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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Ravensworth May 23rd/1861


I hardly know dear Mildred whether you or I have written the last letter but as both Rob & yourself have a tradition your sisters never write I wish to prove to you what a mistake that is! Here we all are and as well and happy as we can be. Aunt Maria is very sweet and kind & Ravensworth is looking lovely. Aunt Nannie, Fitzhugh, Johnnie & Rob C are also here. No, Fitzhugh was not kept as a prisoner any where. He hurt himself when bringing on his company of cavalry from Carlisle, resigned in Washington and has been sick in bed ever since he has been here; but we hope is now better. Custis left us yesterday for Richmond. He was made Major of Engineers without any solicitation on Papa’s part or his own. We hear from Orton quite often.1 He wished to resign (you know he had been in Gen. Scott’s office) but was told he knew too much of their plans, that he could never go South, so he was sent in arrest to Governor’s Island N. Y. Harbour, & is now on his parole not to try to escape for a month. I don’t think they gained much by sending him away, for he was over at Arlington constantly before he tried to resign and that last evening before he left Washington or all along the route to New York he could have betrayed any confidence he wished if he meant to be dishonourable. But “might makes right” now-a-days. Papa write frequently but his letters are hurried and with but little beyond his well being &c. You have probably heard Nimmie, Jennie & Edie Fairfax have gone to Charlottesville. Indeed nearly all the young people have left Alexandria. I have an imperfect recollection of some ones saying a friend of the Hall family had come on and taken them North. The Peters’ family are still at Linwood. You heard did you not? that Custis was killed by the bursting of a cannon some boys were playing with. He was passing by and a piece struck him from which he died in a few days. Markie, Cousin Brit, Mrs. Stevenson & Miss Anne Shaaff were in Staunton when last heard from. “Arlington heights” are still unoccupied though there is a report they are to be possessed by a New York regiment in a day or two.

How we all trust our dear home will be uninjured but it is almost too good to hope if men are to occupy it & if there is an attempt to dislodge them we can’t tell how much it will suffer. I left Tom,2 who had become so affectionate to me lately I couldn’t bear to leave him, to the care of Uncle George, & if the troops came over the Col. of the Regiment was to give him his special protection! Aunt M. showed me some little kittens in the store house to-day and if they ever grow large enough to play with I shall be somewhat consoled. Helen went home a day or two before we left A[rlington]. We have heard from her since her arrival. Mrs. Cook has a little baby boy. I am surprised you did not like your bonnet. We all thought it the prettiest and most stylish of all that were done up. And I wanted to take it but thought as it was your only one I ought to give you the prettiest The Dickens’ ask after you. Rob & I are going over there in the donkey cart to-morrow. You must remember us to Cousin S. Rebecca Hatty also to Miss Fanny Macoughty. It won’t be long before we see you now, study hard “Maj. Gen Lee’s” daughters must know something you know. Your sister Agnes                 





1. Orton Williams (1839-1863). He is mentioned in other letters during the war, concerning his spying in Tennessee and subsequent and controversial hanging.

2. Tom Tita, the family cat.




Source: Transcribed from original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 294, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 April 4

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