Head Quarters Near Culpeper CH Va

August 21st 1863


My Dear Mother

It seems that our communications are destined to be few & far between, as your answer to my letter, written to you from Richmond, I received but the other day, it was sent up to me by Custis.

The weather to day is intensely hot so much so, that every one & every thing, man, beast, & vegetable matter is entirely prostrated. 

To day being Fast Day,1 all the Regts in the Brigade have had “preaching” We “big bugs” at Hd Qrs went to hear Chaplain Taylor of the 10th Va Cav, Major R A Caskie comdg, who preached the finest sermon I have heard since the war. His text was from Matthew “And his Disciples went & told Jesus” Speaking of the time the Disciples of John the Baptist went & put their sorrow & trust in Jesus after John had been beheaded, Mr Taylor urged us all, being now in a great national calamity, to go as a nation & as individuals, to Jesus & trust to him to bless our efforts for redress

He also read the Proclamation of Our President & the order of Genl Lee before the Sermon. The congregation was very large & very attentive.

I hope & pray that our Good Lord will hear his people this day & give them speedy delivery from the hands of their enemies.

Our Army, all of it except the Cavalry, is on the south bank of the Rapidan stretched along from Orange C H to Fredericksburg. The Cavalry Division is between the Rapidan, on one side, the Rapahannock [sic] & Hazel Rivers on the other. Where I am writing now is about three or four miles from a Yankee Division camped on this side of the Rapk, where the Rail Road crosses, & I hear their drums very distinctly morning, noon, & night.

The whole of our Div is on picket you may say, liable to be attacked at any moment by an overwhelming force our horses getting very little to eat & the men not much more, while the Infantry are lying safe & at ease twenty miles from us to the rear enjoying all the vegetables of the season & an abundance of meat & bread & corn oats & hay for their mules & horses Still the Cavalry is “no earthly account” never does anything. The truth is we do all the hard work of the Army. But I am perfectly content with it for their [sic] is a sort of fascination & freedom in this branch which is delightful.

I see by the yankee papers to day that “Miss Catherine Burke formerly the property of Custis Lee, but set free by a clause in Lee’s Grandmother’s Will, has reached Washington in safety & informs one of the high officials that the Lee family are in a dreadful state of excitement on account of the imprisonment of Fitzhugh the Genls son & that Lee threatens to resign if the Government (Yankee) takes any retaliatory measures with him on account of those officers confined in Richmond” the young Lady aforesaid is spoken of as being very intelligent.

I spent an eveine & night at Hickory Hill when I came up & they were all delighted to see me & I enjoyed my short visit very much.

I also spent two nights & day with Pa;

He was very well & in Good Spirits & did not seem at all demoralized. He was very anxious to see you all & expressed himself glad to se his youngest son once more

I must now close my ragged epistle my dear mother with a Kiss to all my Relations at the Hot

I remain ever your son

Robert E Lee



1. See Lee’s General Orders No. 83 of August 13, https://leefamilyarchive.org/9-family-papers/74-general-orders-no-83-1863-august-13

2. For more on Catherine Burke and her relationship with the Lee family, see Elizabeth Pryor, Reading the Man, 124.



Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 473, Section 23, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 May 20