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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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




May 16 1861


My dear Mary


I am called down to Norfolk & leave this afternoon. I expect to return Friday, but may be delayed. I write to advise you of my absence, in case you should not receive answers to any letters that may arrive. I have not heard from you since I last wrote; nor have I anything to relate. I heard from my dear little Rob, who had an attack of chills & fever. He hoped to escape the next paroxysm. Had seen the Daingerfields & Fairfaxes. I witnessed the opening of the convention yesterday, & heard the good Bishop’s sermon, being the 50th anniversary of his ministry. It was a most impressive [one], & more than once I felt the tears coming down my cheek. It was from the text, “and Pharoah said unto Jacob, how old art thou?” it was full of humility and self-reproach. I saw Mr. Walker, Bishop Johns, Bishop Atkinson, &c &c. I have not been able to attend any other services, & presume the session will not be prolonged. I suppose it may be considered a small attendance. Should Custis arrive during my absence, I will leave word for him to take my room at the Spotswood till my return. Smith is well & enjoys a ride in the afternoon with Mrs. Stannard.1 The charming women, you know, always find him out. Give much love to Cousin Anna, Nannie, and dear daughters. When Rob leaves the University take him with you.

Truly & affy,

R E Lee




Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 293, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 March 7


1. Martha Pearce Stanard (1820-1894), a native of Kentucky and a neighbor of the Lees on Franklin Street in Richmond during the Civil War. She was married to Robert Craig Stanard (1814-1857). Her husband’s mother, Jane Stith Craig (1793-1824), was a friend to Edgar Allan Poe. Martha died in New York but is buried in Shockoe Cemetery in Richmond. An antebellum portrait of Standard by George L. Saunders in the National Portrait Gallery supports Lee’s opinion of her as “charming,” and she was prominent in Confederate social circles in Richmond.  

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