27th [March 1863]1


I have not answered your letter sooner my dear child because Agnes told me she was writing to you & indeed I had but little to communicate save that I was still suffering from rheumatism tho’ I am happy to tell you I got to church today2 the first time in 6 weeks Mr M gave us a most eloquent sermon to a most crowded & attentive audience when I got back from church I found your cousin Ella Campbell’s baby3 was the sweetest little thing about 5 weeks old G is called Charlotte & is very much like her, Binnie Mason’s baby4 here I have not seen but hear it is a very fine one I suppose it will be called Randolph. Mr. Pruett & Jennie Lloyd came in Nannie Packard & Belle Carter & Willie Gardener & we had quite an Alexa. party Mr. Powell required very particularly after you Felicia is trying to get a place here in one of the departments but I do not think any one ought to come to Richmond and every thing is so expensive here.

Do you ever write to the Pruetts? Many are in adversity & trouble now you ought to write to them Charlotte & Roon are at H[ickory] Hill & I shall go there as soon as I am well enough to come [to] town. I am on the look out for a summer retreat but scarcely expect to keep house Mr. Payne’s place has passed into other hands house & Besides with our servants or supplies of any kind should find it very difficult to Keep house I shall endeavour to be settled somewhere before your vacation when we can be together I have not heard from Mary for some time I fear she does not get our letters – or is not able to send out hers, Agnes has returned from Shirley where she had a most pleasant visit & is looking better then she did her hair is curled which is becoming to her. Custis I very rarely see I do not know how he occupies his leisure hours — I send you Robs last letter tho’ there is not much in it. You do not tell me how you improve in singing I should like to hear you. You will find astronomy a very interesting study. If you see Mary Mason give my love to her & tell her Mrs. Dunlop is very well & that she is very much liked by the ladies at the Hospital Her little son sent you papa a flag which he is going to put over his headquarters. Did I write you of your papa spending a week here He said he was going to write to you but had not time I scarcely saw him at all but at night He looks well & is quite stout his beard very white chapman Lee is living at Custis House but I never see him my friends have been very kind in visiting me but as I have not been able to go out at all of course I do not see so many persons. I wish I could send Mrs. Mason a profile of your papa but it seems impossible to get one. You never told me about that daguerreotype of Custis Did you have it or do you know if it was packed in the chest? Is there any good artist in Raleigh? I should like to have yrs very much & those of all my children I regret so much I have not one of my darling Anne & my sweet little Robert strange as it may seem I cannot always recall his lovely face. Did you ever have your teeth attended to? Do not neglect them for that is a loss can never be repaired your cousin Markie sent her card de visite & a letter to Agnes dated some time in January I cannot imagine where the letter could have been all this time – write to me a long letter & tell me all about your studies your might keep a sort of journal & send to me at the end of the week you must remember me to your friend Mrs Evans & her I feel much indebted to her for taking such good care of you I suppose you would not care for us to board at Dr Snedes during your vacation you would prefer a little change. I send your papas & brothers letters take care of the former Mary God bless you very dear child & make you all my fondest wishes could deserve

yr Mother  M C Lee



Source: Photocopy of original, Lee Family Papers, Mss 1 L51c 383, Section 19, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 October 11



1. Original letter is undated, but 1863 March 27 seems likely given the context of the letter.

2. President Davis had declared 1863 March 27 a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer in the Confederacy, which would add credence to the March 27 date for the letter.

3. Ella Calvert Campbell (1840-1902) gave birth to a daughter named, Charlotte, in February of 1863. Charlotte (1863-1962) later married Robert Edward Nelson (1847-1922).  

4. Referring to Randolph Mason (b. 1863 March 9), the new baby, nicknamed “Binnie,” of Lavinia Randolph Deas Mason (1836-1898) and Dr. Randolph Fitzhugh Mason (1823-1862). Dr. Mason was the son of Richard Chichester Mason (1793-1869) and Lucy Bolling Randolph Mason (1796-1861). He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a surgeon in the United States navy before the Civil War. After secession, he joined the Confederate States navy as a surgeon. He died in August 1862 in Jones’ Spring, North Carolina. His wife, Binnie, was pregnant when he died. Their son, Randolph, was named after Dr. Mason. He lived until 1952 and married Frances Helen Albright (1875-1967).

5. Chapman Johnson Leigh (1826-1911).