• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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Lexington Va: 4 Jany ‘66

 

My dear Smith

I recd last night your letter of the 30th which afforded me & all my household much pleasure. Robert C. was also glad to receive the one to him, & I will leave him to communicate everything about himself. Your former letter, enclosing an account of your visit to Arlington, would have been before acknowledged, but I understood you had no P. O. nearer than Alexa. I have been hoping to see the reestablishment of that at Aquia; but I presume the authorities do not consider you rebels in Stafford deserving one.

The most interesting subject to me in reference to Arlington, is if practicable to regain possession of it. For while it remains in the hands of the military, no matter what its condition is, I cannot remedy it. I should particularly like to terminate the burial of the dead which can only be done by its restoration to the family. I have made no application on the subject, waiting for the action of President Johnson upon my application to him, to be embraced in his proclamation of Amnesty. Believing until that was done, no restoration of rights would be accorded me; & the fact of such an application would merely serve to excite the Radicals, with whom I do not appear to be in favour, to oppose & make more difficult the attainment of the favourable action of the President. But I presume now he will take no action on the subject until the adjournment of Cong: & then his decision will depend upon the course they may prescribe. If any one in the confidence of the administration, felt disposed to interfere in the matter, something might be accomplished. But I know no one in that position or whom to approach. If you could get such a person to interest himself, would be the only way that I know of, in which you Could assist me. I would have written to Mr. Francis S. Smith1 on the subject, who knows all the conditions of Mr. Custis will, & that the property belongs to Mary, not me, but as far as I know, he is not fully restored to the rights of citizenship, & I have thought might not be able effecaciously to act.

I am glad you have an opportunity of visiting Richmond, & of seeing your many friends should the Macfarlands arrive before your departure, please remember me to them, & to all others who inquire after me. I am sorry that Sis Nannie cannot be with you this winter; for she would add greatly to the comfort & pleasure of your whole establishment. Tell her from me, she may never expect you to be arranged as I hope you will be, until she takes her place in the house, & the sooner she can join you, the better for all.

I shall endeavor to get a little farm somewhere, & make such preparation as to afford a home to my family in case of necessity, or of my death, that in either event, I may not feel that they will be houseless. I should be perfectly content to be with them, where I could make my daily bread “the world forgetting, by the world forgot.”2 Carter I believe is very well, though I think he has made a mistake in the number of his children. He speaks of his last little daughter as the “seventh child”, & I can only make him out the sixth. Perhaps he is projecting another. Robert C is very well & is trying to study. If he perseveres he will do well. But he has had so long a holiday, the whole war, & is made of such quicksilver clay, that it is very difficult for him to be steady at any one thing at a time, until he can get a clear idea of it.

The consequence is, it escapes him, as soon as he turns from it. I am trying to correct. He is very quick, amiable & pleasing in every way. He brought me $150, which I have applied, in paying his tuition fees ($95) purchase of books ($12) furniture ($20) wood &c & I hope the balance will supply his current wants. If not I can supply him. I wish you could have come up & seen him & us. It would have given us all much pleasure. We have not yet recd our furniture & unless it reaches us quickly, may be deprived of it the whole winter. But we have enough. You must not expect the wines you speak of when you come, but we will give you the best of limestone water.

I have written hurriedly that my letter my reach you before you leave Richmond.

All unite in much love to you & Sis-Nannie.

& I am most affy & truly

your brother

R E Lee

 

P.S. I wrote to Aunt M after Roberts arrival & asked her to inform you REL

 

 

 

Source: Photocopy of original letter, Call Number 25091, Virginia State Library, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward 2017 September 21      

 

   

1. Francis Henney Smith (1812-1890) was a colonel in the Confederate army. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, he graduated from West Point and was superintendent at Virginia Military Academy. A teacher of mathematics, he commanded troops at the battle of New Market in 1864 and oversaw the rebuilding of VMI after the war. He died in Lexington, where he is buried.

2. Line from Alexander Pope:

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind,

Each pray’r accepted, and each prayer resigned?

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