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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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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Baltimore 10 May 1851

 

My dearest Markie

You have not written to me for nearly three months. And I believe it is equally as long since I have written to you. On paper Markie, I mean, on paper. But oh, what lengthy epistles have I indicted to you in my mind! Had I any means to send them, you would see how constantly I think of you. I have followed you in your pleasures & your duties, in the house & in the sheets, & accompanied you in your walks to Arlington, & in your search after flowers. Did you not feel your cheeks pale when I was so near you? You may feel pale Markie. You may look pale; You may even talk pale; But I am happy to say you never write as if you were pale, & to my mind you always appear bright & rosy. It is the same with Capt Walker. He cannot see the pallor in your cheek, which no doubt is there if we could only discover it, or he would not leave you as often as he does. He is absent now Markie, but he is near me, & I will comfort him. I will cover his cheeks with hair so that his paleness will not be visible, & in that at least he will resemble you. He has taken up his residence in the Schooner Nautalus, belonging to the Coast Survey, & engaged in the survey of the Patapsco river. I saw her below Fort Carroll yesterday evg. On her deck was a sentimental looking gentleman white a straw hat & white coat on, enjoying the prospect, or perhaps indulging in poetry. Probably you recognize him. I do not think he could have taken leave of you before leaving Washington, or he would certainly have brought me some message. Perhaps he has got it & enjoying its possession, as I do your notes Markie, fearful even to acknowledge them, lest they should have to take the place of “Ansd. letters.” This will now be the fate of your note of 25 Feby. Till now it has been constantly before me. Reperused & put back, I have enjoyed it along time Markie & enjoyed it well. I have grieved over the disappointments of the young gallants on the wedding morg, & sympathized in their hungry feelings at their lack of breakfast. I dare say they have recovered from both before this.

I suppose your precious henry has returned to school before this, & you have now only the memory of the pleasures of his vacation. I am glad to hear he has grown so finely & is doing so well. Cousin Brit will have told you of my having seen Lawrence when at W. P. He was looking very handsome & well & with the exception of his inattention which caused him demerit, was doing well. He assured me he would not overrun the awful 200, & I do not think he will, though he is coming rather too near, & has reached the respectable number of 195. Still I think he will not exceed the limit. He will commence upon another year, at the close of the month, & begin a clean sheet, can’t you persuade him, as it will be his last, to keep it so. He will graduate a year from next month, & will return to you much improved in every way. He will be a great Comfort to you all, & I know will bring you great pleasure. Your cousin M. goes on to day to see her Mother. I must leave her to tell you all the Baltimore news, if there is any, & to make up for the want of interest in my letter. My days are spent pretty much at Fort Carroll (Sollers Point); My thoughts are engrossed with driving piles & laying stone; & my imagination is exercised in the construction of cranes, Diving bells, steam Pile drivers &c. Poor subjects for a correspondence with young ladies. If it was not for my heart Markie, I might as well be a pile of stone myself laid quietly at the bottom of the river. But that has no hardness for you & always returns warm & softness when touched with a thought of you. You must give much love to your GrdMother, Cousin Brit, Lum & Markie. Tell Cousin B. I hope she sometimes remembers my admonition to spare herself. She must not work herself too much. If she does I shall have to go on & take her away from her church altogether. Tell your Pastor therefore in trying to appropriate the whole he will lose all. There are other claims upon her, equally binding upon her conscience, all must be attended to & harmonized. Your Cousin Edmund has brought his bride to Baltimore. His long agony is now over. Your Cousin M. can describe her better than I can. Love is all powerful. I hope they are happy. I have no army news. We have lost our last hold upon the 2nd. Major Sedgewick’s compy you know has been dismounted & gone down to Fort Monroe. That has taken away the Barrys & Rhetts. Col: Frank Taylors Compy, of the 1st, is the only one at Fort McHenry. Genl Walback & family are about to establish themselves at the Fort. Dr Wood still lives in B. Mrs. W. has not yet returned from the South. She is to come on with Col: Crane from N. Orleans by steamboat direct to N.Y. After paying a visit to her daughter at school in Brooklyn & her son Robert at W. P. she will come to B. We miss her very much & do not see so much of the excellent Dr. I believe Nina is to leave school & return with her Mother. Capt Elgy has just arrived from Charleston on a visit to his pretty wife. He has been absent all the winter. She is a true soldier’s wife, never complains. Is resigned & cheerful under all circumstances. He was ordered to Mexico in a week or two after their marriage. Remained there nearly three years. At the close of the war was stationed at Fort Monroe. By the time they had got to housekeeping, he was ordered to North Carolina. Before she could join him. His compy was ordered to Florida, to repress the Indian disturbances. It has been brought now to Fort Moultrie, to hold it against the seceders. Take warning Markie. Think always & write sometimes to your cousin

R E Lee

 

 

 

Source: Scan of original letter, Letters of Robert E. Lee to Martha Custis Williams, Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 August 15                        

 

 

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