• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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Petersburg Nov 7th 1862

 

You will be surprised at the date of my letter, dear Sister but it was necessary for me to go to a dentist immediately & Belle Harrison recommended one so highly here I came here last Wed. afternoon. Met Mrs Col Long on the cars who enquired particularly after you. I am trying with the Harrisons, have gotton through my teeth to-day & expect to return to Richmond early next week. I am truly sorry you had heard nothing before my letter arrived; Mamma had written once or twice, & I supposed she had told you all. I am sorry my letter was so hurried & so little in it, but I felt so weary, in fact it was so hard then & is often now, to arouse myself from a perfect deadness that makes any concentration of my thoughts almost impossible. Indeed I appreciate how hard it was to be absent at such a time. O I think it would have killed me, & yet if I had only known only realized it was death, it seems to me now it would have been a slight satisfaction. You know she had been sick just four weeks when she died. I was with her of course a great deal & so did not observe the change going on; besides several persons had been very ill with typhoid fever before, our eyes, each one had reached the crisis & then recovered, I took it for granted hers would be just the same. Mamma is always sanguine you know. It seems this Dr. was much more anxious but he was still treating cases that for a long time had been as serious; besides he said her symptoms were all good, except her fever was very high. It was not until Sunday morning the 19th Mamma & I became seriously alarmed. I do not think such a great blow can be realized at once, I know I for one strove to stifle that feeling of unknown evil that made me too miserable to endure it. Annie never referred to dying. She had been very deaf for some days so that conversation was fatiguing, besides her mind was a little weakened, though perfectly sensible most of her sickness. She spoke principally of her present pain, which was not often great, her weakness, & of her wants. It is such a conclusive proof to me since that a death bed is not the time to prepare for Heaven. There never was an hour in the whole of her sickness that she could have fixed her mind upon a subject requiring such serious thought. She had asked me several times to do certain things about mending or arranging her clothes, Sunday morning she again asked me, I said I will tomorrow, it is Sunday. “Is today Sunday, then give me my hymn book” she turned over the leaves as if looking for something & tried to read, but the book fell. Mamma thinks her hand rested on a hymn entitled “In extremity.” She lay sleeping most of the time as she had to take morphene to keep off pain. That night about eight o’clock she called me I went up to her & felt her face perfectly cold. O sister my terror I never can forget, I screamed for Ma but deluded myself afterwards by thinking it was only the blanket thrown off. I do not remember thinking at all that night, I only lay by her side my hand pressing down her forehead which seemed to soothe her. She was rather delirious at first & had to take morphene to compose her. Presently she said “Lay me down, lay me down,” & afterwards “I am ready to rise” which I feel now referred to what was to come. Though I saw her eyes raised, as those do raise them who have done with earth the thought that she was going to leave us for our life time, I could not would not believe it. She did not seem to miss any one, perhaps that was mercifully intended, as so many of us were away. She called my name often, but more from habit—I suspect. But about three in the morning, she said “where’s Agnes? & felt for me, I pressed my face to hers & told her I was sleeping with her, she seemed content & those were I believe the last words she spoke.

Before seven she ceased to breath very quietly. Though I saw all that, it was not for days I could believe that was Annie. I felt perfectly heartless, because I could not feel sorry all day, but now it is so hard to bear. It was my earnest wish that she should be brought to R[ichmond] it would have been such a pleasure to us all to have visited & beautified her grave. But Mamma & others thought otherwise. Custis or Mr. Leigh was telegraphed for that day, Mamma wrote to Papa & you the previous day. C[ustis] was with the Army, Mr L arrived Tuessday night. Every one was as kind & considerate as possible, the Seldons, & Miss Jennie Ritchie we can never forget Mr & Mrs Jones did everything in their power, she was placed in their cemetary Wed. morning, it is a mile from the Springs a very quiet situation. Ma & I reflected on the spot.

We had a great many beautiful flowers sent us, with which we covered her. Col. R. B. Lee1 & Cousin Julia came up from Warrenton & were very kind. Before we left the grave was nicely turfed & fenced around. A little hollytree planted at the head & at the foot I trained ivy to grow over the stone. There are arbor vitae & boxbushes each side & since our friends have planted lilies of the valley & violets. It looked very fresh & sweet when I left it I placed a beautiful cross of white roses & chrysanthemums Julia Seldon had made on the head stone I wish you could have the same pure fresh picture in your mind that I have. But O it was so hard to go away and leave her. We came to R[ichmond] Saturday with Mr L & Annie. Custis met us at the cars, he & Fitzhugh had come down a day or two before. Ma went to Mrs. Caskies, & I to Sallie Warwicks where they have been so kind to me. Phoebe & herself asked particularly after you & asked to be remembered. So do Mrs. Ritchie, Mrs Harrison, Mrs Cross, Miss Jennie & Belle, a great deal of love. I am so sorry you missed Papa’s visi to R[ichmond] he staid at Mr Caskie’s & we saw a good deal of him. He looks very well except his hands which are still quite swollen. Fitzhugh has gone back too, but Rob, whom F has offered a position as his aid, is expected down in a day or two. Orton has written me he expects to come in soon for a day or two, but it is uncertain. Give my best love to Margaret I will write to her in a day or two I am very glad you sent for those things I am willing to take anything, everything will be wanted. I did hesitate to send for things of other people, but they have been so kind & wished to accommodate them. Remember my shoes are 2 ½ or smaller. I have no gaiter boots at all, & any thick bk. Gloves would be very acceptable, or buckskin gloves I have none, my no. for kid is 6 ½. I am going to R— Monday morning. You do not say if you have gotten well. Give a great deal of love to all.

 

In haste

Yours Agnes

 

If Cousin L does bring more linen than she wants I will be very glad to take it for chemises. You can add my calico too, if they will let you. Make my bill separate of course     

 

 

Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51c 400, Section 20, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 October 28

 

 

1. Richard Bland Lee (1797-1875), the son of Richard Bland Lee (1761-1827), who was the brother of Light Horse Harry Lee. R. B. Lee, therefore, was a first cousin of General Robert E. Lee.

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