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Civil War Round Table of Arkansas

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Our 45th Year  
Meets Fourth Tuesday; January-November 
Founded March 1964 Second Presbyterian Church

600 Pleasant Valley Drive

Little Rock  
Program at 7 p.m.   
Jan Sarna, President 

Rick Meadows, Editor /   
Dues $20 Per Year

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Robert E. Lee and His Women

with Drew Hodges 

Drew Hodges, 1969 graduate from the University of Oklahoma, will present an often overlooked topic about Robert E. Lee and the women in his family. Hodges will discuss the life and tribulations of Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, who were married at the Arlington House on June 30, 1831. The Lees would have seven children, three boys and four girls, who were: Mary, Agnes, Anne, and Mildred.  

Hodges received his Masters in History from the University of Central Arkansas in 2007 and teaches classes at the National Park Community College in Hot Springs, The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and occasionally at Arkansas State University at Beebe. Hodges is a charter member of the SCV chapter in El Reno, OK and is currently President of the North Little Rock Civil War Roundtable.

Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee 

While stationed at Fort Monroe, Robert E. Lee married Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808 to 1873, family Bible states birth year to be 1807). She was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and step-great granddaughter of George Washington. They were married on June 30, 1831, at Arlington House, her parents’ home.  

Mary inherited Arlington House from her father after he died in 1857. The estate had long been the couple's home whenever they were in the area during her husband's military career. Mary was a gracious hostess and enjoyed frequent visitors. She was a painter, like her father, and painted many landscapes, some of which are still on view at the house. She loved roses and grew 11 varieties. She was deeply religious and attended Episcopal services when there was one near the army post. In Arlington, Virginia, the Lees attended the Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, the church she and Robert had attended in childhood. 

They would have seven children, three boys and four girls. The daughters were: 

  • Mary Custis Lee (Mary, daughter), 1835-1918 never married

  • Anne Carter Lee (Annie), 1839 to October 20, 1862. died of typhoid, unmarried (where was Robert E. Lee in September of 1862?)

  • Eleanor Agnes Lee (Agnes), 1841 to 1873, died of tuberculosis, unmarried

  • Mildred Childe Lee (Milly), 1846-1905, unmarried

Mary taught her female slaves to read and write and was an advocate of eventual emancipation, although she herself chose not to free her slaves, as state law permitted her to do. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and this became increasingly debilitating with advancing age. By 1861, she was using a wheelchair.

With the advent of the American Civil War, Lee and their sons were called to service in Virginia while Mary delayed evacuating Arlington House until May 15, 1861. Early that month, Lee wrote to Mary Anna saying:

    "War is inevitable, and there is no telling when it will burst around you . . . You have to move and make arrangements to go to some point of safety which you must select. The Mount Vernon plate and pictures ought to be secured. Keep quiet while you remain, and in your preparations . . . May God keep and preserve you and have mercy on all our people." (Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee by Captain Robert E. Lee, son, published by Doubleday 1904.)

Mary and her daughters initially moved between the several family plantations. In May 1862, she was caught at her son Rooney's White House Plantation in New Kent County behind the Federal lines, as Union forces moved up the York River and the Pamunkey River toward Richmond. In a gentlemanly gesture by Union commander George B. McClellan, she was allowed to pass through the lines in order to take up residence in Richmond --- McClellan's campaign goal, ironically.

Mary and her daughters finally settled at 707 East Franklin Street in Richmond, Virginia for the bulk of the War. After the War, they lived in Powhatan County for a short time, then she accompanied her husband to Lexington, Virginia, where he became president of the Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee University. She was able to visit her beloved Arlington House once more before her death, but she was unable to leave the carriage. She hardly recognized it except for a few old oaks and some of the trees she and Robert had planted. Mary died 1873 and is buried next to her husband in the Lee family crypt at Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee with the children.


Perry, John.  Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington, Multnomah Publishers, 2003.

