Coosawhatchie, South Carolina
January 19, 1862
I have received my dear son your two letters of the 12th & 15th respectfully & seize this quiet hour to answer them. As regards paying back rent for the house, you must do as you find best. Perhaps paying for certain repairs will answer as well & if you will let me know the amount required I will remit it to you. I hope the arrangement you have made may be agreable as well as advantageous to you, & you must allow me to advise that you economize your funds, for I expect to be a pauper if I get through the war & you will want all your means. The bonds that I hold of the Northern railroads & cities will all be confiscated & those of the Southern states will be much depreciated & cannot pay interest so my revenue will be much reduced if not cut off. Everything at Arlington will I fear be lost & it will take all the land at the White House & Romancoke to pay the legacies to the girls with the interest. But if honour & independence is delt us I will be content. I am very glad that F[itzhugh] the fine fellow has been promoted & hope he will prove a good officer. If you can satisfy yourself about our young relatives let me know & you & F must both, in your way, & as far as they deserve, try & aid them.
There is another matter that I wish to inquire about. My friend Genl Hugh Mercer has applied for information concerning Lt Col Henry H. Walker. I infer he is paying court to Miss Mary. Indeed I heard he was expected in Savannah. You may recollect him at W[est] P[oint]. (I believe it is the one). He graduated in 1853 & was commissioned in the 6th infantry. He is now Lt Col of the regiment commanded by Col Dabney Maury serving with Genl [T. H.] Holmes’ division. As far as I recollect he was a fair officer & I think when I met him at the West was Adjutant of his regiment or on the staff of Genl Clarke. If his antecedents & surroundings are not objectionable & his family character, habits, &c., afford a reasonable guaranty for the lady’s happiness, I suppose it is all a man can ask. But of these I know nothing & cannot speak. You might ascertain from his acquaintances without being officious or obtrusive. It is a delicate & not agreeable office I know, but I shall say nothing to implicate anyone & only wish to give him the means of inquiry. We must aid our friends all we can.
As Mr. Smith says the decision of the court is to liberate the people at the end of five years, that makes the decree all plain to me. I only wish I had the opportunity to attend to the business of the estate to make it as profitable to the legatees as possible. If you & F cannot attend to it I do not know what to do. I have written to F to send you his accounts for 1861, & I wish if possible you would square them up & if there is any surplus invest in Virginia State bonds. I have some funds in the Farmers Bank of Richmond, which perhaps had better be invested anyhow, so that I may be prepared to make good any deficit. Ask Mr. McFarland what he could purchase $5000 Virginia State bonds for. If they are not higher than last question I saw, I can raise money to pay for them. Have the banks paid the January dividends, & there are certain coupons due which perhaps might be collected. The box containing them is in the Farmers Bank. If you require the box at Uncle Carter’s at any time send for it. The papers could be returned, & the abstract & account current retained so as to continue the account. All the hire of the Arlington people must be payed to the estate, if it has not been, & I wish you could take steps to get that which is due. The hire of those about Alexandria I suppose can never be obtained. Perhaps Mr. Smith might secure some. I do not know where Mr. Scott is. Mr. William O. Winston may know. John Goldsborough knows where Harrison [a servant] is. Two years are due of his hire. He is hired to some gentleman on the Orange Railroad & is frequently in Richmond. Mr. Echo can attend to the people in R[ichmond].
I have just returned from a visit to the coast as far as Fernandian [Florida]. Our defences are growing stronger, but progress slowly. The volunteers dislike work & there is much sickness among them besides. Guns too are required, ammunition, & more men. Still on the whole matters are encouraging & if the enemy does not approach in overwhelming numbers we ought to hold our ground. He is quiescent still. What he is preparing for or where he will strike I cannot discover. His numerous boats cut off all communication with the islands, where he hides himself & his works. I saw in Fernandina Miss Matilda. I fear she is out with me. She had written me another tremendous long letter which I had never been able to read & it seems she wanted some companies placed near her at old Fort Carlos, & which I could not do. I was also at Dungeness. The garden was beautiful. Filled with roses &c., which had not so far been touched with frost this winter. The place is deserted. Mrs. N[ightengale] & her daughters occupy a log cabin in the pines near Tebeauville Junction on Brunswick [& Florida] & [Savannah], [Albany] & Gulf Railroads. Mr. N[ightengale] is on the St. Mary River. Every one on the coast has suffered, but they bear it manfully. No civilized nation within my knowledge has ever carried on war as the United States government has against us. I saw good old Mrs. Mackay, the young Stiles &c. in S[avannah]. Mrs. William H. Stiles is in Cass, with the Elliotts. Miss Sydney Stiles I understood was engaged to her cousin Dr. Elliot, son of Mrs. Ralph, who is said to be a fine young man. Everybody inquired kindly for you. [Captain Joseph C.] Ives is in Savannah helping [Captain William H.] Echols lay out entrenchments around the city.
Give much love to all friends, your mother &c., & believe me always
Your affectionate father
R E Lee
Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, pp. 103-04.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 January 18