Monday night the 10th [October, 1870]

My dear Belle

I have been wishing to write to you for some time but I have had such a number of letters to answer that I really have had no time & Agnes & Mildred are constantly engaged with their papa who I am sorry to tell you is not so well this evening. They are forced to give him a great deal of medicine to act upon his bowels & it always distresses & annoys him, this evening more than usual. I shall leave my note open to tell you how he is in the morning tho’ the Doctors have been so very sanguine about his case I must confess I have been anxious all the time, god grant that he may be relieved in his own good time but it is so sad to see him laying, so little heeding all around him & so helpless, yesterday evening the girls thought him so much better & it is only this afternoon that he seems worse, he seems to understand all that is said to him but rarely speaks or evinces any interest in what is going on though he greets us with a pressure of the hand but never smiles & rarely says any thing occasionally a word distinctly. To think he is entirely ignorant of the flood & all its horrors. Custis took a letter that came here for you down the street & gave it to Mr. Pittman who said he sometimes had “opportunities to you indeed that Mr Brown had been in town. I wish I could have seen him. Do if anyone else comes up let them call here. All send much love. I will say good night for the present. Love to Mrs. C is she still with you all. I hope she is better yrs affectionately Mary C Lee

Tuesday night 11th. I did not attempt to send this letter this morning because the Genl was so much worse. he continued so all day. Tonight they think there is a very slight improvement in his pulse. He seems to sleep most of the time I am so glad to think you were with us so long this summer & the genl enjoyed so much your affectionate manners to him now he would not appreciate even a message from you. We telegraphed for Fitzhugh & Rob this morning & hoped to have received a letter from Mary telling us of her where abouts, but it did not come so shall telegraph to her at Detroit in the morning. The change in the state of his disease is so sudden & unexpected that I had not urged any of them to come immediately, knowing the difficulty of getting here & how very inconvenient it would be to the boys to leave their farms at this time. I pray that his life may be prolonged until they come if it is not the will of God to restore him, yet in his present state I think he little heeds or knows who sits by him though for the first 10 days he always welcomed me with a kind pressure of the hand, tho’ he did not speak or smile. How terrible are these attacks on the brain. The girls & Custis have attended him night & day by turns though one of the gentlemen here has always sat up part of every night. Strange Agnes has had no neuralgia all the time. They sent you much love but have no time to write.

I know how you all feel for us & with us so I have made all these details. Mrs. Cocke was to have gone to Richmond to day but was not well enough. I should not be surprised if she let Edmund go without her as he has been extremely anxious to be off for a long time. Let me know when you write if you have any communication with Gothen. Good night again in more anxious sorrow

yrs as ever Mary C Lee

wednesday morning 1 o clock we have all been round his bed all night expecting every moment would be his last but he still lives tho’ with no hope of any change for the better. 12th It is all over dear Belle at 10 this morning he breathed his last after being insensible for more than 24 hours & has never attempted to speak. Pray that God may console me nothing else can.


I will write you a few lines dear Bell to thank Miss Jennie & yourself for your most affectionate & soothing letters I judged from that probably you had not received mine sent you yesterday morning thru Mr Pittman for I did not know there was any mail to you. The one you wrote by mail only arrived last night. I had never heard of dear Mrs. Caskie’s death, did not know she was sicker than she usually is. I think it a most happy release for her & yet she was so lovely & beloved many will mourn for her & I regret so much not having her here once more for I have found no kinder or more constant friend since I left my beloved home. I am so glad you & Miss Jennie were able to be with her. I well know how invaluable the latter is in a sick room & she is always connected in my mind with her kind offices for me in my great sorrow during the war. My affectionate love to her & your dear mother & to Mrs Gwathney. when you write let me know if she will be in Richmond anytime & what your plans are. you have had a sad time since you got to the Baths, but some times [illegibile] profitable to the love

My own husband is laying in my dining room, cold & so changed. His illness though short has left its marks on him at 12 his coffin is to be moved to a vault in the chapel which they have prepared for himm there to await my wishes as to its final resting place & on saturday morning the funeral ceremonies are to be performed there they went so long to give time for the boys to get here. Poor Mary will I fear learn the first tidings of the greatest misfortune that could befall her by the newspapers for though we have telegraphed to her yet I know not certainly where she was as when I writ her papa was better I said I should not write again until [illegible] from here I shall remain here this winter & then decide upon my future. I have just gotten a letter from Mary dated 7th October. She was still at Detroit where we sent a telegraph yesterday morning which she may get in time to room here but I fear not. She had not received a single letter that I have written which seems strange to me as I have written her 3 times but hers has been a week getting here. It is a great objection to this place even in ordinary times. The difficulty of communication with the outer world I write this before any one is up that I may seize any chance that offers of sending it this is scarcely worth while to send round by Staunton. The girls have not come down yet or would send much love they are scarcely able to write being much fatigued with their watching of their father for 2 weeks past.

 Ever yrs as always

Mary C Lee

Did you get the letter from Monday Custis forwarded to you




Source: Checked against original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 g 11-13, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 August 1