Museum curator speaks at Lee-Jackson luncheon

From Contributed Reports

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UDC Bethel Heroes 636 and SCV Robert Henry Ricks Camp 75 held their first annual Robert E. Lee/Stonewall Jackson Luncheon on Jan. 18 at the Birchwood Country Club with more than 60 guests attending.

Guest speaker Russell Woodburn, curator at the Violet Bank Museum, spoke on a personal side of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s life. Lee is best known for his leadership during the Civil War. He was also a great lover of his pets. Woodburn related several stories about his pets.

Lee owned a black-and-tan terrier named “Spec”. Spec was born at Ft. Hamilton and became a constant companion of Lee and his family. He went every where with them even to church. His white cat “Polar Bear” had a habit of jumping on the chess board when Lee was playing with family or friends.

It was said that Lee had a pet chicken by the name of Nellie. Nellie was part of a shipment of chickens sent to the Army of Northern Virginia for food. She escaped and ended up hiding in General Robert E. Lee’s tent under his sleeping cot where she laid an egg. Lee would leave the flap of his tent open for her to go in and out. She traveled with the army for 2 years and was finally killed to provide food for Lee and his friends. Lee did not know he had eaten his beloved Nellie.

Lee is also known for his love of horses. His favorite horse was named Traveller. Lee began to regularly ride Traveller after the spring 1862 Peninsula campaign. From that point on, he was the general’s most-used mount, even after Traveller reared and threw Lee shortly after the Second Battle of Manassas. His hands badly damaged in the fall, Lee was unable to mount up again until the day of the Battle of Sharpsburg. Traveller was a constant companion of Lees after the war.

Although the most famous, Traveller was not Lee’s only horse during the war. Lucy Long, a mare, was the primary backup horse to Traveller. She remained with the Lee family after the war, dying considerably after Lee, when she was thirty-four years old. She was a gift from J.E.B. Stuart. Richmond, a bay colored stallion, was acquired by General Lee in early 1861. He died in 1862 after the Battle of Malvern Hill. Brown-Roan, or The Roan, was purchased by Lee in West Virginia around the time of Traveller’s purchase. He went blind in 1862 and had to be retired.

Ajax, a sorrel horse, was too large for Lee to ride comfortably and was used infrequently.