Thursday, April 21, 2011
Civil War Block of the Month Quilt
Mary Anna Custis was born Oct 1, 1808 and was the great grand-daughter of Martha Washington. Mary was educated at home and had a talent for painting. Her parents owned Arlington House, an estate in Virginia, conceived as a living memorial to President George Washington.
Mary married Robert E. Lee on June 30, 1831. He had recented graduated from West Point. The couple had seven children. They made their home at Arlington House, although Mary frequently traveled with her husband as he traveled as a United States Army officer.
Mary taught the slaves at Arlington House to sew, read, and write. Over time, Mary came to support emancipation of the slaves and thought these skills would help them succeed once they were independent.
She suffered from severe Rheumatiod Arthritis. By 1861 the arthritis had progressed to the point that she was confined to a wheelchair. Through all her health problems, she continued handling the family finances, managing the household, and raising the children.
On April 21, 1861, Robert resigned from the U S Army to fight for the South. He was certain that Union forces would eventually occupy Arlington House because of its strategic location. Robert begged Mary to relocate for her own safety. She hated the thought of abandoning the family home, but also wanted to ease Robert's burden as he prepared to fight for the confederacy. So on May 15, 1861, she packed her bags.
After finally settling in Richmond, Virginia, Mary and her daughters focused on supporting the war effort. They knitted hundreds of pairs of socks which she sent to her husband to distribute among the soldiers. Her home became a refuge for many during the war.
When the war ended, Mary accompanied Robert to Lexington, VA where he became president of Washington University, which lated was renamed Washington and Lee University. Mary constantly mourned her separation from her family home. Union forces occupied Arlington House throught the Civil War and Congress declared the house to be the property of the American people upon the war's end.
In the summer of 1873, Mary was able to visit Arlington House one last time. Unable to climb down from her carriage, a former slave brought her water from the well as she observed the grounds.
Mary died November 5, 1873. Today, Arlington House overlooks Arlington National Cemetery, the home to so any of the nation's fallen solders.
Information obtained from Homestead Hearth.