George Washington is referred to as “The Father of Our Country,” but it’s interesting to note that he never had any children of his own. He married a widow named Martha Custis; she had children. Her grandson was named after his step-grandfather: George Washington Custis. Washington and this boy were close.
G. W. Custis had a daughter named Mary Anna Custis; she married Robert E. Lee. In turn, the Lees named the first of their seven children G. W. Custis Lee. So Washington and Lee were related, but it took their wives to make it happen.
There’s no argument Robert E. Lee was one of the finest generals to ever come out of West Point. His brilliance as a military leader was matched only by his spiritual values, a deep sense of duty and honor, and his role as a husband and father. (His personal involvement in the Civil War was not about slavery; it was about Virginia.)
Here is part of a letter Lee wrote to his son, George Washington Custis Lee. The boy was away at school. Although this letter was penned over 150 years ago, it contains a father’s message that is timely even today.
… In regard to duty, let me in conclusion to this hasty letter inform you that, nearly a hundred years ago, there was a day of remarkable gloom and darkness. Still known as The Dark Day, it was a day when the light of the sun was slowly extinguished, as if by eclipse.
The legislature of Connecticut was in session. And as the members saw the unexpected and unaccountable darkness coming on, they shared in the general awe and terror. It was supposed by many that the Last Day, The Day of Judgement, had come. Someone in the consternation of the hour moved an adjournment.
Then there arose an old Puritan leader—Davenport of Stamford. He said that, if The Last Day had come, he desired to be found in his place, doing his duty. He therefore moved that candles be brought in so the House could proceed with its duty.
There was quietness in that man’s mind, the quietness of heavenly wisdom and inflexible willingness to obey present duty.
Duty then is the sublimist word in our language. Do your duty in all things, like the old Puritan. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less. Never let me and your mother ever wear one gray hair for lack of duty on your part.####
History tell us young Custis Lee was faithful and obedient to his father’s call to duty. He rose to the rank of major general in the military of the Confederacy, commanded a full division of the Army of Northern Virginia and, for a time, was an aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis. He lived into his 80s during a time when that alone was quite remarkable.