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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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 13 Sept 1858

My dear Cousin Anna

I have been applied to by the War Dept: to give them information relative to the two flags presented to the Govt: by Mr Custis, which are now in the War Office, & which they propose transferring to WestPoint to be kept with other trophies there.

It seems they have nothing on record concerning them, & no one seems to know more about them than that they were presented by him. Even the time is forgotten.

I have only my recollection, always bad, to refer to. I was not here at the time, but either by letters or accounts from the newspapers, I know of the circumstance. I too have forgotten the time, but think it occurred during Mr Filmores administration. My recollection is, that they were the stands of colours taken from the British at the Capitulation of Yorktown, which by a resolution of Cong: were presented to Genl Washington. After they came into Mr Custis’ possession, he placed them for many years in the Museum of Alexa & latterly withdrew them & presented them to the Govt: I think they were presented in person by Mr C. to the President, in presence of the Secty of War & perhaps other members of his Cabinet. I relate these incidents from memory (which I cannot trust) merely to bring the matter to your recollection, in the hope that you may refer me to some fact, paper &c from which I may derive an authentic account. I fear Mary’s memory may be no better than mine. Do you know how they came into Mr Custis’ possession? And the time that he presented them to the Govt? That may enable the War Dept to refer to some record & then get an authentic account.

There is another matter Cousin Anna that I wish to speak to you about. On the eve of my departure for the Hot Springs, & uncertain of my movements & duration, I wrote to Mr Burke requesting him to procure me a mill shaft, being unable to find a tree large enough in these woods & knowing that his brother had procured for Mr C the one now in the mill. This he very kindly undertook, has sent down the shaft, which seems to be a very good one, but informs me that it was cut on Ravensworth, & that you forbid his recg pay for it. I have therefore to Complain to you of Mr Burke, who in a matter of business of this kind, ought to have Considered me as any other individual. I know you will believe that I am not above recg any thing from you, that you choose to present; having already enjoyed much, very much, that many could not procure & which I can never hope to repay; but hope you will agree with me in thinking that Mr B_ should not have cut the tree from the Ravensworth land & scold him accordingly. I am however very much obliged to you for it, & shall value it more highly than if it came from elsewhere. I must also ask you to express my obligations to him, & thanks for its prompt transmission.

I learned when in Alexa friday that Smith had passed through to Washington thursday. I have therefore been expecting him here, but he has not yet arrived. I saw Mr Henry Dangerfield for a few moments, who desired me to tell Smith to call on his way back, as he wished to send you a message. Mr D then expected to go to Poplar Hill to day.

Agnes’ note will have informed you of her Safe arrival here in the Wagon. They have been very well since their return & much compy for me. I fear though they have had a dull time.

Mary is still in B_ but thinks she will return here next saturday, & since her determination to attend Laura Stuart’s wedding on the 5th Proxo seems to have abandoned her visit to Winchester.

A letter from Mary Childe yesterday reports Anne more Comfortable & the rest well. She says Florence looks wretchedly, & is distressed at being obliged to abandon her visit to her Father, but does not mention the Cause.

We had a visit Saturday after the rain from Mr T. B. Bryan of Chicago, with his pretty wife Byrd Page & my Cousin Mrs Danl Bryan, the mother, & a married daughter, whose name I Could not Catch, were of the party.

My last letter from Mary was dated the 6th. I hope she continued to improve a little. She had been taking the bath for more than 4 weeks. I hope Mrs Kerr is well & that Miss Eliza’s Cold was dissipated before becoming unpleasant. Please remember me to them both & to Nannie & the boys if with you.

Accept for yourself dear Cousin Anna my best wishes for your health & welfare & believe me

always most affy yours



P.S. The children do not know I am writing or would send love.


Mrs Fitzhugh




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

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 25

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