• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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Lee Family Digital Archive

Camp Cooper on the

Clear Fork of the Brazos, Texas

12 Apl 1856

 

I arrived here dearest Mary on the 9th, & the Expressman from Fort Mason who reached here the following day brought me your letter of the 27 Feby, Containing the extract from the one returned to you from the White House.

I am very Sorry that you distressed yourself about my visit to Colross[1] & your forgetfulness of the buttons. The former I accomplished very easily, though I should have much prepared going with you, & the latter I purchased while in San Antonio. Neither was worth mentioning. I know you have many things on your mind & your omissions may readily be excused. I am also sorry that you found so much difficulty in rectifying the furnace. The want of it during that Severe weather, must have been much felt. It was not neighbourly in Mr Kinney to refuse his aid. If it has not yet been adjusted, you had better write to Collins, Should none of his men be in the neighborhood during the Summer or Fall, to Send on a Competent person to rectify it & let him explain its arrangement & management to you & Perry. When in order, you had better Confine its management to Perry alone, & tell him So that he may thoroughly inform himself. Aunt Maria & Burke thinks himself very Knowing in these matters.

I am also truly Sorry that you are not altogether Satisfied with Mr Weirs[2] portrait. Much allowance however must be made for him & it Can hardly be Considered more than a Sketch. He painted it at night, that being the only part of the day I was not occupied, & the strong light shining in my eyes was so painful that I was obliged to Keep them Short except when he wanted them. I hope you did not at least express your disappoint to him. He was very Kind & earnest in his efforts & deserved Success I wished it as a present to you but he would not accept any Compensation & Said he desired to present it himself & made Such a point of it, that I had to yield. As to the hair & moustache, they will be more like the original when I return. As to the Brigadiership I have never had the least expectation of recy. it. I have thought it would be Conferred on Genl Smith for political reasons. He is an amiable worthy Genln. now very much out of health & it may Serve to reinstate him. I have recd. a letter from Fitzhugh, giving a very satisfactory account of himself, & I hope he is not deceived as to his progress or his application. He is a cheerful affectionate fellow, but I think is easily satisfied as to his daily amount of study & learning. I trust he will always hold fast to correct Conduct & Gentlemanly feelings & learning. I am glad to hear that Rob[3] gets on so finely & went up head the first thing. Tell him he must Keep there & never let them pull him down. When is his Precious life going to write to me. They must all write to me but not expect Answers, as I have much to do & little time to write. I hope Mary has accomplished her visit to Baltimore & am sorry that she did not See the Wickhams. I am delighted that her foot Continues well & trust with Care it may be entirely restored. That must have been a terrible flame lit up between Markie[4] & Capt Ewell to have lasted according to your account “several days”! Was it raging all this while, in their hearts or the hearth. If in the former, it was natural enough, but if in the latter, the fuel was surely better than Uncle Gid, usually furnishes, when I think of you all it makes me very desirous to be with you, yet that is a thing I Can scarcely hope for, for years. I pray that I may be patient & that I may seek for Comfort not in this world but in a sincere repentance for my sins. I have not heard from Custis since I was in the west, nor from the girls since I left them. I hope they are well & that my poor sister Anne is better as I am led to hope from Fitzhughs letter. Col Hardee whom I relieve at this Place, goes on Monday to Fort Mason. I am very sorry to part with him, as besides being an excellent officer, is a pleasant Companion. I shall have little or no association. The young men here will take little pleasure in my Company & I shall have less in their Amusements. Four Comps. are stationed here under Capts Van Dorn, Stoneman, O’Hara & Whiting. We are situated on the Comanche Reserve, with the Indian Camps below us on the river, belonging to Catumseh band, whom this Govt is endeavouring to humanize. It will be uphill work I fear. Catumseh has been to See me. We have had a talk, very tedious in his part & very sententious on mine. I hailed him as a friend, so long as his Conduct & that of his band entitled him to it, but would meet him as an enemy, the first moment he deserved it.

The rest of the tribe, about a thousand it is said, live north of us & are hostile. Yesterday I returned his visit, & remained a short time at his lodge. He informed me he had six wifes. It was the day for the reception of their provisions, & all but a young one, had gone to the Agency on their ponies to receive it. They are riding in & out of Camp all day. Their paint & ornaments make them more hideous than nature made them, & the whole race is extremely uninteresting. Hearing that eggs, butter &c were not among the luxuries of this part of the Country. I purchased before learning the Settlements a few hens & brought them in a coop behind my wagon, over 200 miles. Every mg. at the end of the march I would let them out & they fed around the wagon & laid me some eggs on the road. They seem now to be delighted with their liberty & have become quite domesticated. This morg. I found an egg at my tent door, & a few minutes since another hen seem desirous of presenting me with another. After walking around my chair & peering up at my writing, She hopped upon my bed, but disliking such intimacy, I rose to dislodge her when she skimmed across my table, upsetting my ink & rendering my letter so illegible that I have been obliged to write this one, & have consequently been more hurried than I would otherwise have been. I have some official letters to write by this express & must therefore stop. Direct still to San Antonio, Texas. Give much love to your father & all the children. I could not find Mrs. Arthurs Puss[5] at Fort Chadborne. The Camp is therefore without one. But we have a mighty serenade from the wolves. Mr Dick has gone on to Belknap. He sends his regards. I suppose Helen has gone

Truly & devotedly yours

R E Lee

 

 

 

Source: Lee Family Papers, Folder 9, Mss1 L51c 154, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

 

 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 April 1

 


[1] Lee might be referring to Culross, which is in present-day Humble, Texas, just north of Houston.

[2] Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), who painted one of the two portraits known to have been made of Robert E. Lee before the Civil War.

[3] Robert Edward Lee, Jr., was born in 1843 and attended boarding schools in the 1850s.

[4] Martha “Markie” Custis Williams Carter.

[5] Mrs. Arthur had a cat and other creatures with her in camp. See Robert E. Lee to wife, 1856 March 28.

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