• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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Near Hanover C. House, Va.

4th Decr 1867.

 

My dearest neices,

It gave me so much pleasure to see Mr. Fry. We went together to Petersburg to the wedding of Genl. W. H. F Lee & Miss Tabb Bolling. I had to go with Annie on Wednesday night she went to the wedding of Jenny Winston & Mr. Cooke of Clarke Co. a nephew of J. E. Cooke, the author, & was up till 5 o’clock in the morning. Wm. went with her to Mr Winston’s, but as his engagements prevented his going to Petersburg, I had to accompany her, so I met her Thursday, at 12 o’clock at Ashland & took a train to Petersburg. Mr. Fry joined is in Richmond, as did the Lees, four Genl Lees & Mildred & a number of Richmond people. We, the wedding company, had a car to ourselves. There was a great crowd at the Richmond depot to see Genl. Lee & the party, but when we got to the bridge at Petersburg, it was like a triumphal procession. A five band of music greeted the arrival of the General. There was a great multitude on the bridge, & all the way to Jarratt’s hotel, & filling the large area between the Railroad & the hotel a sea of heads. I don’t know how so many people could be collected in that small town. General Lee had a seat in an open carriage with General Mahine, whose guest he was, & drove off amid the deafening cheers of the people. You know for the last eight months of the war his head quarters were at Petersburg. Annie the Miss Haxalls, & other young ladies went, at once, to Mr. Bollings. Our party including the bridegroom dined at the hotel. After dinner Mr Fry & myself walked out, we to see Miss Holmes, & stopping on the way at cousin Midlred Campbells. This was about 5. o’clock. I found Mrs Campbell & Charles C. & some young ladies going to the church to be present at the ceremony, tho’ it was not to take place till 8 o’clock. Mrs C. was most indignant that she had not been invited to Mr Bollings. To think, she said, that I am the only blood relation Fitzhugh has in Petersburg & not to be invited to his wedding. I added, ”And both descendants of Gov Spotswood.” I told her perhaps Fitzhugh did not know her. “Not know me, dont you remember how much we three talked together at Warrington’s wedding? You introduced him to me.” Then I called by Miss Holmes’ for Mr Fry, & we returned to the hotel. It was now dark, & Fitzhugh & his brides men had gone to Mr Bollings, but Custis was with us, & our party proceeded to the church. The crowd was so great that I thought we should not be able to enter, but the police made a lane between them, thro’ which we passed. When we got in, we found a place reserved for us near the altar. It was protected by ribands. The church was entirely filled. Every spot seemed to be occupied. On counting those in a part of the gallery & the pews, I estimated the number present at not less than 2000 & the police officers said there were full 1000 around the church who could not get in. At about 20 minutes past 8 the bridal party entered, the band on the outside & the organ within announcing their arrival. The ceremony was soon over. I did not hear the sound of Fitzhugh’s voice, but the bride responded, tho’ in a low tone, with perfect distinctness. We all then went to Mr Bollings where a very large party assembled. The bride looked magnificently a perfect figure, & a very handsome face quiet & easy in her manner, exactly as she ought to have been. I was much pleased with her & Annie, who saw more of her, was charmed. The dresses of the ladies were rich & showey. I particularly noticed those worn by Mary & Charlotte Haxall. They were alike, a pearl colored silk, with trimming about the body & skirt of crimson velvet, very long trains were worn. I observed the dresses on purpose to tell you about them. It was after 12 o’clock when we went to supper, which was, of course, sumptuous. I think I ate & drank more than anyone of the company. Such an opportunity is not now often presented, so I availed myself of it, & was not at all worse for doing so, but Mr Fry was very moderate. We were together almost constantly during the evening. You would have thought from the whole scene, the expensive dresses of the ladies & the expensive dresses of the ladies & the luxury of the entertainment, that we know nothing of hard times. I do not understand it. I know times are hard enough with us. It was after 2 o’clock when Mr Fry & my self got to bed. We both spent an exceedingly pleasant evening. I can say of it as swift did of an Irish frolic. “O’Rourke’s noble feast will ne’er be forgot. By those who were at it & those who were not.”

After breakfast, the next morning, Mr Fry had business to attend to, & Fitz Lee & myself went out to pay visits. On my return to the hotel, to my great disappointment, I received a message from Mr Fry that he had been compelled to go to Norfolk, & I have not seen him since, but I expect him here before I send this letter away. Genl Robert E. Lee & Custis & Robert are gone to Brandon. The General wrote me he would be with us tomorrow morning to breakfast, but only to spend a day. It is reported Custis is to marry Bella Harrison (doubtful). I returned to Richmond, with Anne on Friday evening. There was to be a grand dancing party that night at Mr Tom Johnson’s & we were much pressed to stay, but Anne had been up Wednesday night till 5 in the morning, & Thursday till near 3, & I thought a third night would be too much for her & she came away very willingly. I did not think I could have written so much trifling news about the wedding, but Anne says it is exactly what you both will like. Nobody from Shirley was there, I wonder Alice was not. I should not have gone, where I know I was so much out of place but Annie had no other escort. Fitzhugh came here two days before the wedding & was urgent for us to come. They were a fine looking parcel of young persons at Mr. Bollings a Miss Halsey of Lynchburg is very handsome, in the style of the bride, & a Miss Meade to whom Mr. Robert Bolling, Sr. is said to be much devoted, but I have written nonsense enough. Fitzhugh & his bride were to go North a few days after the marriage & on their return will pay us a visit. He has built a good large house at the White House, & expects to be settled there by Christmas, but I hardly think he can get there so soon.

