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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Baltimore 27th Jany/71    

My dear Miss Agnes,

Your letter with the enclosed papers was received to day, and I hasten to thank you for them. I had some, but not all of the newspaper extracts.

With reference to your Fathers letters I can only say that anything that will give me a more perfect idea of his thoughts and feelings cannot but be of great value to me, even although the facts from which I derive the information, should not be proper for publication.

I have no idea that I can represent his character and nature as they should be. I think my best course is not to attempt to describe, but to convey my own thoughts and feelings with reference to him by a judicious selection of incidents and expressions conveying immediately from himself. To illustrate my meaning, I will instance the feeling that actuated him when we were in Pa. Instead of saying that he despised revenge and retaliation for wrongs, and that he was incapable of outrages against the laws of humanity, under any provocation, I think it best to let the facts as they actually occurred, tell the story. I propose to refer to the wrongs and outrages perpetrated upon his people by our enemies, their cruelty to women and children, to the old and the helpless. I shall then represent Genl Lee at the head of a powerful army in the heart of Pennsylvania and publish his order to our troops, stating how scrupulously he enforced it.

It seems to me that in this way I can illustrate the sterling features of his character and conduct far more powerfully than by my mere description however good, I ought be able to write. But you will see that the more minute my knowledge of his feelings & views may be, the more vivid will be my conception of his motives in such acts as I shall describe, and therefore everything that aids; to make my own conception of him clearer and stronger, will assist me in conveying that impression to others.

I have no hope of equalling the kind anticipation of my friends, still less of equalling the great subject. I shall do my best, and trust that I shall meet with the same indulgence that I always received at his hands.

I shall be greatly obliged for anything connected with him you can send me. While preparing the memoir, which will be quite general in its nature, I am getting together the material for the more extensive work. I only wish I had the means to enable me to devote my whole time and attention to the latter. I should regard success in that as being the highest aim that I can accomplish in life. But I can only give to it at present my hearts desire to succeed, and all the time I can spare from onerous professional engagements. I shall be content if I can succeed in removing some errors as to your Father’s actions, and in giving some idea of the true character of his position and achievements. I know that the true will come upon impartial writers, with better means than I possess, will more fully and perfectly portray the greatest and best man that has appeared in this century.

Mrs Marshall joins me in the kindest remembrances to your Mother, & sisters & to yourself. Please say to Gen Custis that I will be greatly obliged for a copy of your Father’s letters to Gen Scott, which he knows to be authentic.

I have a newspaper copy, but I have declined in all cases to rely upon newspapers unsupported.

Very truly and indeed,

Your Friend,

C. Marshall



Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 g, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 19

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