General Lee pulls a joke

NH Civil War Gal

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After the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, another demijohn showed up in Lee’s camp.

“Notwithstanding the responsibility of his position and the difficulties that surrounded him, General Lee usually maintained a cheerful mien toward his staff, and at times indulged his humor for a practical joke in a manner which would have surprised an outsider who saw only the grave and dignified side of his character. As a companion piece to the demijohn story previously told, we may give another in which General Lee was the active agent. On one occasion a demijohn was observed to be carried into his tent, which excited in the minds of those who beheld it visions of good wine or brandy. (The general well knew that several of his staff enjoyed a glass of wine, or even something stronger.) About twelve o’clock he walked out of his tent, and with a twinkle in his eye remarked, ‘Perhaps you gentlemen would like a glass of something?’ All assenting, he directed Bryan, the steward of the mess, to carry the demijohn to the mess-tent and arrange cups for the gentlemen. They followed him with pleasant anticipations of the unexpected treat. The general ordered the cork to be drawn and the cups filled. The disappointment of the expectants and Lee’s enjoyment may be better imagined than described when the contents proved to be buttermilk.”[3]



[1] Armistead Lindsey Long, Memoirs of Robert E. Lee (1886), 29.

[2] Ibid., 229.

[3] Ibid, 240
 

Pete Longstreet

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Shelby Foote told a story about Lee's humor:

Lee was having dinner one night and he invited a young Lt. messenger who had come in to sit down and have it with him. The young man didn't like the heavy cornbread and Lee said "don't worry it'll stay be you longer".
 

Pete Longstreet

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So... I am currently reading Robert E. Lee, Letters and Recollections. Today I came across this on p.91:

20210919_022634.jpg
 
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