Hd Qrs Lee’s Cav Brigade

January 18th 1863

My dear Sister,


I am almost alone here today, so I think I can employ my self in no better way than in writting [sic] to you.

I suppose by this time you have heard of our eventful journey up to Senator Hunter’s.1 How the mules would go in the Ferry-boat & how the ambulance would’nt, & consequently how the two parted in disgust, the mules swimming across the River with the fore wheels; while the rest of the ambulances with Mrs Lee’s bonnet box bonnet, cloak, furs, saucepan, Sallie’s carpet bags, my blankets, coats, bottles, straw, &c &c remained in the River where it stayed untill [sic] the united efforts of the whole party proper, & two other gentleman who happened to be there, to gether with a yoke of oxen & a old darkey drew it dripping out on the same bank we started from. Imagine our situation Mrs Lee her maid standing on the bank watching the three mules & the fore wheels in the distant cornfield & taking with them all our hopes of reaching Mr. Hunter’s that night. All our baggage dripping water thrown promiscuously about the ferry-boat & the male portion of the party rather fatigued, rather wet, & bitterly thinking of the mossy when we would be laughed at for not being able to take care of two females were seated or standing about looking very low. However we sent after the mules, & fresh dry straw & I built a fire for Sister to warm her self by & then we eat our wet lunch & some very nice apples a kind stranger pitying us in our distress, had given us.

After waiting for an hour or so talking over our Accident & how providential it had been that sister had gotten out of the ambulance before it descended into the River; and sister frequently recurring to that “Gem from a Northern Paper” which she sent you all at Hickory Hill, & wondering what you all would say about it, the time passed very quickly & we were soon very much relieved to see a wagon with fresh dry straw & our three mules approaching. We soon then brought the ambulance over in the boat & hitched up our cattle put in the straw & our baggage ladies maids & all & away we went all right again.

In the mean while Mr Hart, as Uncle Williams calls him, haveing [sic] procured a canteen of liquer, somehow or other before he started, had been imbibing pretty freely of it; especially after his peculiar method of putting an ambulance & mules across a ferry had been fully displayed & becoming quite disageable. I asked him if he wasnt cold & would’nt like to walk a little while & warm himself while I drove to which he assented & drove off & left him on the road. We were then some 12 miles from our journey’s end & it was getting very late; so by standing up & whipping the mules continually & mos[t] unmercifully I kept them at a pretty swift gait untill [sic] we got to Mr Hunter’s by dark where we met Rooney & staff just coming out to meet us.

I have been over there since & have taken out all the ladies to see the drill in the hearse, with which together with the driver they were very much pleased. Sister is delighted seemingly with her hostess & her family & seems to be enjoying herself very much.

The Hunters, all of them, are very kind and considerate.

You see I have made up for my non-communications while I was with you, by giving you a long, interesting & detailed account of our journey

Remember me kindly to all my cousins there with you & especially to cousin Annie Jr & believe me

your loving brother



PS The Gen sends his love to all & says Charlotte sent the wrong direction it is as follows

Brig Gen W H F Lee’s Brigade of Cav

Army of Northern Virginia

(via Richmo)nd




1. Referring to “Fonthill,” in Essex County, Virginia, owned by planter and politician Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter (1807-1888). Hunter was a native of Essex County. The son of James Hunter (1774-1826) and Maria Garnett Hunter (1777-1811), he was born at “Mount Pleasant” plantation and was a descendant of the First Families of Virginia. He attended UVA before enrolling in Winchester Law School. Before the war, he served in Congress as both a representative (and Speaker of the House) and U.S. Senator. In 1860, he owned more than 100 slaves. He served as the Confederate Secretary of State from 1861-1862 and later in the Senate. After the war, he served as the state treasurer of Virgnia. He was married to Mary Evelina Dandridge (1817-1893).   



Source: Transcribed from original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 428, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 August 29