During my extensive research for Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, strangely enough, I never came across references to any ghostly sightings of Robert E. Lee, the venerable commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and central figure in the pantheon of the Lost Cause.
Curiously, however, at least three of the homes the general lived in life have had verified accounts of them being haunted by one or another Lee family member. While I devote an entire chapter to Lee’s haunted homes in Dixie Spirits, I thought I’d update that with a blog and post some photos to go along with it.
When one thinks of General Lee and his family, one naturally thinks of a dignified Southern gentleman coming from an honored and venerable First Family of Virginia (FFV for short).
While Lee always conducted himself with dignity, his venerable family was chock full of scandal, extending through several generations. His father, for example, the war hero Light Horse Harry Lee, while a hero of the American Revolution was also something of a hell raiser. A gambler, a drinker and much else, he was constantly in debt–at one time he was even thrown into debtor’s prison. After Light Horse Harry died, his widow and children were left destitute and dependent on the charity of other family members–and they too had their scandals–notably their relative “Black Horse” Harry Lee, who was guilty of a dalliance with his wife’s sister.
The best known Lee home is, of course, Arlington, now located in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery. Seized early in the war, it became a last resting place for Union war dead. The mansion itself is also an abode of the dead–who at times get a mite restless. Several Lee family ghosts have been sighted in here.
Stratford Hall, the ancestral home of the Lees, was built in the early 1700’s and so it naturally has several generations of Lee ghosts, including old “Black Horse” Harry who had an affair with his wife’s sister while his spouse lay sick abed.
Then there is the “Lee Boyhood Home” in Alexandria, Virginia. After their father died deep in debt, Robert and his mother had to move about to their financial situation. Nonetheless, General Lee always had fond memories of this place and it was here he returned briefly right after the surrender–and who knows he may still be there. Numerous sightings have been reported, both as a private residence and as a public museum.
There are a few other old Virginia manse’s associated with the general—all of them reputedly haunted. For more on the tragic haunted history of the Lees see Dixie Spirits, chapter 31.
You may also take a tour of the homes; most are open to the public for the price of admission.