Fishing in the footsteps of Robert E. Lee

This past weekend, I did a little fishing at a spot that I was always told was a favorite fishing hole of Gen. Robert E. Lee in the last years of his life. This was when he was living in Lexington, Virginia, on the campus of Washington & Lee University. I can recall being told by locals in that area, that Gen. Lee spent a lot of time trout fishing there after the Civil War, and that he loved it so much, he had a painting of this particular waterfall above the fireplace mantle of his Lexington, Virginia, home.

Drone shot of the falls. With the large piece which fell off the front, it’s difficult to see the entire falls without use of a drone, or without actually swimming out there.

Around this time – 1868 – Mrs. Lee had some sort of rheumatism, which I can understand having RA and Lupus, myself. Gen. Lee would take her to the nearby springs resorts at White Sulphur Springs, and Sweet Springs to “take the waters.” It was from these local springs resorts that Mr. Lee loved to ride his old warhorse, Traveller, down the old turnpike roads and take-in the sights.

I’ve been fishing here for years, and had always been told this story by locals. Of course, there’s also the gratuitous stories about his horse, Traveller, getting ill, and then being healed by the water After drinking it. I think there’s also one about George Washington’s horse as well. But after some research, I actually found some verification of this oral tradition….

Robert E. Lee posing for a photograph while staying at Old White Sulphur Springs Resort in August, 1869.

Here’s a letter I found in the Lee Family Archives, discussing this actual spot:

LEXINGTON, Virginia, March 10, 1868.

My Beautiful Daughter: I have been wishing to write to you for a long time, but have supposed that you would be so engrossed with my sons, with their plans and their projects, that you could not lend an ear to your papa. But now I must tell you how much I have thought of you, how much I want to see you, and how greatly I was disappointed at your not getting to see us at the time you proposed. You must not postpone your visit too long, or you may not find us here.

Our winter, which has been long and cold, I hope now is over. The gardeners are busy, the grass is growing green, and the atmosphere warm and inspiring. I presume under its genial influence you and Fitzhugh are busy improving your new home. I hope everything is agreeable, and that you are becoming more and more interested in making those around you happy. That is the true way to secure your own happiness, for which my poor prayers are daily offered to the throne of the Most High.

I have been summoned to Richmond the third Thursday in this month, as a witness in the trial against Mr. Davis; and though that will be a painful errand for me, I hope that it will give me the pleasure of seeing you. I will endeavour to get down some day to the White House, if it is only to spend Sunday with you.

I hope that you will be able to pay some attention to your poor brother Robert. Do not let his elder brother monopolise you altogether. You will have to take care of both till you can find some one like yourself to take Romancoke in hand. Do you think Miss Anne Banister will consent? Mildred, you know, is the only one of the girls who has been with us this winter. She has consequently had her hands full, and considers herself now a great character. She rules her brother and my nephews with an iron rod, and scatters her advice broadcast among the young men of the college. I hope that it may yield an abundant harvest. The young mothers of Lexington ought to be extremely grateful to her for her suggestions to them as to the proper mode of rearing their children, and though she finds many unable to appreciate her system, she is nothing daunted by the obtuseness of vision, but takes advantage of every opportunity to enlighten them as to its benefits.

Mary and Agnes are still in Baltimore, and are now at the house of Mrs. Charles Howard. Agnes expects, I believe, to return to the Peters near Ellicott City, and then go over to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to visit the Goldsboroughs and other friends. I hardly think either of them will get back before June.

I have recently received a very pretty picture from a young lady of Baltimore, Miss Mary Jones, whom I met last summer at the White Sulphur Springs. In one of my morning rides to the Beaver-dam Falls, near the Sweet Springs, I found her at the foot of the Falls making a sketch of the scene, and on her return home she finished it and has sent it to me. It is beautifully painted and is a faithful representation of the Falls. I think you will be pleased with it when you come up, and agree with me in the opinion that it is the principal ornament of our parlour.

I am sorry to inform you that your poor mama ahs been suffering more than usual lately from her rheumatic pains. She took cold in some way, which produced a recurrence of her former pangs, though she is in a measure now relieved. We often wish for you and Fitzhugh. My only pleasure is in my solitary evening rides, which give me abundant opportunity for quiet thought. With a great deal of love to your husband, I am your sincerely attached father,

R. E. LEE.

I’ve searched and searched for any possible image of this sketch or painting online, and have come up with nothing. But I did find a sketch of it by Edward King, published in 1875. There’s several waterfalls in a row, within about a half-mile or so, collectively referred-to as Beaver Dam Falls, but this does appear to be the same one as the video (being that I’ve examined the others).

A sketch of Beaver Dam Falls by Edward King (1848-1896), The Great South; A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland
Winter view of the falls from this past winter.
Robert E. Lee on his warhorse, Traveller, a horse born and bred in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, on which he travelled to this waterfall.
Drone view of the falls.

Some other pics, including some winter drone pics I’ve taken:

At the end of the video, you’ll get to see inside the cave. Here’s me showing the cave to a well known heavy metal singer and his son. His son is ready to let his dad get eaten first, giving him time to make a run for it:

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