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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Arlington May 11th [1861]


I received your letter to day my dear child & hasten to reply, for I must confess I was both hurt & mortified that a daughter of mine, at a time when her Father’s life is in peril, her home in danger of being trampled over by a lawless foe, if not leveled to the ground should allow a disappointment about a bonnet to be so deep in her mind & the cravings of her appetite. I cannot beleive [sic] that you have not enough of wholesome food. If you have not I will write to Mrs Powell at any rate as you have now but a short time to remain, you could hear it. Think how many are watching night & day on much more scanty fare. Still you certainly ought to have enough to eat & if you say that you have not I will write at once to Selina on the subject. As to the bonnet, Helen thought it so very pretty & so much the fashion of those new worn that she wanted to turn it up for Agnes, but as Agnes had two she gave it up for you thinking as you had but one, it ought to be a very nice one & we all thought it beautiful. If you are discontented with it, you can change with Agnes when you see her but could not possibly consent to your getting another. The money you owe your schoolmate must be paid & ask Mrs Powell to advance it for you but do not incur any unnecessary debts. Let me know the amount & I will send it if I have an opportunity. The girls are up at Ravensworth as Aunt Maria had been expecting us for some time. I sent them up & I staid here ‘till Custis was ready to go to Richmond which he expects to do in a few days. I must then leave my beautiful home at this lonely season & know not when & how I may see it again. If possible & I do not go to Winchester I will try & he at Kinloch about the time of your vacation so that you can be with me there, or if there should be peace I will return here & have Rob for my protection. All is gloom & uncertainty & I see nothing before me but war. I would have greatly preferred remaining at home & having my children around me but as it would greatly increase your Father’s anxiety I shall go up to Ravensworth & await the issue of events & look to God above to preserve us. Try & be content & make the best of what you have, you may not be able to remain at school another year. Tom is so affectionate to me. He seems to know I am going to leave him. I shall leave him in Uncle George’s care who seems to have a high appreciation of him as a mouser. Direct your letters as usual to Arlington near Alexa Va. If I have a chance I will send you a toothbrush if not you must get one in Winchester you must remember me to all the family & to your school mates. It would be a sad likeness you would have of me now, I will try & send you one of your papa. You never told me if you took that one of your cousin Edward. I have not heard from you papa for more than a week & fear he is quite worn out with business. God grant that he may successfully & honourably defend his state & family               

I see by the papers that Mrs Lincoln has left Washington & fear it may be in anticipation of some conflict. God only knows they keep their plans at Washington very secret & all that the newspapers state are mere speculation. write to me as often as you have time & I will write if any change takes place in our plans should I go to church tomorrow I will make a little package of the brush & perhaps the Lloyds could send it up, but I may not go in as Daniel is sick. Your brother sends much love.

Ever your affectionate


MC Lee

Do give my love to Mrs Barnes & tell her I hope her brother if released will not turn against us as Gene Hearney has done who seems very active in the cause of the government. we do not go to church I send six letters from your papa today. He is very busy & anxious we should get away from here. I shall go up to Ravensworth on Wednesday but return if all is quiet.       




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 292, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 March 28

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