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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Lexington, Va., 17 April, 1867.

Dr Charles Carter

No 1632 Walnut St.

Philadelphia, Pa.

My Dear Dr. Carter:

I have received your letter of the 9th inst. enclosing one to you from Mr J. Francis Fisher in relation to certain information which he had received from Bishop Wilmer. My respect for Mr Fisher’s wishes would induce me to reply fully to all his questions, but I have not time to do so satisfactorily; and for reasons which I am sure you both will appreciate, I have a great repugnance to be brought before the public in any manner. Sufficient information has been officially published, I think, to show that whatever sufferings the Federal prisons at the South underwent were incident to their position as prisons, and produced by the destitute condition of the country, arising from the operations of war. The laws of the Confederate Congress and the orders of the War Dept., directed that the rations furnished prisoners of war should be the same in quantity and quality as those furnished enlisted men in the army of the Confederacy, and that the hospitals for prisoners should be placed on the same footing as other Confederate States hospitals in all respects. It was the desire of the Confederate authorities to effect a continuous and speedy exchange of prisoners of war; for it was then true policy to do so, as then retention was not only a calamity to them, but a heavy expenditure of then scanty means of subsistence, and a privation of the services of a veteran army. Mr Fisher or Bishop Wilmer has confounded my offers for the exchange of prisoners with those made by Mr Ould, the Commissioner on the part of the Confederate States. It was he that offered, when all hope of effecting the exchange had ceased, to deliver all the Federal sick and wounded, to the amount of fifteen thousand, without an equivalent, provided transportation was furnished. Previously to this, I think, I offered to Genl. Grant to send into his lines all the prisoners within my Department, which then enclosed Virginia and North Carolina, provided he would return me man for man; and when I informed the Confederate authorities of my proposition, I was told that if it was accepted, they would place all the prisoners at the South at my disposal. I offered subsequently, I think, to the Committee of the N. J. Sanitary Commission, who visited Petersburg for the purpose of ameliorating the condition of the prisoners to do the same. But my propositions were not accepted. I understand that Mr Pollard, in his Lost Cause, has devoted a chapter of his work to the subject of the exchange of prisoners. I have not read it, but in a letter received from Mr Ould, he stated that he had furnished Mr Pollard with the facts for his chapter, and could vouch for their accuracy. Dr. Joseph Jones has recently published a pamphlet termed “Researches upon Spurious Vaccination”, issued from the University Medical Press at Nashville, Tenn., in which he treats of certain diseases of the Federal prisoners at Andersonville and their causes; which I think would be interesting to you as a medical man, and would furnish Mr Fisher with some of the information he desires. I therefore refer you to both of these works. And now I wish you to understand that what I have written is for your personal information and not for publication, and to serve as an expression of thanks to Mr Fisher for his kind efforts to relieve the suffering of the Southern people.

I am very much obliged to you for the prayers you offered for us in the days of trouble. Those days are still prolonged, and we can only look for aid to our Merciful God. Should I have any use for the file of papers you kindly offer me, I will let you know.

All my family unite with me kind regards to your wife and children, and I am,   

Very truly your cousin

(sgd.) R. E. Lee



Source: Photocopy of letterbook copy, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 738, pp. 35-37, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 7


1. Charles Shirley Carter (1818-1888) was born in Richmond, Virginia to William Fitzhugh Carter (1782-1864) and Charlotte Foushee Carter (1787-1822). He spent much of his childhood on Shirley plantation, but had no interest in managing the estate. In the early 1850s, Carter left for Philadelphia in order to pursue a medical education at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his degree in 1861. After the outbreak of the war, he returned to Virginia and served as an assistant surgeon in the Confederate army and served in Richmond military hospitals. His first cousin was Robert E. Lee. Carter was promoted to surgeon on 1864 July 20. After the war, Carter returned to Pennsylvania. He died in Oakland, Maryland, but was returned to Pennsylvania to be buried in Woodlands Cemetery.

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