Fort Brown, Texas, 3 Janr 1857
Little has occurred My dear Mary since my letter of the 27th. Nothing has been heard of the absent witnesses. The Court assembled yesterday, & adjourned for another week. By that time, the Atlantic will again have arrived from New Orleans, & it is thought may bring Some intelligence. If it does not, I hope they will proceed & finish the case. A great change has taken place in the weather since yesterday. Last evg. I took a long walk down the river & after Sunset it was uncomfortably warm in Summer apparel. During the day I had been sitting by an open window without Coat or stock. A norther sprung up during the night, & all my blankets were in requisition before morg. It is now Cold & cloudy & looks like snow. All outsiders are muffled in overcoats & blankets, & insiders, are hovering over the fire. The winters here seem to be Composed of melting & freezing. New Years day was observed in Brownsville & in the Garrison, with the form & ceremony of the Northern Cities. The ladies were attired in their best with cheerful boards spread for exhausted visitors. Their Small & limited houses compressed everything in one room. The Army ladies could make little exhibition. Mrs Morris, wife of Lt M, was the only one who was in her own quarters. Col Taylors furniture has not yet arrived from Baltimore, & Miss Sallies pine table & stick chairs are borrowed. Mrs Waite, Jones, Sibley & Ruggles, whose husbands are members of the Court, are merely encamping in the vacant quarters of the Post. They all had ample refreshments however—Cake, wine & plenty of Smiles for all Comers. My visits in town were soon made. Mrs Passmore, & Mrs Moses whose husband is an agent in the QrMrs Dept. were my only acquaintances. I felt no desire to increase their number, but in one instance. I had often wished to pay my respects to Mrs King, wife of the Captain of the Steamer Ranchero, which plies up the river, & who had been very civil to me on many occasions, & I embraced the opportunity afforded by the day. I found her alone & introduced myself & three other officers who were with me. She is the daughter of Mr. Chamberlain, Presbyterian Minister of this place, whose church I sometimes attend Sunday nights. She Seemed to be quite a nice lady. Her nice Cottage is removed from the street & the yard is filled with trees & shrubbery. Among the former were several orange trees filled with ripening fruit. I supposed they were mostly of the bitter Kind. Her table however was loaded with sweet oranges & many other things tempting to the eye, but I tasted nothing. Quantities of fine oranges are now brought here from Monterey & Victoria in Mexico & a few poor apples. I was told by Some of the officers who have made an extensive acquaintance with the ladies of Brownsville, that the refreshments of Some were very elaborate. Cold meats, Coffee, tea &c in addition to fruits & sweets. Visiting I think was Continued till bed time, but mine were all made between 12 & 1 P.M. during the day & the afternoon was spent as usual in a walk through the chapperal. Tell your father I have seen here some sheep of a different kind from any that I recollect. I know nothing of their quality, & their appearance, save that they were of good size, was not remarkably in their favour. Their horns were very large, & they had two on each side, four altogether. The upper pair branched out wide, & the lower pair, smaller than the upper, turned downwards. I asked the old shepherd, who watched them from his horse, while his dog seemed to have them in immediate charge, about them; but he Could tell me but little. He said they were called Obispo (which being translated means Bishop) & that their flesh was very good. In this Country they always have a certain number of goats with their sheep, which being more pugnacious, give confidence to the flock. Major Thomas recd letters from Mrs Thomas yesterday. She was very well & the only lady at Fort Mason. Mrs Johnson has joined her husband at Camp Colorado. Dr Smith has not arrived with his bride. He is the son of our old friend Dr Chas: Smith of Norfolk. There is but one Compy at Fort M[ason] now. Capt Bradfutes has been ordered to a camp 60 miles off. I can hear nothing from my camp nor have I since my departure four months ago. I do not know whether I shall find it standing or not. I hope next week to receive my letters from San Antonio, & that I shall then hear of you all. I trust that you may all have been well & happy & not wanted anything I could have done for you. I have not heard whether my nephew Fitzhugh has reached Texas yet, or where he will be stationed. I have heard that Mr Harrison & Mr Biggs have gone up to Camp Cooper, so I suppose he has been assigned to some other Post. I have also heard that Dr & Mrs Simons have arrived at San Antonio, & that the Dr has been appointed an Ass: Surgeon. I had hoped that he had been restored to his old position. But perhaps he may yet be. I do not know where he will be stationed. You must give much love to your father all the children present & absent, to Markie & all friends. To all & each I wish a useful happy new year, & that every & many returns of the day may add to their joy & consent. To you dear Mary I wish every good, every happiness: & pray to the good & great God, to guard & preserve you from every ill & every danger. May it please him to Keep us & all from every Sin, every folly; & when it is best for our present & future weal, to unite us in this world, & forever in the world to Come! May he bless you all, is the Constant prayer of yours affectionately & truly.
R E Lee
Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss 1 L51c 182, Section 10, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 August 26