Moving on to our first site. I'm pretty sure that everyone has seen this roadside marker on Mine Road symbolizing General Lee's Headquarters. We also have the smaller stone monument a little further down the road that also marks the Headquarters Camp of the Army of Northern Virginia. The sign reads:

During the winter of 1862-1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee maintained his headquarters in a small clearing in the woods in this vicinity. The camp contained only a few tents and nothing but a flag to indicate it was Lee's headquarters. By mid-February the Army of Northern Virginia showed signs of scurvy and malnutrition so Lee sent Longstreet and a few other divisions to southeastern Virginia to gather supplies and counter Union forces. Lee remained at the site until late March 1863, when a serious throat infection forced him to take shelter at the nearby Thomas Yerby's house.

I'll touch on Gen. Lee's illness a little later. So here we had the winter camp of the South's supreme commander. You may notice the special symbol that I am using on this map to designate Lee's camp.

General Lee had a very special flag that he flew designating his headquarters as the HQANV. Here is a photograph of the original, which is on display down at the Museum of the Confederacy. It is in very good condition. It is said that Mrs. Lee, who sewed it with her daughters, used a special star-pattern to represent the biblical Ark of the Covenant. Some have referred to this flag as the "Bread of Life."

It was from this location that Lee left on Christmas Day in 1862 to travel a few miles to Moss Neck Plantation in order to attend a holiday dinner that was being hosted by his right-arm Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Gen. Lee and his staff had been invited for a special meal that was held in an outbuilding where Jackson had established his headquarters. Just three months earlier, Lee's army had been sorely pressed, yet less than two weeks earlier here in Fredericksburg, in one of his most decisive victories, he had defeated the enemy while restoring faith in the locals. Still regardless of the victory, so shocking were the harsh realities of war that Lee had observed: "It is well that war is so terrible; lest we grow too fond of it."

This dinner was an escape that gave the commanders and their staff a short reprieve and a chance to forget about the war. After sharing a wonderful meal, the general left to return to Lee's Hill. It has been said that he passed guests who were arriving for a holiday party at the manor house and was showered with the warm wishes of "Merry Christmas General Lee." This event was recently painted by my friend, the celebrated Civil War artist Mort Kunstler.

There is a wonderful account of Gen. Lee's time here at Lee's Hill according to the book General Lee: His Campaigns in Virginia, 1861-1865 by Walter Herron Taylor. If you'll permit me, I'd like to read some excerpts from the text that paint a wonderful portrait of the general's camp here:

A suitable spot was selected for the establishment of the headquarters of the army no far from Hamilton's Crossing, and we proceeded to make ourselves as comfortable as possible under canvas. The headquarters camp of General Lee was never of such character as to proclaim its importance [minus the flag of course]. An unpretentious arrangement of five or six army tents, one or two wagons for transporting equipage and personal effects, with no display of bunting, and no parade of sentinels or guards, only a few orderlies, was all there was of it. General Lee persistently refused to occupy a house, and was content with an ordinary wall-tent, but little, if any, larger than those about it.

He added that: I have already alluded to his simplicity of taste. This was especially noticeable in the ménage [household] at army headquarters. [The fact that he would use that term show just how close Lee and his staff were.] He continued, All the appointments were of the simplest kind. The table furniture was of tin, and while we never really wanted for food, unless by reason of accidental separation from our camp wagons, we only enjoyed what was allotted to the army generally. Ours was the regular army ration, supplemented by such additions from the country as could be procured by our steward by the use of little money. General Lee never availed himself of the advantages of his position to obtain dainties for his table or any personal comfort for himself. Later in the book he says, a respite of three months was allowed the troops in winter quarters around Fredericksburg.

So this account paints a very endearing portrait of the one they called "Marse Robert." He was beloved by his men and its stories like these that show how unpretentious he was. Lee had every opportunity to live like a king while on campaign yet he insisted on weathering the same living conditions as his men. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure that he received some special treatments, but all in all he appears to have not taken advantage when it was very possible for him to do so. Most of his personal effects from his camp are also on display down at the Museum of the Confederacy. They have his entire tent set up with his bed and books and writing and eating instruments.