• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 25, 1861


I have been trying, dearest Mary, ever since the reception of your letter by Custis to write to [you]. I sympathize deeply in your feelings at leaving your dear home. I have experienced them myself & they are constantly revived. I fear we have not been grateful enough for the happiness thee within our reach, & our heavenly father has found it necessary to deprive us of what He had given us. I acknowledge my ingratitude, my transgressions & my unworthiness & submit with resignation to what He thinks proper to inflict on me.

We must trust all there to Him & I do not think it prudent or right for you to return there, while the U. S. troops occupy that country. I have gone over all this ground before & have just written to Cousin Anna on the subject.

While writing, I received a telegram from Cousin John G[oldsborough]1 urging your departure “South.” I suppose he is impressed with the risk of your present position, & in addition to the possibility, or probability of personal annoyance to yourself, I fear your presence may provoke annoyance to Cousin Anna. But unless Cousin Anna goes with you, I shall be tortured about her being there alone. If the girls went to Kinlock2 or E[astern] V[iew]3 you & Cousin A might take care of yourselves because you could get in the carriage & go off in an emergency. But I really am afraid that you may prove of more harm than comfort to her.

Mr. Williams C. Rives4 has just been in to say that if you & Cousin A will go to his house, he will be very happy for you to stay as long as you please. That his son has a commodious house just opposite his, unoccupied, partially furnished, that you could if you prefer take that, bring up servants & what you desired, & remain there as independent as at home. It is 7 miles east of Charlottesville, Cobbrams station. That though is on the direct line to Staunton &C & is objectionable unless we can shut them off below.

I must now leave the matter to you & pray that God may guard you. I have no time for more. I know & feel the discomfort of your position but it cannot be helped, & we must bear our trials like Christians.

Smith is well & Custis apparently so. Edward Butler5 is here. Perry6 & the horse has arrived. The former is looking very badly.

If you & Cousin Anna choose to come here you know how happy we shall be to see you. I shall take the field as soon now as I can.

Give much love to the girls. Thank Cousin J[ohn Goldsborough] for his kindness. May God guard & bless you.


Every yours truly & devotedly,

 R E Lee



1. A cousin to the Fitzhugh family.

2. “Kinloch,” a plantation in Fauquier County, Virginia, and the home of Edward Carter Turner (1816-1891).

3. A Carter family home in Warrenton in Fauquier County, Virginia.

4. William Cabell Rives (1793-1868), a planter and diplomat, who served in the Confederate house of representatives. He was born at “Union Hill” plantation in Richmond.

5. Edward George Washington Butler (1800-1888), a West Pointer and veteran of the Mexican War, with whim Lee corresponded after the war.

6. Lee's African American body servant.



Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 295, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 March 7

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