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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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

Fairfax Agt 18th (1861)

Dear Aunt,

            Your kind letter of the 10th has come safe to hand, and now I take this chance to answer it and I hope it will find you all enjoying good health. I am sorry that I can’t say the same for our Regt, we are very sickly, and in fact the whole Brigade, the principle complaint is the Measles the men get cured of that, and then they are careless and they take cold and it gets very hard with them we have the thyfoid fever also. myself I have been very healthy, I have not been so well for the past few days. we are having very disagreeable weather it is enough to make anyone feel bad. I suppose you know a Mr Smith he used to be in business at Pendleton he is also sick and is at one of our hospital, which one I am unable to say, he is a Member of the Butler Guard from Greenville,1 they have lost a great many of their men from sickness. Your letter informs me that John is with you. I know he will enjoy himself. I only wish I was with you it would give me a great deal of pleasure to be with you. I would like to get a furlough to visit you, but it is very hard to get it granted to you, I have heard it said that they are not going to give any more.

But I hope I will be spared to come back home safe, and I try to come and visit you. Today is the sabbath it is very damp, and don’t think we will have any preaching, we have worship every sunday in our Camp, we have an excellent Chaplain. he is a fine man, the sunday of the Battle2 while the cannons when booming he took every company by themselves and made a few remarks, and made a fine prayer and I don’t think we had a man in our company that did not feel it as soon as he finished with our Company we where [sic] ordered to take our stand on the Field, we had to double quick for four miles from the place we where stationed to the Battle field. I suppose you have heard of Mr Ruffin3 he is a member of our body he is sixty two years old, the old man fought hard with us, one could not help fighting when he would turn his eyes and see those gray locks with his specticles on fighting as he did it is a wonder that it did not killed him for he was with us when we retreated from Fairfax, and from the time we left that place we slept out in the open air until we got to Vianna,4 and that was over a week. but the hand of providence was with us, I could see it in several incidents for instances the wounds that some men received, they where in the most dangerous part of the Body, and as luck would have it they were only slight, it seemed as if god did not intend them to be killed. one of our men a rifle Ball took him on the nose just between the eyes, and only bruising him slightly, and several other cases of the kind, I had no idea that I would have kept so cool. but after I commence firing I declare I did not think of the danger at all I took as good aim as if I was firing at a target I am under the impression that I left my man on the field.

            Remember me to Miss Matilda and Miss Rosa. give my love to all the Family and tell J. that I wish I was there to visit the table Rock I know I would enjoy myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                             Write soon,

From your dear Nephew

P.B. Bird5

Do excuse all mistakes as

I do not feel very well.

 

Direct as before

 

 

Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 3, M2009.262

Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 June 1


1. 2nd Regiment, South Carolina Infantry Company B was known as Butler’s Guards. The unit was named after Matthew C. Butler. Butler was born in Greenville in 1836 and served in the Army of Northern Virginia.

2. Probably a reference to the Battle of Bull Run, fought on Sunday, July 21, 1861.

3. Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865) was a Virginia planter and in the 1850s was a member of the radical, pro-slavery, and secessionist political group called Fire-eaters. Despite his age he served in the Confederate army, and is often credited as “firing the first shot of the war” at Fort Sumter. He committed suicide at the end of the war in 1865.

4. Vienna, Virginia.

5. Pickens Brooks Bird (1833-64) was a Florida native and owner of the Treelawn plantation in Jefferson County. He enlisted in the Confederate army in 1861, serving first as a lieutenant in Company E, 3rd Florida regiment and later being promoted to Captain in Company K, 10th Florida. He was wounded at Cold Harbor in 1864 and died a few days later.

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