<br /> Lee Letter: a007

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee

I presume dearest Mary you have not more than recd my letters of the 23rd & 25th & I therefore need not expect an answer for another week. I have thought of you all a great deal since I left, & have imagined you at your several occupations. I hope you all continue well & that every one & everything is progressing satisfactorily. You will have to see that it is so, & that it may be so, you must study out a general plan, for the accomplishment of which all must earnestly labour. I hope dear daughter is careful of her foot. While I believe it right to exercise it carefully, in order that it may recover its tone & strength, I believe it highly pernicious, to tax it too much or too long; & every physician whom I have consulted, coincides in the same opinion. I beg therefore she will be cautious & prudent. Watch her steps, & their effect upon her feet, & restrain them at any cost to her inclinations, when necessary for its welfare. For the present too I wish her to undertake the instruction of Robt and Mildred, & that it may be pleasant to her & advantageous to them, she must exert her self control & ingenuity, by making it agreable as well as instructive; & though at last it must be imperative, still as much can be accomplished by the suaviter in modo, as the fortiter in re, & in their relative positions, more I think by the former, than the latter. Anyone can insist, but the wise alone know how to desist. Anne & Agnes must prepare diligently for their school this coming Fall. Labour at their french, & music, & try to progress in Mathematics & English. If they would write a portion every day, it would improve their chirography, as well as their etymology & syntax: & teach them how to arrange & express their thoughts more than any other exercise they could take. They may write to their Pa’a if they choose, in either prose or verse, & unless they desire it, he will not shew their production to more than one or two of the young officers. Perhaps Mr Cosby, or Robt Wood, or Mr. Phifer, may be congenial spirits, & could sympathize with their imaginings. They must all endeavor to cheer up their Grandpa’s. Attend to all his wishes & wants, & do everything in their power to add to his happiness & contentment. I hope he will not stay down at the farm late in the evg, & indeed not too much in the day; & you must endeavor to induce him to keep within doors during this hot weather, & to get some respectable farmer, in whome he could repose confidence, to manage his farm for him. It would be to his advantage as well as comfort in every way.

I hope Mr. Heyward has completed the furnace, & that the plasterers have made a satisfactory commencement of their business. Write me all particulars. I informed you in my last letter that the monument would be shipped on the 30th June, & the mantels on the 7 July; which I repeat in case my letter may have miscarried. I at the same time enclosed you a check on the Bank of Commerce in New York for $105.00, to the order of S. Young, 641 Hudson St, in payment of the mantels, provided they were perfect & agreeable to order. Has Capt Palmer replied to my enquiry, respecting his ability to send out Grace. If she could be got out safely, she would be of service as well as a pleasure to me. But if she cannot, you must take charge of her, & I must procure me a horse here. You may recollect Mr Bowers. Married a Miss Mary Kennedy of these parts. Her father is sutler to this Post, & lives on the hill by the Hospital. I went over to see her the other evg. She seemed to be quite a nice lady, but I could hardly judge of her appearance, by the uncertain light of a Summers evg. Mr B is in Texas, & she of course was drooping in his absence; though she has the sympathy of an elder sister, who married a Lt Stevenson of the 7 Infy who is now with his Compy on the Southern Frontier. Mrs S has been married some years & has 2 or three children, while Mrs B is only in expectancy. I also saw a younger sister, apparently not more than 15 or 16, with her hair cut short & curling close to her head tell your father, who seemed prepared to follow in the footsteps of her elders. The father & mother were surrounded by their children, in an overcrowded cottage, somewhat the worse for wear & age, like themselves, but apparently content & cheerful. The little negroes & dogs, all came in to take a peep at the stranger & make him welcome & at home.

The chaplain of the Post a Mr Fish is not absent. He is an Episcopal clergyman, & is highly spoken of by Dr. Wright & his family. We have therefore not had service since I have been here. The church stands out under the trees, grotesque in its form, & ancient in its appearance. I have not been in it, but am content to read my bible & prayers alone, & draw much comfort from their holy precepts & merciful promises, though feel unable to follow the one, & utterly unworthy of the other. I must still pray to that glorious God, without whom there is no help, & with whom there is no danger. That he may guard & protect you all, & more than supply to you my absence, is my daily & constant prayer. I have been busy all this week. Superintending the drilling of recruits. Making them police themselves, their quarters & grounds, which were in a shocking condition, & felt much cheered this morg at inspection to find how respectably they looked. Not a stitch of clothing has yet arrived for them, though I made the necessary requisition for it to be sent here, more than 2 months ago in Louisville. There fortunately happened to be at the Post, some of the old uniform cotton fatigue pants & shirts, which have been exhausted, or I do not know what would have been done to cover their nakedness, as the greater part were without a change or rainment. Yesterday at muster, I found one of the late arrivals, in a dirty, tattered shirt & pants with a white slouched hat, & shoes, his only garments, to match. I asked him if he could not wash or mend those. He said he had nothing else to put on. I then told him immediately after muster, to go down to the river, wash himself & clothes thoroughly, & sit on the bank & watch the passing steamboats till they dried, & then mend them. This morg at Inspection he looked as proud as possible. Stood in the position of a soldier, with his little fingers on the seams of his pants, his beaver cocked back, & his toes sticking through his shoes; but his skin & solitary two garments clean. He grinned very happily at my compliments. There is much sickness among them, & no wonder. I hope in time it will yield to care & treatment, that is diet & cleanliness. You must give much love to your father, & the children. Tell Rob I miss him more than I can tell. I think he had better come out to me. I have got a fine puss, who was left to me by Col. Sumner. He was educated by his daughter Mrs. Junkins, but is too fond of getting up in my lap & on my bed. He is a grey Tom, & very large I seems to be of the wild breed & just their colour. He follows me all about the house & stands at the door in a attitude of defiance at all passing dogs. God bless you dearest Mary. If Mrs. Cook & Helen are there, tell them they had better take this in their way home. Truly & devotedly


R E Lee


Ely-Debutts PapersLibrary of Congress

Transcribed in Francis Raymond Adams, Jr., An Annotated Edition of the Personal Letters of Robert E. Lee, April, 1855 – April, 1861, pp. 20 – 25.