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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Sewell Mt: 7 Oct 1861


I recd dear Mary your letter by Dr quintard1 with the cotton socks. Both were very acceptable though the latter I have not yet tried. At the time of their reception the enemy was threatening an attack, which was Continued till Saturday night, when under Cover of darkness & our usual mountain mist he suddenly withdrew. Your letter of the 2nd, with the yarn socks, 4 prs: were handed to me when I was preparing to follow, & I Could not at the time attend to either. But I have since, & as I found Perry2 in desperate need, I bestowed a couple of prs: on him as a present from you. The others I have put in my trunk & suppose they will fall to the lot of Meredith,3 into the state of whose hose I have not yet inquired. Should any sick man require them first, he shall have them, but Meredith will have no one near to supply him but me, & will naturally expect that attention.

I hope, dear Mary, you & daughter, as well as poor little Rob, have derived some benefit from the sanitary baths of the Hot. What does daughter intend to do during the winter? And indeed what do you? It is time you were determining. There is no prospect of your returning to Arlington. I think you had better select some comfortable place in the Carolinas or Georgia & all board together. If Mildred goes to school at Raleigh, why not go there? It is a good opportunity to try a warmer climate for your rheumatism. If I thought our enemies would not make a vigorous move against Richmond, I would recommend to rent a house there. But under these circumstances I would not feel as if you were permanently located if there. I am ignorant where I shall be. In the field Somewhere, I suspect, so I have little hope of being with you, though I hope to be able to see you. I am glad you will see dear Chass & am delighted as grateful to the giver of all good that her little boy is getting well. I hope you will all be happy together. I heard from Fitzhugh the other day. He was well, though his Command is greatly reduced by sickness. I wished much to bring him with me. But there is too much Cavy on this line now, & I am dismounting them. I could not therefore order more. The weather is almost as bad here as in the Mts: I left. There was a drenching rain yesterday & as I left my overcoat in camp I was thoroughly wet from head to foot. It has been raining ever since & is now Coming down with a will. But I have my clothes out on the bushes & they will be well washed.

The force of the enemy, by a few prisoners captured yesterday & civilians on the road, is put down from 17000 to 20000. Some went as high as 22000. General Floyd thinks 18,000. I do not think it exceeds 9 or 10,000 though it exceeds ours. I wish he had attacked us as I beleive [sic] he would have been repulsed with great loss. His plan was to have attacked us at all points at the same time. The rumbling of his wheels &c were heard by our pickets, but as that was customary at night in the moving & placing of his Canon [sic], the officer of the day to whom it was reported paid no attention to it, supposing it to be a preparation for attack in the morg. When day appeared, the bird had flown, & the misfortune was that the reduced Condition of our horses for want of provender, exposure to cold rains in these mts: & want of provisions for the men, prevented the vigorous pursuit & following up that was proper. we can only get up provisions from day to day, which paralyses our operations.

I am sorry as you say that the movements of the armies Cannot keep pace with the expectations of the editors of papers. I Know they can regulate matters satisfactorily to themselves on paper. I wish they Could do so in the field. No one wishes them more success than I do & would be happy to see them have full swing. Genl Floyd has the benefit of three editors on his staff. I hope something will be done to please them.

Give much love to the children & everybody, & believe me always yours

R E Lee


Mrs. M C Lee




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 318, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 October 1 


1. Charles Todd Quintard (1824-1898), a northern-born physician who settled in Tennessee and became a bishop in the Confederacy.

2. One of Lee’s body servants.

3. Another of Lee’s body servants.

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