Is there any recorded instance of a meeting or correspondence between the two civil war generals after the war?
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On 1 May 1869 Lee, on his way to Baltimore, visited Grant at the White House.
The New York Herald reported the meeting in this way:
"The following conversation occurred between the President and General Lee, which lasted about five minutes:
GENERAL LEE: Mr. President, I called today, in accordance with your kind invitation, with my friends here, Mr. and Mrs. Taggart, of Baltimore, to thank you for the honor you have done me.
PRESIDENT: I did wish, General, to have a somewhat lengthy conversation with you in regard to matters relating to your section of the country, if such will be agreeable to you.
GENERAL LEE: Mr. President, I would much prefer that you should not take my opinions and views as representing those of the people of Virginia and the South, and I do not think I could give any useful information on that subject. If you will excuse me, Mr. President, I will repeat my thanks for your invitation, and bid you good day."
Another version was reported by The New York Tribune. The meeting was described as "polite and cordial", if "reserved", with not a word said about the war, but with Lee allegedly making "several suggestions" on Southern policies.
Both of these versions are, of course, suspect.
Lee's son Robt. jr. said that it was just a courtesy call which lasted maybe 15 minutes and included not a word about politics.
Noted historian and diplomat John L. Motley was meeting with the President when Lee arrived and on his way out was introduced to the General by the President. He said that both seemed "simple and dignified" though Lee showed more "constraint".
Grant later remarked in personal correspondence that all he could remember about the meeting was that they spoke of building railroads, and that he had jokingly remarked 'You and I, General, have had more to do with destroying railroads than building them'; that Lee did not acknowledge the humor or irony in the statement but instead continued "gravely" with the conversation. No other mention was made of their mutual past, and within a few minutes Lee rose and departed.
It is now believed there is no truth to the rumors that Lee repeatedly asked Grant to go "best two out of three".
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