, Arlington appeared as a harmonious community in which owner and slave often lived and worked side by side. Yet an invisible gulf separated the two, as slaves were the legal property of their owners. The enslaved possessed no rights, could not enter into legally binding contracts, and could be permanently separated from their families at a moment's notice. The contributions of the Arlington slaves have been a vital component of Arlington House's history from the beginning.

In 1802, the first slaves to inhabit Arlington arrived at the estate with their owner, George Washington Parke Custis. The grandson of Martha Washington and adopted grandson of George Washington, Custis had grown up at Mount Vernon, as had many of his slaves. Upon Martha Washington's death, Custis inherited her slaves and purchased others who belonged to his mother, Eleanor Custis Stuart. In all, Custis owned nearly 200 slaves and as many as 63 lived and worked at Arlington. (The others worked on his other two plantations, White House and Romancoke, located on the Pamunkey River near Richmond, Virginia.)

Once at Arlington, the slaves constructed log cabins for their homes and began work on the main house. Using the red clay soil from the property and shells from the Potomac river, they made the bricks and stucco used in the walls and exterior of the house. The slaves also harvested timber from the Arlington forest, which was used for the interior flooring and supports. Day to day, the slaves were responsible for keeping up the house and laboring on the plantation, working to harvest corn and wheat which was sold at a market in the city of Washington.

Some slaves had very close relationships with the Lee and Custis members, though these relationships were very much governed by the racial hierarchy which existed between the slaves and slaveholders. Mr. Custis relied heavily on his carriage driver, Daniel Dotson, and Mrs. Lee had a very personal relationship with the head housekeeper, Selina Gray. As Mary's arthritis increasingly restricted her activities through the years, she depended on Selina for assistance with basic tasks. A reflection of their relationship, Mrs. Lee entrusted Selina with the keys to the plantation at the time of the Lees' evacuation from Arlington in May 1861.

There is evidence that some slaves at Arlington had opportunities which were not widely afforded to slaves elsewhere. Mrs. Custis, a devout Episcopalian, tutored slaves in basic reading and writing so that each could read the Bible. Mrs. Lee and her daughters continued this practice even though Virginia law prohibited the education of slaves by the 1840s. Mrs. Custis also persuaded her husband to free several women and children.

Some of these emancipated slaves settled on the Arlington estate, including Maria Carter Syphax who lived with her husband Charles on a seventeen acre plot given to her by the Custises at the time of her emancipation around 1826.

While such allowances may have improved the quality of life for the Arlington slaves, most black men and women on the estate remained legally in bondage until the Civil War. In his will, George Washington Parke Custis stipulated that all the Arlington slaves should be freed upon his death if the estate was found to be in good financial standing or within five years otherwise. When Custis died in 1857, Robert E. Lee—the executor of the estate—determined that the slave labor was necessary to improve Arlington's financial status. The Arlington slaves found Lee to be a more stringent taskmaster than his predacessor. Eleven slaves were “hired out” while others were sent to the Pamunkey River estates. In accordance with Custis's instructions, Lee officially freed the slaves on December 29, 1862.

In 1863, Federally-supported Freedman's Village, a camp for former slaves, was established on the Arlington estate, south of the mansion. Over the next 30 years, many freedman, including some of the former Custis slaves, established permanent homes in Freedman's Village where they learned trades and attended school. Though Freeman's Village closed by 1900, the contributions of the former slaves who worked to build and shape the Arlington estate are not forgotten. Some settled locally and many of their descendants still live in Arlington County today.


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gpthelastrebel
Mon Aug 01 2016, 01:57AM

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Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 3698

Robert E. lee quote-----

Here is another cherry picked quote this time by R.E. Lee which issupposed to prove the Confederacy was all about slavery.

Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will.
It was intended for “perpetual union” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by a revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession, Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution.”
– Robert E. Lee, January 23, 1861

******************************************************

Here is the entire letter ---

On January 23, 1861, Robert E. Lee, in a letter to his son Rooney, set forth his views on secession:

I received Everett’s Life of Washington which you sent me, and enjoyed its perusal. How his spirit would be grieved could he see the wreck of his mighty labors! I will not, however, permit myself to believe, until all ground of hope is gone, that the fruit of his noble deeds will be destroyed, and that his precious advice and virtuous example will so soon be forgotten by his countrymen. As far as I can judge by the papers, we are between a state of anarchy and civil war. May God avert both of these evils from us! I fear that mankind will not for years be sufficiently Christianized to bear the absence of restraint and force. I see that four states have declared themselves out of the Union; four more will apparently follow their example. Then, if the border states are brought into the gulf of revolution, one half of the country will be arrayed against the other. I must try and be patient and await the end, for I can do nothing to hasten or retard it.

The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the acts of the North, as you say. I feel the aggression and am willing to take every proper step for redress . It is the principle I contend for, not individual or private benefit. As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and institutions, and would defend any state if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession. Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution. . . . Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved, and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people; and, save in defense, will draw my sword on none.

Notice the first line, 2nd paragraph ---- The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the acts of the North, as you say----

and the last line ---- If the Union is dissolved, and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people; and, save in defense, will draw my sword on none.

Makes quite of bit a difference when these lines are read doesn't it? Also note this line---

"It was intended for “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution or the consent of all the people in convention assembled."

The importance of this, Buchanan had intended to let the South take it's case of secession before the Congress of the US---

Page 175

"It would seem from the report that the President confined his observations at their interview exclusively to the reinforcement of the forts in Charleston harbor, for which General Scott, according to his own statement, in the letter to the " National Intelligencer," could spare but two hundred men, the remaining eight hundred being required for the, other fortifications. The President having expressed the opinion, according to the report, "that there was at the moment no danger of an early secession

Page 176

beyond South Carolina," he proceeded to state, "in reply to my [ General Scott's] arguments for immediately reinforcing Fort Moultrie, and sending a garrison to Fort Sumter," that "the time has not arrived for doing so; that he should wait the action of the Convention of South Carolina, in the expectation that a commission would be appointed and sent to negotiate with him and Congress, respecting the secession of the State and the property of the United States held within its limits; and that if Congress should decide against the secession, then he would send a reinforcement, and telegraph the commanding officer ( Major Anderson) of Fort Moultrie to hold the forts (Moultrie and Sumter) against attack."

Publication Information: Book Title: Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Contributors: James Buchanan - author. Publisher: D. Appleton. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1866.


[ Edited Mon Aug 01 2016, 02:00AM ]
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