THE CHARMING LUCY BUCK AT BEL AIRGeneral R. E. Lee with the Buck Family
Bel Air House - Front Royal, VA - July 22, 1863
It had been an arduous march south from the bloody fields of Gettysburg for the Army of Northern Virginia. Torrential rains had flooded the Potomac River delaying the southern army’s retreat to the relative safety of Virginia. With US General George Meade’s Federal forces closing in, Lee’s army was finally able to cross the Potomac on July 13th. Still in pursuit, General Meade’s cavalry crossed the Potomac farther down river, East of the Blue Ridge Mountains and began to occupy a number of passes around Loudoun County.
As hats, coats and uniforms began to dry out, the Army of Northern Virginia arrived at the Shenandoah River. Across the river was the town of Front Royal, and Lee ordered his engineers to quickly build another pontoon bridge. On July 22 the southern army crossed the bridge into Front Royal.
A wealthy businessman and prominent citizen of Front Royal, William M. Buck sought out General Lee at the pontoons, to invite him and his staff for refreshments at his home Bel Air House. Lee welcomed the kind invitation and rode to the manor house with some members of his staff. There he was introduced to the Buck family. Nineteen year old Lucy Buck wrote of the encounter in her diary. “The old gentleman greeted us with such a warm, fatherly manner.” General Lee along with his staff including Majors Taylor and Talcott enjoyed fresh buttermilk while Lucy and her sister Nellie entertained with songs of the south.
This brief respite of time with the Buck family had been most welcome for General Lee, but upon returning to his army he warned his staff, “We must now prepare for harder blows and harder work.”
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