Alexandria May 17th, 1822
My dear Smith,
I wrote to you yesterday by the Ship China, Capt Whittlesy which will sail from New York. I had but a moment to write in, as I was not informed of the opportunity, untill the hour of closing the post office, had nearly arrived. The same haste must necessarily be observed in writing now, as I have this moment seen in the publick prints, that letters will be forwarded to the Franklin, by the Brig Ontario, Capt Irwin, and that the letter bag will be closed on Sunday 19th at 12 oclo pm and this is Friday 17th. So that my letter must be put in the office to nigh[t], or rather, before sun set, and it is now nearly that hour. I lament extremely that you never write to me, w[hic]h I ascribe to your unwillingness to write at all, and dislike (of) the occupation. But if you would accustom yourself to writing letters, habit would soon reconcile you to it, and you would be improved by it, and you certainly ought to write to your Mother, even if it be disagreeable to you to do so. My health is much as it was, when you left me, and we are all much in the same situation; a year has produced no material change. I think of you constantly, long to see you, and pray fervently for you, as for the salvation of my own soul. Oh! join your prayers with mine, for the assistance of the Almighty, in enabling you to perform your part in life, so as to redound to your own honour, and his glory. I entreat you my dear Son, to attend to your studies. A Man is of little importance in society without education. You will regret in after life, if you neglect to lay in store of knowledge now. In case this letter reaches you, and the one written yesterday should not, I will inform you of some of the particulars, there inserted. Ann returned home in December, her hand is better. Robert continues to go to school to Mr. Leary. Mildred is a scholar of Mrs. Smith, and Carter continues his law studies. All your relations, and friends, are well, and inquire frequently after you.
My dear Son, cultivate the friendship & esteem of your Commanders, and Brother officers. Oh! Let me hear that all respect & love my Son; and should I not live to see him again, let him ever remember, how ardent was the wish of my soul. That he should deserve the esteem of the whole world. I have only time to present [Ann] and Mildreds love to you, and to beg you my dear Son to write me often, very often. Inform me particularly of your situation, and whether you are as much pleased with you profession, as you were, in the commencement of your career. May the Almighty bless & protect you my dear Son through this life, and at its close, conduct your soul into the realms of everlasting joy, prays
your most affectionate Mother,
Ann H Lee
1. William B. Leary, an instructor at Alexandria Academy, where Robert E. Lee went to school for free.
Source: Scan of original letter, vertical files, Jessie Ball DuPont Memorial Library, Stratford Hall
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 November 16