Stratford Birthplace of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Haunting phenomena and several Apparitions have been reported at Stratford, making it an active site.
Stratford was built on a 1500-acre northern Virginia estate purchased in 1717 by Thomas Lee, a prominent businessman and planter. Lee built the Great House on the land in the late 1730s for his wife, Hannah, and their family. The fortresslike, impressive mansion sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. The Lee family was one of the leaders of colonial America and helped its emergence into independence. It was Richard Henry Lee who made the motion for independence from the British in the American Colonial Congress. “Light Horse Harry” Lee became a hero of the American Revolutionary War and fathered Robert E. Lee, born on January 19, 1807.
Young Lee was only three-and-a-half years of age when his family lost the plantation. His father had run up huge debts and was sent to debtor’s prison. The family moved to a house in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Lee’s military career led him to the top of the Confederate forces, but ultimately the South lost the war and Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in April 1865.
Stratford Hall has been restored to its early elegance and is a popular tourist draw. It is privately owned and is operated by a nonprofit organization. Overnight accommodations are available.
The APPARITION of a man has been seen in the library and in one of the outbuildings. In the library, a maid saw the Ghost sitting at a desk looking over some papers, perhaps inventories. In the outbuildings, he has been seen dressed in a dark suit with ruffled shirt and white stockings, carrying a ledger.
The ghosts of a woman and child dressed in colonial garb have been seen inside the house. They are believed to be Ann Lee, the sorrowful wife of Henry Lee, Robert’s older half brother, and Margaret Lee, the couple’s daughter. Henry Lee, known as “Black Horse Harry,” impregnated Ann’s sister and became addicted to drugs. Little Margaret died in 1820 at age two from a fall down the stairs.
The ghost of a boy about four years of age, dressed in purple britches, appears on the grounds and in the house. He is thought to be Phillip Ludwell Lee, the son of founder Thomas Lee, who died in 1779 at age four—also from a fall down the stairs.
Other haunting phenomena include cold breezes, sensations of invisible presences, strange noises, the sounds of rustling clothing, the sounds of heavy furniture being dragged about, and mysterious footsteps. Employees have felt tugs on their costume clothing.
As for Robert E. Lee, it is not known whether any of the phenomena can be attributed to his lingering ghost. He is said to appear as the ghost of a young boy running with a dog in the yard of his former family home on Oronoco Street in Alexandria.
- Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Fredericksburg . . . and Nearby Environs. Private press, 1991.