• The Lees of Virginia
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  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Robert E. Lee to William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, 1864 November 2

Petersburg 2 Nov ’64

My dear Fitz

I have recd your letter on Sunday night. I have recommd Payne for Lomax’s brigade, but he can be assigned where most wanted. I have had always a good opinion of Mumford & had been in view for Wickhams brigade, but at present Cannot recommend him. I hope Rosser[1] will do well. I hope you may be able to rejoin your division soon. We must do something for the reorganization of the Western Cavy. Your division has always had a high reputation. It must not lose it & yet I fear it may suffer from its Service in the Valley. What organization do you propose?

Please give the accompg letter to Genl Cooper who has Kindly promised to cause it to be sent to Mr Ingraham. Thank your father for his letter. Love to all

Very truly

R E Lee



Source: Transcribed from digital copy of original letter, Robert E. Lee Papers, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 June 30



[1] The men referred to are William Henry Fitzhugh Payne (1830-1904); Lunsford L. Lomax (1835-1913); Thomas T. Munford (1831-1918); Williams Carter Wickham (1820-1888); and Thomas L. Rosser (1836-1910).

Robert E. Lee to Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, 1864 October 25

Chaffins 25 Oct ’64

My dear Mary

I recd Sunday evg your letter of the 18th. I had gone into church in the morg & had some hope of finding you in Richmond. Though disappd at not Seeing you I still felt relieved at your being in a quiet safe place. I still think it better for you to find some other abode than Richmond, though as you have decided to return I trust it will be for the best. The question now is not what is most agreable, but what is best. If the girls prefer the town which it seems they do, they can take the risk, but in your helpless condition I think it very hazardous in the present uncertainty of events. Every one too who has no business in Richmond, or who cannot do the state some good by being there ought to be away. It adds to the number to be fed, & otherwise may increase our difficulties. I heard Mr. Patterson preach a very good sermon on the subject of the forgiveness of our enemies. It is a hard lesson to learn now, but still it is true & requires corresponding efforts. I recd a letter from Nannie Peyton yesterday saying that the Federals had arrested the principal citizens in that neighborhood, & placed them on the cars running to Alexa to prevent the trains being attacked by our men. Among them she mentioned her husband, the only physician in the neighborhood, & Mr Foster of the Plains, who is in wretched health & subject to Cough & hemorhages. I am glad Mr. Wilmar has been to see you & that you had the opportunity of partaking of the blessed Communion. May it serve constantly to keep our Redeemer in our hearts & minds & enable us to follow his holy precepts & example. Custis has not been very well. He is annoyed by boils. I have not heard from Fitzhugh or Robt lately. I trust they are well. Give much love to my dear daughters. I have not time to write to them. My feeble prayers are Constantly offered up for you & them. May a Merciful God watch over us all.

You must Give my affectionate regards to the kind family where you are. I wish I could give to them my thanks in person for their kindness to you.

With much love affy yours

R E Lee



Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L 51 c 548, Section 28, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2002 June 30

Robert E. Lee to Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, 1864 September 18

Camp Petersburg 18 Sept ‘64

My dear Mary

I have been again Called to Richmond & while there recd your letter of the 9th. It reached me however just as I was preparing to take the Cars for Petersburg thursday & I have not been able to reply till now. I am glad that you are all enjoying your accustomed health & hope that more permanent benefit will be felt by all from the enjoyment of the pure Country air & the association of such Kind friends. I breakfasted one morg at Mr Warwicks where I met Mr Galt, who had seen the girls at church the preceding sunday. Tell Mary I have been unable as yet to ascertain what Can be done for her client Isaiah Patterson. I presume his term of Service is nearly expired if it is not already terminated, for I think they are only Called out for 30 days at a time. I have great Consideration for my African fellow citizens, but must have some for their white brethren. All must do their part in this great emergency. I am as sensible as you & Fitzhugh can be of my failing strength & approaching infirmities & am as Careful to shield myself from exciting Causes as I can be. But what Care Can a man give to himself in a time of war. It is from no desire of exposure or hazard that I live in a tent, but from necessity. I must be where I can speedily at all times attend to the duties of my position & be near or accessible to the officers with whom I have to act. What house Could I get to hold all the staff. Our citizens are very Kind in offering me a room or rooms in their houses, in which I could be sheltered, but it would separate me from the staff officers delay the transaction of business & turn the residence of my Kind Landlords into a Barrack where officers Couriers distressed women &c would be entering day & night. I shall be very glad this winter to get a house if practicable. You must thank Mildred for her letter I will answer it when I Can. At my former visit to Richmond I found one of Miss Kirkland domestic shirts & being without a night shirt used it for that purpose. I have it now. It is very Comfortable but I am told by Robt that it washes badly. He gave up the two he had on that account. I am sorry for it as the material is very nice. I shall retain the one I have to sleep in. If daughter wants the balance of the price let her have it. I saw Miss Howell in a dress exactly like it but it had never been washed. I am not yet wearing my new drawers & you need not send the third pair. We shall want for the army all the socks we Can get so you need not fear having too many. Put the girls to Knitting. They must be hungry for work. Has Miss Bettie Brander finished her pair yet. Tell her her soldier shall not marry her until she can clothe him. Sickness is decreasing in the Army & I hope next month to have it well. Tell the young women to Send me all their Beaux. I want them at once. Love to all.

