<br /> Lee Letter: a017

Washington and Lee University

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

I was very agreeably surprised dearest Mary this morg, to receive your letter of the 20th Ulto. On our way here, we met at the “Mission” a Sergt & one man going to Fort Leavenworth, & as he was preparing to start early Monday morg, I asked him on his return to bring an letters he might find there for the officers of the Court. In that way a half dozen of us recd tidings from home. I am very glad to hear that you are all well & trust the chills & fevers have left you for this year. I am very apprehensive however they will return in the Spring. But I will not distress myself on account of what may never happen, but try to be thankful for present mercies, & look trustfully & cheerfully to the future, in the firm belief that all will be disposed of & arranged by out Heavenly father more to my benefit than I deserve & better than would be, if left to my poor individual powers & selfish views. I wish you would take a happier view of things, & not be dissatisfied because they do not accord more nearly to your views and wishes. We rarely know what is best for us, & as rarely see things as they really exist. So clouded is our vision by narrow & selfish views; & often complain of what we ought not & blame others when the fault is in ourselves. In a letter I wrote you a few days since from this place, I informed you of my disbelief in the report you had heard of my being called to Washington for the Winter. I think if there was any ground at first, I should have heard of it, or at least been able to conjecture the cause. You must not therefore expect it, or prepare for yourself a disappointment. For as agreeable as it would be to me & as much pleasure as it would afford me, I can see no prospect of it. If it comes to pass I shall be truly thankful to the Giver of all good, who has overwhelmed me with benefits from my birth, for which I have made no return, not even adequate thanks; but if does not it will occasion me no disappointment. You must not therefore wait for me to arrange the plan of the Summer house, but see what arrangements you can make without me. It would be a great comfort to me during my separation, to know that you had a healthy resort for yourself & our children, where your father could be with you, & where you could attend to him. I know the difficulties in the way & if they cannot be surmounted, we must be satisfied with things as they are. We can at least make a home in Texas. Your account of Mr Tippetts school seems quite favourable, & if you think it best to send Robert there, do so. If he will try I have no doubt he could learn there very well. Latin, french & drawing, are the things in connection with English, that I wish him to learn at this time, but wish him to learn them well. He could learn them under your & Marys instruction, were it not for your other engagements & frequent interruptions. The most important things for him to learn at his period of life, is obedience, regularity & precision in the discharge of his duties, the necessity of labour, & how to apply his faculties to the best advantage. If he does not learn them now, I fear it will require a painful experience to teach him there benefits. Whereas if he is made to know them now, habit will make them easy, & use will teach him their advantage. My great love for him, & earnest desire for his happiness, makes me anxious that he should be instructed in all for his good. I hope therefore you will neglect nothing that you can accomplish that will promote it. As you do not mention Mary I presume she is still at Ravensworth. I shall be sorry if Dr Barnes cannot examine her foot, & fear from his only being able to stop in Washington that he will not be able to do it. Should you miss him I hope you will transmit to Mr Newlands a check to pay all debts, except that of thanks, which I fear will always remain unpaid. It is better that you should have the use of the furniture, than that it should be misapplied at West Point. I presume he found he could sell nothing & that it had better be disposed of before Winter. I am glad that your father is so well & that he enjoys his visits to the Agricultural Fairs in the vicinity. They will bring to his notice many things that he may apply to his advantage on his own estates, besides adding to his agricultural knowledge & pleasure. I hope he has been able to get a statement of his accounts with Mr Nelson & to make some arrangement for their liquidation. I wish much that he could have the pleasure of owing no one, & of enjoying his income without encumbrance. You must assist him as far as you can in all his matters, & lighten his labours in that way that will give him the most aid & the most pleasure. The court progresses slowly. I hope we may get through this week. But I now cannot see the end, or do more than conjecture the day we may commence our return to Fort Leavenworth, which may be about the 13th. A sad tale was told in the evidence of Saturday. Mrs Woods, wife of Bt Major Woods, 6th Infy whose husband had left on the Sioux expedition, was taken sick at 2 P.M. on the 2 Aug. Her youngest child, a boy of three years old, was taken that night at 12. About 6 next morg her eldest, a girl of 5 years old, was taken. The mother when told that her end was approaching asked her only attendant, a niece of the chaplain, to take down her last requests for her children & absent husband. The sickness of her children had kindly been concealed from her by this young lady, who managed by aid of a soldier to attend on them all. They all died that mrg, 3rd Aug. The boy preceding, & the girl following their mother about one hour. Their bodies rest in the same grave. I pray their spirits may be united in Heaven! In the same house & on the same day, Major Ogden, Mrs. Woods’ Nurse, a soldier & his wife died. Making 7 corpses in the house in one day. The husband stripped of all he loved is still absent. Major Ogden the QrMr of the Post, & engaged in its construction, was a valuable officer, & much beloved by his men. They have erected to his memory on an adjacent hill, overlooking the Fort, & the beautiful valley of the Kansas & its branches, the Republican & Smokey Hill, a stone monument, their own design & workmanship, the epitaph on which relates in touching simplicity his service & death. He died as he had lived a soldier & Christian, & repeated the Lords prayer with is latest breath. There were 59 deaths during the epidemic. Mrs Armistead, wife of Major Armistead died in 6 hours after she was attacked. Her husband had marched with his Compy, but only proceeded 30 miles, when overtaken by an express. He returned in the night, found his wife dead, & after her funeral in the morg, this same fatal 3rd of Aug, started for the Camp, carrying his two little children with him. A soldier has a hard life & receives but little consideration. I see by a St Louis paper of 26 Oct: brought by the same Sergt that brought me your letter, that the 2nd Cavy was to commence their march on Saturday 27th Oct. I also notice the resignation of Genl Hitchcock. It has been & is so dark, since I commenced writing that I can hardly see. Give much love to all, & believe me always & 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. 73 – 77.