Robert E. Lee

William H. Terrill

US Mil: Acady West Point

19 April 1853

Dear Sir.

I recd. today your letter of the 15th Inst. in reference to the large amount of “ demerit” aquired by your son. I assure you it has given me much concern, & I have more than once called his attention to its consequence, & urged the advantages of a different course.

In answer to your inquiries, I think I can state that it arises more from carelessness or recklessness than from perverseness or dissipation. I have no cause to accuse him of the latter; & though a large portion of his demerit for March (over half) was recd for being absent form his quarters during the evg, (before tattoo) & I have reason to believe he was off the post. I do not think he was at any improper place. The rest was made up of acts of dilatoriness or carelessness. I know of none that can be removed consistently with Regns of the Acady., or without injustice to others, who are charged with similar acts. All are carefully examined and scrutinized before being recorded, & those that can be justly erased, are taken off at the time.

Up to the 15th Inst: none have been recorded against him for the present month; & though as you say he requires but 17 to cause his dismissal, they can easily be avoided by attention, as was proved by himself during his first years course. I can readily understand the regret & mortification you would feel at his dismissal, which I sincerely hope you may be spared, & that your son will practice that attention and self denial for the short remainder of his term, that will secure his success. Unless he does so, no one can help him.

I remain Very resply. YoursSigned) R E Lee Br. Col.
Supt. Mil. Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, pp. 20–21. Addressed “Wm H. Terrill Esq Warm Spring Va.”