Fort Brown, Texas, 7th Feby 1857
The Court has been sitting all day, & I have now but little time dearest Mary to write to you. It is of less consequence as I have but little to say. It is of less consequence as I have but little to say. No definite period would be sufficient for me to write all my thoughts concerning you the dear children, your father & the interests of all, & a short time will suffice to tell all of myself. Major Porter today after a long & hard struggle was obliged to close his defense so far as the presentation of witnesses is concerned, but asked all next week to make his written defense to the charges, which will be his final effort. This time was granted. I cannot say how long it will take the Court to make up their final decision, but I do not expect to get away till the last of the week after next. I shall start in the first boat for Ringgold Bks: after the adjournment of the Court, when I take the land route to San Antonio. It will take me fully two weeks to reach there from Ringgold, so I hardly expect to arrive before about the 10th March, & will not hear from you before then. I hope I may get cheering news of you all, & that your malady has at least ameliorated, if not entirely abated. That will compensate me for not hearing for so long. The Court has been all this week hearing testimony on the part of the accused. Two of the witnesses for whom it has been waiting arrived in the last steamer. One other we heard was too ill to come, & the other was not coming. Thus all the absent witnesses were disposed of. The Major then found there were half a dozen here, of whose materiality he was not previously aware. They were finally disposed of today. I hope all his mass of testimony will be of service to him. He will at least have the satisfaction that Dr Chapman I think it was, used to assure to his patients, that if they did die, they should die hard. So having done his best, he will be content. I have occasionally heard from my man at Ringgold, in charge of my mules &c, that they were all well, & everything was ready on my arrival for departure. I shall therefore hope to find them so. But it will be nearly four months, by the time of my return, since I last saw them. I shall have some apprehension therefore that I may be disappointed. The spring Seems to have opened in earnest. The trees are putting forth their young leaves. The birds are building their nests, & the cattle cropping the young grass. The air is fragrant with the sweet odour of the acacia, & the chapperal is bright with the early flowers. The path of my evg walk is lined with the running verbena, though I have not observed but the two varieties, the purple & pink. I hope the grass will be sufficiently advanced on my way up to afford nourishment to my animals, & then should the roads be totally dry, I shall have no serious detention. The ground is now very dry, so much so as to retard vegetation, the gardens are suffering, though much of the seed is up, & the dust in Brownsville is almost intolerable. The cisterns are nearly exhausted, & the water has already become warm. I have luxuriated in the clear cold water here this winter, both to drink & in my ablutions, but I suppose will now have to return to my tepid draughts & baths. I have heard no news from any quarter since I last wrote. The papers seem to announce that everything is moving smoothly in the outer world, & I hope the hot & ruinous spirit of party is dying out & that the new administration will find mens minds calm & reasonable. You must remember me very kindly to all my Army friends whom you meet with. I see the death of my old Comrade Major Dutton of the Engineers announced. There appears to be a great change working in my former Corps, & I have constantly to lament the departure of my friends from its ranks. I am very glad to hear that Genl Tottens health is restored, & hope he will be preserved to it a long time, for I do not Know who there is to take his place. Col Thayers health is infirm, & I fear those next to him are not very strong. I hope my dear Mary this will find you Comfortable & that my earnest prayers for your welfare will in time be answered. Give much love to your father, all the children, Markie, & all with you. I hope the children will write to me without waiting to hear from me. Should you see Miss Mollie Kemble, thank her for her kind remembrance, which I should certainly have acknowledged, but do not Know how a letter Can reach her. I will therefore give her more time to listen to her Sweethearts.
With prayers for your happiness & welfare now & forever I remain always yours
R E Lee
Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51c 187, Section 10, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 November 4