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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Near Cartersville Va 7 Sept ‘65



I have recd your letter of the 23rd Ulto: & in reply will state the course I have pursued under circumstances similar to your own, & will leave you to judge of its propriety. Like yourself I have since the cessation of hostilities, advised all with whom I have conversed on the subject, who came within the terms of the President’s proclamations; to take the oath of allegiance, & accept in good faith the amnesty offered. But I have gone farther, & have recommended to those who were included from their benefits, to make application under the proviso of the proclamation of the 29 May, to be embraced in its provisions.

Both classes, in order to be restored to their former rights & privileges, were required to perform a certain act, & I do not see that an acknowledgement of guilt is expressed in one, more than the other.

The war being at an end; the southern states having laid down their arms; & the questions at issue between them & the northern states having been decided; I believed it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration of the country, & the reestablishment of peace & harmony. These considerations governed me in the counsels I gave to others, & induced me on the 13th of June, to make application to be included in the terms of the amnesty proclamation. I have not received an answer, & cannot inform you what has been the decision of the President. But whatever that may be, I do not see how the course I have recommended & practiced, can prove detrimental to the former President of the confederate states. It appears to me that the allayment of passion, the dissipation of prejudice, & the restoration of reason, will alone enable the people of the country, to acquire a true knowledge, & form a correct judgment of the events of the past four years. It will I think then be admitted that Mr Davis has done nothing more, than all the citizens of the southern states; & should not be held accountable for acts, performed by them in the exercise of what had been considered, their unquestionable right. I have too exalted an opinion of the American people, to believe that they will consent to injustice; & it is only necessary in my opinion that truth should be known, for the rights of every one to be secured. I know of no surer way of eliciting the truth, than by burying contention with the war.

I enclose a copy of my letter to President Johnson & feel assured that however imperfectly I may have given you my views on the subject of your letter, your own high sense of honour & right, will lead you to a satisfactory conclusion, as to the proper course to be perused in your own case. With great respect & esteem.

I am your most obt servt

R E Lee


Capt Josiah Tatnall

Savannah Georgia




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Robert E. Lee Papers, 1749-1975, Duke University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 March 13        

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