<br /> Lee Letter: a059

Washington and Lee University

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

In letters by the N. Orleans steamer & the regular mail, I informed you dearest Mary, of the reception of a number of letters from you, via San Antonio. I truly regret that they indicate little or no amelioration in your attack of rheumatism, & I can see no prospect of your relief this winter. I hope you will not expose yourself, no wait till you experience injury from doing that, which your reason might teach you was prejudicial & prudence show you should be avoided. I observe that you frequently complain of your wrist in writing. You must use it therefore as little as possible, & do not write more than necessary. A few lines on important matters is all that is requisite, once a week. The balance of your letter could then be completed by Mary, Mildred or Rob, as might be convenient. Do not use your hand or exert yourself at all beyond your strength. You must try & realize that your system requires nursing now, & that wisdom & duty both require it should not be overtaxed. You must also prepare to visit such of the mineral springs on the approach of warm weather, as may be considered to offer the most reasonable prospect of benefiting you. Give the waters a fair trial, & do not be discouraged if one should fail, but try another, & so continue till all has been done that can be done to procure relief. I shall not be contented to cease till then. After that but not before, we must be resigned to our fate & leave the result in the hands of our merciful father in heaven. While relying upon his aid & trusting to his mercy he expects us to use all the means & power he has given us, & not fold our hands in idleness, or shut our eyes in blindness, & omit the obvious means he has given for the accomplishment of our proper desires. In the meantime, though I feel it is hard, very hard, we must be hopeful & cheerful & try & deserve such blessings as we now enjoy, & what we further pray for. So long as we are able to perform our duty, though I am conscious how imperfectly mine is accomplished; & see in our children, and encouraging effort, though it may be short of our desires, to prepare themselves for the great object of life; & see them blessed with reasonable health, success & all the facilities we can afford them, how grateful ought we to be to the great & good God, for all he has given us, not a single part of which could we even approximate without his gracious gift! We have only to open our eyes, to see how we are favoured; & yet how we complain of the little annoyances, to which all must be subjected while they inhabit this world. No illustration of this I know is necessary for you. I will however relate an incident that has just happened under my observation. Two evgs since, in returning from my usual solitary walk, I was met on entering the town by a mute boy, in the flying of whose kite I had shown some interest, who informed me with much earnestness, that a boy had been thrown from his horse; his head was cut & he was crying &c. It struck me at once it was Col: Taylors son; for as I left one gate of the garrison, I had seen both gaily ride out of the other. I hastened to the corner of the street he had indicated; & in ascending to the upper room of a store, I saw Alfred in an arm chair, supported by two men, apparently in stupor, & Sydney pale & motionless before him, holding his hat. The Dr entered at the same moment. Finding no apparent injury but a cut on the back of the head, his skull unfractured & no limbs broken, I left the Dr, who by this time had been joined by several of the officers & soldiers, to bring him into garrison, while I went forward to prepare his father & sister for his reception. It seems his horse had run away with him. He succeeded in stopping him, & turned back to recover his cap, which his brother had picked up & was bringing after him. At the corner of the street the horse again dashed off & threw him violently on the ground. His father saw him fall, ran for the Dr, returned to the store, but was afraid to trust himself upstairs. I gave him the encouragement I felt, & continued on to the garrison to relieve his sisters. At tattoo I went over to inquire how he was & to see whether he required a nurse during the night. I found him lying in his bead, still unconscious, restless & attended by the Dr & his father. I took my seat beside him & tried to sooth & quiet him. At times he appeared to fall to sleep & then would try to leave his bed, but as I gently laid him down, he seemed to respond to my words & wishes. Three times he knelt up in his bed, resting his head upon his pillow, as children sometimes do. The last time, I laid him on his chest, keeping one hand under him, & with the other gently rubbed his back. I thought he had fallen into a sweet sleep. The Dr took his hand & whispered he was dead. I pressed my hand upon his heart & found it still. For one hour did we try to revivify his tranquil body, & then I could scarcely believe him gone, so tranquily did his young spirit flee to its master. He was happy, but oh the misery he left behind. I remained with him till the bright sun lit up his placid features, & so calm & happy did he look, that I momentarily expected to see him wake & greet me with a smile. Yesterday we laid him in his grave. Four short hours carried him from the morg of life to the night of death. He had not lived 14 years. He was the juvenile of his sister, who had had charge of him from infancy. His father had often told me he was the brightest & most promising of his children. Last Sunday as he knelt by me in church, I was more than ever drawn towards him. I have not yet had courage to visit the house. I can udnerstand & sympathize with the distress of its inmates. I am very glad to hear that Anne is apparently more comfortable. I get nothing from her directly. I recd a letter from Smith he knew nothing. You had better not visit her in your present state this winter. You could not relieve her & might injure yourself. Mary might go if she desires it. I have nothing new to tell you. The Court met yesterday, & nothing having been heard from the absent witnesses, it adjourned for another week. The steamer is expected next Tuesday, & it may bring something. They take it very quietly. I must say I hope it is right. I have recd no letters since I last wrote. Give much love to your father, Markie, Mary & all the children, I have got hold of one of these unfortunate pens that will not write. May God keep & bless you is the earnest prayer of yours

truly & affy

R E LEE

Notes:

Duke University Library

Transcribed in Francis Raymond Adams, Jr., An Annotated Edition of the Personal Letters of Robert E. Lee, April, 1855 – April, 1861, pp. 269 – 74.