<br /> Lee Letter: a081

Washington and Lee University

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

I have not heard from you dearest Mary since I last wrote. I hope that your silence has not been occasioned by an increase of indisposition on your part, or on the part of dear Annie, but has resulted from your being occupied with the friends who were there with you, or in preparations for our visit to Bath. On my part I have little to relate. The hot weather seems permanently to have set in. The thermometer rages about 100°. The sickness among the men seems to be on the decrease, though there has been another death among the children. He was as handsome a little boy as I ever saw. The son of one of our Seargeants, about 1 year old. I was admiring his appearance the very day before he was taken sick. Last Thursday his little waxen form was committed to the earth. His father came to me with the tears flowing down his cheeks & asked me to read the funeral service over his body, which I did at the grave for the second time in my life. I hope I shall not be called on again, for though I must believe that it is far better for the child to be called by its Heavenly creator into his presence, in its purity & innocence, unpolluted by sins & uncontaminated by the vices of the world, still it so wrings a parents heart with anguish, that it is painful to see. Yet I know it was done in mercy to both. In mercy to the child & mercy to the parents. The former has been saved from all sin & misery here, & the latter has been given a touching appeal, & powerful inducement to prepare for hereafter. May it prove effective & may they require no more severe admonition. You will probably have seen in the paper of the death of Lt Col: Bainbridge, occasioned by the loss by fire of the steamer Louisiana off the Galveston bar. I have been much with him the past winter. First on Major Porters Court; then at Indianola; & last here. While here he recd the leave of absence, which he was taking advantage of, when he met his death. He had been in this country three years, & was going to New York to visit his wife, & had made his arrangements to bring her back with him in the Fall. He was much elated at the prospect, & went off in fine spirits. How little we know when our wishes are gratified whether it is really for out own good. In this instance I hope it was for his, & that an ever merciful Providence chose the time to finish his earthly career, when his heart was most powerfully drawn to him & his pardon most surely sealed. None of those who knew of his recg his leave but envied him its possession, & wished to accompany him. Yet his might have been their fate. Major McDowell who had reached Indianola with his family on his way to New York also, & met there the sad news of the Cols death, says his body was picked up at sea, undisfigured, with his hand grasping a life-preserver chair, dressed in his underclothes & uniform pants. That they all spoke of his self-possession on board the steamer, & that he leaped into the sea, when the Captain told him it was his only chance of safety. The Captain did the same, & was picked up also grasping a chair, before life was extinct. He married a Miss Sandford, sister of John Sandford who married Miss Chouteau. You may recollect seeing Mrs Barnes, another sister, at old Point Comfort, when we first went there. Barnes resigned from the Army a number of years ago, has become a very successful R.R. Engineer, & has bought himself a beautiful residence in Springfield Mass: where his family reside. Mrs. B. [Bainbridge] has been staying with her sister & the Col: was going there to join her. I have understood that Sanfords death is announced in the New York papers. I have not myself seen it. You know he married a New York lady, after we left the Narrows, & has resided in New York, in charge of the business of the American Fur Company ever since. He will be a great loss to Mr Chouteau & the Compy. It may render it necessary for Charles Chouteau to move to New York, which I suppose would not distress his wife, Mistress Juli. She will be then near her sister Mrs Mentholm. I trust this will find you all well. It is useless to speculate where the friends are who were with you when you last wrote (16th May). I hope this will find you at Bath or at some other healing spring, relieved from all your pains & aches, & all well around you as also those far from you. I am very anxious to hear at least that dear Annie is well again. You must give much love to all of them. Your father, Markie, all the children with you & away. I have recd no letters from any of them latterly, but hope they are all well & happy.

You have my poor prayers dear Mary always for your health & happiness, & earnest wishes that I could be with you & do aught for your relief. I will now bid you adieu. May God guard & bless you all.

Truly & affy yours

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. 369 – 72.