• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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Fort Hamilton N.Y.

11 March 1843

 

My beautiful Tasey[1]:

 

            I have just returned from Washington where your Charming letter followed me. I have brought it back with me to enjoy it. I wish you were here in person for I am all alone. My good dame not wishing to leave her mother So Soon even to follow such Spouse as I am. Tell my Cush[2] I shall not let her behave so (when I get her) but will always keep her close to me. We reached Arlington the middle of Jany, too late for the Christmas festivities, & what I much regretted, too late to have Custis with us at his holy days. He however passed every Saturday & Sunday with us. He is growing very tall & what is better, his teachers tell me he is a very good boy, learns with facility & gives them no trouble. Poor little fellow, Monday was a black morg.[3] with him. He could not restrain his tears at every parting & he would gallop off on his pony with them streaming down his cheeks. I suppose he was thinking of Cush & it was that made his heart so full, for he said he was very happy at school & never wished to stay away. He says you need not tell him how fully Cush is for he remembers her well & her bright curls too. Your young friend Rooney is growing apace in more ways than one & I am afraid he is no better than he should be. He was found one morg. in a young ladies bed & seemed so pleased with his quarters that he could not begot out, till I sent him word if he did not get out of that I would pull them both out by the heels. You must have taught him those tricks, Tasey, for he never learnt them from his father. My dame must surely have written to you since you mentioned, for she says so & she never tells a story. She however wrote while at Arlington & I hope told you all about the little Lees for if I commence on them I never know when to stop. You ought however to See the last one for she say she is “Papas darling” & waits on him in the morg. like the most accomplished hand maiden of the olden time. I must say though, she is rather too impetuous for a person of my age & gravity & desires every garment to be put on at once, & the basin & towel to be used at the same time. I Saw Major & Mrs. Symington & Miss M. Coulter & was carried up to pronounce upon the twins! Tell the Dr. to see what a little promotion does for a man. But poor me, I am as high as I shall ever be! My dame looked very wistfully at them & said they were sweet little things, but they reminded me of a bed of pinks more than anything else, except that they were stretching their mouths & making faces at each other all the time & I never saw pinks do that. Miss Sophy Johnson was in Richmond & Miss Mary S. is growing up a young lady. Mrs. Kearney lost her little daughter while I was there. It was a distressing thing for her poor lady & Mrs. McK too. They were very gay before & their party was said to have been the most agreeable of the Season. How is Mrs. Atkinson? I hope the presence of her Mother & Sister will cheer her up. Do remember me to them all if you see them. There was a rumor in Washington of Major Stuart being very devoted to Mrs. A. with a prospect of success I take it for granted it was all rumor & no truth & that the Majors natural kindness of heart has been misconstrued. Poor Alexr K, I pity him. Comfort him Tasey, for if the fire of his heart is so stimulating to the growth of his whiskers there is danger of his being suffocated. What would be the verdict of a jury in that case, Suicide? It is awful to think of! Inveigle him out to talk french with you. You know that is the language of the heart & you might in that way introduce a little cold water to quench the flame. I hope the sympathy between himself & Miss Louise is not so intimate as to produce the same effect on her, for I should hate her sweet face to be hid by such briars unless they were mine. But let us leave this subject Tasey for which I am now too old, & in reference to which,

“Youths too, with all, they say, can only tell, what maids know well:”[4]

& tell me what has come over Dr. Sykes. Is it merely a verification of the old saying that  long necks are always stiff & hot heads are worse when they grow cool, or is it madness or worse? For in that case, we must Send him to Constantinople for you know idiocy is considered a peculiar mark of Heaven’s favour, among the Turks. I have no news to tell you. Washington was said to be peculiarly dull. I however did not go among the fashionables, but Spent what time, I could spare from my business among my friends, with whom thank God it was still fashionable, to be plain cheerful & gentlemanly. John Lee, whom you have seen at our room, & your own too, in St. Louis, is said to be engaged to a young Cousin of ours, Miss Gales. His brother Philips, of the Navy, is certainly engaged to Miss Lizzy Blair.  Their love story is quite romantic. For your sake, I will Condense it. They first became attached to each other three or four years ago. Her father objected to their union. At an interview one morg. between the Gentlemen, it was agreed the matter should end, & the father relieved to send in the daughter for a last farewell. In the pain of parting & in the effort of controuling her feelings, she ruptured a blood vessel & was carried from the room with her lips dyed with blood. Philip went to Sea, & She passed the winter in Cuba & was restored. They met again this winter & at the advice of Physicians all objective were withdrawn. So goes the Story. Don’t publish it, or inquire too minutely into its truth or it may be spoiled. I cannot take leave of it without a word of advice. It is translated from Theoculus & is an inscription as a Statue of Love.

“Mild he may be & innocent to view, yet who on earth can answer for him? You who touch the little god, mind what ye do! Say not that none has caution’d you: although short be his arrow, Slender be his bow, The king Apollo’s never wrought such woe.”[5]

            If after this Tasey you fall a victim you cannot blame me for it. I recd a letter in the winter from the Colonel. He was just setting out in search of some Indians which I afterwards said he caught. I also ran against his brother Sam in Broadway, who is now living in Burlington, Vermont. I do not expect my dame tell next month. I shall be very solitary & will not have your good Mother to take care of me, as she once did on a like occasion? I wish I could see the Dr. Coming in again to my room in his shirt sleeves with a dose of rhubarb in one hand & a glass of toddy in the other. I would send him the same trick over; or if it would insure me the pleasure of seeing him, I would take the rhubarb this time. Tell Bud howdie for me & to Cush say I love her dearly. Ask her to write me a short letter, or a Postscript at least to yours, I am afraid she will forget me. We are in the midst of winter here & do not expect to be released till April. Our young Gentln. of the Garrison are hard put to it for announcements. No drilling, no riding, no boating, no one to make love to. They meet every morg. to query each other. I have witnessed some of these exhibitions of wit. But did you ever remark how many are suspicious that they are witty who raise no such suspicion in anyone else? I am afraid you will think I need not go far from home to prove that. So I will bid you good bye. 

Love to all, very truly yours,

Capt R E Lee

 

Write soon & tell me of everyone.

 

 

 

Source: Facsimile of original letter in Stratford Hall vertical files

 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 December 7



[1] Sarah Beaumont, the daughter of Dr. William Beaumont and Deborah Greene Beaumont. Dr. William Beaumont (1785-1853) was an army medical officer. He was stationed in St. Louis in the 1830s, during which time Lee was working on fortifications along the Mississippi River.

[2] Lucretia Beaumont, one of Dr. Beaumont’s four children. Lucretia was named after her father’s mother.

[3] Abbreviation for “morning.”

[4] Lines from Greek writer Aristaenetus.

[5] Lines from English writer Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864).

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