<br /> Lee Letter: wl211

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Sister Mary Baptista Linton
Recipient: Robert E. Lee

Dear and honored General,

Can you spare one short half hour of your valuable time to a cloistered Sister immured in the N.W. corner of the Old Dominion? One whose heart has uttered many an earnest prayer for you & yours during your long campaign on the consecrated soil of our noble Mother State – who has oft rejoiced with you in successes, & sorrowed, in reverses! But in those sentiments there is nothing uncommon – They are shared by the thousands of Virginia ladies devoted to your memory, & who would cease to deserve the cherished title of Virginians, did they feel otherwise. Now, as a true & genuine Virginian, I have a scheme at heart – (it is almost on my brain, so anxious am I to realize it) which I want you, as the beloved patriot & one of the conscript fathers of our dear old State, to advance by your influence where’er it may extend. Do me the honor to read the accompanying letters & you will fully understand the dear object of our present exertions. No one, I’m sure, realizes more sensibly than yourself, the extent of poverty & privations now existing in our prostrated South.

Consecrated as are our lives to the service of God, in serving our neighbor, it seems to me, that never in the annals of our Country has Providence so decidedly pronounced our vocation to be that of educating the daughters of reduced Southern families, as at the present crisis.

There is no Louis XIV to endow for their benefit, a St. Cyr – or a Napoleon to found an Academy for the daughters of our brave military – but can not we find in these vast United States a sufficient number of men of means & heart, each willing to subscribe moderately towards an endowment fund that may be appropriated to this noble cause for the next few years? I will not tire you dear Genl. by detailing what I have already alluded to in the accompanying papers – Have the patience to peruse them, & tell me your opinion of our probable success. I think our cause would be greatly advanced by a little printed card from yourself recommending our proposed undertaking & signed in your own hand – This, enclosed to your host of friends in the North, East and West with a little circular appeal would secure speedy success to the good work – So, thinks the writer. What is Gen. Lee’s opinion? We would of course shrink from any thing like newspaper notoriety but this would not be necessary – Our own little missives multiplied – kind & coaxing words addressed to whole souled individuals would effect much for our cause – Don’t you think so? Write me freely & candidly, dear & good Genl just as you would to your own sister were she consulting you in the matter. Although I am unknown to you, I cannot view you as a stranger – If you have not met me in your social circle in Washington, it is because one fourth of my life was passed at a boarding school, & two fourths in the Convent, but I feel at home with you, even now, because I know that my friends are yours & yours mine.

My four dear uncles were your fellow officers – & one of them viz: Col. J. D. Graham of the Topographical Eng. Corps was more than an uncle – he was my guardian & father by adoption. His home was mine, till my entrance into the Convent. I was so connected with the Army by family ties and early association that I almost fancied I half belonged to it myself. I hope, dear Genl one of these days you may visit this Northwestern corner of our State, & then, I assure you, I would indulge in a real old fashioned talk with you about the old folks of the happy past, beginning with my early associations in Westmoreland, Fauquier, Fairfax & Prince William up to the time I played truant and went with Virginia Scott to become a sister in Georgetown Convent! But see, this is a digression.

Let us go back to our proposed good work. If it succeeds, it will be very pleasant for Genl Lee to be able to write to us at Mount de Chantal & say – “Sisters, I wish to provide for the orphan daughters of a faithful old comrade in arms – I wish to give her such an education as her father would have given, had he not sacrificed his life on the altar of patriotism and how gratifying for us to reply – Send the dear child to us at once – there is a vacancy awaiting her in our Academy etc etc” – How many dear incidents of this kind it may be our privilege to see realized if this contemplated endowment fund is secured. The Sisters will try to do for our girls what you are so nobly effecting for the boys of Virginia without anything like rivalry in the good cause, however.

If you favor me with a reply, will you please tell me if you know of the whereabouts of the Lawsons – four brothers of Richmond who were in the Confederate service. They were students of your military Institute in Lexington – two were graduates & the two younger left there at the first call of our State to enlist in her service – One of these good boys, Campbell (I think) lost his arm at the battle of Gettysburg, & the other, William, his leg at the taking of Petersburg. They are my first cousins, being the sons of my aunt an own sister of the Grahams, your companions in arms in gone by days.

Pray excuse my trespassing so long on your time – If dear Mrs Lee is with you assure her of my cordial esteem – receiving for yourself the pledge of my unfeigned regard with which I remain your unworthy servant &

sincere friend in Christ.

Sister Mary Baptista Linton

My address is – Sister Mary Batista Linton Academy of the Visitation Mount de Chantal Near Wheeling W. Va

Notes:

Robert E. Lee CollectionLeyburn Library, Washington and Lee University

Endorsed by Lee: “10 July 1866 – Sisters of Visitation Mount de Chantal Propose to educate indigent Girls of the South Ansd 10 Aug.” Accompanying this letter is another letter from Linton to Lee of this date, in which she copied a letter sent to “a liberal friend of the South,” 14 April 1866, and a printed circular and general letter of solicitation from the Sisters of the Visitation, both undated but assigned dates of c.10 July 1866.