The Lexington Physicians of General Robert E. Lee

Richard D. Mainwaring, MD; Harris D. Riley, Jr, MD


South Med J. 2005;98(8):800-804. 

In This Article


General Robert E. Lee suffered from progressive atherosclerosis during the last seven years of his life, as evidenced by his cardiac illness and his stroke. Drs. Madison and Barton were the physicians who ultimately were entrusted with the care of this famous personage. Both physicians were quite experienced in the practice of mid-19th century medicine, and they were seasoned medical veterans of the Civil War. It was by coincidence that they settled into practice after the war in the city in which General Lee resided. Further, it was a quirk of nature that during General Lee's terminal illness, the town of Lexington was isolated by storms and flooding so that no other physicians or specialists could be consulted. It is evident that the two Lexington physicians were keen observers and dispatched their responsibility faithfully, and we are indebted to them for documenting his clinical course and their care. The description provides modern physicians with invaluable information regarding the interpretation of General Lee's illnesses.