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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Ravensworth 10th May [1861]

I will put a few lines in this enclosure dear Annie, to let you know of our safe arrival at this place; dear Aunt M was very kind, recieved [sic] us with open arms saying we were the same to her as if we were her own family. Mary & I came up last Wed eve. Custis had various matters to arrange, one was a laudable desire to get his pay! staid for a few days & Mamma with him. We brought the last of the valuables with us. I can’t tell you what it was to leave home. I dare not think how I long to be back, it is so perfectly beautiful there now. And then I may have left it forever, the bare walls & empty presses1 look so desolate & perhaps Ill never return except to find it battered down. It seems to me I have been so unhappy I am becoming resigned  Now. But I must tell you something else which I know will distress you very much. Orton you know has been holding on to his commission hoping against hope that affairs might be better, & particularly because Gen. Scott has been so kind, has treated him like a son, took him to live with him &c then O said so long as he could be useful to him he could not bear to seem ungrateful by leaving him, he could not tell him so. But last Monday he said he could stand it no longer, so he went back to W & informed Col. Townsend of his determination. They immediately rushed to tell the Gen. & tell him who refused to see him. O came next Morn to breakfast & told us he never expected to be allowed to leave W[ashington]. sure enough, when he went back they told him he never could go South again. They offered him Many inducements to remain in the Army, but he refused everything except his word never to reveal what he knew & to go any where for a month or two until their plans had matured. But no, they sent him under arrest next Morn. to Governor’s Island on his parole for a month & if he does not renew it a prisoner for the war. The reason they give is “You know too much of our plans.” Now did you ever hear of such a high handed performance. In the first place no one would have known of all this confidence if they hadn’t made such a fuss even we did not to the extent. And unless they keep him close prisoner they must  trust to his honour. He has had a thousand opportunities all this time as he came over every day nearly & even that last afternoon there are hundreds of persons, even now in W[ashington], who would gladly telegraph anything to Richmond immediately to Richmond if he had meant to be dishonourable. It seems very hard & he of course was dreadfully cast down. They would not permit him to come & tell us good bye (though he had been that morn before hand). We, it seems are considered the rebel  influence that induced him to take his course, though it has been just the contrary. I don’t know even whether letters can pass without inspection & so I mean to make mine very interesting to the public direct care Col. C. F. Smith if you write Lolo has not been heard of or from since his departure for Ohio, we suspect he is in some county jail near Harpers ferry! Fitz, I believe arrived in W[ashington] to night. He came on from W.P. & suddenly applied for to go to Carlisle2 to bring his com.on. All the powers that be praised his patriotic conduct! but I think he’ll disappoint them yet! Write soon you know it will take weeks.



Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 286, Section 15, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Gibson, 2017 July 7


1. Outdated term for a piece of furniture used to store clothing.

2. Carlisle Barracks in southwestern Pennsylvania.

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