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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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Fort Hamilton N. Y. 5 March 1842

My dear Cousin Anna,

As  I had an opportunity in one of my letters to Smith to send you word that yours enclosing me your draft for $60 on Thos: Biddle & Co had been recd, I defered acknowledging it until I could give you some information relative to the “cooking safe”. Since however I have obtained a description of the Safe I have not met with the opportunity of a conveyance & I did not wish to burden the mail with so voluminous a package. Your draft on the Mess. Biddle answered my purposes as well as any thing else & if it suited yours my object has been attained; which was that you Should do exactly what was most convenient to you. I Supposed that you would not wish to have funds in Phila & I wished to relieve you of what you hold on my account. I hope therefore that you made the most agreable arrangement to yourself, as it made not the slightest difference to me whether the money was in your hands in Alexa or in the Mess. Biddles in Phila. I have disposed of the draft.

Now for the Safe. The enclosed description will tell its own story. I have marked the price of each size opposite the different figures & refered to those parts which I thought might require some explanation by corresponding references in the description & respective figures. The prices given only include the cast iron fixtures of the safe & the 12 slides or shelves for the ovens. The boilers marked M in the figure are separate, made of Copper & will cost from $15 to $20 in addition according to the size required. I am told that the boilers are not found to answer so well, or rather that persons generally prefer to heat water in common kettles or pots for whatever purpose it is wanted over the fire below the safe in the ordinary way. You perceive that the safe is intended to occupy that part of the fire place or chimney usually devoted to the mantle, leaving the fire place below to be arranged further use of wood or coal as may be preferred. When used, a separate fire from that in the hearth below, must be made in the furnace, or rather the fires in the hearth & furnace are independent of each other & either can be used as desired. If you have one of the large sizes & at any time only wish to use one of the apartments it is only necessary to make a fire in its furnace.

The general appearance of the safe when fixed up in the Chimney for there is one fixed up as a model in the store in N. Y. is rather an ornament to the kitchen I think than otherwise, & to the eye is the best arrangement of a cooking stove that I have seen. It occupies no space in the room, all the parts are well fitted together & I should think well calculated to prevent the escape of the steam &c into the room. But how it cooks Cousin Anna I cannot say, for I have not tried it & know no one that has. But when you come on this summer, for you know you have already promised you would, we will go & look at it & try & find one in use & you can make up your mind Concerning it. In the mean time if you wish one, it will give me pleasure to get one & send it on. As far as I can judge from inspection I like it very much. It is so conveniently located for the cook, there is no stooping & lifting but you will see all kinds of arrangements for cooking as well as other matters when you come on & you must select the time that will be most agreable to yourself & that will enable you to stay the longest. I will at any time meet you in N. York or Phila if you should not have an escort farther than the latter place.

Mary will go to Arlington this spring, but no time has gotten fixed for her departure & as she is so fond of killing two birds with one stone, She will probably arrange her visit so as to bring Miss Molly back with her. If therefore it would be more pleasant for you to come before the heat of the summer & the arrival of your friends & family from the E.S. She will take you back with her & that will be three birds with one stone which will make her the happiest of women. I do not anticipate the pleasure of going on with her but will see her as far as Phila & get brother M to forward her on. Unless therefore I should have some business that will call me to Washington I shall be fixed here for the summer.

I am much obliged to you Cousin Anna for your letter & the information & offer in reference to exchange. The brokers are terrible fellows I know. My brother Marshall to the contrary notwithstanding, & I shall steer clear of them on all occasions that I can. In the present state of things however they do all the business of exchange. There is such a lack of confidence in Banks now that people seem afraid even to take their notes, & the stock of these specie paying banks in the city of N. York, which from the Course of Commerce has so much the advantage over all others in the county & give dividends of 7 & 8 per cent is much below par. The Govt Bank, that is the Bank where all their funds are kept, is 22 per cent below par & the others range above & below that. No wonder that the stock of other banks are low. Do you know anything of Mr Smiths School (at Clarence) more than the reports of the neighborhood? I wish to put Custis at school this spring & am debating between Mr Smith’s & Dr Hawks & Mecklenburg at F. Cushing, Long Island. If you have any knowledge of your own or of those of your friends of whose judgment you can rely on, please give it to me.

I am sorry to hear that Miss Mattie is not well. I suppose she is sorrowing for the distress she occasions her beaux. I can’t imagine what else could affect her. Can’t you bring her on with you perhaps change of air & scene may be beneficial. At any rate the pleasure that she will see me enjoy from her presence will be an offset to the suffering in inflicts on any poor Joe. How is his health now. Canfield was down to see us the other day. He says I must go up & see Mrs C_. She would be charmed with her appearance she looks so heavy & well. They are staying with his Uncle, Judge Dickenson, at Patterson N. J. only an hours ride from N. Y. I have no news to tell you Cousin Anna. Here our time passes very quietly. We have some very agreable neighbours  in the Stantons & the officers of the garrison but I believe you are only acquainted with the first. We occasionally ride to N. York on a visiting or shopping expedition & I am afraid I shall be ruined in the bargains remnants & [sic] that Mama makes. I asked this morg if she had any messages. She said she had written so recently that she had nothing now but the expression of her pleasure at hearing that there was a letter from you to her on the way & by a private opportunity. The children are very well & growing apace. The boys are getting large & Course, & Widdy as she is called is becoming very interesting & promises to be the prettiest of the flock. Not much boasting in that you & Sis Nannie will say, nor do I mean it is such. Give our loves to Rose, Sis Nannie & the boys. All at Clermont, Colross. the Lloyds, Lees &c. Tell Mrs Harriet that I sent a few days since a carpet bag full of advice & encouragement to Edmund by one of the officers of the Post who was going to West Point & expect a particular account of him when he returns, which will be in a few days, & that I think I deserve a letter & kiss from Becky in return.

I heard not long since that Uncle Bernard was suffering very much in Phila from dyspepisa. Josephine & Bernard Junr & their mother were there in N. York, but were to have returned to Phila by this time. You must not think that I tire at the thought of your letters. I am interested in all around you & in all that you do or say.

very truly & affecty

R E Lee


I have been disappointed in the conveyance by which I had expected to since this & hearing that you are on a visit to Mrs Kerr, I have determined to send it under to Mr K. Please make my apology for the liberty I have taken. You will have probably heard before this reaches you of the death of Uncle B. Letters from Charles & Matilda inform me that he died without pain, in full consciousness to the last, & perfectly resigned on the 3rd Inst, 10 ½ P.M at Philadelphia.


To Mrs A. M. Fitzhugh


Alexandria, D.C.



Source:  Digital scan of original letter, The Papers of Robert E. Lee, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 29

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