Fort Brown, 15 Decr 1856
Here I am still. The Court is at a deadlock.2 Nothing has been heard from the absent witnesses. Whether they are Coming, are alive or dead, God only knows. The Court still says wait. A dead weight we are, & unless soon relieved by death or dissolution, I fear we shall grow insupportable. We adjourn from week to week & watch the arrival of mails & boats, & in the interim I stroll through the chapperal & watch the birds & snakes.
Col Frank Taylor arrived in the last steamer, with his two daughters & two younger sons. The former will give increased agitation to the beaux of the Garrison, I have no doubt, not that they were previously inactive in Cupid's exercises. Their city belles I know only from report & therefore believe "they are all my fancy painted them."3 Neither white nor yellow. How green the gentlemen are I leave you to discover. Last friday was a great day in Matamoros. The anniversary of the patron Saint of Mexico. Our Lady of Guadaloupe. It was duly celebrated. I enjoyed from a distance the salute of Cannon, the chimes of the bells & the music of the bands. At night the population thronged the plaza & danced & played & gambled to the light of the full moon.
The festivities were terminated Sunday night by a grand ball. A Committee of invitation came over to invite the civilians of Brownsville & the officers of Fort Brown. Many of the former & some of the latter attended. The amount of beauty present, it is difficult to believe. The officers of the garrison "danced all night till broad daylight, & walked home with the girls in the morning."4 You must not imagine that I was there but may believe that Genl Bradford was. You will know therefore that his health is improving.
I hear no news -- get nothing from the States, except what comes through the papers. I have learned indirectly that Capt McClelland 1st Cavry will probably resign5 on completing the report of the European Board. Dr. Simons also is appointed Ass: Surgeon in the Army, & is probably now in Texas for duty.
Is Camp Cooper still in existence? How are you all, the horses & mules? I hope happy & well. Remember me to all the officers & believe me
Yours very truly
R E Lee
Source: Courtesy of the William J. Stier Collection
Transcribed by William J. Stier, 2017 January 30
1. Nathan George “Shanks” Evans (1824-1868) was a native of South Carolina. He became a brigadier general in the Confederate army during the Civil War.
2. On 1856 September 2, Lee departed his Western Texas command post at Camp Cooper to participate in the court martial proceedings against Major Giles W. Porter (1799-1878), an artillery major, who was accused of repeated drunkenness. The trial was moved to Fort Brown, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. On 1857 February 6, Lee was relieved from the Porter case and assigned to a court martial at Indianola on the Texas Gulf Coast. Porter was convicted of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. The army was going to dismiss him, but James Buchanan mitigated the punishment to suspension from rank and pay for one year. Porter retired from the service on 1861 September 2. He died in Albany, New York, in 1878, where he is buried.
3. Lee is referring to the 1855 Lewis Carroll poem, “She’s All My Fancy Painted Him.”
4. Reference to the 1843 Dan Emmet minstrel song, “The Boatman Dance.”
5. Lee is referring to George B. McClellan, who became captain of the 1st Cavalry in 1855.