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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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




Oct: 24th 1866.


Dearest Milly

I am not going to trust to your generosity, but am going to keep you in my debt. Your letter is dated the 30th ulto & I only recd it to day from Fitzhugh, & he would have kept it another month if I had not sent him some things & so furnished a messenger. We have a Post Office at West Point now, so direct to me them King Wm Co Va & I’ll get it safe.

There is nothing I like more than writing to you all, it is the next thing to seeing you, & I certainly long for that time. One never appreciates the goods of this world until they are taken from him & I am ashamed to say I have never so fully felt the blessing of having such sisters as now, & when I write to them or hear from them or from our dear Mother & think about them & am fifty per cent better for a week. Of course Phil is nice, any young man who has had the advantage of the closest intimacy with your brother for as long a time as he, is sure to be “some punkins” then if never before. I all ways did like him & I might say love him. For he is more what you would call a “sweet fellow”—he and Johnny—than any body I know not remarkably brilliant but plenty smart enough & a through gentleman. If you see him again give him my best love & tell him not to forget me. We used to call him “Sweet Lilly” in the army I remember Fred as resembling very much one of these monkey jumpers or dancing men, his legs acting entirely independent of the rest of his person something like poor Lode Bailey1 at West Point. I did not attend James Henry’s wedding. I was just in the midst of seeding wheat, & really didn’t have any clothes to wear, for I have considered my self too poor to invest in any thing new & am clothed in the same garments in which you last saw me & they have done a good year’s work since then. And though beauty unadorned is very well to read about & may do for one of the “softer sex” I don’t think it would suit your brother as best man at a wedding.

I am going however, day after tomorrow to call on the bride, trusting to “shape & talents”. You talk of having some disagreable things to do. I would first like to know what you have done in your short life to be exempt from unpleasant things, that is something we all have to do & the older I grow the more of them I find to do. Do you know that next Sunday I’ll be twenty three years old. twenty three years have I been in this world, & have done nothing to be proud of. In somethings I feel much older & in others I am a boy still, my being twenty three puts you pretty well up in the pictures, you must not give up, for you really must get married. Sentiment by itself won’t do nor will practical sense but “mixed with a little sugar & taken hot” they are admirable as Mrs Greenow2 says. I recd sister Mary’s letter yesterday & shall answer her soon. Who is Major Mason? it ain’t Bob Mason! Who in the world has lately adopted Miss “Bremo” He must be a brave fellow. T’nt Custis? Certain—you must let me know—I have no idea. Give my best love to all Papa Mama Custis & the girls & I say good night & shall dream of you all. Remember West Point King William Co Va

Your brother




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

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 July 18


1. William Whitman Bailey (1843-1914), born in West Point, New York. Both he and Robert E. Lee, Jr., were educated at the Military Academy at West Point as children. He went on to become a prominent chemist. The nickname “Lode” might be a play on lodestone, referencing Bailey’s interest in geology.

2. Mrs. Greenow, a reference to a character in the 1864 Anthony Trollope novel, Can You Forgive Her?

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