<br /> Lee Letter: u010

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Sydney Smith Lee

My Darling Rose

Your long and affectionate letter of the 14 Jan from Annapolis, was brought me by the train that arrived on the 1st inst: from Vera Cruz. It has given me great pleasure and I have read it over and over. I regret you having lost the Command of the fine Steamer Mississippi, but on Sis-Nanies Account and the boys, I rejoice at your return home. Your present Station too, though it Separates you from many of your friends, it is only by a few hours, and from its importance and advantages I consider highly favourable. It is healthy Surrounded by a genteel population, and furnishes you with a good school for your boys. I hope too it gives you an increase of pay. I am the only loser. What Shall I do, if I ever return to the District. Not to find you, or my dear Sis-Nanie, My beautiful Matie gone too, Alexandria will appear to me a desert. I fear it will make me desert my Church and take up with one of those Washington innovations. It is terrible to think of. Your letter gave me the latest accounts from Arlington. I am glad to hear they are all So well and that the younger branches are growing So finely. I have been aware that Custis was Shooting up to manhood, and that it was time for him to be directing his Studies towards the Course of life he was to pursue. Finding after getting into this City, that the prospect of my shortly returning home, was not flattering, I wrote to his mother and himself on the Subject. To my regret the Same mail that brought your letter, brought me one from May, Saying that he had expressed a repugnance to entering any of the Colledges I had proposed, and a great wish to go to West Point. I would never advise any young man to enter the Army. He is cut off from all hope of preferment. He performs all the tedium and drudgery of the Service, and no matter how well he may have preformed his duties and prepared himself for the Service, as Soon as the opportunity occurs for which he has been preparing, waiting and laboring, a Sett of worthless, ignorant, political aspirants or rou├ęs, are put over his head, who in spite of themselves, he has to tug on his Shoulders to victory. Such are some of the heroes this war and their own <illegible> have made. Still a boy has much at Stake in the choice of a profession and deserves to be heard. I have given my advice and if he adheres to the predilection he has expressed, I suppose I must consent. But how I can get him the appointment to West Point I do not know. I am very glad Mary has gone to Mrs. Wilmers. I hope she will See the necessity of abandoning her little fancies, which might be confirmed into habits if longer indulged. I think I Should have preferred Mrs. Mercers, because it is in the Country and her constitution might have been Strengthened and benefited. She will leave any where if she has the opportunity and I believe the facilities at Mrs. Mercers, are very good. But while So young perhaps it is as well she Should be near her Mother and Grandmother. I had heard of Eilbecks marriage. The Gen. and Mrs. Mason must be very Solitary at Clermont, without any of their children. I should have thought that the departure of Miss Tease and Barlow would have caused them to move into town. I hope Carter has not involved himself by his purchase of an Estate. He is So happy now, that I suppose he is more Sanguine than ever. He wrote me that you spent a day with him on your return home. I hope our new Sister will respond to his wishes for a boy. Did you give her a hint as you came along. All your friends here are well. Heyes had expected to have returned to the ll.S. by the next train. His presence on the Ordinance board having been desired by the chief of his bureau. Gen. Scott had given his assent, but our new Commander, Gen. Butler, has revoked it. Turnhill, Major Kirby, Hammond and a few others go out. Rhett is very well and fat. Buchanan (Robt) is acting asst. Inspector Genl. Johnstons Regt: has been ordered to Tolusa. Robt: Forsyth of course goes with him. They are both very well. Frank Taylor is living in the palace near me. His Battery being quartered in the building. He is a good officer and one of the best fellows in the world. One of your Comrades, Pass a Midshipman Perry, is on the Staff of Gen. Patterson. He is of the rough diamond Sort. Your Commendations upon the Conduct of the army, in this war, Has filled me with pleasure. They justly deserve it. There was no danger too great for them to Seek and no labors to Severe for them to undertake. The fall of a comrade did not retard a Single Step, but all pressed forward to their work. Better Soldiers never died on any field. Nor has the Navy been behind them in their duties. They have risked every exposure and every disease, have Served on land with as much alacrity as on Shipboard, Have captured every fort they could reach, and now hold the whole coast closely blockaded. They have only lacked the opportunities, afforded to the Army. I think our Country may well be proud of the Conduct of both arms of Service. As to myself, your brotherly feelings have made your estimate too highly my Small Services, and though praise from one I love So dearly is very Sweet, truth compels me to disdain it. I did nothing more, than what others