The Richmond History Podcast

Friday, January 25, 2013

Death of Douglas Southhall Freedman


Douglas Southall Freeman, c.1919
Douglas Southall Freeman had a deep connection to the Confederacy.  His Father spent 4 years in Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  Until his family moved to Richmond, VA in 1892 when he was about 6, he lived in Lynchburg, Virginia down the street from Confederate General Jubale A. Early. Freeman graduated from Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) and received a Doctorate in History from John Hopkins University in 1908.  He started a career in journalism at The Virginia Times-Dispatch and the moved on to The Richmond News Leader where he stayed until 1949.

In 1911, an acquaintance acquired secret correspondences between RobertE Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which he edited and turned into a book called Lee's Dispatches.  That book turned him into "an overnight sensation among Confederate historians".  His new attention earned him an invitation to write a biography of General Lee, which resulted in his three volume R E Lee.  He also went on to write a multi volume book called Lee's Lieutenant's: A Study in Command.  He had become one of the preeminent military historians and began work on a biography of George Washington.

He died of a heart attack, possibly caused by over work and ambition on June 13, 1953.  He had only finished 6 of the 7 volumes on our first POTUS.  After his death his physicians found a note that said he had been having chest pains for weeks, but didn't tell them because he knew they would send him to bed, preventing him from finishing the biography.1

The seventh volume of the biography was finished by Mary Wells Ashworthy.1  Freeman received a posthumous  Pulitzer Prize for the Washington.  

If he had been more honest with his doctors, they may have been able to help him to stay out of Hollywood Cemetery a bit longer, finish Washington, and write more.

He is buried at Hollywood Cemetery, next to his wife Inez, at the end of his Freeman Rd the street named for him.



1. Richmond, The Story of a City, Virginus Dabney
Anything not sited comes from Encyclopedia Virginia

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