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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Sunday 12 May [1861]

I was so relieved this morning when you came down from Ravensworth1 with two letters from you, one to me containing a check for 500.00 & one to Custis. you will see by my last that I have not yet gone [to] Ravensworth & why. we now expect it all remains in status quo to go up there on Wednesday & as soon afterwards as practicable. Custis will join you. He has been waiting here to get his pay & settle up matters & has not been well: I will endeavour to collect all that you may need but things are now so scattered that I have not as good an opportunity of making a selection. Why could not you get an order from Genl. Scott for your baggage to be sent on, or would you object to asking it. It would be a great comfort to you to have it. There are rumors afloat of an adjustment of our difficulties, but if so I do not see why they are constantly calling on the North for more troops & enlisting for 3 years. They are daily pouring into Washington & still calling for more & the furor of the Northern states is so intense they offer many more than are called for. The papers do all in their power to inflame both sides. I think your Richmond paper “the Dispatch” is very violent & abusive in its tone. all that sort of language ought to be left to the Herald2 which is below contempt, & whose falsehoods & surmises would be amusing if they were not on such a serious subject. would you like to have any kitchen utensil coffee pot &c you know we have many spare ones. your camp chest could easily now be sent to Baltimore tho from thence to Richmond would be attended with difficulty.

Yesterday 2 gentleman rode up[,] one announcing himself as Genl Cocke’s aid a Mr Cooke who gave me his address & kindly offered to do anything for me in Alexa where he is stationed at present. He asked leave to ride around & look at the grounds, said Gene Cocke was at the Manassas Junction could he get here in time to prevent to the occupation of these heights should they be more closely threatened. It seems to me a guard at the Culvert might be of some security yet Custis laughs at my suggestions. He says I must tell you he will come as soon as he can get off. he hopes to get his pay tomorrow. He says he packed that bit up in the box with the papers & will bring the key & if you have not sent the chests to the military institute keep them till Custis comes as you may get out of the old tea spoons & other things you might want. He can take the keys down with him.

If this should reach you direct & you have time, write to me at Burkes Station & enumerate anything you would like to have as Custis in all probability will not get off before the last of the week. The last 10 days have seemed an age of agony & suspense. Oh that some thing bright would dawn upon us.

There will be but little done for the children as their despair is paid for in advance. I will write as often as I can but always fear you will be too much occupied to read any long epistle. May God bless you. May God bless you [sic] & make you an instrument for the honour & salvation of your home & country.

yrs devotedly

MC Lee

I will send Edward Lippitt’s testimonials3 by Custis

Source: Photocopy of original letter, Mss1 L51 c 291, Section 15, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 April 11             


1. Ravensworth plantation near Annandale in northern Virginia. Mary Lee lived there briefly after Federal forces took Arlington but soon moved further south. Both Confederate and Union troops occupied the house at various points during the war. The house was built in 1796 and survived into the 20th century. Both William Henry Fitzhugh Lee and Custis Lee lived there, with Custis being the last to do so. The house burned in 1926 and is now a subdivision.   

2. Unclear which paper she is referring to. She perhaps might mean The New York Herald. During the war, newspapers ran columns from other sources.

3. Reverend Edward R. Lippitt (1798-1870). He was a professor of religious writing at the Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria (1825 to 1842). From 1842-1848, he served as editor of the Southern Churchman.

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