Very truly

R E Lee



Source; Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 545, Section 27, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 June 28    

Robert E. Lee to Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, 1864 October 9

Chaffins 9 Oct ’64

I recd dear Mary your letter of the 5th. I pray before the return of another birthday that God in his great mercy may have restored you to health & granted us peace from our sins, peace with ourselves & peace with our enemies. I feel sensibly the kindness shewn to you by the good & kind family with whom you are. You must give them my sincere thanks & affectionate regards. The goodness of God has been shewn us through all the course of our lives, & though afflictions have befallen us yet how sparingly have they been inflicted in comparison with his blessings. I join heartily in your prayer that we may suffer every thing rather than depart from him! I think you should feel encouraged to leave every thing in his hands. “O tarry thou the Lords leisure; be strong & he shall comfort thine heart; and put thy trust in the Lord.”[1] You must not be Cast down by reverses. They must Come, to shew us our weakness, our dependence & to call forth renewed exertion. The enemy is very numerous & still increasing & is able by his superiority of numbers to move at pleasure. Still I trust he may not be permitted to have every thing his own way & that his Course will at last have an end. A sudden change has occurred in the weather. Last night was very Cold & it Continues this morg. I fear you will suffer travelling at night in such weather. You will find the house almost vacant. I think Shirley is the only one present. Custis & Major Cox are down here & Capt Leigh & Sweet Annie are next door I am told, in Mrs Randolph’s house. I wish I had some safe & quiet place to which you Could retire. Richmond will be the scene of great excitement, & probably of danger & distress. I think if there is any place near where you are in which you Can remain, you had better do so. I have just had a visit from Mr Collins. He says the people at the White House & Romankoke are well. Old John at the former & Seneca at the latter died this year. The enemy when they visited WestPoint in the summer, drove off their Cows &c & took their meat, still they have enough. Mr Moore was pillaged also, but from his account all have done & are doing better than I Could have expected. They carried off Fleming & kept him about a fortnight when he escaped. He made two trips to Washington & they tried to get him to join the army, offered him bounty &c. He refused. He learned that one of the young men from R. had joined the army & lost his leg. Edmund, Flemings son who had gone off with his Grd mother had died, & about half of the others since they left their homes. I hope the rest will do well. Tell Agnes & Mildred I enjoyed their letters very much, but have not yet had time to reply. I will when I can. Give much love to my dear daughters, & kindest regards to Dr Mrs Cocke & all the family.

Very truly & affy yours

R E Lee

Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L 51 c 547, Section 28, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward 2022 June 30


[1] Psalms 27:14.

Robert E. Lee to George Washington Custis Lee, 1864 September 18

Camp 18 Sept ’64

My dear Custis

I want you to try on the boots you shewed me the day I left Richmond & if you like them Keep them. If you do not send them to me by Conner. Please forward the enclosed letter to your mother. Genl Beauregard returned this morg from Wilmington. He states he found things better than he expected, Genls Whiting & Hébert[1] shewing no signs of Conduct attributed to them. Some parts of defences weak. Good artillerists wanting & I think from all I learn there is a want of organization in the field Arty & Infy. As soon as I get his written statement I shall go to work. I shall have a Conversation with him tomorrow in reference to the Subject the President desired.



Source: Transcribed from digital scan of original letter, Robert E. Lee Papers, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 June 28


[1] Louis Hébert (1820-1901), the son of a Louisiana sugar planter and graduate of the US Military Academy. Initially the colonel of the 3rd Louisiana regiment, he served at the battles of Wilson’s Creek in 1861 and Pea Ridge in 1862 and was captured at Vicksburg and eventually released. In the fall of 1863, he was assigned to command the heavy artillery at Fort Fisher and the surrounding area.

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