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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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

25th July 1835

 

My letter to Mother, Dearest Mary, will have informed you that your joint letter was received just as we were were embarking from Haron for Point Pele (Canada). I need not assure you of the pleasure its perusal afforded me, as it informed me of your continued good health & spirits & an anxious expectation for that event which I hope will fill the measure of our happiness still higher & higher.1 I feel confident that ere this it has taken place & that you are now again experiencing the pleasure occasioned by the arrival of our darling Boo.2 How I daily & hourly long to be with you to participate in the pleasure & to assist in nursing & caressing the dear little creature. In my dreams last night I was at Arlington & saw you all three well happy. From an appearance of bustle & confusion I suppose the event had not long happened though of this & of the sex I am in doubt, as I awoke immediately & could not recall more distinct impressions, & yet as regards the latter particular, I recollect to have been aware at the time. It was a sad disappointment to find myself still in my blankets & though to these of this kind I have become of late somewhat familiar it was no less keenly felt than the others & yet I felt releived [sic] from a load of anxiety & hailed it as the “shadow cast before by the coming event.” I will not indulge in my feelings lest they be premature, but it would be singular coincidence should it prove to be true. Virgil says that the man who spends his day in throwing the Javelin will sometimes hit the mark, and though my aim is very frequently directed at A. & most frequently at you & yours yet I have never before drawn from the quiver a dart of that description. I was much pained by a part of your letter written on the 4th anniversary of our wedding day. That day was not forgotten by me, & at the rapid glance I look at our lives up to that time, nothing appeared to me, but marked by pleasure & happiness. I have no doubt but that I have given ample cause for the sad hours you acknowledge to have felt, but I can only say that it was entirely unintentional, nor can I now recollect any willful act, except the restraint which I have occasionally placed upon my feelings, with a hope of correcting what to me appeared (perhaps erroneously) carelessness or inattention. These I hope you will pardon, as they were caused by a desire to promote our mutual happiness & a wish to spare you the apprehended outbreaking of a temper never good, often rash & sometimes uncontrolled. I believe I am by nature addicted to occasional gloom, which I fear is accompanied by moroseness. At such times I have experienced your kindness & delicate attention & I hope you have not contributed attributed it in to estrangement or other than the right cause. It may result from a morbidness of mind or a relax of body, but certainly not from coldness or forgetfulness.

“For tho’ Mary Hay my e’es be turned dim

And age wi’ its frost stiffens evry limb;

My heart thou kens weel has no frost for thee,

for summer returns at the blink o’ thy e’e,

The miser hands firmer & firmer his gold,

the ivy clings closer to the tree when it’s old

And thou grows the dearer to me Mary Hay

as a’ else turns e’erie & life wears away”

 

We reached Pt Pele in the night of the day we left S. Shore, landed the next morning in a tolerable high surf & pitched our Tents upon his Majestys Beach. The appearance of the Point was anything but inviting & we were told extended from the main into the Lake 13 miles & apparently in the proportion of the blade [illegible] straight sword. The nearest inhabitants were some French squatters about 5 miles up the Beach & the nearest settlement 17 miles. Except for the cutters3 loaning us some hard bread & Pork we should have starved. Jeptha made several foraging excursions & once was absent nearly 2 days. He brought back ¼ lb of skin Hyson Tea. As much domestic bad maple sugar, & a few eggs which he assured us were all the provisions in Canada & that the inhabitants would now be ruined. The bathing however was most delightful. The water cold & so clear that the bottom was perfectly discernible over my depth. I used to every morg rise direct from my blankets & walk into the Lake, which was not 10 yds from our Tents, & which saved the trouble of other ablutions. The weather was more favourable for us there & we got through in a week after our arrival. We left there last Tuesday morg (21st) & landed here the same night & pitched our tents in the dark. The captain of the cutter was particularly kind to us. After landing us at Pt Pele, He made a surge up the Lake, called for us agai[n[, landed us here (60 miles) & let us have provisions enough to last until we could procure some from Detroit. one of our party Mr Hood, was quite sick before we left Heron. We doctored him up aboard the cutter & he is now quite well again. The captain thought he escaped a bilious attack by being made quite sea sick on our passage to the Pt. I tried to become so but could not succeed, & the more as we had come from a bilious country & all the Party felt more or less affected. Hard work I believe agrees with me. Hood being sick, I had to take double tours, sit all night & start off in the morg surveying. Catching a little sleep at odd times & in the point passing from point to point but it is all over now & we shall get back the quicker. Hood & Jeptha went up to Detroit day before yesterday to get provisions &c. By the Boat yesterday Evg they sent us down, a whole package of Papers & letters. There were 2 from you, 15th & 24th, one from Johnston, 1 from Cullum, & one from Charles carter (colledge). The captain heard from Mrs. T. Mrs. H. not well. The children feeling the effects of hot weather & gone into the country. She to follow soon. Miss Tazewell had arrived from Norfolk. Dr William Selden very attentive to Miss Em & supposed it would be a match. Love to all. Direct to Detroit yrs truly & as ever RELee

The maple Bedstead cost $13. I think you had better give it to mother. The keys of those boxes, are either on the bench or in the box of Papers. If the that [sic] man will give a good price for M, let him have him it must be between $250 & $300.                       

My darling little Boo Pa’a saw such a beautiful grey Pony in canada with long mane & tail & small little head & ears, & he wanted to buy it & bring it home for his little son to ride, but he could not get it across the deep & wide water of Lake Eerie so that you must ride Pa’ddy & Bob & be a good boy & do every thing your moder & Gammoder tell & always the same darling Boo to you dear Pa’a

 

 

 

 

Source: Photocopy of original letter, Helen M. Taylor Collection, Mss1 T2144 a 189-191, Section 6, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 May 6    

 

     

1. Mary had recently given birth to the Lees’s first daughter, Mary Custis Lee, who was born 1835 July 12.

2. Nickname for George Washington Custis Lee, the first child born to Robert E. and Mary Lee.

3. Name of a ship.

Jeptha Reed, who turns up in an account by Lee of 1834 November 22.

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