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  • 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



New York City, October 4, 1865

My Dear General,

I am about to commence a very large and important work, the design of which is not a little ambitious. I am making arrangements with Mr. Carleton, the well-known publisher here to write an elaborate History of the War, say in two volumes, to be published by subscription. I shall devote probably several, at least two years of my life to this work; it will in no part be a copy of the very imperfect work I published in the shape of popular Annals of the war- “First Year” &c.; and I am encouraged to hope that by assiduous and conscientious labour, I may be enabled to put before the public a standard History of the War, which will be quoted by posterity as authority.

The publisher has large expectations from this week, and thinks that at least one hundred thousand subscribers might be obtained throughout the country, at the rate of five dollars per volume. That number I learn has already been obtained for the forthcoming second volume of Mr Greeley’s “history”; and I see no reason why a Southern work, properly authenticated should not obtain equal attention, especially when it is so much to the interest of all the people of the South that the truth of the past should be vindicated for them, and the misrepresentations of their enemies encountered and overcome.

It has struck me very forcibly, general, that if, in any way, I could obtain your assistance and countenance in this work, it would add largely to its success, and secure a revenue worthy of your consideration. I by no means desire to make you responsible for any political opinions or theory in the book; any such idea I would dishonestly disavow both in the prospectus and preface of the work; the extent of my desire is simply that you would give me an assistance and guide in the military narrative, such as would assure its correctness to the public, as far as possible. I think that your name might be appropriately connected with the work by using in the prospectus words to this effect.

The military narrative will be partly written by Gen Lee, and the whole this department of the work revised and edited by him, with a view to the greatest possible accuracy in the story of the Confederate arms.

For this service (and, of course, it would only be expected that you would directly furnish notes of military operatives within your knowledge) I would be glad to assign as compensation one half the authors profits in the work, and to secure it to you by a written contract with the publisher. I am sure that in this enterprise there is a fortune; worthy and honourable employment; and an opportunity of doing memorable service to posterity.

It does not appear to me that the connection of your name with a General History of the War, as I propose, under the limitations indicated, would interfere at all with any special work you may have in hand. I trust, therefore, General, that you will reply to my proposition favourably, and, in any event at once, as I wait to hear from you, and until then must defer the preliminaries of my enterprise. Even if you are not able to give a definite answer just now, it will be something to know that you regard the proposition favourably, and are not unwilling to treat on the subject

I have the honour, General, to subscribe myself

Most Respectfully

Your obedient servant


Edward A. Pollard   

Care of George W. Carleton, Publisher    

413 Broadway, New York




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


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 February 13

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