Friday, the 6th Genl Lee & Custis spent yesterday with us. They were very cheerful, the General telling a number of amusing anecdotes as his custom is. Among others he told of a trip he made with Mildred on horseback, by way of the Natural Bridge to the Peak of Otter, last summer. Late one evening they came to the house of an old lady & asked for a night’s lodging. She said it was impossible, the only room she had was occupied by a gentleman who was expected in every moment, so after some entreaty to be permitted to remain, they passed on. Genl Lee met the gentleman, an engineer, soon afterwards & heard from him that his landlady was in despair when she found she had turned Genl Lee away. She would have been so proud to have him a night in her house, but she thought it was an old gentleman with a sprightly young wife, & she had no place that would suit them. Returning from the Peaks, they called at Capt Buford’s. You know Mrs Lee & Mary & Agnes spent some time there during the war. As the General arrived Capt Buford asked him where his daughters were. “At home, but I have brought you my youngest.” As she alighted from her horse the Capt said “Why, she’s a good chunk of a gal.” If you remember the description Mary & Agnes gave of him you can imagine how much Mildred was amused. Genl Lee expressed great regret that he did not meet Mr Fry here. He said he wanted to ask him particularly about you all, & spoke of being so sensible of the kindness of Chapman & Annie to Mars Lee & his family during the war. I think there is an air of sadness about him, but he talked a great deal both in a playful & serious strain & we all enjoyed the visit exceedingly. Mrs Graham as much as any one. You know how fond she is of the society of agreeable people, especially when they are of distinction. The two Generals left us this morning for Lexington. You have heard that Lu Byrd has been very ill. Her sister went to her at once. Since her return Lu has written that she is entirely well. Mary Fanning was to have gone yesterday to South Carolina, but waited to see our guests. Today the ground is covered with snow & Anne Porcher is thought to have a slight ear-ache, so her departure is postponed indeed I believe she is reluctant to leave us, & we shall be very sorry to part with her & the children. I was again disappointed at Mr Fry’s not coming this morning but I am sure he will be here, before he goes to New York. We are so anxious to to [sic] talk with him & hear all about you. I wish I could step in & see you at Leamington [England], but that is impossible. Have I not written you a long, too long a letter, but I know you like to hear about your dear friends in Virginia. I wish I could write half as agreeably as you do, especially dear Annies account of her visit to Paris, & dear Lizzie’s to Derbyshire &c but it is not often I have any thing of interest to write about. I shall finish this letter after I have seen Mr Fry.

Monday morning the 9th. Nothing yet of Mr Fry & I will detain this letter no longer. We shall be disappointed beyond measure if he leaves Virginia without coming to see us, but I am confident he will not, unless some irresistible carries him away. We shall continue to expect him every morning. Mary Fanning leaves us this morning, bright weather, but very cold. She expects to be at home tomorrow evening I will not give you pain by saying anything of the state of affairs, they are in as wretched a condition, but we go on quietly here & I know nothing of public matters except from the newspapers, & I read very little in them, not so much as I do in the English papers, but Mr Fry will tell you all about us. I address this long letter to you both, that each of you may give me credit for it. I will get Anne to write when she has a little more leisure, which will be the case when Mary Fan, has left us. Tho’ we expect Genl & Mrs Lee in a few days. This will make visits from five bridal parties we have had since the first of the summer. A great deal of love from us all to yourselves & Chapman.1 I wish he would write sometimes. Do write to me often. We are delighted to get your letters. Dont mind my not writing. You know I am very old & very lazy. May God bless you my, dear neices.

Your affectionate uncle

Wm F. Wickham

 

Mrs. C. M. Fry2

31 Dale St

Leamington, England

 

 

 

Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mssq1 L51 g 55, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 May 16

 

1. Anna Campbell Carter Leigh (1842-1900) was married to Chapman Johnson Leigh. She married Chapman on 1860 June 5, in Charles City, Virginia. Chapman Leigh was born 1826 September 21 in Richmond, Virginia. He was the son of Benjamin Watkins Leigh (1781-1849) and Julia Wickham (1801-1883). Chapman died in 1911 in New York City. During the Civil War, he served as a staff officer in the Confederate army.

2. Elizabeth Wickham Leigh Fry (1824-1895), the wife of Charles Meriwether Fry.

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