<br /> Lee Letter: a027

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Mary Anne Mackay Stiles

It has been more than a year, my dear Mrs. Stiles since I have heard from you. It has been much longer I fear, since I have written to you. Your last letter was dated 21 March ’55. I have carried it with me in all my wanderings. Have read and re-read it, & each perusal has brought me fresh & pleasant thoughts. Had I transferred to paper all the contemplated replies that occurred on these occasions you would have been overwhelmed, & you are fortunate if none have reached you.

I must tell you, however, that I am encamped on a branch of the Brazos many degrees West of you, though but a little South. I wish it was Etowah, and that we were tributaries to the Alabama. I might then hope to see you. Here I have none.

You are so well informed on the subject of the Indians, & the pleasure of their society, that I shall not speak of them. We are on the best of terms with our neighbors, the Comanchees, & I am happy to believe that there is no love lost between us. I see more of them than I desire, & when I can be of no service, take little interest in them. I was called upon the other day, toe visit Ha-Ten-a-see, the head chief of the Southern Comanchees, who was reported quite sick, & wanted a big Medicine Man. His lodges are only 2 miles below us, & when I presented myself before them, on my big horse, Bald Eagle, attended by an orderly dragoon, the explosion among the curs, children & women was tremenduous. The medicine man rushed at me, made significant signs that I must disrobe before presenting myself before the august patient. I patiently sat on my horse till I ascertained what garment they considered most inimical to the practice of the healing art, which I learned to be – the cravat. Then alighting, unbuttoning my coat, & slipping off the noxious article, I displayed to their admiring eyes a blue check shirt, and was greeted by a general approving “humph.” The charm was fully developed, & I walked boldly in.

The lodge was carpeted with buffalo robes. The sick man was stretched on his couch with his wives and servitors around him. His shield, bow and quiver were suspended on the outside, near which stood his favorite horse, ready to be slain, to bear the spirit of his master to the far hunting ground. I though him laboring under an attack of pleurisy, administered a loaf of bread and some sugar, of which I knew him to be very fond, & which I had carried with me, & told him I would send a man to complete his cure. So in the evg the Dr rode down with his steward and drugs, & cupped him pretty freely, which I hope will restore him. Perhaps the Lancet has only reserved for the bullet the task of dispatching him.

You have probably learned through Custis, that I was detained in Kansas, & did not accompany the Regt. into Texas, but followed in the winer. On arriving at the Hdquarters at Fort Mason it had been determined that I should be advanced into the Comanchee Country, & in three days afterwards, I turned my horses head due North, and crossing the Concho & Colorado before their junction, halted on the head waters of the Brazos. I have 4 companies of the 2nd Cavalry with me, & hope to get to the Canadian during the summer. The country is fertile rolling, lightly timbered, & the deer & antelope luxuriate in the abundant grass. We are far beyond civilisation. San Antonio 400 miles to the South, is our nearest depot. Man & horses have therefore, mainly to rely upon the products of the field. You are ignorant of the luxurious salad made of lamb’s quarter & young poke.

But I shall speak no more of this wild country. I wish to talk of you, of your Mother, sisters and all from Broughton St. I suppose this will find you at Etowah, enjoying your own home, &the society of Mr. Stiles & the boys, & dear Mary Stiles. I fear the latter, cares as little for you as she does for her old uncle. I is singular young women will do so, is it not?

Tell Robert I cannot advise him to enter the army. It is a hard life, & he can never rise to any military eminence by serving in the army. He must rise out of it, and then come in as Major Genl. That is worth having, for a man may hope to accomplish something. I think he had better become a good farmer, & get a sweet wife.

I am glad to hear that Custis makes himself agreeable to your good Mother. I hope she find an improvement in the rising generation, & is thus cheered by the prospect of the advancement of mankind, for whose benefit she has done so much. I confess that when I was with her, I was so taken up with her daughters, that I could make myself agreeable to no one else. They were blessed creatures. Where are the all now & how are they? Present my kindest regards & affectionate remembrances to all of them.

I hope Custis, if he is not able to visit his mother this summer, may be able to get up to see you. When I last heard from my good dames, they were all well. Mary was in Baltimore, where she had been some weeks with her Aunt Marshall and some of her young friends. The former, poor lady, was about the same. Mary’s foot I hope, is entirely restored. Fitzhugh is at Cambridge, waiting, he says, till he is 21, to get married.

Are all those pretty Elliotts married yet. You are right Mrs. Stiles, there out to be several editions of Mary Cowper, & I ought to have the first with me now. How different the camp would appear. But I suppose I am sent here for my sins. It is all right. I like the wilderness, & the vicissitudes of camp life are no hardship to me. I grieve over the separation from my wife & children & the supervision of their interest.

Tell Mr. Stiles when he becomes Secy of War he must bring me in.

I saw Mrs. glenn & Miss Mary as I passed through Baltimore. Miss Etta was out flirting with some Navy officers. I hope you will all be together in Cass this summer & I could be with you. Remember me to all & believe me

Always yours

R E Lee

Notes:

Owned (1955) by Charles F. Mills, Boston. Transcribed in Francis Raymond Adams, Jr., An Annotated Edition of the Personal Letters of Robert E. Lee, April, 1855 – April, 1861, pp. 121 – 25.