in my place would have done much better. The great cause of our success was in our leader. It was his Stout heart that cast us on the shore of Vera Cruz; his bold Self reliance that force us through the Pass of Cerro Gordo: His indomitable Courage, that amid all the doubts and difficulties that Surrounded us at Puebla, pressed us forward to this Capital and finally brought us within its gates. While others who walked all the way from Brazos, advised delay at Puebla, finding themselves at last Contrary to their expectation comfortably quartered within the City, find fault with the way they came there. With all their after knowledge I will defy them to have done better. I agree with you in your opinion of these dissensions in the camp. They have clouded a bright campaign. It is a contest in which neither party have anything to gain and the Army much to lose, and might to have been avoided. The whole matter will soon be before the Court, and if it is Seen that there has been harshness and intemperance of language on one Side, it will be evident that there has been insubordination on the other. It is difficult for a Gen. to maintain discipline in an Army composed as this is, in a foreign Country, where the temptations to disorders are So great, and the chance of detection So slight. He requires every Support and Confidence from his Govt. at home. If he abuses his trust or authority, it is then time to hold him to account. But to decide the matter before an ex-parte Statement of favourites, to suspend a Successful Gen. in Command of an Army in the heart of an enemy Country, to by the judge in place of the accused, is to upset all discipline, to jeopardize the safety of the Army and humour of the Country, and violate justice. I trust however that all will work well in the end. I had Strong hopes of Peace on the basis of the profit of the treaty Submitted by the Mexican Govt: of which you have learned through the papers. Had Congress promptly granted the means for prosecuting the war, asked by the President, I believe the treaty, if acceptable to our Country, would have been ratified by the Mexican Congress. But the discussions in Congress and Speeches of Some of our leading men, are calculated So to confuse the humble mind here, that it may encourage them to delay and procrastinate, in the hope that the plan of withdrawing the Army, an indemnity <illegible> may be adopted. These other difficulties that I have spoken of, especially the recall of Gen. Scott, may prove unfavourable. It is rather late in the day now to discuss the origin of the war. (That ought to have been understood before we engaged in it.) It may have been foreclosed by the act of either party or the force of circumstances. Let the pedants in diplomacy determine. It is certain that we are the Victors in a regular war, Continued, if not brought on, by their foolish obstinacy and ignorance, and they are whipped in a manner of which women might be ashamed. We have the right by the laws of war of dictating the <illegible> of peace and requiring indemnity for our losses and expenses. Rather than forgo that right except through a spirit of magnanimity to a crushed foe, I would fight them ten years. But I would be generous in exercising it. But I think I must have tired you with Army and Mexican Matters. Having nothing interesting to relate, I have indulged in a disclosure of opinions which I need not remind you are included only for yourself. I know it is unbecoming in me to criticize the acts and conduct of my Superiors. You must remember me very affectionately to my dear Sis-Nanie tell her not to forget her brother. He hopes Someday to see her again. Give much love to the boys. I could write them a chapter on my horses and ponies, but must defer the description till I see them. I hope they are all well. That God may guard and prosper you all, is my constant prayer. I am much obliged to you for your offer to attend to any to any matters for me. I have nothing you know but my little family matters. I have put every thing in the hands of that good Mama, who will probably have to undertake it Sooner or later. I know you will give her all counsel and assistance. I have written to her to invest any Surplus cash she may have in the most advantageous way. I must now bid you goodnight. Drawing all day indisposes me to write at night. Both eyes and hands rebel. We get papers here so useful if and when they come in such <cords>, that I have not the patience to wade through them. The editors here extract matters of interest. It would be useless for you to trouble yourself to Send me the papers. Mary has made me the Same offer. If however, when you came across anything of importance you would cut it out enclose it in a letter for It might reach me earlier than otherwise. I hope you will be promoted this winter. I am sure you have desired it long ago. Has he <illegible> Sis-Nanie. I hear that Sis-Nanie is so much in love with you now that she cannot bear you out of her Sight. What has got into the little lady? She must see in you a Strange resemblance to her brother Robert I think. It is too bad for Mildred to have run off to Europe. Recd A letter from Childe by the last train. I presume he has embarked before this. Remember me to all friends and believe me always

your affectionate Brother

R. E. Lee