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Iv.--origin of the Lee tomatoes.

by W. Roy Mason, Major, C. S. A.
one day in June, 1862, General Lee rode over to General Charles W. Field's headquarters at Meadow Bridge and asked for me. I would say here that on leaving home to enter the Army I carried a family letter of introduction to General Lee; and on account of that, and also my relationship to Colonel Charles Marshall, an aide on his staff, my visits at army headquarters were exceptionally pleasant. When General Lee approached me on this occasion, he said: “Captain, can General Field spare you a little while?” I replied, “Certainly, General; what can I do for you?” “I have some property,” he answered, “in the hands of the enemy, and General McClellan has informed me that he would deliver it to me at any time I asked for it.” Then, putting aside his jesting manner, he told me that his wife and Miss Mary Lee, his daughter, had been caught within the Federal lines at the White House, the residence of General W. H. F. Lee, his son, and he desired me to take a courier and proceed with a flag of truce to Meadow Bridge and carry a sealed dispatch to General McClellan. At the Federal Headquarters I would meet the ladies, and escort them to Mrs. Gooch's farm, inside our lines. I passed beyond the pickets to the second bridge, where I waved my flag of truce, and was asked by the Union officer of the guard to enter. When I reached the picket, the officer said he had been ordered not to permit any flag of truce to pass through his lines until he had communicated with the Headquarters of General McClellan. I waited on the bridge, and when the courier returned he had orders to bring me before the general. The officer insisted on blindfolding me, and positively forbade my courier accompanying me. I was then led through the camps, where I could hear the voices of thousands laughing, talking, or hallooing. After riding an hour, a distance, as I supposed, of three or four miles, I reached headquarters and was relieved of my bandage. The general came out and gave me a hearty welcome; and when he heard that I had been blindfolded, he was so indignant that he placed the officer, my guide, under arrest. I had never seen him so excited. He asked me into the house, produced his liquors, and gave me a dinner of the best, after which we discussed the situation at length. He asked me no questions which it would compromise our cause to answer, but we calmly reviewed the position of things from our separate points of view, and he inquired anxiously after all his old friends. (General McClellan and my brother-in-law, General Dabney H. Maury, C. S. A., formerly captain, U. S. A., had been classmates and devoted friends, and the general had visited my father's house and my own at Fredericksburg.)

About 3 o'clock in the afternoon, looking down the road, we saw a carriage approaching. The curtains were cut off, and it was drawn by a mule and a dilapidated old horse, driven by a negro of about ten or twelve years, and followed by a cavalry escort. General McClellan, jumping up hastily, said: “There are Mrs. Lee and Miss Mary, now.” As the carriage stopped before the door, General McClellan, greeting the ladies with marked cordiality, at once introduced me, and remarked to Mrs. Lee that the general (her husband) had chosen me as her escort through the lines, and that by a strange coincidence, he (McClellan) had found in me a personal friend. He offered to accompany us in person to the river, but this was declined by Mrs. Lee as entirely unnecessary.

When we reached Mrs. Gooch's farm and our own pickets, cheer after cheer went down the long line of soldiers. Near the house we were met by General Lee and a large number of officers assembled to honor the wife and daughter of their chief.

Before leaving for Richmond, Mrs. Lee handed me from a basket, under the carriage-seat, two fine tomatoes, the finest I had ever seen, remarking that she supposed such things were scarce in the Confederacy. The seeds of these tomatoes I preserved, and, some years after the war, General Lee ate some tomatoes at my table, and praised them; whereupon we told him, to his astonishment, that those were the Lee tomatoes, and that they had been distributed all over the State under that name, from the seed of those given me by his wife.

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George B. McClellan (7)
W. H. F. Lee (7)
Fitz Lee (3)
D. W. Gooch (2)
Charles W. Field (2)
Dabney H. Maury (1)
W. Roy Mason (1)
Charles Marshall (1)
Mary Lee (1)
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June, 1862 AD (1)
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