The Marble Man Laughs

on September 15, 2013 in American Civil War, People and Biographies

Moss Neck Manor

With a sobriquet like “the Marble Man” and a reputation to match, people tend to overlook that Robert E. Lee was a human being, and more to my point here, that he had a sense of humor. A discussion on my author’s Facebook group reminded me of a cute example of Lee’s sense of humor that I found while researching the novel.

In mid-December 1862, a cold, an exhausted Stonewall Jackson tired of his own austerity, and moved his headquarters into Moss Neck, the Corbin family estate near Fredericksburg. After receiving a pile of food as gifts from the citizens of Fredericksburg, Jackson invited Lee, Stuart, and a number of other officers to dinner. Jackson’s hired slave-servant Jim Lewis joined a (presumably) Moss Neck servant, and put out a feast that is known to have included three turkeys, biscuits, fresh and pickled vegetables, ham, oysters, and a big bottle of wine.

Lee and Jeb Stuart decided to tease Jackson, pretending shock and outrage over Jackson’s supposedly lavish table and luxurious accommodations. Lee jibed that Jackson was only playing at soldiers, while Stuart derided the paintings of ratting dogs and race horses on the wall (these being the 19th Century equivalent of having pictures of race cars and football players on the walls) and mocked Jackson’s fondness for drink (the wine bottle). Stuart’s punchline was pointing to the butter mold in the shape of a rooster, declaring it to be Jackson’s family crest. From the description, it’s easy to imagine Lee almost falling out of his chair laughing at this.

I’ve always imagined Jackson as being someone who took himself far too seriously, and it showed that night, as he stammered this explanation and that, taking some time to realize that he was being mercilessly teased. In fact, I don’t think the teasing from Lee and Stuart ever quite settled in Jackson’s craw, because me moved out of the manor house and back into tents later that winter, and that is part of the reason why I have Jackson living in a hut instead of the Huff House a year later. Given Old Blue Light’s personality, I think the ribbing he got made him even more stridently austere.

Another thing stemming from that winter at Moss Neck is that it’s where Sandie Pendleton met Kate Corbin. The two became sweethearts, and in real life Sandie was tragically killed before they could marry. In Stonewall Goes West, Sandie and Kate are married in Richmond.

One Response to “The Marble Man Laughs”

  1. Kristen says:

    A respectful correction regarding Sandie Pendleton and Kate Corbin: Sandie and Kate did indeed marry. They were wed in December of 1863. He died in September 1864, shortly before Kate gave birth to their son. “Little Sandie” unfortunately did not survive beyond one year.

Leave a Reply