In 1867, construction on the Lee Chapel, began on the grounds of Washington College. The new chapel was completed in time for the spring semester in 1868. General Robert Edward Lee, who ordered construction of the chapel, began attending Christian services at the building with other students and administrators.
After General Lee’s passing, Washington College was renamed to Washington and Lee College in his honor. General Lee, his wife, his sons, and several of his other family members were buried in a crypt within the basement of the church. In 1875, five years after General Lee’s death, a statue of the “Sleeping General”, that was sculpted by Edward Virginius Valentine, was sent to Washington College.
In 1875, two Richmond College literary societies, Mu Sigma Rho and Philologian, paid for the expenses related to transporting the General Robert Edward Lee statue, created by sculptor Edward Virginius Valentine, to the Washington and Lee College in Lexington, Virginia.
In return for paying for the travel expenses, associated with transporting the General Lee statue via rail to Lynchburg and via canal boat to Lexington, the members of both literary societies requested that the students, within their organizations, be the escorts for the General Lee statue that was being transported to the North Dormitory of the Washington and Lee College.
At the time General Robert Edward Lee’s son Custis Lee was president of the Washington and Lee College, and the statue of the “Sleeping General” was kept at the North Dormitory until a mausoleum could be constructed at the Lee Chapel.
“My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them nor indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future.
The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we only see the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope”.