<br /> Lee Letter: a010

Washington and Lee University

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

I have recd dearest Mary your letter of the 25th announcing the departure of the Peters & the visit of Fitzhugh to Riversdale. I am glad the latter is in such good health & spirits, & hope he may pass his vacation pleasantly & profitably. After I hear from him, which I presume I shall do, when he can spare sufficient time, I can better decide about his return to C. I know nothing of Miss Brooke or her school & suppose it is about as good as most village schools, probably on a par with that at Fairfax Ct House, which I have heard was a very good one. I wish the girls to have the advantage of the best within their reach, & if either of these are better than that at Staunton, I am clear for their going there. I am glad to hear that you all continue well, & hope you may not be visited by chills & fevers. They have appeared here however, & I presume will continue for the season, as the banks of the river you know are prolific in bilious diseases. The men are more healthy than they have been, & several officers have recently reported for duty. So I hope in time we shall be more systematic & comfortable. Capt Palmer has been ordered to close his rendezvous & repair here, so that I see no chance of Grace’s getting on, & indeed have given up all expectation of seeing her. It will no doubt all turn out for the best. I have two horses now on trial a bay & sorrel, both young, & though untutored, promise well. I shall probably get one or both. You must therefore make such disposition of Grace as may be best. Mr. Garrard is also about leaving Louisville, & there would be no certainty of anyone being there to receive or forward her. So in addition to the expense & risk of the journey, with no one to look after her, I could hardly expect her to escape suffering & injury & would therefore prefer her remaining. You must not ask any officer or Gentleman to bring her out, for it is a troublesome undertaking. One that they perhaps would not undertake for themselves, & I would not wish them to do so for me. Col Hardee & Capt O’Hara were here last week on their mission of purchasing horses for the Regt. & out of a lot of 430 that had been purchased for the general service, & which we have been taking care of, selected 260 for our purposes. The others are to go up to Fort Leavenworth, & I hope to get a portion at least off tomorrow, which will be a great relief to me. The 260 that now belong to the Regt, we cannot use, as we have not a single saddle or bridle. Col: H & Capt O’H have gone to Wheeling to begin their purchases & are to descend the Ohio, stopping at various points as the come along. They will no doubt soon obtain the remaining 600. I do not recollect whether I told you of the arrival of John Shaaff. He belongs to the 2nd Cavy & lives next door to me. He is very well & is as amiable & steady in his notions & conduct as ever. He does not expect to be able to visit Georgetown. Arthur has been appd a Lt of Infy, & ordered to Van Couver Isd on the Pacific. John thinks he had much better have remained in Mr Gettings Bank in Baltimore. That one of a family in the Army is enough, & that it would have been better for him if he had remained out of it. Though he says he is perfectly satisfied & well pleased with his duties. I am very glad to have him near me & with me. I suppose Miss Becky has told you of the contemplated changes at West Point among the officers. All the officers who have been there 4 years I understand are to be relieved. Mr Richd Smith was all packed up & his household dismantled. His furniture sold & living on bare floors & boxes. Mr D’Oremeulx too expects to leave, which will no doubt be a great disappt to him, as he has prepared him self to be there permanently. Mr Huse’s House, the cottage east of the Library, has been struck by lightning & everybody knocked down, though not injured. One of the servants was senseless some 20 minutes. The house was racked from ridge to sill. Door casings ripped off, gilding of picture frames melted &c. Mrs H took refuge in Capt Coppees (now Boyntons) cottage, & comforted herself & her husband for all their losses by ushering into this inhospitable world a baby, recd by the lightning line. My little friend WOnderly could not swim but was wading in the water at Gees Point, slipped off the rock & was carried down by the rapid current. He was a nice little boy, & I am sorry to lose him, though I trust he is at rest, & all his troubles ended. I was horrified this day week by the occurrence of a dastardly & unprovoked murder about 1 1/2 miles from the Garrison which was attributed to the soldiers. As soon as the report reached me I had all the 2 Cavy paraded, rolls called, persons, arms, clothes & quarters critically examined, but could discover nothing suspicious, except the absence of 2 men. Later in the day, I heard of 2 others, that had been out of their quarters during the night, but returned before day, & on sending to arrest them, found them absent. As it was said that 5 soldiers had been seen about midnight near the old mans house, I sent their names & description to the Police in St Louis & dispatched an officer & mounted party down the river to endeavour to apprehend them. The offr soon got on their trace, & followed it with more or less success as far as Herclaneum, & endeavoured to enlist the sympathy of the community through which he passed, by branding them as murderers & offering a reward of $120. for their recovery. So great are the facilities offered for escape by passing steamers, & so friendly the disposition extended to deserters & culprits in our country, that after seeking them 2 days & nights & losing all further trace of them, he returned without them. I cannot therefore say whether they were the guilty party or not, nor can I comprehend what temptation they could have had to shoot down an old man, at his own door. Still I fear they were the men. A great many desertions have occurred during the last month. The men being raw recruits, from all parts of this & other countries, were alarmed at sickness death &c & soon sick of the service, to quiet their dastardly & cowardly fears, deserted. They are no loss, & I had rather they would run now than in battle. I have also heard from Custis. He was still well & was even becoming accustomed to the mosquitos, his only annoyance. He said his Isd was cool & healthy. He had been over to Dungeness. Robt Mackay was expected there, to try the effect of sea air.


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. 37 – 41.