• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Lexington Va: 19 Feb 1870

 

My dear Nephew & Neice

 

As you are constantly connected in my thoughts & firmly united in my affections I must address you both & express my regrets at not having been able to write to you for so long a time, & especially at not having answered the affectionate letters. I have recd from each. I have enjoyed them however very much, and we constantly talk of you & of your kind visit to us & you appear in our memories every day & live always in our hearts. I have not been well since you left us & am still suffering from the attack I had when you were here. I am better though I hope & trust when the pleasant weather of Spring commences that I shall at last enjoy Comfortable health. I have been unable to do more than to attend to my ordinary business & writing is more irksome than it was, nor is confinement advantageous. I know therefore that you will excuse my seeming remissions. We are so sorry that you had so uncomfortable a passage home & our regrets are increased at the thought that all was endured for our benefit. I hope that my dear niece has now entirely recovered, & that her strength is restored. Col: McCulloh[1] has returned & often speaks of his pleasant visits to you & the kindness of you both to him. He regrets that his time was so occupied that he could not See more of you. He is very well satisfied with his visit to France, & thinks that he accomplished all that his opportunities would allow & that the result will be beneficial to the College. He does not speak of Duckie.[2] I fear his littleness was overlooked amid the grand sights of Paris. Custis recd safely the cigars & box & Mildred the coffeepot. Both have been enjoyed I know by their possessors. The enjoyment of the former has been confined to the precincts of the Institute, but that of the latter has been more widely diffused. At this time its mistress being away it is carefully secured, as I suppose she wishes us to feel her absence as much as possible, & her presence as effective as all her accompaniments can make it. The books I have not yet sent on, as Custis has not yet been able to make the corrections he desired in the life of your uncle. I shall however wait for him no longer but will send next week the music to Mr. Cotting. It seems that the Cold this winter has been more severe in Paris than with us. I have seen a statement in the papers that at one time the thermometer was as low as 30° below zero centigrade I presume. The lowest that the mercury has fallen here & that only for one night was 10° Faht above zero. The winter has been uncommonly mild, so much so that little or no ice has been procured for the summer, & now it is almost too late to expect an opportunity for filling the ice houses. You are very Kind to invite me to visit you next summer, & it would give me great pleasure to do so & I should enjoy being with you & seeing in your Company the many interesting objects around you, but even if every thing Suited which they do not, I do not feel able to undertake so long a journey. The affection in my chest under which I labour, adhesion of the lungs & pleura or whatever it is, incapacitates me from exertion & as yet I cannot walk farther than from my house to the College without pain, & I have to proceed carefully at that. When quiescent I am comfortable & have not much cough. I should therefore be nothing but a trouble & inconvenience wherever I went & I am afraid that my neice would be ashamed of her old uncle, who would be a kind of a wild man from the woods, in the midst of her gay & polished circle. I have been very anxious as to the turn of political events in Paris, which for a time seemed threatening, but as far as I can judge from this distance, appear now as if they would become quiet & eventuate in the prosperity of France. I think the Emperor has adopted a wise course, & if his constitutional cabinet should pursue the policy of prudence & wisdom, the country will have reason to rejoice. The conduct of Roufort[3] & his party is calculated in my opinion to produce harm to the country & injury to themselves. All at such a crisis as France is in should endeavor to preserve order & advance liberty & aid in securing the rights of the whole people. I am however uneasy at your remaining in Paris & hope should the peace of the city not be maintained that you will leave it & come over to your uncle. Col: McCulloh when in Paris visited the Laboratory of M. Devison who manufactured the sword sent me during the war by Mr. Richard Tyson of Baltimore. He found him such a warm sympathizer with the South & so friendly to myself & learning that he furnished a sword of double the value of what was ordered that he is very importunate that I should send him a note of thanks. If I do so, I will enclose it & get you when convenient to call at his Laboratory & give it to him if you think proper. Your Aunt & Cousins are all as well as when you left them & pursuing their usual avocations which must be familiar to you. Mildred is now at the White House[4] & will probably go from there to Baltimore. I am Keeping your Recipes for her. The fashion papers have also been recd & studied. They were specially considered by your Aunt. Custis is well & Fitzhugh, Tabb[5] & Robt also. The baby is growing finely we are told & becoming quite accomplished. His Grd mother proposes to visit him in April. And now My dear nephew & niece I must tell you how I enjoy your letters; how much I want to see you & how dear you both are to me. May God bestow upon you every happiness. All unite in much love & I am your fond uncle

 

R E Lee

 

Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 4, M2009.385, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall

 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 October 8

 



[1] Richard S. McCulloch, a professor at Washington and Lee University.

[2] A small dog that the Childes brought with them to the United States when they visited from Paris. In the fourth volume of Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee biography, he notes Duckie was a “small helpless creature.” Robert E. Lee, Jr., said of Duckie, “He had crossed the Atlantic in fear and trembling and did not apparently enjoy the new world. His utter helplessness and the great care taken of him by his mistress, his ill health and the unutterable woe of his countenance greatly excited my father’s pity. After he went away, he often spoke of him, and referred to him, I find, in one of his letters.” See Freeman, R. E. Lee, 4: 309.

[3] Lee is referring to Victor Henri Rochefort, Marquis de Rochefort Luçay (1831-1913), a politician and editor, who a strong opponent of the Second Empire. He ran a newspaper and had to flee Paris several time to avoid arrest.

 

[4] White House plantation in New Kent County, Virginia, along the Pamunckey River. The original plantation house was owned by the Custis family, and George Washington, who married Martha Custis, spent time there after his marriage. Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee was staying in the house when Lee became commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. She was evicted by George McClellan in June 1862 and the house burned by Union troops retreating after their defeat in the Seven Days battles. McClellan allowed Mrs. Lee to pass through Union lines, and she took up a new residence in Richmond. After the war, Rooney Lee built a new house on the plantation. But in 1875 it too burned.

[5] Mary Tabb Bolling, whom Rooney Lee married in November of 1867.

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