Custis, G.W. Parke.  Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington by G. W. Parke Custis, of Arlington. , Washington, 1859  

Reed’s Bridge Update

Work continues at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield in Jacksonville.  Tress and brush have been cleared and new wood fencing has been placed along Highway 161.  Volunteers have begun to construct a barn with the poles from trees cut on the property.  Hopefully, the community can participate in a hay ride in October. Cash donations are needed for building materials. In addition, 2 cannons have been ordered and will be placed on the site. With improvements being made to the site, it is hoped that more people and groups will visit the historical site.

In addition to the Civil War battle that occurred there in August of 1863, the Military Road and bridge over the Bayou Meto was used during the removal of Native Americans to the Indian Territory and also as a route for the Butterfield Stagecoach Line.

Over $3000 is still needed to pay for the cannons. Funds need to be secured by the end of  
August.  All members and friends of the CWRT of Arkansas are asked to consider making a donation to this project. Mail your check to: The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, 100 Veterans Circle, Jacksonville, AR 72076. Membership in the Society is $25 a year. 

Good News for Helena

Having traveled to Helena many times since I (editor) moved to Arkansas in 1977, I have seen the slow decay of one of our State’s grand old towns. When I attended the Interpretive Plan for Civil War Helena on Saturday, July 18th it is with extreme joy and excitementthat I look with hope to the future!

Members of the community gathered at the future site of Freedom Park which will incorporate five interpretive exhibits that follow the progression from fugitive slave to Contraband to freedom and, for some, enlistment in the Union Army. 

Approximately 75-80 people later attended the comprehensive plan at the old Malco Theater in downtown Helena.  Presenters included: Cathy Cunningham, Community Development Coordinator with Southern Bancorp Capital Partners; Mark Christ, Community Outreach Director, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program; Joseph and Maria Brent with Mudpuppy & Waterdog, Inc: and Robert Bell, 1st Sergeant re-enactor with the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery from Camp Nelson, Ky.

The original purpose of the interpretive planning portion of the project was to identify Helena’s Civil War resources and to develop a walking/driving tour.  One of the goals of the project was to create a tour that represented all facets of Helena’s Civil War history – Confederate and Union, soldier and civilian, black and white.  As planning and research evolved, a more comprehensive plan was called for.

A brief summary of the proposed exhibits was handed out to those in attendance. “Mudpuppy & Waterdog has identified twenty-seven locations in Helena that will serve as the framework for interpreting the places, people, and events that define the Civil War in Helena.  Two of these locations, Freedom Park and Court Square Park, will contain several exhibits.

A number of the exhibits are tied to extant resources, including Batteries A and D, Estevan Hall (which was opened for a tour!), the Tappan-Pillow House, Magnolia Cemetery, Maple Hill Cemetery and the Confederate Cemetery.  Others interpret Fort Curtis, the General Thomas Hindman home and other places that have been lost.  Some exhibits interpret events such as Patrick Cleburne’s speech to the Yell Rifles and Phillips Guards, (whose flag is on display at the Phillips County Museum-a must see), the entrance of fugitive slaves into Helena and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas’s call for the formation of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiments in Helena. (at least 2 Colored Regiments were recruited in Helena during occupation). Some exhibits will interpret policies like the plantation lease system and federal confiscation of civilian home. Some interpret Helena’s seven Confederate generals and other individuals.”

One of the first projects will be the partial reconstruction of Fort Curtis, in downtown Helena. $150,000 has been secured for this effort. Cathy Cunningham hopes that all work will be completed within 2-3 years. Now that is Good News! Additional information can be found at and see “The Plan”. I can’t wait to return!


Our speaker next month will be Ken Barnes, history professor at The University of Central Arkansas. His talk will be on the Brooks-Baxter War. 

The new brochure on Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery near Cabot is off the press! It is available at the Chamber of Commerce Offices in Cabot & Jacksonville and area museums.

New members of the CWRT are:

Eddie Landreth of Benton

Pat Johnson of Little Rock

Ann Burton Portis of Little Rock

Virgil and Lisa Knopp of Davison, Mich

George W. Cawthon of Oklahoma City

Welcome to each of you! 

Hope to see you Tuesday night with Drew Hodges and Robert E. Lee’s women!