Hot Springs, Bath Co: Va;
22 Aug 1870
My Dear Nephew
Your good long letter of the 25 Ulto: has followed me to this place, where I have been nearly a fortnight trying the waters for my rheumatic attack. I left your Aunt with Agnes & Mildred at Lexington, none of them desiring to repeat their visits to a spring which is mainly frequented by the Suffering, & although it is painful to See So many afflicted together, & to listen daily to their sorrowful narratives, all of which I presume you have experienced, yet it is delightful to express their joy as they perceive the approach of relief which is felt by so many. I cannot say that I have experienced that pleasure in my own person yet, & have only one more walk to remain, as I am obliged to be in Staunton on the 30th Inst: to meet the Stockholders of the Valley Railroad Compy. Thence I shall go to Lexington to prepare for the resumption of the exercises of the College. After the first week in Sept: we are promised a visit from Mr. & Mrs. de Podestad, Fitzhugh & his wife, & Robert. Custis will have returned before that time, so we will have a family gathering. Mary I presume will not get back till later. You may have heard that She went out to Missouri to visit the Turners. While there Genl & Mrs. Ewell, the parents of Mrs. T, arrived from Tennessee, & proposed a visit to the upper Mississippi, so at last accounts they were at Lake Pepin & intended to go as high as the Falls of St Anthony.
The journeys in that part of the Country are made easy by the conveniences of the fine large Steamers that navigate the Mississippi. I wish my dear Nephew that you & my niece could join us at at [sic] Lexington. I have been very uneasy about you both since the Commencement of the war between France & Germany. I fear it will be a hard & protracted one if both Governments put forth all their strength; & will produce great misery to the citizens of each. I wish they had submitted their differences to the arbitration of friendly Powers, according to the articles of the treaty of Paris of 1856. It would have been Such a grand moral victory in the eyes of the present & future generations, that it Could not help but have been followed by other nations. It would have been however almost expecting too much from present civilization, had it been done. We are not yet ready for such an elevated act, & must butcher & slaughter each other I fear for years to Come. If the war should continue, & you & my niece find it unpleasant or irksome to remain in the county, you must pack up & Come over to us. you will at least find a quiet shelter under our roof & a warm & affectionate welcome. From the accounts we have recd the French so far seem to have met with reverses, & are retiring towards Paris. The advance of the Prussians may not be checked & in that event I presume they will press on to the Capital & cannot help inflicting misery upon the populations. There is no necessity for your being comprehended in it & I hope that you will get out of it in time to escape ever witnessing the horrors of war. Without going into the merits of the question at issue, I cannot help deploring the result, & lament the misfortunes that seem to threaten a gallant people, who in their contests just or unjust have borne themselves nobly in the field. Praying that a Merciful Providence may overrule all things for good & may keep & guard you & my dear niece in safety, I am most truly & affy, your Uncle, R E Lee
Mr Edward Lee Childe
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 4, M2009.390, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 October 7