The poignant, personal, and unbelievably true story of Mrs. Robert E. Lee and General Montgomery Meigs, and the founding of the Arlington National Cemetery, in the midst of America's greatest struggle--the most horrific war in American history.
MRS. LEE'S ROSE GARDEN puts a human face on the devastating tragedy of the Civil War. This is a tale of loss and revenge that provides new insight into the tragic backstory of this horrific chapter in American history. Mary Anna Randolph Custis was born on October 1, 1808, the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis. As a young girl, the diminutive and vivacious Mary played with Robert E. Lee when he and his family visited Arlington House and the two became very close. As a teenager, Mary had her fair share of suitors, including a young congressman from Tennessee named Sam Houston. But, her heart was set on the young, dashing Robert E. Lee. When Lee proposed to her in the summer of 1830, and the Lees married in the family parlor at Arlington House June 30, 1831. Their marriage produced seven children, six of them born in the dressing room adjoining the Lee's bedroom, according to family tradition. From all appearances, the Lees had a warm and loving family life. Mary Lee's own correspondence and a diary kept by her daughter, Agnes, paint a vivid picture of her personality. She was a gracious hostess and enjoyed having frequent visitors at Arlington. Like her mother, Mary was also an avid gardener. She loved roses and grew 11 varieties in her flower garden at Arlington House. As a young girl, she selected the second floor bedroom which looked out onto her flower garden. She and Robert used this room as the master bedroom after their marriage. But by the middle of the Civil War, the Union had appropriated the Lee’s mansion, long the bastions of George Washinton’s surviving family correspondence and momentos, for non-payment of taxes. When the nation military cemetaries were filled, Lt. General Montgomery C. Meigs was charged with finding a new palce for appropriate burial. The Union high command chose Arlington. Originally, soldiers were buried in the far back of the pantation away from the Arlingotn Mansion. But not long after Miegs’ son was shot and killed in a controversial gun battle between Union and Confederate soldiers it was determined that the subsequent bodies be buried near the house, in what had been Mary’s rose gardens, preventing for ever the return of the Lees to their beloved home and cementing the loss of the ancestral home. The stories of Mrs. Lee and Gen. Meigs are both poignant and personal, and they paint a portrait of death, honor, and sacrifice during the country’s greatest and bloodiest struggle.