• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Richmond 30th April 1861


My dear Mary


On going to my room last night I found my trunk & sword there & opening it this morning discovered the package of letters, & was very glad [to] learn you were all well & as yet, peaceful, I fear the latter state will not continue long, not that I think Virginia is going to make war but if the Federal Government should be disposed to peace there is now such a mass of [word missing] in Washington such a pressure from the North, & such fury manifested against the South that it may not be in the power of the authorities to restrain them. Then again among such a mass of all characters it might be considered a good smart thing to cross into Va & rob, plunder, &c especially when it is known to be the residence of one of the Rebel leaders. I think therefore you had better prepare all things for removal, that is the plate, pictures &c & be prepared at any moment. Where to go is the difficulty. When the war commences no place will be exempt in my opinion, & indeed all the avenues into the State will be the scene of military operations. Tell Custis to consider the question. He is a discreet person & prudent & advise what had better be done. I wrote to Robert that I could not consent to take boys from their school & young men from their colleges & put them in the ranks at the beginning of a  war when they are not wanted & when there were men enough for the purpose. The war may last 10 years. Where are our ranks to be filled from then?

I was willing for his company to continue at their studies, to keep up its organization & to perfect themselves in their military exercises & to perform duty at the College but not to be called into the field. I therefore wished him to remain. If the exercises at the College are suspended he can then come home. I do not wish any more socks or shirts at this time. I forgot to take from the old uniform coat I left for the servants the eyes or hooks from the shoulders that confined the epaulettes. Will you cut them out & also the loops at the collar. You will have to rip the coat & take them out. If you will then wrap them up carefully & send them to Mr. John G. or Mr. Dangerfield directed to the Spotswood House there are persons coming on every day by whom they can be forwarded. I was much interested in Mary Childe’s letter.1 My poor Anne how she must have suffered. I have not time to write to her. There is no prospect or intention of the government to propose a truce. Do not be deceived by it. Custis must exercise his judgment about sending to the Alexa market. It is your only chance. Give much love to all my dear children & Helen. Tell them I want to see them very much. May God preserve you all & bring peace to our distracted country.

Truly yrs

R E Lee




1. Mary Custis Childe was a niece of Robert E. Lee. She was born in 1841 in Paris to Edward Vernon Childe (1804-1861) and Lee’s sister, Catharine Mildred Lee Childe (1811-1856). In 1859 in Maryland, she married Robert G. Hoffman. She died in Paris in 1865, before the Civil War was over. She had no children.



Source: Transcribed from photocopy of copy written by Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 282, Section 15, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 May 3        

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