Richmond 8 July ’61
My dear Mary
I have just recd. a very Kind letter from our Cousin Cabell. You must respond to it as you think best, & Communicate it to Cousin Anna. Dear Cousin Anna, for whom I feel very anxious. I hope she is well, comfortable & confident. I know she trusts no one who will never fail her. If she Should determine to leave R[ichmond]. I thought it might be agreable to her to go to Edgewood. From what Cousin Cabell says it seems to be a retired place & I have no doubt healthy. By R. R. to Charlottesville & thence on the Lynchburg R. R. you arrive by her account within 15 miles of her house, & by coming to Richmond & taking the Canal, in 24 hours you arrive within 1 mile of her house. The former route for you & Cousin A would be the most expeditious, as you would arrive there in about the Same time you would reach here.
I was very glad to receive your letter Commd. on the 4th & apparently finished on the 5th enclosing one for Custis. You will have learned from a former letter from me that C has gone to N.C. on temporary duty.
Orton1 has gone to Tennessee with Bishop Polk who has been made a Genl in the Confederate army & will be on his staff. I should have liked to have hath him with me, but I knew it would have reopened the batteries of the Northern Press against him reviving their scandalous assertions of his intended betrayal of Genl Scotts Plans &c to come &c I thought by his going away & being Somewhat removed it would tend to disprove their assertions & to keep him out of view till time might in a measure allay their rancour. He could not have gotten with a better man J. Packard determined to join Mr Pendletons battery, with one or two other friends. I saw him but for a few moments, before the receipt of your letter. Fitzhugh Came in today in reference to business of his Compy. It is stationed at Ashland for equipment & instruction & he yesterday saw Charlotte, who was well. Annie had been indisposed & talks of Coming in this week & of going to Brandon with Agnes. I wish they were all at Some point & Safe place I forgot to ask Fitzhugh about the sale of the wool & fear that those matters will have to wait till after the war. I got the report of Robs examination at the university. He has graduated in Latin & Commd. his Mil: Course.
You see all news in the papers & more than is true. Our adversaries are revelling in their strength & think they will have their own way. I trust God will aid us yet. Give a great deal of love to daughter & Mildred. I never have time to write to them. Remember me also to all with you. A badge for the troops has been decided on by the QrMrs Dept a kind of epaulette, not sufficiently distinct at a distance I should think. I had proposed a broad band, with a rosette & streamers on the left arm above the elbow. But the epaulette was preferred. I hope it will answer. Many incidents & deaths I know will result from the ignorance & awkwardness of our troops.
Miss Heth Cary, her sister & brother arrived here Saturday. They had to leave B___ Traveller down to St Marys Co: Crossed the Potomac (10 miles wide) to Stratford & got up here. She looks very pretty. They are going to Orange Ct House. Mary C. was in the County. She knew nothing of Anne.
Very truly & Sincerely
R E Lee
Source: Photocopy of letter, Lee Family Papers, MSs1 L51c 304, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 July 20
1. William Orton Williams/Lawrence Williams Orton (1839-1863) was a cousin of Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee. He dated Lee’s daughter, Agnes, though General Lee and his wife thought Williams—who had a reputation as a hard drinker—unstable. Williams was born 1839 July 7 in Buffalo, New York. He was the son of Captain George W. Williams (1801-1846) and America Pinckney Peter Williams (1803-1842). His father was killed at the battle of Monterey in 1846 July. Williams attended Episcopal School in Alexandria, the same school that Robert E. Lee attended. In March of 1861, Williams was appointed a second lieutenant and served on Winfield Scott’s staff. After the war began, against General Scott’s orders, Williams warned the Lees that the army was going to seize Arlington. Upon his return to Washington, and before he could offer his resignation, Scott had him arrested and placed in prison at Governor’s Island. Williams was released a few weeks later. After joining the Confederate army, rumors arose that he had acted as a spy for General Lee. Rather than serve on Lee’s staff, Williams was ordered west to serve on the staff of Leonidas Polk. Williams became a pariah among fellow Confederates for having shot an enlisted man for disobeying an order. Williams was unapologetic. He changed his name to Lawrence Williams Orton and joined the staff of Braxton Bragg. He rose to the rank of colonel after the battle of Shiloh and commanded a cavalry brigade. In June of 1863, Williams and his adjutant, Walter “Gip” Peter were hanged for spying on Union forces in Tennessee. He was executed on 1863 June 9.