• The Lees of Virginia
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  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Lee Family Digital Archive

February 13th 1864

 

General

I have the honor to offer for your acceptance, a sword especially designed by a son of Maryland, for your use in the camp and field, bearing your name on the one side of the blade and on the reverse the motto, “Aide toi et Dieu t’aidera.”1 It is not offered in the vain assurance of individual appreciation of your eminent deserts, but as an earnest of the devoted attachment which is entertained for you, General by every true Patriot of that renewed and gallant, though now down-trodden State.

To you as the great defender of a sacred and glorious cause, wise in council & humane in the hour of victory, trusting rather in the Providence of God than in the might of man & of right, belongs the sword, with the sacred cross emblazoned on the hilt, as once the emblem of our hope and promise of assured success. This sword I have the honor to ask you to accept, with the accompanying note from the donor, as the representative commander of as brave an army as ever marched to battle, and of “sun burned veterans” whose names are honored as confederate soldiers, throughout Europe and the civilized world and who have proved themselves heroes in deeds of unsurpassed endurance and daring

It may be a source of gratification in your life of hardship and high responsibility to know that fervent prayers follow your steps and that whilst your contemporaries glory in your achievements, faithful history must record your fame, in pages of living truth.

I shall at once hasten to offer this gift personally, or if you see proper to appoint a time and place, await your orders, remaining Sir

Most Respectfully

Your Obt Servant

S. F. Cameron2

 

 

 

Source: Robert E. Lee Headquarters Papers, Folder 29, Mss3 L 515a, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 February 17

 

 

 

 

1. Roughly translated means “Help yourself and God will help you.”

2. The following information comes, almost verbatim, from the Green-Wood Cemetery website based in Brooklyn, New York: Stephen Frick Cameron (1833-1878) was born in Philadelphia and lived in Elkton, Maryland. He studied theology before the war and was an Episcopal chaplain for the Confederacy, serving in the 1st Maryland regiment. He wrote two patriotic songs, “God Save the Southern Land” and “Close Up the Ranks.” He enlisted on 1861 July 4, and his appointment was accepted two days later. A request was made on 1862 November 5, by Colonel W. B. Tabb to appoint Cameron to the 59th Virginia Volunteers. Tabb wrote, “From authority which I regard with the highest confidence, I am fully assured of his capacity and zeal for usefulness. He already holds the appointment as chaplain in the C.S. Provisional Army. Your favorable endorsement of this paper will ensure his assignment to your Brigade.”

In 1863, he went to London, England, ostensibly to arrange for the publication of prayer books, but in fact was hoping to obtain medicine. In 1864, General John Hunt Morgan requested that Cameron be appointed to his cavalry brigade. On 1864 September 6, he delivered the eulogy for General Morgan who was killed while trying to escape from a Union raid near Greeneville, Tennessee.

Cameron was also associated with the aftermath of the raid on St. Albans, Vermont, on 1864 October 19. The raid was meant to obtain money for the Confederacy and cause confusion on the northern border. Three banks were robbed of more than $200,000, horses were stolen, one citizen was killed and two were wounded; efforts to burn the town were unsuccessful. The Confederate raiders escaped to Canada, were pursued by Vermonters, and eventually some were captured and arrested by Canadians. Canada, a British colony at the time, refused to extradite the raiders, and eventually released them, straining relations between the United States and Great Britain.

According to the papers of Jefferson Davis, Cameron met with Davis on 1865 February 2 and then was dispatched as a Confederate messenger to take documents to Canada to aid in the raiders’ defense. While on this mission for Davis, Cameron dressed as a priest when he crossed the Potomac and was accompanied by two women spies, who dressed as nuns. The threesome were fired upon but escaped and completed their assignment.

Cameron also was called to testify at the trial of John H. Surratt, who was accused of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of President Lincoln. Surratt, who had met with Booth, testified that he was in Elmira, New York, on a spying mission for General Robert E. Lee on the day of the assassination, and did not know of the plot. Surratt later fled to Canada, then to Egypt where he was arrested in 1867 and brought to Washington, D.C., for a civilian trial which ultimately ended in a hung jury. Cameron, one of the 170 witnesses, received a pardon from Andrew Johnson in 1867.

Cameron died from tuberculosis at New York City Hospital. He is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. He was married to Mary Archer Stites Cameron (1831-1907). She died in Pennsylvania and is buried in Newton Cemetery in Sussex County, N.J.

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