• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 Mason 23 Jany 1861


My dear Mary

I recd by the last express from San Antonio your letter of the 1st Inst: & at the same time one from daughter Custis & Fitzhugh of the 4th. I will reply to you now & to them hereafter I hope. You will see by a former letter, that I recd from Major Nicholls Everetts life of Washington you sent me, & enjoyed its perusal very much. How his spirit would be grieved could he see the wreck of his mighty labours. I will not however permit myself to believe till all ground for hope is gone that the work of his noble deeds will be destroyed, & that his precious advice & virtuous example will so soon be forgotten by his Countrymen. As far as I can judge from the papers we are between a state of anarchy & civil war. May God avert from us both. It has been evident for years that the country was doomed to run the full length of democracy. To what a fearful pass it has brought us. I fear mankind for years will not be sufficiently christianized to bear the absence of restraint & force. I see that four states have declared themselves out of the Union. Four more apparently will follow their example. Then if the border states are dragged into the gulf of revolution, one half of the country will be arrayed against the other. I must try & be patient & await the end for I can do nothing to hasten or retard it. I am glad to hear that the hirelings are nearly all placed & I see by the Alexa papers, a large pile of which have arrived, that the rates of wages have rested about the same as last year. This will be to the advantage of the Estate. Tell Custis that those out of places, if hard to please or fanciful had better be sent to Richmond to Mr Echo. I am sorry to hear of Roberts indisposition. I fear from your report that he is in a critical way. He is however young & may recover as Perry did. Nothing can be done for him poor fellow but to make him as comfortable as possible. I am glad to hear that Amanda has come somewhat to her proper feelings. Her account of her temptations may be true. But I think she had greater reason to refuse confidence in you if not in me than her skulking friends. Fitzhugh wrote me of Mr Danas visit to them & of his preaching at St Peters. Also of the christening of my Grdson. He was called after his Grdfather. Fitzhugh stood for me, Charlotte for you & his Uncle Robert for himself. Many of the people were present. But I suppose you have had a full account. I wish the dear little fellow every happiness & that he may be a better man & more useful citizen than his namesake. I see by the Gazette that Mr Dana has accepted the call to the Parish of Port Gibson. I hope he will find in it a comfortable home, & many hearts that will appreciate his excellence & cause him to forget the treatment of his former parishioners.

I am glad that Mildred has been with you during the Holydays & hope she feels no effect of her indisposition. She will feel better for her visit the balance of the session & I hope will Continue to do well. You did not tell me whether she had grown. I have wished for some time to write to martha to thank her for the affectionate letter she wrote me last July, but have never known of her whereabouts with sufficient accuracy to do so. I now enclose a letter for her which I hope you will be able to send to her at once. I believe I can tell you nothing of interest about here. Last night Lt Lowe, Adjt of the Regt. returned with his bride. She is from St Louis & a fine looking young woman. They took breakfast with me this morg. Billy adorned the table with the equipage from my mess chest. It is the first time I have had it all out, though I have had some ladies to breakfast with me before. Mr and Mrs Shaaf the morg of their departure & Dr & Mrs. L’Engle in passing by. Mr. & Mrs. Lowe dine with one of their neighbours but come to me tomorrow again. They merely encamped in their quarters last night & are not yet established at housekeeping. There is poor inducement to arrange themselves now, for I suppose when Texas leaves the Union we shall be ordered out. I certainly shall not wish to stay. Give much love to my dear children & to them & to you I wish every happiness & blessing. Truly your husband

R E Lee




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 271, Section 14, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 December 12         

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