<br /> Lee Letter: wl086

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee, Jr.
Recipient: Robert E. Lee

My dear Father

Mildred’s very welcome letter reached me last Sunday. It was the first I had heard from any of you in Lexington directly, though through Fitzhugh who saw you in Richmond, & through Agnes who had heard from some of you I knew that the silk dress had arrived & therefore was satisfied of the household’s being well & happy. Tell Milly I will answer her letter very soon; but I write to you now for I want your advice. The mill is now feeding myself, hands &team besides some surplus, & will, I am confident do one third better with a respectable & competent miller which it seems impossible for me to get. But it is in a wretched state of repair, both mill & dam & I am expecting every day either the flood-gates to burst or some of the machinery to break. Now it may hold on for a month or two, probably six; but not possibly longer in my humble opinion & if it breaks at that time it will have to be repaired at much greater expense than at present; for if the flood gates burst, the water will undoubtably wash away the greater portion of the mill & I’ll have the whole to rebuild, if the property is kept up. I can have a saw mill attached to the grist mill power, at the highest figure, for eight hundred dollars (I am told by a mill wright for seven) this saw mill at the lowest figure cut five thousand feet of lumber a day for which the net profits are $15 per thousand feet.

Now my plan is to borrow enough money to put the mill in thorough repair at once & attach this saw mill which will work all times when there is no corn which is nearly two thirds of the time. I have a very fine lot of timber & there is lying adjacent to the mill, very convenient for delivery, a large quantity belonging to different parties.

In six or eight months the timber would pay off the debt & have the mill in repair & the saw attached which would pay me handsomely & certainly. The advantage of commencing at once is that the amount of money required for repairing the dams & mill now will not be one tenth the amount if either should break; & there is a great demand for lumber now every where – & it is bringing very high prices. I am told I can get the money easily & at six per cent payable in twelve months or longer, or as soon as I am able. I have talked with Fitzhugh & he advised me to wait but he did not no the state of the dam or mill nor did I until I examined them. I would willingly wait & prefer it, but it has got to be done & I think the sooner the better in every respect for if some of these heavy rains should wash every thing away I lose my meal – & would have to buy & then being the only mill in this section the whole neighborhood would suffer from it. And putting it in order again would cost ten times as much.

I shan’t undertake it without your approval & I wish to be guided by you for I am very inexperienced & green – & even with your approval I shall consult Fitzhugh as to the best way & means to find out every thing before I start. It would help me greatly here. I am getting along pretty well & if I could only be strong & well would be perfectly happy & satisfied, but these everlasting “feelings” & fevers (for I do not know what to call them) keep me so weak & indolent that I am an easy prey to low spirits, which to one by myself is awful you know, But I hope & believe that if the warm weather comes I shall recover entirely & until then can be a little put out. You all must not be uneasy about me for I take good care of myself & if I am really sick I shall put myself under the care of some of the good ladies in the neighborhood who, though few in number are excellent housekeepers & wifes.

I am delighted to hear that Ma has such a nice maid & that Mildred’s head man is better than Pompey, I should hope he was. Tell M she need not think anything about that cake until I come, it will keep until then. It has been raining very hard for the last thirty six hours but has cleared up cold the wind striking me as I write for this mansion is so good natured that it can’t refuse either sun nor wind entirely.

My best love to Ma M – & Custis & yourself I thank you for your autographs some of them by this time have made some of your many admirers very proud & happy

Your loving son

Robert

Notes:

Robert E. Lee CollectionLeyburn Library, Washington and Lee University

Endorsed by Lee: “Robt E. Lee In reference to mill etc Ansd 6 Mar.”