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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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Richmond at Dr Conway’s

3d June 1862

Your letter, my darling wife, of the 29’ May reached me in bed!!! day before yesterday. I came here on saturday sick. I have got poisoned in some way or other and have been quite sick, but well now, under the kind attentions of Dr Conway recovered almost eventually & expect to return to Camp in a day or two. We were ordered down to join this army & until we arrived had been in the saddle so that I had no opportunity of writing. When we arrived at Ashland, the enemy were advancing on Hanover C.H. I went on a scout & was near the R. Road where the fighting near Hanover C.H. was going on. I made my way around & arrived on the Hills back of H. Hill in time to see the Enemy advancing up the lane. I rode to the House for a minute. Wms was in bed, too sick to move. I saw the Ladies. I heard that your Grandpa was well. Cousin Tom & Renshaw[1] were there, but mounted & were off in a moment. We had quite a severe battle near the C.H. repulsed them took some 60 prisoners, but were obliged to fall back from superior numbers. My Division was not engaged. Saturday night & Sunday we had a battle on the Chicohominy near the York R. RR. We drove them back, took their camp & baggage, but lost a great many killed & wounded. Tommy Carter’s Battery was engaged & behaved most nobly. Willy Carter[2] is severely wounded. Gen Johnson [Johnston] was also badly wounded. Gen Pettigrew[3] killed & many other officers killed & wounded. Our loss is heavy. That of the Enemy must have been very severe. Pa has taken the field in person & we all expect hot work this week. I can hear nothing from Ma. Custis hears she is still at Mr Sayre’s. They had placed a guard around her house for protection. I suppose Gen Jackson’s success had helped us mightily.

 If you feel lonely & cut off in your excitement , my darling think what a consolation it is to me, to know that you are safe, & away from this terrible strife. You & my precious boy. I do so long to see you. Keep up a good spirit & let us trust in this our hour of need to the Almighty above. I dare not look forward to the future.

 Custis has been very ill with typhoid fever, but is now better.

Mary has been to see me twice, was here this morning. Almost all of the old citizens have left town & their places filled by refugees. Like the Ancients. The people of town went to the country & the countrymen to town.

The Enemy seem very pertinacious & I think will leave no stones unturned to occupy this place. Now that Pa has command I feel better satisfied.

Should victory be with us in the coming battle, I can see nothing to keep us out of Washington. If McClellan’s Army can be whipped & demoralized, We could get to Washington before they could organize a force to resist us. The raw levies[4] that they have there now would not be a mouthful. So far the Yankees have fought well, but have seldom attacked us. In the fight on Sunday we attacked them in their fortifications & drove them from every position but one.

I can hear nothing satisfactory from home. Lawrence Williams, who was in charge was arrested on suspicion of communicating with me. The negroes had a report that Mr Jeter had been hung. That, of course, I do not believe. Some prisoners that were taken near Hanover C.H. told me that Lawrence had been acquitted.

You must make allowance for the paucity of my letters, my precious, as I am likely to have few opportunities of writing. You are always present in my Thoughts, and I do long to see you. I suppose that boy, by this time, is a wonder. Jackets & pants & walking. I suppose I will not recognize him. Kiss him for me every day & don’t let him forget me. His Grandma must long to see him.

 Good bye, my darling; may the Almighty protect us, in this fearful struggle. My love to Agnes & Annies. Direct to Pa’s care.

Your devoted Husband

W.H.F. Lee   





Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 355, Section 18, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Gibson, 2017 July 24


[1] Thomas Carter (1831-1908), whose father was a first cousin to Robert E. Lee. His sister was Lucy Carter Renshaw (1838-1865). She married Robert Henry Renshaw (1833-1910) who served in the Confederate army.

[2] Williams Carter Wickham (1820-1888), a cavalry general during the war. He was wounded in May of 1862.

[3] James Johnston Pettigrew was wounded at Seven Pines but not killed.

[4] Another way of saying “raw recruits.”

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