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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Arlington 17 Aug 1859

My dearest Son,

I recd last night your very acceptable letter of the 19th ulto & am much rejoiced to be assured of your health & well being. I have been thinking much of you of late & am always longing to see you & to be with you. I however see no chance of our meeting very soon & I try to be patient & Content. As regards your transfer to West Point I was never very sanguine of its being accomplished, & hardly think it will be effected. There was no public necessity for it & it Could only be urged on the ground of individual gratification. A poor reason when taken singly for military action. In fact too, though it would have brought you nearer us, we should have been widely separated, & I doubted whether you would have been advantaged by it. If you Could be stationed in Washington, you would then be near your Mother, Could in fact live here, unless for a few months in the winter, & be a great Comfort to her & your Sisters & Carry on the work of the farm, & thus accomplish much to your individual advantage. It is that that I have desired, & hoping for the considerations I have adverted to, that it would not be disagreable to you, at least for a season. I have advocated it. I will therefore tell you in confidence  (I have not even told your mother) that the proposition has been some time before the Secy, to order you on duty in the Engr Bureau & to transfer Craighill to the Engr Camp at W. P. Craighill is desirous of it, or rather as I understand, for I would not argue what was unpalatable to him, that he prefers taking a tour at W. P. which he must do in time, now than later. The proposition was made officially by Col Dick but the Secys ill health has detained him away from Washn, & every thing Consequently lagged. I think this will be accomplished in time but it may be deferred, probably till next year, as in the desire to carry out the four year rule they are reluctant to make changes in less than that time, unless actually necessary. So many changes have been made this year at West Point to Carry out that principle that they naturally all do not wish to increase them. St Gilmore has been recently ordered to W. P. in Casey’s place. Your name was handed in by Prof Mahan I understand in the list he was required to present. Major D has opposed some of the changes. Among them Mr Fry his Adjt. & applied for no one in his place. He has been directed to name some one, or an officer would be ordered on the duty. I have been in hopes that Craighills services would have been required there, & that then you would be required in the Bureau. But we must wait. The Secy is still at the Virga Springs. His health I am told is improving. He has gone from the Healing to the Red Sweet. But must soon now be back to prepare for Congress & then may Consider other things. You must not feel anxious or unsettled, but persevere on your duty as if you expected to finish it. Every thing will work right in the end. I returned last friday from Capon where you will have heard I carried your Mother & Agnes, in the hope of their deriving benefit from the fresh air & healing waters. I have no doubt they will in their general health, but whether they will in their particular Case remains to be proved. I delayed with them longer than I at first intended to see what effect would be produced on them, & whether it would be advantageous to try other mineral springs. They are very Comfortable there, with many friends around them, Kerrs, Lloyds, Washingtons, Tabbs, Andrews, &c &c & your mother is delighted with the bathing & certainly had improved much in appearance & appetite, & thought she walked with rather more facility. Agnes had also improved in appearance & thought her eyes pained her less. At this period between 11 & 12 P.M. thursday night, (11th) I recd a telegraph dispatch which had been forwd from Alexa from dear little Mary Childe at Saratoga, saying her father was very ill & requesting me if possible to Come to her. It was therefore determined that your Mother & A_ should remain 3 or 4 weeks where they were, for which I at once made arrangements, packed up my trunk, & set off at 2 AM in the morg (friday) for Strasburg, where I took the cars at 9 AM for Alexa on route for Saratoga. In passing through Alexa (at 2 P.M.) while the passengers &c were being transferred to the Mail boat, I called at the P.O. The mail was being opened, & I recd a letter from Mary, saying her father was pronounced out of danger & that I need not Come on. I Cannot describe the relief I experienced. For I had been picturing the worst, & the poor little child alone & among strangers. I recovered my trunk from the baggage Master, & Came out here, after advising your mother of the change of things. I found your sister, Annie, & Robt: quite well & content in their loneliness. Mildred has gone on a visit with Martha Kennon, who has been staying here, to Washn Peters. Another letter arrived yesterday from Mary C. saying her father was daily improving, would soon be able to leave & that they would then return to Baltimore & that I must give myself no uneasiness. I am very grateful. I recd last night also a letter from Charlotte at the White Sulphur. She & F. are well & happy with many of their friends around them, Uncle Wms Mr Wm Wickham, the Harrisons, Mrs Bonaparte &c. Charlotte says F. is the greatest beau there. Knows all the pretty girls, danses [sic] &c. Your friend J. E. B. Stuart was here last evg. He is spending his furlough in Va. Has been here several times, & once while I was away, spend a night. I have left to Rob. to tell you of all domestic matters, which I hope he has done, & as I am at the end of my paper will stop. I expect to go down to the W. H. in a few days, & on my return will go after your Mother & Mary & Annie. Send much love, & I am as ever

your father

R E Lee



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

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 27

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