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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Hd Qrs Lee’s Cav Div

July 15, 1864

Dear Agnes1

Your letter of the 13th inst reached me yesterday & I am very much obliged to you & Mr. White for it, for we were very anxious to hear from all of you. I am delighted to hear that ma is better & that you are all doing well. We are at present encamped in “the Wilds of Va” this country has never been settled & the most forlorn set of people are scattered here & they cultivate little farms. There are some animals here but which are accustomed to move away at the approach of man, but [illegible] are the inhabitants that they have not been disturbed.

Our Hd Qrs are very pleasantly situated in the woods, where we have plenty of shade & a nice stream to bathe in, so we have been pretty comfortably fixed in comparison with the rest of the army.

At present, we are having a very unusual spell of rest & quiet. The enemies Cav shall contend with the way they have been treated & are very shy of coming out & every body is heartily glad that they have come to such a [conclusion?], though if they do attempt any raid now I think they will get not more than a mile or two before we will be upon them & stop them right short up. Our Cav is increasing rapidly in numbers & the horses are getting pretty good feed.

We have Capt Cavendish2 to dine with us yesterday, he is attached to Gen. Fitz & is very clever & amusing. He gave us some very amusing accounts of the English army & their arrogance in dress & Equipments & accompanying them with our ragged [troops?] mentioned one officer who came to this country to offer his services and could not [properly?] breakfast with [illegible]. He also told us a great deal about the Crimean War where he was for some time & altogether made himself very interesting & some thing unusual in an Englishman. We gave him for dinner a splendid ham boiled with cabbage then baked [illegible] (age unknown) potatoes beats rice & squash so you see we are not starved out yet. We set up in camp meeting, under a large arbor on a board table.

It is the general impression in the army here that Grant is sending away some of his troops to secure Washington, if not the whole army is now under weight. I hope he may soon leave, for we are very anxious to cross the Potomac once more & turn our horses out on the fine grass in Maryland & Pennsylvania. I would not be impressed if we moved at any moment. This weather we are having makes on entirely unfit to do anything & that with the ink & pen & paper (your excuses) make writing this letter entirely unpresentable, but knowing that you will be glad to hear from me in any way, I send it.

Remember me to them all at Clydael where you write & to my friends generally & send Major Preston’s letter on to home.

Give my love to Milly & Mary & ma & all the misses. Ben heard from Kinlock the other day they are all well.

Your very much fatigued brother

R E Lee


Fitzhugh and John send their love




Source: Checked against original, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 535, Section 27, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 February 5  



1. This letter is extremely faded and difficult to read.

2. Cavendish, as it turns out, was something of a con man. Ella Lonn in her book Foreigners in the Confederacy says, “Lord Charles Cavendish who swaggered in Richmond and impressed on some experienced society people, was a very different type of adventurer. He reported to General Fitzhugh Lee for staff duty as assistant engineer about the middle of May 1864, representing himself as the cousin of the Duke of Devonshire, and as holding a commission in the 18th Hussars. Unquestionably he was a thorough soldier but when he disappeared, leaving checks which his noble ‘relatives’ in England did not honor, his dupes began to make inquiries in England. It appeared that his name was Short, and that he had been merely a corporal or sergeant…” See Lonn, Foreigners in the Confederacy, p. 197.

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