• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 22 Nov 1857

My dear Cousin Anna,

I have been very anxious to see you, & had I have had a good horse, would have gone up some evg, engrossed as I am in endeavouring to urge unending hands to work & make some preparation for winter. You will know that under the circumstances it was to be expected that matters should be behind hand & there is so little elasticity in the establishment that it is hard to recover even lost ground. The carriage horses have been every day hauling the linters coal, so that I have not yet been to Washington & only once to Alexa on pressing business. Besides dear Cousin Anna my desire to see you after my long absence & my wish to know for myself how you are after your distressing accident, I wish to consult you on matters of deep interest to me. I have been delaying a projected visit to Alexa in the hope that you may have completed your business at R_ & returned to town. Mr Childe has written that he & Mary will be here this week & estimated tuesday as the day of their arrival. I also hope that my dear Smith may be here soon, as he says in a recent letter that if not ordered to Washington soon on business connected with the naval Courts, he will come on himself, & mentioned that Carter had written to know whether he could not meet him here. I should not like to be out of the way on their arrival, unless obliged by business. But I must see you dear Cousin Anna, so please tell me as near as you can, how long you expect to remain at R_. Cousin John who was kind enough to ride out to see us the other day will have told you all about us. Lest you should not have heard of the distribution made by Mr Custis of his property, in which you will naturally feel interested, I will mention in substance that all is distributed among his Grd children. Mary has a life Estate in Arlington Mill &c. At her death it is to go to Custis, with the Washington plate & furniture. The White House to Fitzhugh & Romancoke to Robert. To each of the girls he leaves $10,000. To be paid out of the Sales of Smiths Lsd, & such lands as he may have in Westmoreland & Stafford. The balance to be made by working the farms on the Pamunkey. On payment of his debts & legacies, his slaves are to be emancipated in such manner as his Executors may determine. His Executors in the order named, are myself, Cousin Robt Randolph, Bishop Meade & Washington Peter. Robt Randolph & Washg Peter wish me to act alone. I have not heard from the Bishop. I would prefer relinquishing to the boys the property at once with its responsibilities. They are young & might make something of it. Mary naturally clings to the place of her birth & the graves of her parents, & all have the desire to see the old home resuscitated.

Dear Cousin Anna what am I do. I fear Mary will never be well enough to accompy me in my wandering life, & it seems to be cruel to leave her. Custis I fear could not support his Grd fathers name & place as he desired. Every thing is in ruins & will have to be rebuilt. I feel more familiar with the military operations of a campaighn [sic] than the details of a farm. I miss every moment, him that always recd me with the kindness & affection of a father, & I grieve to find his chair empty & his place vacant. The grass is already green over his grave. May God have mercy upon us all. The carriage waits to take us to church. Farewell.

With great affection



P. S. Tomorrow I must go to Washington to report &c REL

All send love. Mary would have written but could not



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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