Burke, Fairfax Co.,



December 14, 1908


Dr. Thomas Nelson Page,

1759 – R Street, N.W.,

Washington, D.C.


My dear Dr. Page:

In response to your request to ascertain from the family of General Robert E. Lee the foundation for the statement made by the late General Fitzhugh Lee in his life of General Robert E. Lee and by the late Dr. Hunter McGuire in the report of the History Committee, appointed by the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans, published under the title “The Confederate Cause,” etc., that General Lee set his own slaves free before the war, I applied on Saturday to General G. W. C. Lee, his eldest son, and he gave me the following information: That General Robert E. Lee inherited three or four families of slaves and “let them go.”

The reason that no formal paper was executed at that time was that he did not wish any question to arise as to their being compelled to leave Virginia. His recollection is that certainly one of them went to Liberia. This liberation of them happened “a long time before the war.” Acting under the provisions in the will of Major G. W. P. Custis, of which he was executor, he set free the negroes which belonged to that estate in the winter of 1862-63.

Very sincerely yours,

R. E. Lee, Jr.




Source: Lee Family Papers, Mss2 L5151 a 1, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 February 9