Head Qrs Lee Cav Brigade

Near Culpeper CH.

May 17 1863


My Darling Mother

I expect you are thinking now that you have the misfortune of having a very ingrateful & undutiful son; here he has been now nearly six weeks without writing you a line. And I must say I have done wrong, but I have a great many excuses to offer if any body can be excused for doing wrong. My last letter to you has never been answered, at least I have never received it. For that reason I put off writing for some time, & then we became so much engaged in the operations of Mr Stoneman1 that I could not have written if I wanted.

Our brigade moved yesterday from orange CH to this place. I remained behind to escort Mrs. Lee up.2 After waiting some three or four hours for the train, it came & the lady in question in it. She is looking very well indeed. She told me of your great suffering from the Rheumatism, for which I am very sorry indeed; and I pray that God in his mercy may relieve you from your suffering. I am in hopes that the presence of your Great & Good husband & this beautiful weather will cure you. I am very much obliged to you for the socks which sister says she has for me, though I have not received them yet. You have I suppose heard of Washy Stuart’s death; it is very sad indeed.3 Poor fellow he has had a hard time of it in this world, and I hope he may be repaid in the next. The very first fight he was in the battle of Winchester he was severely wounded & now this is the first action he had been engaged in since his recovery from his wound & from a very severe attack of typhoid fever, & it will be his last battle on this earth. You have seen an account of our actions in the last week or two when we were after Mr Stoneman. We had a very hard time, both as regards the men & the horses, but I think we gave him a good deal of trouble. We captured in one of the numerous skirmishes in which the brigade was engaged a Capt Owens, whom perhaps you remember being a Cadet at west Point.4 He was a classmate of Fitz Lee’s & knew Rooney in the old service. He recognized me when he first saw me, though I had no idea who he was. Give my love to pa & Agnes & tell Agnes I got her letter & will answer it very soon. Give my kindest regards to the Caskies & tell Miss Norvell, being in despair of ever hearing from her about the naming of my beautiful little black mare, I named her “Mink” which has shocked a great many of my lady friends, they declaring that it was a shame that such a beautiful creature should have such a horrid common name.

And now my dear mother I must bid you farewell for the present. All here send their love & Rooney says he will write to you today or tomorrow


From your son


R E Lee Jr



1. Taking his men west around Lee’s army, George Stoneman (1822-1894) conducted a cavalry raid during the Chancellorsville campaign that brought him close to Richmond. Joseph Hooker was not impressed with the results and felt Stoneman’s absence had contributed to his defeat. But the raid showed the increasing aggressiveness and confidence of the Federal cavalry.     

2. He is referring to Charlotte Lee, Rooney’s wife.

3. On Stuart’s death, see Robert E. Lee’s letter of 1864 May 14.

4. Captain Wesley Owens (1834-1867) was an Ohio-born soldier in the 5th US cavalry. As Rob notes, he was in the class of 1856 at the US Military Academy, where Rooney Lee was a classmate. He died in Suisun City, California.     



Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 448, Section 22, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 January 31