<br /> Lee Letter: v049

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Charles Carter Lee

My dear brother Carter

Tattoo is beating & I have to be in the Saddle by 6 tomorrow mor – g. Still I must tell you of the pleasure which your letter of the 11 Dec – r last afforded me, which arrived by the last train from Veracruz. I rec – d also the Inquirer & notwithstanding the compliments bestowed so undeservedly by yourself & the Editor I must tell you that my letters are only for yourself & my sister Lucy. I beg therefore you will let them go no farther. So many letters from Officers of the Army have been published, giving the individual views of the writers, frequently so contracted & so erroneous, that I think the publick must be sick of them. If they are not I certainly am & do not wish to add to their number. The modest effusions of Leonidas, Veritas & Warner, all emanating it is believed from the same few, are nauseating; & if the local names were suppressed, I candidly could not have recognized the scenes, of which I thought I had a full acquaintance, therein described. It is thus that celebrity is acquired, & Heroes made. Your statement of the reasons that govern the conduct of men in power & those seeking it, is lamentably true. There are many that cry “Hurra for Clay” & “hurra for Polk,” & how few that raise their voice for their country. The speeches, resolutions etc of Mist – rs Clay, Calhoun, Bolts, Hale Ashmun & others, are calculated so to confuse the Mexican mind as to our future course, that all hope of concluding a speedy peace must be laid aside. The Mexicans journals assert that a treaty has been signed by Mr. Trist & the Mexican Commissioners & forw – d for the approval of the administration at Washington. They state the line of Boundary to be the Rio Grande to the Sources of the Lila, then down that river to the Pacific, Giving us in addition to Texas, New Mexico & California. On our part we pay Twenty million of dollars, including Five Million which we are to withhold for the liquidation of claims against the Mexican Govt: No sooner has this treaty been dispatched, than they see a large party arrayed on their side, advocating the immediate withdrawal of the troops & an indemnity for the injuries they have sustained. I doubt whether the annals of the world exhibit a parallel case. A country at war with another; & after prosecuting it for more than two years, at a great expense of blood & treasure; its armies having been victorious in every field & its offers, almost solicitations for peace; been contemptuously rejected; When their Enemy is powerless & prostrate; & at length made to acknowledge it & consent to the conditions of peace, than all at once to relinguish what they have been contending for, & offer remuneration for their insult & obstinacy, almost passes belief. If it was done from feelings of magnimenity towards a bruise & prostrate foe, it would receive my warmest admiration. But if we have been wrong in our course, we should have discovered it before. It would have been better for both parties to have continued in our error, than to have endeavoured to have rectified it. If this retrograde step would restore us our glorious dead, I should be content. It will rather tend to condemn their devotion to their country & the next step will be to convict them of Suicide. The probable influence of this state of Affairs upon the ratification of the Treaty by the Mexican Congress I will leave you to conjecture. I am glad to have your commiseration for the hard fate of the old Army. Its members have spent the best part of their lives in preparing & waiting for the events that have occurred. They have born the brunt of every fight in which I have been engaged, & done the work. They will come out of the War with half of their most gallant brothers slain, & themselves lower on the register than when they entered it. It is so decreed by their Country and they submit. For its benefit they would undergo still harder trials. But I hate to complain & dispise myself for doing it. What I have said is true, notwithstanding all that has been written & spoken about the feats of the new Troops & they know it. Genl Scott says that “if this Army upon its landing at Vera Cruz had been quadrupled, it never would have entered this Capital but for the West Pointers,” My opinion is reference to the Fremont court had been made up from the first. I have therefore felt less interest in its proceedings. He will be found to be in the wrong & sent back to California as Governor, perhaps with increased rank A good father in law is a good thing. You will see that there is trouble brewing in this camp. What its result will be I know not, but though originating in the desire of some to aggrandize themselves at the expense of others, it is much to be regretted. There are men who when the plan of attacking Vera Cruz was first projected, predicted defeat & disaster. Who croaked all the way to Puebla, Who advocated delay in that city, & who unexpectedly finding themselves in this Capital, now find fault with the way that brought us here. I have but little patience or charity for them. The bravery & endurance of the troops has been ably directed by the skill of the Genl. His boldness of heart, self reliance & indomitable courage are glorious. It was that, that pitched us upon the shores of Vera Cruz. It was that that forced us through the Pass of Cerro Gordo, it was that which amid all the doubts & difficulties that surrounded us at Puebla pushed us upon this city & finally landed us within its gates. They may endeavour now to detract from him as much as they please. There is no one in this army who does not know his worth, his greatness under a pressure & that he is head & shoulders above every man in it. I am glad to hear you give such a good account of the boys. I am more & more anxious to see them & cannot form the least idea now, when it will come to pass. Mary writes me they are all well & growing finely. So I must be be content. But it comes hard when you are wearing out your life in this way, to be told, it is uncalled for, unnecessary, & of no avail. I have caught myself complaining again. I shall stop it. Smith I learn has been ordered to Annapolis. If