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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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

My dear, dear Son

I did not receive your very welcome letter of the 2nd April, till my return from the Genl CtMartial Convened at New Port Bks: for the trial of Genl Twiggs. I was very sorry that it was too late to respond to it by the steamer of the 5th, especially as none of the family had written, & I therefore fear that steamer carried you no news from home. I know by experience how little satisfaction the arrival of the mails under those circumstances brings, but hope that Fitzhugh, Agnes or Mary Childe, may have better remembered the day than your good sister Annie, who had intended to write but let it escape her.

Had however a letter reached you it would merely have described every thing as usual. Your Mother is enjoying her customary health. I sometimes think she walks with less difficulty, though at times her joints appear very stiff. I have already Commenced to urge her to prepare for a summers tour, & to devote herself to the effort to recover her health. I wish her to leave home next month, & am ready to to take her any where which promises most relief. She is however loth to move & says she has not made up her mind where to go. She has been taking the cold bath all the winter, a fearful experiment, but I have watched its effects carefully & anxiously, & really think it has been of service. It has apparently removed the swelling from her feet, ankles &c & relieved her of nearly all pain. That above is a great benefit. So much apparent good has she derived from the applications, that I encline to the belief that Sea bathing would be more beneficial now, than the mineral waters, & wish her to try it a month or so, when she might afterwards go to Berkley, which she is not in favour of, or the warm & Hot Springs. Mary paid a visit to her Aunt Maria in Alexa of a week or ten days before I left home, & has also been a week at Ravensworth with her recently. I brought her down on the pony friday. She I hope is better, though is feeble in appetite & strength, & is as knowing & opiniative as her Aunt Anne, so all the experience of others is lost to her. Annie by no means strong but is as good & gentle as ever. I wish her to go down to Cedar grove where I know she will enjoy herself, & perhaps maybe benefited. I stopped in Baltimore a day on my return from Kentucky. Agnes was very well & also Mary Childe. The latter was engrossed in the wedding festivities of Miss Nina Reed, who was married to Mr Albert Carroll, that were then in full blast. She was very affectionate & sweet, but I could see but little of her, as I was only there a day. Your poor Aunt Anne was about the same. The Judge as usual, & Florence & the babies flourishing. Your Uncle Childe & his little womenkind I expect by this time are on a visit to your Uncle Smith. He was to go to Boston, & have the girls at the Navy yard till his return. We have not heard from them I think since immediately after I left them. I had not time to see any of our old friends, save Mrs Bonaparte & those in the neighborhood of Childe. Mr B. was expected to embark on the 4th of this month from Havre on his return to this Country. Jerome was in Paris on a visit to his father. He was still a Lt. I met in B_. Mrs Taylor our former neighbour, but who now resides in Middletown Con. She told me Miss May & Amelia, her daughters, were to be married this summer to two young Divines whose names I have forgotten. There was a great rage for matrimony in B_ & the fever seemed to be infectious. It made me anxious to extricate Agnes, whom I expect to come home after her return from Phila. Her studies for the year seemed to be about terminated. I was sorry to have missed seeing Charlotte Wickham. Her Grd Father had borne her off to the Pamunkey, where in the absence of her Roon she intended to devote herself to music & painting. I did not see my dear Roon either. He was at that time at Govrs Isd: expecting to leave with the recruits for Utah momentarily. He has since gone & I have not heard of his arrival at Leavenworth. He left in buoyant health & spirits but with a sad heart.  Precious life is perfectly well. She is much exercised with her chickens, & they by her. I see for them no prospect of peace but the frying pan. Robert writes in fine spirits. He has been prospecting about the neighborhood for cherry trees, & their bloom on the sides of the mountains delights his vision every morg. He revels at dinner in fried chicken & mash. An elegant school in his opinion. I have thus read you a commentary on the movements & doings of the whole family. For myself I have been endeavouring to put in a good crop of corn to bring things into some order. I have been much retarded by the incessant rains. The corn first planted is up & looks well. I have spread 3,600 bushels of oyster shell lime on the Corn land, which I hope will be the beginning of improvement. Judging from the present effects of time on the oatland, it promises to act very favourably on this land. I burned a small kiln of shells on the poorest part of the field, & spread the lime as far as it would go. The rest of the field I sowed with guano & plaster. The oats on the limed land are far superior now to the other. I have been endeavouring to find the metes & bounds of Arlington & also the mill tract, to have them scavenged, & have been out to the Somer’s & Minors, & had the records of Fairfax Court searched without effect. I can find nothing of them in the house. I fear from what I hear that neighbours are trespassing upon the property & it is important I think to have the boundaries marked. I do not know how to proceed to get them, but shall persevere. I am engaged in rebuilding the overseers house. I say rebuilding, for nothing but the walls are now standing. I shall add two more rooms to it. The repairs of the mill are not yet complete. Of military affairs I have but little to say. The Utah expedition is in motion. Genl Smith has reached St Louis, but how he is to proceed beyond Leavenworth, without a miracle in his favour I do not see. His health is wretched & his debility extreme. You have of course seen the orders organizing the command, & I will not repeat. Genl Harvey & Genl Johnston will have [missing page]


P.S. You have never mentioned recg the National Intelligencer. Does it reach you? It was ordered & paid for a long time ago. Since writing the foregoing & just as I am about to send this to the P.O. I have recd your letter of the 18th April. Daniel waits & I have not time to say more


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 26


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