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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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


 

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Camp near Winchester

May 26th/’62

 

My Dear Father

I write to you as soon as practicable to let you know that I am safe untouched by shot shell or steel though the mercy of Providence. On the 23d inst when at Luray we were ordered to to [sic] cook three days rations. And then, the next morning we started to Front Royall our Brigade in the rear. Our Forces in advance consisting of the 1st Md Reg & some Louisiana troops together with Cavalry charged into the town & drove them out of town capturing every thing they had; all their stores, camp Bacon Sugar Coffee, amounting to one hundred thousand dollars. The the [sic] next day we took the road to Middletown across the country our brigade in front. Two of our Rifle Parrot guns were in the very front supported by Col Ashby & his troopers. We captured nearly all the Cavalry they had & a large wagon train full of all Kinds of stores; also captured “I think,” nearly all the force they had in Strasburg; for you see by coming up to Middeltown we took the forces at Strasburg in front rear & flank.

The Yankees threw away every thing they had Saddles horses blankets Great Coats Jackets Knapsacks haversacks & every thing. We were halted for some time this side of Newtown eight miles from Winchester right in the midst of a large wagon train. When the men got into several sutler’s wagons & got all kinds of sweetmeats the most delicious canned fruit of all Kinds ginger cakes by the barrels sugar candy & all Kinds of “nick nacks” I made a hearty meal off [sic] bread & butter ginger cakes & sugar wh[ich] helped me out, for I was nearly starved.

We marched all that night fighting in the dark with different parties of the enemy but suffered but slightly. At day Break we arrived about a mile & a half from Winchester where we found the enemy strongly posted though in inferior force. Part of our Battery was engulfed at once as soon as our infantry had driven a part of them out of their fortifications.

After about a half an hour of very hot firing the other four pieces were ordered up into the field. Through a perfect storm (literally) of shot & shell we doubled quicked up on a hill commanding a portion of the enemy’s position.

We are opposed to a powerful battery of rifle guns supported by a regiment of sharp shooters on our left flank about four hundred yards off. For one hour & a quarter my piece fired & during that time it had seven men wounded two horses Killed one wounded & one of the wheels of the gun carriage broke all to pieces. Poor Wash Stuart was struck in the face by a piece of shell when he first came up. I saw the poor fellow taken past covered with blood, but our orders were strict & I could’nt leave my post. Bob McKim a cousin of Ranny McKim of Balto was killed.1 Ranny Fairfax & both of the Packards escaped without a wound.2

John Gregory of Richmond was severely wounded.3 A R Boteler Jr4 was wounded in the leg twice (but flesh wounds & slight, I think). While we were firing we lost two Killed & sixteen wounded & also two wounded the day before. After an hour and a quarter of the hardest work I ever had in my life we ceased firing & our piece fell back behind the hill to put on a new wheel when The 2nd Va & some La Regs charged the battery & its supporters behind the stone wall and swept them from the field, then we ran them through Winchester & four miles farther when we were halted & put in camp, for the army was completely worn out. The Cavalry pursued them & prisoners were coming in all night. I think I have been through as hard a time as I ever will see in this war; For twenty four days we have been marching & this is the fourth day we have rested Through rain mud water woods up & down mountains & for two weeks half starved. But I am now as hearty as a buck feeling better than I ever did in my life.

Give my best love to all. Washy Stuart’s wounded5 with proper care, the Dr Says, is not in any way dangerous. Gen Ewell called to see me this morning to enquire if I was hurt & was very Kind in offering to have me well attended to if I was sick or wounded. The people of Winchester are nearly mad with excitement & I have not been able to get in there. Good bye love to all your loving son

R E Lee Jr

 


 

1. Author, clergyman, and soldier Randolph Harrison McKim (1842-1920) was born in Baltimore to John S. and Catherine Harrison McKim. He attended UVA and later became a Doctor of Divinity. During the war, he served as an officer on the staff of George Steuart and as a chaplain in a Virginia cavalry regiment. He is author of A Soldier’s Recollections: Leaves from the Diary of a Young Confederate. He died in Springs, Pennsylvania. His cousin, Robert Breckenridge McKim, was killed at Winchester on 1862 May 25. He was born 1843 December 24 in Baltimore. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.  

2. Randolph Cary Fairfax (1842-1862) was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg later in the year. The Packards were Walter J. and Joseph Packard. Walter Jones Packard, Jr. (1840-1862) was from Alexandria and enlisted in October of 1861. He died of disease in August of 1862 in Hanover County, Virginia. His brother Joseph (1842-1923) was educated at Kenyon College and served as a lieutenant in the Confederate army, becoming an ordnance officer later in the war. After Lee's surrender, he worked as a lawyer and served on the school board in Baltimore. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.     

3. Jonathan Munford Gregory, Jr. (1840-1907) was the son of Virginia governor John Gregory (1804-1884) and was born in Williamsburg. He attended Richmond Baptist College and UVA. He joined the Rockbridge Artillery in August of 1861 and rose to the rank of captain. On May 25 at Winchester, he was wounded in the arm and lung. He recovered and served with the Army of Northern Virginia until its surrender in 1865. He moved to California after the war, where he worked as a lawyer. He died in Suisun City, California.

4. Alexander R. Boteler, Jr. (1842-1893), who was from Shepherdstown, Virginia [now West Virginia]. His father was a prominent planter and politician from Virginia. After the war, he lived in Farmville, where he suffered from blindness for the last three years of his life.  

5. George Washington Stuart (1838-1863) who was wounded at Winchester and was killed in the fighting in Fredericksburg during the battle of Chancellorsville on May 3. He is buried in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

 

Source: Transcribed from original letter, Mary Custis Lee Papers, Mss1 L5144 a 884-895, Section 14, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 October 24

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