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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Baltimore 30 March 1850

My dearest Cousin Anna

                                I did not receive your letter of the 27 till my return from Church on Good friday. Not having had any reason to inquire for horses since my sojourn here, my only information on the Subject has been obtained since the reception of your letter. I have visited the three principal stables in the city, where they are exhibited for sale. At the first, nothing but Northern horses are to be found. Pretty fair in appearance of good carriage, size & match. Mr Bonnaparte[1] who is considered the best judge in Baltimore, whose taste lies in horses, & whose purse enables him to gratify it, who purchases a great many, & has none but good ones, says he has for many years ceased to buy Northern horses. That they bring none here, except such as are thrown out of their own market for some fault. They are either unsound, vicious, kick, runaway &c. All that he ever bought, had some of these defects. If handsome they are also very high. At the second stable the horses from Ohio congregate. There was but a single pair of matched horses in the stable. A pair of indifferent blacks, not suitable for you. The rest single horses, for farm & work purposes. Horses of this description are brought in early, & the better class of horses begin to come in by the 8 or 10 of Apl, when people in the city resume their rides. In the third stable, were the Kentucky horses. Here as in the Ohio stable there were all single horses, of rather more delicate order, & a proportion of Saddle horses, with the exception of a pair of grey colts. One was a beautiful horse. But they did not match well, & would not suit you. I was told that next week many horses were expected, & among them some fine matched horses. Now Cousin Anna from this statement you will see, that if you get a pair of Northern horses, the probability is that they will have some fault or defect. If a pair of Western horses, Ohio or Kentucky, to diminish the chances of their being unsound, it would be well to get them tolerably young, say 5 or 6 years old, & then the probability is, they would not be very firm & steady at their work, but would require regular driving & direction for a year or two, which it might not be convenient for you to give them, Sound, kind, docile matched horses, & known  to be such to the dealers, Suitable for carriages, cannot be bought here I am told for less than $400. And they range from that up to $800 according to their appearance & speed. I will keep a look out, & visit the stables from time to time, & if I see anything that I think will suit you, will let you know. Should I meet with a pair of good horses, owned by any gentleman in town, & known to be sound & true, I could then with more security recommend them to you, but I should be very loath to recommend any from the stables, without a more perfect test than I could give them.

 If you think the horse you have at R will suit your purposes, I should prefer matching him, which Mr Burke might do from the wagons that now visit the fish markets. Indeed I have seen fair matched horses in those fish wagons. I have thought too the horse you have might be spared from your farming purposes now, as you may probably find it best to contrast them a little this year.

 Again Cousin Anna, usually at this season, or a little later, there are matched horses to be found in Washington, that have been used by families there during the winter & sold preparatory to their return home. My old friend Levi Purmphry[2], in rear of the National Hold, I have always found tolerably honest in my small dealings, & no doubt knows every pair of horses in Wash, their qualities &c. The advantage of buying a pair of this sort would be, that having been tried during the winter, something would be known about them. You would be more likely to get sound & true horses from the wagons than any other way. They would not be so stylish or fast, & therefore not so likely to please Mr Charles Brown, but they might be more serviceable to you. If for $70 or 80, you could get a tolerable match to your present horse. In time you would certainly meet with a pair to suit you, & then the former might revert to the farm, & the more indifferent horses disposed of. Or if your farm horses could be applied to the far trips you may be obliged to make to R. this next month, should you not meet with a pair before, when you come on here in May, I think together we can find one. You will then be on your way to the E.S. & we shall certainly expect you to make us as long a visit as you can. In the meantime I will be looking out as I have said, & endeavour to take advantage of anything that offers. I have written in great haste, but I hope ineligibly. I resume my work Monday. I have no expectation at present of visiting A. The last of May I will have to take Custis to Mr. H[3]. He will leave W H on the 15 of Apl & come on here after paying a visit to his Grd Parents. I recd a letter from Mr Childe by the last steamer. He thought it probable he might embark for N.Y. in the steamer of the 23 of March. If he has, he is half way here now. I think it probable however he will delay a little. Mary has been very uneasy lately about her Aunt Lewis & been prepared to go to her in case of necessity. A letter from Mrs Esther Lewis yesterday however reports her letter. We are all well & M & the children join me in much love. Mildred has partially carried her point of establishing us at “Mount Cally,” at least so far as to engage a few there & Anne is tolerable for her just now. I think on the whole she is better, though she has occasionally some bad times & sad days. Uncle Wms visit was very grateful to her. He staid 5 or 6 days. You will have week after next I believe Mr & Mrs Lloyd with you. They have sold their house to Mr Wilson for $14,250.00 & will begin next week to pack up their furniture. Mrs Cooper returned to Wash. this afternoon at 5 PM Mrs Jamison &c are well. Good bye dear Cousin A. & believe me always your

 R E Lee


Source: Photocopy of Original, Lee Family Letters, Mss1 L51c 105, Section 6, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Gibson, 2017 August 8


[1] Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte (1805-1870), who was Napoleon’s nephew. He lived in Baltimore.

[2] Levi Pumphrey (1792-1858), born in Maryland, died in Washington D.C.

[3] Benjamin Hallowell (1799-1877) was an educator of George Washington Custis Lee at the Alexandria school.

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