• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 25th [November]1 1866

My dear child

Your Papa & Agnes have gone to Church to tonight, your sister in the parlour talking to Col Preston Johnson [sic] who is staying with us & has just been appointed Professor here. He has a wife & 6 children whom he will bring here early in January & they will winter at the Hotel you may have seen him in Richmond. He was one of President Davis aids & a son of Genl Sydney Johnston. His family will be a great acquisition to our society here & they are all episcopalians. We have missed you very much tho’ Agnes gets along very well & quietly with the house keeping & Mary keeps her after breakfast with all her arrangements so I hope all the Miss Lees will become as accomplished housekeepers as their youngest sister. The kitten is very fat & well but lives in the kitchen with its Aunt Carrie. She pets it like a baby & it always sleeps in my chair. Tommy takes very little notice of it but comes in the dining room every day. Where as soon as the store room door is opened Baxter shoots thru’ like a meteor & when your in a most fatherly manner attempts to perform the ablutions so much needed on his young protégé that youth teases & bites him so that feline patience is worn out & Tom administers a summary chastisement which produces quiet for a time. We have little now to vary the monotony of your lives the reading clubs which your sisters attend & whose very little reading is accomplished. Rob & George are as usual & send their love to you. We have had very few visitors among the youths, since your departure. Hope all are diligent of their studies tho’ from the noises which have greeted our ears lately from the callethumspians2 upstairs in the street I fear there are some portion who are neglecting them. I have had very kind letters from all the Caskies concerning you & Norvell wrote me especially about the dress but I did not consider myself at liberty to part with it just after Mrs Stewart had taken the trouble to select it for me & I hope you will not need it. I quite envy the pleasure you enjoy of being among

my dear old friends in the E.S. where I have passed so many happy days commencing when I was just 16. You must give as much love as possible to all my old friends there write me about everyone & give me a full description of Ashby. I enclose a letter to Eleanor. Do you know if any of that vanilla was left Agnes could not find it if there was, she says you had better decide if you are willing to give away that small checked jacket of Charlottes you had as we both think Nellie McDonald would be a very suitable person to receive it as her Mother is very poor. Perhaps I can find out if she is supplied with a wrapping or if there is any one more in need. Do you have yours arranged & in what manner & how do you like your new bonnet I have had the old red carpet cut & have just covered your Papa’s room & there is enough left for Marys room & then we hope to get the one from Arlington for Agnes so we shall have all our arrangements made for the winter. The weather is very pleasant now &I hope will continue so till Xmas. The girls have been riding some on horseback & Capt Grady came to escort Agnes, when she found after making the appointment that Sam had gone off with the key of the stable so she had to give it up. Mary is going to ride this evening with Col Allan on the renound Ajax3 you must keep a sort of journal & write us every thing that interests you. In that way you will not find it so fatiguing as to have to hurry through a long letter at one time. I hope you will enjoy yourself greatly & return to your home improved in every way & more fitted to be its adornment & consolation. I expect to see nothing outside of its walls for months to come but this long winter, as well as other troubles will soon pass away & we can at least anticipate that bright home where all tears shall be wiped from our eyes & we shall enjoy the radiance of a joy unspeakable.

All the family send much love to you & to the kind friends at Ashby & Myrtle Grove4

your affectionate mother

M C Lee



Source: Digital scan of original letter, The Papers of Robert E. Lee, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 29


1. The letter apparently was written in November. Given the context of Mary's writing here, the weather is mild, but Christmas is coming soon. According to Robert in The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee, not until October were Mary and some of the children with General Lee in Lexington. In an October 1866 letter, General Lee wrote to Rob discussing Mildred going to the Eastern Shore in November. By the writing of this letter, Mildred is in the Eastern Shore.

2. Colonel William Preston Johnston (1831-1899) was the son of General Albert Sydney Johnston and served on the staff of Jefferson Davis and served as a field officer for Kentuckian troops. He joined the staff at Washington College in February 1867. Later, he served as the president of Louisiana State University and was the first president at Tulane University. He wrote a biography of his father and also wrote extensively on Robert E. Lee.  

3. Calithumpians: street performers and protestors.

4. One of Robert E. Lee’s horses during the war, used before he chose Traveller.

5. 18th century plantation houses located in Maryland, belonging to the Goldsborough family.


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