253.png" alt="online slots" border="0" />
hit counter

History of the Life of Rev. William Mack Lee Body Servant of General Robert E. Lee Through the Civil War: Cook from 1861 to 1865.

Note from the webmaster: This article is taken directly from the writtings of Mack Lee. The article is done in local dialect of the time and may contain certain words that may offend some. The webmaster accepts no responsibility for offenses taken by the reader.

This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

This is the front jacket of Mack Lees book from 1918.

I was born June 12, 1835, Westmoreland County, Va.; 82 years ago. I was raised at Arlington Heights, in the house of General Robert E. Lee, my master. I was cook for Marse Robert, as I called him, during the civil war and his body servant. I was with him at the first battle of Bull Run, second battle of Bull Run, first battle of Manassas, second battle of Manassas and was there at the fire of the last gun for the salute of surrender on Sunday, April 8, 9 o'clock, A.M.. at Appomatox(sic), 1865.

The following is a list of co-generals who fought with Marse Robert in the Confederate Army: Generals Stonewall Jackson, Early, Longstreet, Kirby, Smith, Gordon from Augusta, Ga, Beauregard from Charleston, S.C., Wade Hampton, from Colombia, S.C., Hood, from Alabama, Ewell Harrison from Atlanta, Ga., Bragg, cavalry general from Chattanooga, Tenn., Wm. Mahone of Virginia, Pickett, Forest, of Mississippi, Charlimus, of Mississippi, Sydney Johnston, Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Marse Robert, and Curtis Lee, his son.

The writer of this little book, the body servant of Gen. Robert E. Lee, had the pleasure of feeding all these men at the headquarters in Petersburg, the battles of Decatur, Seven Pines, the Wilderness, on the plank road between Fredericksburg and Orange County Court House, Chancellorsville, The Old Yellow Tavern, in the Wilderness, Five Forks, Cold Harbor, Sharpsburg, Boonsville, Gettysburg, New Market, Mine Run, Cedar Mountain, Civilian, Louisa Court House, Winchester and Shenandoah Valley.

At the close of the struggle, General Lee said to General Grant; "Grant, you didn't whip me, you just overpowered me, I surrender this day 8,000 men; I do not surrender them to you, I surrender on conditions; it shall not go down in history I surrendered the Northen Confederate Army of Virginia to you. It shall go down in history I surrendered on conditins; you have ten men to my one; my men, too, are barefooted and hungry, If Joseph E. Johnston could have gotten to me three days ago I would have cut my way through and gone back into the mountains of North Carolina and would have given you a happy time." What these conditions were I do not know, but I know these were Marse Roberts words on the morning of the surrender: "I surrender to you on conditions."

At the close of the war I did not know A from B, although I had been preaching two years before the war. I was married six years before the war. My wife died in 1910. I am the father of eight daughters and I have twenty-one grandchildren and eight great-grand children. My youngest child is 42 years old.

I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater that Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgement. All of his servant were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.

The following from the Bedford Bulletin, a paper published in the town of Bedford, Va., which town I am now visiting, situated in the mountains in full view of the famous Peaks of Otter; while soliciting means here to finish my church near Norfolk, I caught inspiration to give the readers of this little book, my friends, and friends and admirers of Marse Robert, a brief history of his body servant and cook, the Rev. William Mack Lee, and will, I hope, cause you to purchase one at the price named on back of same, as I will never be able to write another; I am too old.

Lee's Body Servant Here.

"Rev. William Mack Lee, one of the best known colored men in the South, is in town this week making an effort to raise funds to complete the payment on his churh near Norfolk. His is a Baptist minister and built the church at a cost of $5,500, of which all has been paid except about $500, and he wants to raise this before he returns home.

"He was born on the plantation of Gen. Robert E. Lee, in Westmoreland County, 81 years ago, and at the outbreak of the civil war went to the front as the body servant of his distinguished master. He cooked and waited on the Southern chieftain(sic) during the entire four years of the war, being with him at the surrender at Appomatox. The fact that the war had set him free was of small moment to him, and he stayed with his old master until his death. He is a negro of the old type, distinguished looking, polite in manner, and, despite his age, is straight, firm of step and bids fair to serve his congregation for many more years. The first day he was in town, he went to the old Burwell homestead, now the home of Mr. John Ballard, because he and his master had stopped there while on a visit to Bedford, soon after the war, and was greatly disappointed to find that the last member of the Burwell family was dead.

Still limping from a yankee bullet, an old darkey, with a grizzled beard and an honest face, hobbled into the office of the World-News at a busy hour yesterday. "Kin you white folks gimme a little money fur my church?" he asked, doffing his tattered as he bowed.

Typewriters tickled their denial.

The aged negro cocked his head on one side, "What, I ain't gwine ter turn away Old Marse Robert's nigger is yer?" Every reporter in the office considered that introduction sufficient, and listened for half an hour to William Mack Lee, who followed General Robert E. Lee as body guard and cook throughout the Civil War. When the negro lifted his bent and broken figure from a chair to take his leave every man in the office reached into his pocket, for a contribution.

