Information & Photos Credited to Dr. Robert S. Conte, Greenbrier Historian
Many may know that on August 31, 1942 The Greenbrier became Ashford General Hospital. But, did you know that in 1861 it became the hospital for wounded and sick soldiers during the Civil War?
The Greenbrier, then “The Old White,” served as both military headquarters and hospital for the Confederacy. For two years, the grand hotel accommodated up to 1,600 soldiers, and its dining room and parlor were filled with multiple rows of the wounded. According to the National Archives, 192 Confederate soldiers died during their time at The Old White, with many of them passing during late fall into winter. It was during this time, that Confederate General Robert E. Lee made a stop at White Sulphur Springs, as he came down the mountains and into western Virginia. Upon visiting the wounded, Lee first saw the horse he would eventually ride in battle and throughout his later years in life. This horse was born approximately 20 miles from White Sulphur Springs, and was originally named “Greenbrier” by his owner Major Thomas Broun. A year later, Lee met the Major in South Carolina and was given the horse as a gift. Lee kindly turned down the offer as a gift, and demanded Broun take $200 payment for the horse he then named “Traveller”.
After the war, Lee rode Traveller from Lexington, Virginia (where the General had become the President of today’s Washington & Lee University, then Washington College) to White Sulphur Springs for three consecutive summers to vacation in Baltimore “G” cottage with his family. The Greenbrier served as a much-needed oasis of relaxation from the turmoil of battle for Lee, his family, and friends.
Years later, during the 1930’s, The Greenbrier held a week long celebration in honor of General Lee, titled “Lee Week.” Above is Mrs. Woodrow Wilson unveiling the portrait of General Lee on Traveller (portrait to the left), painted in 1932 by Natalie Grauer. Natalie and her husband William founded the Alabama Row Art Colony in the 30’s, which is today the Art Colony Shops. Both Mr. and Mrs. Grauer painted the murals in the President’s Cottage Museum, which show Lee and his family on the porch of their Baltimore Row cottage (mural shown below).
Today, we honor General Lee and his beloved horse in the namesake of one of our most popular neighborhoods, Traveller’s Hill. Located adjacent to The Greenbrier Sporting Club’s Equestrian Center, Traveller’s Hill is the ideal neighborhood for equine lovers and those looking for convenient access to equestrian activities, as well as Greenbrier amenities.
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