Camp 24 Jany ’64
I have recd two letters from you dear Mary since I last wrote. That of the 16th accompanying the bag of gloves & socks, & one without date enclosing Martha’s letter. The likeness you mentioned did not come & according to your desire I return her letter. I also send one from the Quartermaster of a Louisiana brigade to whom some of your socks were given. The socks I think are more useful than the gloves, though all are appreciated. The latter after the next month will not be of much advantage. I also received the pair of socks from Mrs. Radford. They are very nice, but I have not yet worn them. As regards the people at Romancoke, I much prefer their receiving their free papers & seeking their fortune. It has got to be done & it was in accordance with your father’s will. I am unable to attend to them & I am afraid they will suffer or come to some harm. I do not see why they can not be freed & hire themselves out as others do, & think it might be accomplished. I am afraid there is some desire on the part of the community to continue them in slavery, which I must resist. I wish you would talk to Mr. Caskie on the subject & Mr. Frank Smith, whom I see is in Richmond. Mr. Collins can hire some of them out at any rate. It will diminish the number to clothe & feed. How are clothes & shoes to be obtained for them? I wish I could hear of your being benefited by your new doctor. It is pleasing at least to learn that his medicines are agreeable & that he holds out hopes. Tell Mildrid I am glad to hear that she has taken the socks in hand. I shall expect great numbers now. I have given out that my daughter just from a celebrated school is at work & the expectations of the soldiers are raised. I have read Fitzhugh’s letter with much interest. Poor fellow he has nothing to draw his thoughts from his deep sorrow & I fear it will wear him down. You must not trouble yourself to send me anything. I want nothing but a little bread & meat, & that thank God I yet awhile get. Try & take care of yourself & get well. That is the greatest benefit you can do me. I have endeavoured to get to Beverly Turner his shirts & have had them put up & properly directed for some days, but as yet have not found an opportunity. I have had to disperse the cavalry as much as possible to obtain forage for their horses, & it is that which causes the trouble. Provisions for the men too are very scarce, & what with light diet & light clothing I fear they suffer. But still they are cheerful & uncomplaining. I received a report from one division the other day, in which it was stated that over 400 men were barefoot & over 1000 without blankets. Give much love to the girls & Custis. I received yesterday a letter from Rob. He was well.
Very truly & affly yours
R E Lee
P.S. Since writing, a courier to the cavalry camp has taken Beverly’s jackets to him.
Source: Photocopy of photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51c 500, Section 25, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 January 23