<br /> Lee Letter: a009

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: William B. Johnson


I recd this morg your letter of the 9th in relation to the enlistment of your son Wm. B. Johnson in the service of the U.S. In a conversation which I have just had with him on the subject, he stated that he was 18 yrs & 6 mos old, that you & his mother were aware of his intention to enlist & have both given your consent, that he showed your assent, first to the Recruiting Sergeant & afterwards, gave it to Capt O’Hara. He also stated that it was his desire, to become a soldier & that he wished to continue in the service, that the reason he did not bring clothes, was, that he was told he would not need citizens clothes and that it would only be lost, that he had drawn his uniform, on his arrival here & now did not want them. I told him, I have recd a letter from you expressing anxiety about his present and future conditions & that it was due to you to write and inform you of his prospects & feelings, that you seemed not to be aware of his intention to enter the service of the US – Having given your assent & seemed very uneasy about him. He promised to write to you today & I hope will be able to satisfy you as to his conduct & position. I thought it would be more pleasing, to receive from him an account of himself than from me. He expressed a determination to continue the same moral of life in which he had been educated, to abstain from all intoxicating drink & to apply himself, stenuously to his duties. Should he do so, with the education you have given him it is reasonable to hope, he will succeed in the profession he has chosen, & may hereafter acquire such credit & rank, as to gratify your wishes. For though, as you state, he may be exposed to evil association & hardships; it is what all have to undergo & the same promotions & honors are open to him, as to any one in the service. Although it is not my desire to have any one in the Regt. contrary to his wishes, it is not in my power to discharge your son & return him to Louisville as you request, even should he desire it.

He engagement with the Govt, can only be cancelled by your application to the proper authorities at Washington, stating the grounds on which it is based, or by recourse to legal process.

Hoping it may be arranged to your satisfaction & your son’s benefit I am very Respy

Your Obt Servt


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. 35 – 36.