Arlington October 21st [1860]

My dear Annie


I got a letter from Helen & will first transcribe what she says for Ella’s benefit “I have purchased the cloake for Miss Ella which I trust will suit. I consider it very suitable for mourning & exceedingly graceful & pretty Agnes agrees with me the Price is $15.00 the hood may be worn in either of 3 ways as she will see by the hooks & loops. It makes no difference regarding the Bank in which the check is to be drawn.” Ella thought of sending on $20.00 which is just as well as Agnes may want it to buy a box & I can repay Ella. If Mildred would like a cloak there is no difficulty in sending for it. Helen does not give me any news of the girls except that they had gone to West Point & writes a very few lines & rather unsatisfactory as to Agnes she rarely finds time to write a line & does not allude to coming home except to say she will come if she is wanted. I went to Alexa on Friday to do some shopping & called to see Mrs. Turner just as I was coming out of the door who should I see but Marcus as large as life. He pretended not to know me tho I do not doubt he came in because he saw the carriage at the door. Mrs. Turner is quite bitter against Mr. Dana & all Alexa I think to be looking forward to his departure with eagerness, but as yet nothing is decided. Towards eveng it began to rain & by night there was a violent storm. Poor little Santa Anna1 was found dead in the morning at the foot of the Hill. Billy says he saw him standing there the evening before [illegible]

He did not come up to the Stable as usual for his food & I suppose Daniel thought it too inclement to go out to look after him so he died all alone in the howling storm. It rained all day Saturday & all this morning now it has cleared up warm & lovely & I hope will continue so it is probable Nannie will be over on Tuesday tho I have not heard from her. Do not hurry home but come when you are ready your sister has got well again & she & Custis have gone to take a walk. Custis says it is a matter of real grief to him to be unable to make that visit goodwood but really he does not see how he is sure to get time to accomplish it, and why is not Ella coming up too. Tell her she will have to come to teach me the fringe stitch

I have been trying for two days to recall it without success joking apart if she will not come, you or Arnette must learn to teach me for I cannot furnish Mildreds cap. If you want the carriage to meet you, you must write in time. I shall go over to Washington on Tuesday if nothing prevents to get Mildred’s dress. I have not heard from her for a week or from Rob. You must walk about a great deal & why do you not take a ride a cheval2 we have been very busy putting down carpets &c & We have had the furnace all arranged kitchen &c. very few visitors. The bad weather has kept Chudie3 from coming over. He went to Baltimore as soon as he came to see his mother & has just got back. Johnnie is in Washington. Mary Goldsborough4 has gone up to Ravensworth with Aunt Maria who had been a little ailing & they sat down before the fire. In a few moments she said “Augustine5 give me some water I am choking.” These were the last words she spoke. He went out of the room to get the water & when he returned she had thrown herself on the bed & her face was a dark purple & there was a rattling sound in her throat. He called Jane who got on the bed & raised Nelly’s6 head on her shoulder but she was perfectly miserable & after a short time when Augustine felt her pulse it was so nearly gone that he said he did not dare to bleed her. they had sent every where for a physician but you know in the country it is a longtime before one can be procured, & when he did come he gave it as his opinion that nothing could have saved her. Mrs Lloyd said in half an hour from the time of their arrival she was dead. She was buried there, having I am told expressed her wish sometime before to be interred where I have all the plants put in the green house but it is so mild now they would do very well out. I did see some mysteries in Agnes letter which I did not understand & your sister either could not or would not enlighten me. She is well again & is put now asleep on the sofa. Tho she is under the delusion that she never sleeps in the day.

Tom is very well & devoted to me. I got a letter from Roon begging me to come down there but as I had just written to urge him to bring Charlotte here I hope he will do so for I could not go there now. I hope you will get your strength as you are able to exercise in the open air & do not allow yourself to become constipated or you can never be well. You must bring as many of the girls back with you as can come & be sure to learn how to do the fringe. Cousin H. Lloyd & Jane went up to Waveland with Augustine Washington7 who had been to Alexa on some business. Nelly met them at the door looking perfectly well & after a little while carried her guests to their room. She then went to her own chamber with her husband wherever she should die. It is a most inscrutable providence that one whose life was so valuable who had so much to make life happy should be thus snatched away while many to whom it is a burden they would gladly throw off are left to linger on. Jane is still there Cousin H has returned.

I received a long letter from H Rogers saying she was to be married the last of October & begging that I or some of the family would be present. She says her Father will neither see her or even receive a letter from her but after much deliberation she has concluded that she is acting right in marrying Mr. Wilmer & she is to stay at Bishop Whittinghams until after it takes place Mary Mackoe & Mary Campbell are to be bridesmaids. The Bishop is to marry her in church & they are to start immediately for New York. How kind the Whittinghams have been to those poor girls who are indeed worse than orphans. This is a longer letter than you deserve but hoping to see you so soon. I will add no more save that I am

affectionate Mother

M C Lee

Much love to all




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 261, Section 14, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 April 27                 


1. A small white mustang that Lee had bought in Mexico and had shipped to Baltimore.

2. French riding term meaning with a “leg on each side.”

3. Nickname for Fitzhugh Lee, the son of Sidney Smith Lee.

4. Anna Maria Sarah Goldsborough Fitzhugh (1796-1874).

5. John Augustine Washington (1821-1861). He was killed during the Civil War in the western Virginia campaign of September 1861.

6. Referring to the death of Eleanor Love Selden Washington (1821-1860), the wife of John Augustine Washington. She died on 1860 October 9.