<br /> Lee Letter: a014

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 safe arrival of the three drafts, & the departure of Rooney & Miss Rebecca. In what respect did the former despond of his success at Cambridge, & what can I say to him more than I have? I see no reason why he should not succeed as well as others, if he wishes to do so; & id he does not, he had better leave at once, & go at something else. That is the true state of the case. I am very glad to hear that your father has recovered from his attack of indisposition, & the children from the intermittent. I hope neither will have any return this season. But I see no remedy or escape for the future if you continue to remain at A; & as it would be very inconvenient for you to go off to public places with your large family, & impossible to leave your father alone, I know of no better place than that proposed in my last letter. I should have more confidence in the health of the Ravensworth tract than the Meadows, though the latter in some respects would be more convenient. There is a portion of R I believe that is not embraced in your Aunt Ms farming operations at present, & a pretty cottage near the line of the R.R. towards Backlick, would perhaps not be objectionable to her, or disadvantageous to the property hereafter. You could get a good mechanic in Alexa to prepare you a plan & estimate of a house with 4 rooms on the first floor 4 half elevation on the 2nd. & attic under the crest of the roof with a kitchen in the basement. The enclosures, outhouses &c you could make during your sojourn. You will have recd before this the check of $200. for Collins & Co, which will pay the latest of your bills on a/c of the room, but I do not understand how Rooney was to get on to C for the $500 you gave him will not be sufficient, & I did not want him to cash his draft until he reached C. I am afraid Mr Williams will not be able to do much for the preservation of the girls teeth. They do so little themselves, that by the time they finish at school, they will all have gone. They are doing a good business however for Mr W so they are not entirely unprofitable. What is to be done with my precious Rob? I am sorry to hear of the objections to Mr Gibbs school, & really do not know one without them. We have only to select that one, in which the advantage is preponderate. Although small he is sufficiently old to be learning more than he is, or can at A. And if he is not to go to school, until one is found, where there are no bad boys, he will go to his grave first. He does not go to school to imitate them, but the good ones, & there will I hope be always one good one where he is, & he must do all that is right. I believe it would be better for him to be with me, & get his education on horseback, than to run wild at A & not be taught to subject his will to his reason & judgment. I should be delighted to have him. But I want him to do better. You must not be concerned at my going to Fort Leavenworth, or be apprehensive that there is more cholera there than elsewhere. It is everywhere I believe, more or less, nor shall I be farther there from him who alone cane save, than here. I was never in better health than I am now, & it is on that account that I have had no report to make of myself. I have not lost in that respect at least tell Miss Grace, by leaving West Point. I am conscious however of having lost a great deal that is desirable, & what I value more than anything else, that society of you & my children. Still in my view of the matter I could not have done otherwise, nor has my opinion changed. I did not consult my ease or personal pleasure, but what I conceived to be my duty. Nor have I the least doubt but that it was alone permitted by a kind Providence for the general as well as my particular good. It also be intended to prepare you & my children for my longer absence. To let each see how much will devolve upon them, & what will be necessary to bear & meet their responsibilities, when I shall have passed that bourne, from which no traveler returns. At my time of life & with my avocations, that time cannot be far distant in the natural course of events, & I therefore wish you all now to see & consider what your positions will be then, & be prepared for it. For myself I only ask, that before that day, I may truly repent of the many errors of my life. That my sins may be forgiven & my pardon sealed in heaven. Then the day of my death will be better for me than the day of my birth. I fervently pray also, that it will bring no loss to you & my dear children. I have told you all I could, or rather all I know, of my prospects of getting to see you. I know or see nothing to lead me to hope for such a pleasure for a long, long time. You must not therefore think of it or speak of it. My plans, of which you ask, are to go with the Rgt. wherever it goes, & leave the rest to time. As to your accompg me, that does not appear at this time proper or feasible. The children must be cared for, & your father ought not to be left alone. I cannot attend to them, you must. When I get to some fixed post, then it will be time to see what had best be done. There is nothing I believe that I want at this time. I may if convenient get a pair of sheets & a pr of pillow cases, in case those I have may give out. But I am want of nothing else, or even them. You need not therefore have them made, for the trouble of getting them out is more than they are worth. You must give a great deal of love to your father, Markie, Mary, Annie, Agnes, Rob & Mildred. I suppose A & A will be going to S when this reaches you. Tell them to study hard & make the most of their opportunities. I am glad to hear that there is less sickness than usual at A. John Shaaff has been a little sick but is better now. I think it has been a bilious attack that has annoyed him. But he calls it dyspepsia. He sends his kindest regards to you & to all. With renewed love to all with you I remain as ever

yours devotedly

R E Lee

Notes:

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. 61 – 65.