"The onliest(sic) time that Marse Robert ever scolded me," said William Mack Lee, "in de fo' years dat I followed him through the wah, was, down in de Wilderness--Seven Pines--near Richmond. I remembah dat day jes lak it was yestiday. Hit was July the third, 1863.

"Whilst we was in Petersburg, Marse Robert had done got him a little black hen from a man and we named the little black hen Nellie. She was a good hen, and laid mighty nar every day. We kep' her in de ambulants, whar she had he nest.

Prepared Feast From Small Supply

"On dat day--July the third--we was all so hongry and I didn't have nuffin in ter cook, dat I was jes' plumb bumfazzled. I didn't know what to do. Marse Robert he had gone and invited a crowd of ginerals to eat wid him, and Marse D.H. Hill, and Marse Wade Hampton, General Longstreet, and Gineral Pickett and sum others.

"I had dome made some flanel cakes, a little tea, and some lemonade, but I 'lowed as how dat not be enuff fo' dem gemm'n. So I had to go out to de ambulants and cotch de little black hen, Nellie.

There was a tear in William Mack Lee's voice, but in his eyes I fancied that I saw the happy light that always dances in the eyes of his face at the thought of a fowl for cooking.

"I jes had to go out and cotch little Nellie, I picked her good, and stuffed her with breod stuffin, mixed wid butter, Nellie had be gwine wid us two years, and I hated fer to lose her. We had been gettin' all our eggs from Nellie.

"Well, sir, when I brung Nellie inter de commissary then and set he fo' Marse Robert he turned to me right fo' all dem gimmin and he says: 'William, now you have killed Nellie. What are we going to do for eggs?"

"I jes' had ter do it, Marse Robert,' says I.

"No, you didn't William; I'm going to weite Miss Mary about you, I'm going to tell her you have killed Nellie.'

"Marse Robert kep' on scolding me mout dat hen. He never scolded 'bout naything else. He tol' me I was a fool to kill de her whut lay de golden egg. Hit made Marse Robert awful sad ter think of anything bein' killed, whedder der 'twas one of his soljers, or his little black hen."

"I have even seed him cry. I neve seed him sadder dan dat gloomy mownin' when he tol' me 'bout how General Stonewall Jackson had been shot by his own men.

"He muster hurd it befo' but he never tol' me ti' nex' mawnin'

"How come yer ter say dat, Marse Robert?" I axed hem, "Yo ain't bin in no battle sence yestiddy, an' I doan see yo' arm bleedin'.

"I'm bleeding at the heart, William,' he says, and I slipped out'n de tent, 'cause he looked lak he wanted to be by hisself.

"A little later I cum back an' he tol' me dat Gineral Jackson had bin shot by one of his own soljers. The Gineral had tol' 'em to shoot anybody goin' or comin' across de line. And den de Gineral hisself puts on a federal uniform and scouted across de lines. When he comes back, one of his own soljers raised his gun.

"Don't shoot. I'm your general,' Marse Jackson yelled.

"Dey said dat de sentry was hard o' hearin'. Anyway, he shot his Gineral an' kilt hem.

"I'm bleeding at the heart, William' Marse Robert kep' sayin'.

Tells of His Own Wounds.

"On July de twelf, 1862, I was shot myself," continued the old darkey, heaving a deep sigh he withdrew his thoughts from the death of General Sonewall Jackson.

"Yer see dat hold in my head? Dat what a piece er de shell hit me. Anudder piece struck me nigh de hip.

"I had jes give Marse Robert his breakfas' an' went to git old Traveler for him to ride ter battle. Traveler was Marse Robert's horse what followed him 'round same as a dog would, and would never step on de dead men, but allers walked betwixed and aroun' 'em.

"I went out an' curried and saddled Traveler. I heard dem jack battery guns begin to pop an' bust and roah. I saddled Traveler and tuck him in front o' Marse Robert's tent.

"Jes' as Marse Robert ccum out'n his tent a shell hit 35 yards away. It busted, and hit me, an I fell over.

"I must o' yelled, 'cause Marse Robert said he ain't never seed a nigger holler so loud. An' den he called for de ambulants an' dey tuck me ter de hospital."

Loyal to Famous Master.

William Mack Lee has all the praise in the world for "Marse Robert." He tells many interesting incidents of the Southern hero's life in the tent and field.

The old negro is here now trying to raise $418 with which to complete a fund built four churches and is now on his fifth.

Amoung the white churches contributing to his fund are nine Baptist, eight Methodist, and six Episcopalians, in Norfolk, four Baptst(sic) in Danville, and churches in Lynchburg, BEdford, Crew, Blackstone, and Appomattox.

William Mack Lee was born in Westmoerland County, Va., at the old Stratford House, on the Potomac River, in 1835. He is 84 years old. He was raised by General Lee as his personal servant.

"Tell de white folks to be good ter me an' my church," says William. "Tell 'em not ter turn away Robert's ole nigger."

Click here to return to the page that brought you here.

Hosting by WebRing.