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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Fort Brown, Texas

16 April 1860

My dear Son

I wrote on the 14th to Agnes, & Since by an Express from San Antonio, have recd your very welcome & long letter of the 21st & 22nd Ulto. By the Same Consequence I recd one from your Mother at the White House dated the 20th, & one from Rob of the 19th. As I shall have to write at intervals with other things pressing on my attention, I will begin by replying to the matters of business referred to in your letter. First as regards Mr Crabbs. You must make what arrangement you deem best. I think you did right in your reply to him & it Seems reasonable that the rent should cease during the stoppage of the mill for repairs. I refused in the first instance to purchase the Saw, for I know from my own experience that it required very strict attention, without which the Cost of the repairs would absorb all the rent. I therefore permitted him to apply the Saw to the machinery, & charged him $50. for the use of the power. The rent of the mill was originally $500. per annum. I think this the best arrangement still, but whether the rent is too high or not, will depend upon what it will bring. You must therefore follow your own judgement in the matter & whatever you do will be perfectly Satisfactory to me. You must not therefore in this or other matters Consider yourself at all. Constrained by the Course I pursued, which at the time seemed best under the circumstances, but which must always be modified or changed by current events. You must be aware of one thing, that those you deal with will Consider their advantage & not yours. So while being fair & just you must not neglect your interests. Should Mr Crabbs leave, & you do not find a tenant that you like, I would advertise, & while the mill is waiting for a tenant, take that time to make the repairs you Contemplate. It seems to me at this distance a fetch of Mr Crabbs, to embarrass you or obtain a reduction of the rent, & though you may rent to him this year, I would look around quietly for another tenant for the next. I am very sorry to hear that Mr McQuinn has been sick, which is another drawback, but you must not be disheartened by these annoyances. They are incident to life & Common as you have no doubt experienced to all vocations. You Seem to be progressing favourably with the operations on the farm. Is the lime scattered on the clover field (in the old beef pasture) & was it Sufficient? Have you enough for the Corn field? If not Mr Dowling, whose office is nearly opposite the Market in Georgetown, on bridge St, & Kiln to the left or north of Bridge St, near the bridge will supply you. The rates I paid you will find in the accounts of 1859, & I think were 7¢ per bushel for the fresh burned oyster shell lime, 25¢ per bushel for the Gas House, both delivered. He may furnish for less. Indeed I think the Gas House lime, which was very good & which I prefer for Grass, was 4 ½¢. I hope Mr Veitch has made a good fence. How does it look? In cleaning up the park by the gate, leave the Cedars & shrubery [sic] along the fence in their natural groups & they will mask it. I would open the ditch through the Swamp in the opposite Side when you cleaned it up. It will improve the health as Well as the appearance & if during the Summer or Fall you could scatter some Gas House lime, or the fresh either along each side of the road of the approach, it would give you better grass. I mention things as they occur to me for you to Carry out when you Can. Do not undertake more than can accomplish well, or annoy yourself because you cannot progress as fast you wish. You are a young man, & a steady progressive pace, regulated with prudence, will Carry you a long way. It was the reverse with me, I knew if I wished to accomplish anything, I had no time to spare. In this Connection I will mention, that you must not wait for any suggestions or prompting from me but pursue the dictates of your own taste & judgement in making such improvements as the means at your disposal will permit. I am sorry they are so limited, but I can furnish a letter from time to time. I am glad you have Commenced the Hay barrack. The demensions [sic] you have assumed are about those I had in my mind, subject to suggestions of Mr Scott. They were 20’ x 60’ or 80’, as the timber &c would suit best. I think I would place the first one south of the lane to the barnyard or the ridge we spoke of. There will be new grass cut on that Side this year. Next year if you Can, put one on the north Side of the lane. What did the Clearing of the pines Cost? I fear your funds are falling short. I have not heard from Mr Winston yet. As you do not mention the subject, I presume he has not sent up the accts: I wrote to him as I told you. When I settle with him I hope to have Some more money for you. I wrote to Daughter from Ringgold & directed my letter to the Care of Uncle Marshall. I sent her a check on New York for $100 which I mention, lest it may have miscarried. Mails are so uncertain. I am glad you are cleaning up back of the Kitchen. The pig pens must go down to the ravine & north of the ice house. I hope Daniel is well again & that you have got a fine horse for yourself. I have but little Rio Grande news. I have descended the left bank of the river from Eagle pass & Could find no armed parties on either side of the river. Every thing was quiet. Robberies will be Committed by Indians, Mexicans, & border men where it Can be done with impunity & always have been. The last authentic accounts I Could get of Cortinas, was that his wife, children, & 2 men he was making his way in Mexican ox carts into the interior & was 135 miles off. The Mexican Authorities with whom I have been holding a sharp correspondence said they had sent an express to the authorities to arrest him. Genl Garcia commg in Matamoras opposite to me repeated the assurance. Still I do not expect it to be done & do not like to enter a blind pursuit after a man so far into the interior with broken down horses. It is the want of food for them that stops me more than anything else. I cannot carry it, & do not know that I Could find it. The delay in procuring it, would defeat my object. If it was prairie or a grass Country on which horses Could live, I would try him. But it is chapperal, then barren, mountainous &c. Several of your Comrades are here with me. Hartz, Thomas Tipton, Langdon, &c. Major Hunt with his battery is also here. Some 125 recruits for the three Arty Comps at this Post got up yesterday from the Brazos.

Remember me to all friends. My friend Col Joe Johnston is a good Soldier & worthy man & desires all advancement when it Can be done without injustice to others. I think it must be evident to him that it never was the intention of Congress to advance him to the position assigned him by the Secy. It was not so recognized before, in proportion to his services he has been advanced beyond any one in the Army, & has thrown more discredit than ever on the system of favouritism making brevets.

Kiss your mother if with you for me. Cheer her by your love & affection & love always

your father

R E Lee


P.S. Much obliged for the newspaper slips



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

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 July 6

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