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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Private and confidential

Augusta August 29, 1865

General Robert E Lee

of the South


Revered Patriot,

My reflections and thoughts are often of you, and I wonder with what such a great mind can be occupied, certainly it must not always revert to, and dwell upon a righteous cause which you have served so gloriously but failed because success was physically impossible, as the whole world acknowledges that your success was almost superhuman. No man living today commands so much of the respect and admiration of the world as yourself. All feel that you pursued the cause for which you had constitutional and political justification and your judgment and conscience afforded then let any man dare ever chide you! – but I forget, I did not intend to write this and in this strain, but my love and veneration for you is so great that I could not resist or lose the opportunity.

I commenced this as a mere note to request you to afford a time and place where I could have an interview with you at some early day, provided: after the intimation of my object you should think you could be induced to entertain the proposition, which is simply, that you should join me in an extensive commercial business in New Orleans, and New York, where I contemplate embarking in business at some day not far distant. You have, as I am aware but a princely estate, you can restore it in my judgment, in two years, in this way, it would also be interesting to to [sic] you and would give you the additional opportunity to develop that great talent which has so eminently fitted you for every other position in life

I will be able to command, and concentrate between half million and a million of Dollars quite sufficient to command and control all the most desirable business of the South. You of course cannot be insensible to your great influence in the South, which would be universal, and very large with the very important sympathizing element in the North. I propose to do an exclusive commission Produce business—cotton, Pork, &c, and general agency (commercial) business, make no advance, further than charges. The business will be unlimited and most profitable, write or telegraph me, and come here to see me if possible as I cannot leave for two months, with much great affection    

E M Bruce     


All matters are more or less uncertain but my present intention is to carry out this plan



Source: Robert E. Lee Headquarters Papers, Mss3 L515 a, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 August 8



1. Eli Metcalfe Bruce (1828-1866) was born in Kentucky. During the war, he was elected to the Confederate rump government in Kentucky as a legislator. When Richmond fell, he fled with Jefferson Davis into the Deep South, where Union officials captured him in Georgia. After the war, Bruce set up an office in Augusta and worked for disabled Confederate veterans. He was pardoned by President Johnson and later moved to New York City, where he worked as a businessman and continued to advocate and assist former Confederate soldiers. He died of heart disease in 1866 December 15 and was buried in Kentucky.    

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