Ft: Brown, Texas. 9 Jany 1857
I have read with great pleasure my precious Life, for you are truly precious to me, & more than life, your two letters of 31 Oct & 8th Decr. They make me long to see you & to be with you, for as gratifying to me as they are they do not tell me half enough about yourself. How tall are you? What are you learning? Who teaches you? I am very glad to hear that you have been well all the summer & Fall, & that you had such a pleasant visit to Cedar Grove, & were with those sweet little Stuarts. I hope you will be very careful & do nothing to bring back a return of your chills. But above all things be careful of your conduct. Do not even wish for what you ought not to have or do, but try hard to be a truly good, as well as wise girl, & rigidly obey your parents & tutors. I hope you will be particularly attentive to your Mother. Now that she is in pain & trouble, it is more than ever your duty to assist & Serve her, & on no account to add to her distress. You do not know, but I do, the pain and anxiety she has felt for you. When you were young, helpless, could do nothing for yourself, & would have perished without her, she was never weary, sick or well, night or day, to watch or tend you. No pleasure, no business ever caused her to neglect you. Do you not think that now you ought to return her love & care? Perhaps God has thus afflicted her to try her children, & give them an opportunity of shewing their appreciation of all she has done for them. Do not incur his anger by your neglect. You must not suppose that I think you do or would, & what I have said was merely to give you my views of what was due to yourself as well as your mother. You do not tell me why Mr. Hall ceased giving you musick lessons. I hope you will like Mr Palmer better as you become acquainted with him. But you will like neither the teacher or the subject unless you practice diligently & learn to play well. That is the secret. We are always fond of what we do well. Try it & you will find it so. That is one reason that you like your chickens. You attend to them & succeed. So it would be with other things. I am very glad you have been so successful the past year. I hope your winter henhouse is completed & will prove a warm one. You will then in the Spring have plenty of eggs. I fear I shall find mine all gone. I left them in charge of my washerwoman Giving her all the proceeds, but no one will attend to your business as well as you will yourself. I do not therefore expect to find any of them left. There are four little girls at this Fort. But only one resides here, Jeannie Dawson, daughter of Capt Dawson. I should think she was 13 or 14 years old, & has lately commenced going to school at the Convent in Brownsville. The nuns are the teachers & I understand they have quite a large school. It is in a large brick house, surrounded by a high brick wall, within which no man is allowed to enter. Women work in the garden, cut wood &c. Miss Jeannie has a little pony on which she is learning to ride. She seems to be quite fearless, but has great difficulty in getting her pony along & keeps the whip going all the time. It is a little piebald that cost $10. & paces very easily. Her mother has quite a nice one, mouse coloured, that paces delightfully. The other little girls are named Puss Sibley, Mary Seawell, & Emma Jones. Their fathers are only here temporarily. I gave Miss Jeannie on Xmas a prayer book & she has worked me a watch case. It was the only new years gift I received. You must write to me when you can. You begin to write very well now. I hope you will keep well & do well. Your fond father.
R E Lee
Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51c 184, Section 10, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 November 3