<br /> Lee Letter: wl149

Washington and Lee University

Sender: W. H. Nettleton
Recipient: Robert E. Lee

Dear General.

In writing to you I do not wish to be classed amongst the list of curiosity-seekers who have, I suspect, intruded upon your privacy with their selfish and unreasonable correspondence.

I am an Englishman; and my reasons for writing are, that I can no longer with-hold an expression of my profound admiration – my love – for a man so distinguished for his bravery and abilities, but more especially for his humanity as a soldier; as well as for those who noble characteristics which, in private life, have earned for him the love of all people, friend and foe.

True nobility of character will invariably secure the affections of the brave, and I can confidently assure you that your name is held sacred in the breasts of every brave countryman of mine. We watched your military career with intense anxiety; admired your solicitude for your soldiers, and your humanity in the midst of scenes of carnage. I’ve made comparisons of individual generalship, and the more we watched the more we loved; – not so much because your abilities as a general, but because of your excellency as a Man.

I love old England with her phlegmatic but brave sons, and it it was no little source of gratification to us that the State which claims descendence from her best blood has brilliantly excelled in patriotism, bravery and intelligence during the late war.

This effusion from a private individual will not perhaps go far amongst the multitude of tributes this land has paid you. It is the only testimony I can give you, but it warm and faithful, perhaps you and your may derive a pleasure in receiving these proofs of the kind feelings of “neutrals.” They are the feelings of my countrymen, although expressed by my poor and humble pen.

I am a young Englishman. Interest in the affairs of this continent prompted me to visit it in the last years of the war. After wandering throughout almost its length and breadth I am about to return to my native country. I have closely studied the various features of this country, and am well rewarded for the laborious travel, but am I not a convert to Republicanism. My own Government is yet, I believe, tho best for stability, dignity and moderation.

Will you send me one or two lines from your pen? Not to satisfy mere curiosity, but to keep for long, long years as a memento of one whom I hold dear. I shall prize it as the most valuable relic of my American tour.

Although I am engaged in a literary occupation I promise you that I will treat as strictly confidential any reply you may send mer. I mean so far as the press is concerned.

I leave New Orleans on the 14th July on my way to New York for England. Shall go via Mobile, Wilmington, Richmond and Washington.

I should like to have seen you and to have enjoyed a few moments of conversation but this pleasure is denied me. I am dear General

Your truly

W. H. Nettleton

Address care South Western Telegraph Office
9 Carondelet Street New Orleans


Robert E. Lee CollectionLeyburn Library, Washington and Lee University

Endorsed by Lee: “11 May 1866 W. H. Nettleton Expresses kind Sentiments towards myself etc 21 May Ansd.”