Virginia to salute two Lees and Stonewall Jackson


January 13, 1991|By Dorothy Fleetwood

Birthday celebrations for Robert E. Lee continue on Saturday at Arlington House in Arlington, Va. Situated in the midst of Arlington National Cemetery, the mansion was home to Lee and his wife Mary Custis from 1831 to 1861. Saturday's open house will feature a tour of the mansion, music and period refreshments from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Park staff and volunteers will be stationed in various rooms of the mansion to answer questions and discuss Lee's life, particularly those years the Lee family spent at Arlington House. A local mixed quartet, dressed in period costume, will perform songs that were popular prior to the Civil War and guests will be served complimentary poundcake, cider and gingerbread cookies. Admission is free.

Visitors must park in the lot by Arlington's visitors center and either walk the short distance up the hill to the mansion or ride the tourmobile for a nominal charge. There is also a small fee for parking. For information, call (703) 557-0613.

* Lexington, Va., was home, workplace and final resting place of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. For the past five years the town has held a birthday party weekend in honor of the two men. This year's celebration is scheduled from Friday through next Monday.

Festivities for Lee begin at noon on Friday with a Founder's Day ceremony and Birthday Convocation in Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University. Lee served as president of Washington College (renamed Washington and Lee University after his death) for five years following the Civil War. Lee Chapel, a National Historic Landmark, was built under the supervision of Lee and his son, G. W. Custis Lee. Upon completion in 1868 Lee attended daily worship service there with his students. His office in the chapel remains much the same as he left it in the fall of 1870 and he and his family are buried there. The chapel also contains the famous statue of Lee by Edward Valentine along with the "Washington-Custis-Lee" group of portraits.

Coinciding with the birthday weekend is the opening of the university's Lenfest Performing Arts Center. Visitors are invited to a behind-the-scenes tour of this state-of-the-art theater on Saturday at 10 a.m. and to attend a performance of the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Jan. 21 is Stonewall Jackson Day in Lexington. The celebration will take place at the Stonewall Jackson House, the only home the general ever owned. The house, which is furnished with many of his possessions, has been restored to look as it did when Jackson lived there with his second wife just before the Civil War. During his 10 years in Lexington the general taught at Virginia Military Institute.

The Jackson house will be open to the public free of charge. Hostesses will give guided tours and discuss Jackson's life. Following the tour each guest will receive a complimentary piece of birthday cake. The Jackson House will also sponsor a lecture that day at the Rockbridge Regional Library on the Stonewall Jackson statue by Edward Valentine, which stands over his grave at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington. The statue was dedicated July 21, 1891. It is being restored for the first time in 100 years and will be rededicated in July. A special exhibit on the statue will also be on view at the Jackson House. At Virginia Military Institute Museum you will find more Jackson artifacts, such as the bullet-pierced raincoat he wore at Chancellorsville, his war horse, Little Sorrel, and a well-known portrait by N. C. Wyeth.

For information about the weekend, contact the Lexington Visitors Bureau, (703) 463-3777.


On Jan. 27 another joint birthday celebration will take place in Alexandria, Va., in honor of Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee and his son, Robert. The Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee, 607 Oronoco St., and the Lee-Fendall House, 614 Oronoco St., will both be open for tours with costumed docents, music and refreshments. Period musical selections will be played on the old Chickering piano at the Lee-Fendall House, and Greg Christy and the Singing Strings will entertain at the Boyhood Home. Refreshments will be available at both homes.

Related by marriage to Philip Fendall, builder of the Lee-Fendall House, "Light-Horse Harry" Lee was a frequent guest. During one of those visits he wrote a farewell address from the citizens of Alexandria to George Washington on his departure for his inauguration in New York. Lee was commissioned major general by Washington during the Revolutionary War and was awarded a jTC medal for bravery. After the war he served three sessions as governor of Virginia, and when Washington died, Lee, as a member of Congress, was asked to deliver the memorial address. Robert E. Lee spent his early years at the Boyhood Home, which is filled with antiques and Lee memorabilia. Portraits of both father and son hang in the dining room.

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