it is for his advantage or benefit I shall rejoice, but it will detract greatly from the pleasures of the District if I ever return there. Mildred & Childe have returned to Europe without my seeing them. I presume they will scarcely ever return to the U. States & I may give up all hope of laying eyes upon them again. I forget whether it was in the fall of 1831 or 1832 that I last saw Mildred. I have grown so old since she would scarce recognize me. Marshall writes me that Anne is quite well & active & visits more than she has ever done since she has been in Baltimore. I am delighted to hear it also that they are pleased with Louis’ improvement. I am looking forward with great pleasure to the time you propose of paying you a visit & making the acquaintance of my sister Lucy, but we are acquainted already & I will therefore describe for her benefit a visit I made a few days since to the Desierto in company with Genl Scott & a few Officers. We took the Toluca road for about 15 miles to Guajimalpa; where we turned into a Mountain path to the left. The road was ascending the whole way from Tacubja & still we had to mount higher until we seemed to be on a level with the snowy peaks of Popocatapetl & Ixtacihuatl. Passing between two mountain knobs, a steep ravine opened upon us, covered with magnificent evergreens, & we looked down upon the tops of the tall hemlocks, silver firs & yellow pine, whose feathery leaves contrasted well with the broad glossy leaf trees of the climate. After descending a short distance we passed through a breach in the Sacred wall having a mountain of firs above us on our right & the before mentioned valley below us on our left. The turrets of the old convent were visible through the spires of the firs across the valley, around the head of which we had to pass. The path ran along the bank of a canal of bright water & so rugged that most of the horse men had to dismount, but Grace Darling, (I am sorry you do not know her.) skipped along with the ease & safety of a bird. After making the circuit of the valley & turning a spur of the Mountain the side of which we had traversed, we were surprised by the sound of martial music & the sight of the convent below us, into whose turrets & courts we were looking. On the green in front were a party of Mexican Soldiers, & hard by, some French cooks busily at work. The Ajuntamiento or City Authorities of Mexico, had invited the Genl to visit the source of one of the Aqueducts of the city, at this place & had prepared a dejeune a la fourchette to refresh him after his long ride. While greetings & salutations were passing around, I wandered over the ruin of the convent. Climbed to the top of its towers & penetrated into its subterranean passages. Every part was deserted & shewed the marks of time. Domes & roofs had fallen in. There was not a vestige of the wood work & I hesitated to grope to the extremity of some of the dark subterranean passages. In the capacious gardens some of the more permanent seats, shrines, a whispering gallery remained, but a single Apple tree was the solitary memento of its once flourishing orchards & shrubbery. The wilderness within the high walls, was almost as great as without. The convent was built in 1606 by a brotherhood of 70 Carmailites who retired to this romantic spot from the vanities of the World. The sacred wall enclosed an area of 4000 acres, the nearest approach the holy fathers permitted to the footsteps of woman. It is said however that the curiosity of one, under the garb of the brotherhood, carried the fair owner into the very walls of the Sanctuary, before the discovery of which these pious men fled from their retreat like frightened doves from their nest, & abandoned the desecrated spot forever. Another story is that it was the wife of one of the Vice Roys, in the garb of her lord, under the Spanish Dominion, that put to flight these holy men; certain it is, that if ever there, they are gone now, & I am so incredulous as not to believe, that any woman, no matter what her station or – , unless as hideous as Satan himself, could put this their Reverences to rout, For having an eye to the pretty women, they naturally have an instructed antipathy to the reverse, & I would not answer for the consequences if one should present herself as ugly as I supposed. By the time I returned to the company, they were taking their places at table, which was spread under a large Awning, & contained every thing good to eat & drink. The repast was served on fine damask & brightest silver. The fish were fresh from the lake of Chapala, (in Michoacan) & the wines were cooled with ice from the Nevada of Toluca. We brought to the attack appetites that made great havoc among the good things, but like every thing else, even this must have an end & I do not think lasted over three hours. So having drunk a great many patriotic toasts & eternal union & friendship, we remounted our horses & returned to the Main road, but I remarked one thing (there were over thirty of us in the party) that Gentlemen were more inclined to trust to the sure footedness of their horses than their own, & at Guajimalpa there were many candidates for seats in the coaches. Being once started the load passed the mules down the descent at a tremendous pace, & we that kept to our horses, had to keep a brisk gallop to keep up. We reached the city, just as the sun was setting, & all forgot the object of the trip, viz: to examine the source of the Aqueduct! We have no Military news. Some small expeditions have gone out after the Guerilleros, with more or less success, just to keep the troops in exercise. Cuernavaca, has also been occupied, in addition to Toluca & Pachuca, Quizava, etc. We are lying on our oars for the present. Remember me very kindly to all on Jas: river, the luckhams & other friends, Uncle Wms etc. Say everything kind for me to my sister Lucy & for yourself accept my affectionate love. I am so tired & sleepy, I can scarcely write & must to bed – as ever

your brother

R E Lee


Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

This letter is written on fine blue paper, and covers all four pages. There is no envelope. The last two sentences are written in the margins of the first page