December 25, 1861
I cannot let this day of greatful rejoicing pass, dear Mary, without some communion with you. I am thankful for the many among the past that I have passed with you, & the remembrance of them fills me with pleasure. For those on which we have been separated we must not repine. If it will make us more resigned & better prepared for what is in store for us, we should rejoice. Now we must be content with the many blessings we receive. If we can only become sensible of our transgressions, so as to be fully penitent & forgiven, that this heavy punishment under which we labour may with justice be removed from us & the whole nation, what a gracious consummation of all that we have endured it will be! I hope you had a pleasant visit to Richmond. So you do not like my invitation to Fayetteville? I thought I gave you the choice of Richmond too, as well as Charleston & Savannah, but for the threatening movements of the enemy. Well it shows the perverseness of human nature. To reject those agreeable cities that were accessible & select a decrepid & deserted village because inaccessible. If you were to see the place, I think you would leave it too. I am here but little myself. The days I am not away, I visit some point exposed to the enemy & after our dinner at early candle light, am engaged in writing till 11 or 12 at night. But this place is too exposed to attack for the residence of a person as hard to move as you are. You would be captured while you were waiting “a moment.” As to our old home, if not destroyed, it will be difficult ever to be recognized. Even if the enemy had wished to preserve it, it would almost have been impossible. With the number of troops encamped around it, the change of officers, &c., the want of fuel, shelter, &c., & all the dire necessities of war, it is vain to think of its being in a habitable condition. I fear too books, furniture, & the relics of Mount Vernon will be gone. It is better to make up our minds to a general loss. They cannot take away the remembrances of the spot, & the memories of those that to us rendered it sacred. That will remain to us as long as life will last, & that we can preserve. In the absence of a home, I wish I could purchase Stratford. That is the only other place that I could go to, now accessible to us, that would inspire me with feelings of pleasure & local love. You & the girls could remain there in quiet. It is a poor place, but we could make enough cornbread & bacon for our support, & the girls could weave us clothes. I wonder if it is for sale & at how much. Ask Fitzhugh to try & find out when he gets to Fredericksburg. You must not build your hopes on peace on account of the United States going into a war with England. She will be very loath to do that, notwithstanding the bluster of the Northern papers. Her rulers are not entirely mad, & if they find England is in earnest, & that war or a restitution of their captives must be the consequence, they will adopt the latter. We must make up our minds to fight our battles & win our independence alone. No one will help us. We require no extraneous aid, if true to ourselves. But we must be patient. It is not a light achievement & cannot be accomplished at once. I am very glad to hear of poor Anne. Her miseries are increased by the war too. I am also glad to hear of the kind sympathies & aid of Elianor Rodgers & Edmund. I had not heard of poor little Geary’s sickness & do not know to what you allude when speaking of “Parke’s affliction.” We must expect Mrs. Bonaparte & our other put by friends to be opposed to us. They wish to save their demis[e]. It is necessary to them to preserve their good dinners. It will not last. I have received your letter enclosing Charlotte’s &c. I cannot write to her [to] night. I wrote a few days since, giving you all the news, & have now therefore nothing to relate. The enemy is still quiet & increasing in strength. We grow in size slowly but are working hard. I have had a day of labour instead of rest & have written at intervals to some of the children. I hope they are with you & enclose my letters. Give much love to F[itzhugh], C[ustis], A[nnie], A[gnes], little Rob & all.
Affecty & truly yours
R E Lee
I recollect having seen that a Mr. Butler was killed in Kentucky, whom I supposed was Edward. I hoped it was not true as I have seen nothing of Lewis. It is that to which you doubtless allude in speaking of Parke &c. All must suffer.
Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, pp. 95-97
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 December 19