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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

September 10, 1864

Honorable Secretary of War,



Sir: I have the honor to call your attention to the inclosed papers with the hope that something may be done to correct the evil they disclose. The drain upon the strength of the Army by exemption of civil officers, postmasters, clerks, and mail carriers, added to the details made for other purposes, is more than it can bear. I suppose there is no remedy for this particular case but a reversal of the decision of Judge Meredith, or if that failed, a change of the law. If that be necessary I trust you will bring it to the attention of Congress at its next meeting. A large number of able-bodied men are taken from the Army or kept out of it as mail contractors. In many instances these contracts are made for the sole purpose of evading service in the Army.

The case of one Leftwich of Richmond, has been reported to me as a flagrant instance of this kind. He has a contract to convey the mails on an unimportant route in Alabama. He resides in Richmond, where he is carrying on his business and has never seen his route, as I am informed. Yet the court discharged him. I cannot believe that there was any necessity for the award of this contract to Leftwich, and have no doubt that the Post-Office Department was imposed upon.

Another instance has been reported to me of a young man in Louisa County, whose name I cannot now recall, but who obtained a contract to carry the mail from the obscure post-office of Mechanicsville, near Gordonsville, and was discharged the service. He is the son of wealthy parents, and I am told remains at home and employs some one else to carry the mail. I suppose it is in the power of the Post-Office Department to prevent these abuses and even to annul such fraudulent contracts where they exist. Perhaps if the attention of the Postmaster-General were called to the subject some slight increase of our depleted ranks might be secured.

I am constrained to say that while it is important that all the interests of the people should be regarded by the Government their preservation from subjugation is the greatest of all, and in my opinion the emergency requires the sacrifice of every other consideration to the vital question of the public safety.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee




Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Honorable Postmaster-General, whose particular attention is invoked at the suggestion of General Lee to within earnest letter of that distinguished general, to a matter perhaps within the power of the Honorable Postmaster-General to correct.

J. A. Seddon




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 4, Volume 3, pp. 660-661

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 May 9


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