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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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


 

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Richmond Oct 27th 1862

xxx I do indeed wish you could have been with us, but the telegram could hardly have surprised you more than the knowledge that she may die, did me—that was Sunday night & Monday morning before seven she died. O you cannot, yes you Mary have some idea what this was to me. I could not believe it possible then, & now it is only at times that I realize what my lot is—a loss that each day seems to sink deeper into my heart, telling me it is for my whole life xxxx

 

Petersburg Nov. 7th /62

I am sorry my last was so hurried but I felt so weary, in fact it was so hard then & is often now, to arouze myself from a perfect deadness, that makes my concentration of my thoughts almost impossible.

I appreciate how hard it was to be absent at such a time. O I think it wd. have killed me, & yet if I had only known, only realized it was death it seems to me now it would have been a slight satisfaction. You know she had been sick just four weeks, when she died. I was with her of course a great deal & so did not observe the change going on; besides, several persons had been very ill with typhoid fever before our eyes,—each one had reached the crisis & then recovered, & I took it for granted hers wd be just the same. Mama is always sanguine you know. It seems the Dr. was much more anxious, but he was still treating cases that for a long time had been as serious; besides he said her symptoms were all good, except her fever was so very high. It was not until Monday morning the 19th Mama & I became seriously alarmed. I do not think such a great blow can be realized at once; I know I for one strove to stifle that feeling of unknown evil that made me too miserable to endure it. Annie never referred to dying. She had been very deaf for some days, so that conversation was fatiguing, besides her mind was a little weakened, tho’ perfectly sensible, most of her sickness.

She spoke principally of her present pain, wh. was not often great, of her weakness, & of her wants. It is such a conclusive proof to me since, that a deathbed is not the time to prepare for Heaven. There never was an hour in the whole of her sickness that she could have fixed her mind upon a subject requiring such serious thought.

She had asked me several times to do certain things about mending or arranging her clothes. Sunday morning she asked me. I said I will to-morrow, it is Sunday. “So to-day Sunday, then give me my hymn book”, she turned over the leaves as if looking for something, & tried to read, but the book fell. Mama thinks her hand rested on a hymn entitled, “In Extremety”. She lay sleeping most of the time as she had to take morphene to keep off pain. That night about 8 o’clock she called me. I went up to her & felt her face perfectly cold. O my terror I never can forget. I screamed for Ma, but deluded myself afterwards by thinking it was only the blanket thrown off. I do not remember thinking at all that night. I only lay by her side my hand pressing down her forehead wh. seemed to soothe her. She was rather delirious at first, & had to take morphene to compose her. Presently she said lay me down, lay me down & afterwards “I am ready to rise”, wh. I feel now referred to what was to come. Tho’ I saw her eyes raized, as those do raize them who have done with earth, the thought that she was going to leave us for our lifetime. I could not, wd. not believe it. She did not seem to miss anyone, perhaps that was mercifully intended, as so many of us were away. She called my name often, but more from habit I suspect. But about three in the morning, she said, “Where’s Agnes” & felt for me, I pressed my face to hers & told her I was sleeping with her, she seemed content & those were I believe the last words she spoke. Before seven she ceased to breathe, very quietly. Tho’ I saw all that, it was not for days I could believe that was Annie. I felt perfectly heartless, because I could not feel sorry all day, but now it is so hard to bear.

It was my earnest wish that she should be brought to R_, it wd. have been such a pleasure to us all to have visited & beautified her grave. But Mama & others thought otherwise. Custis or Mr. Leigh was telegraphed for that day. Mama wrote to Papa & you the previous day.  C. was with the Army, Mr L arrived Tuesday night. Everyone was as kind & considerate as possible; the Seldens & Miss Jenny Ritchie we can never forget. Mrs. & Mrs. Jones did everything in their power. She was placed in their cemetery Wed. morning. It is a mile from the Springs, a very quiet situation. Ma & I selected the spot. We had a great many beautiful flowers sent us, with wh. we covered her. Col. R. B. Lee1, & Cousin Julia came up from Warrenton & were very kind. Before we left, the grave was nicely turfed & fenced around. A little holly tree planted at the head & at the foot. I trained Ivy to grow over the stone.

There are arborvitae & box bushes each side, & since, our friends have planted lilies-of-the-valley & violets. It looked very fresh & sweet when I left it. I placed a beautiful cross of white roses & chrysanthemums, Julia had made, on the headstone. I wish you could have the same pure fresh picture in yr. mind that I have. But O it was so hard to go away & leave her. We came to R_, Sat. with Mr L. & Annie. Custis met us at the cars, he & Fitzhugh had come down a day or two before. Ma went to Mrs Caskie’s I to Sally Warwick’s where they have been so kind to me. xx I am so sorry you missed Papa’s visit to R, he staid at Mr C’s & we saw a good deal of him. He looks very well except his hands wh. are still quite swollen. Fitzhugh has gone back too, but Rob. to whom F, has offered a position as his aid, is expected down in a day or two.

 

Agnes’ account of Annie’s2 death at Jones Springs N. Carolina -

 

 

Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 g sect. 12, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 18

 

1. Richard Bland Lee, Jr. (1799-1875) was born in Fairfax, Virginia, on Sully Plantation. He served in the U.S. army before the Civil War, although he was not on active service by this time. He survived the war and died in his home in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1875. He is buried with his wife, Julia Anna Marion Prosser (1805-1886), in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, Virginia.

2. Anne Carter Lee (1839-1862).

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