Camp at Valley River,

14 Sept 1861


My dear Edward,

I have the most melancholy tidings to communicate. Our friend Col John A. Washington yesterday met his death by the fire from the enemy’s picket. He accompanied my son Fitzhugh on a reconnoitering expedition & I fear was carried too for by his zeal for the cause of the South which he had so much at heart. Before they were aware they were fired upon by a concealed party who fired about 40 shots at four men. He was the only person struck and fell dead from his horse. Three bullets went through Fitzhugh’s horse. The horse of one of the men was killed. I mounted Col. W’s horse and brought off his sword. The spot where the col fell was in range of the enemy’s cannon. I recd his body through the courtesy of the commanding General of the troops under a flag of truce this morning & now forward it to Manassas Junction where I hope you will meet it & have it interred as his family desire.

His death is a grievous affliction to me, but what must it be to his bereaved children and distressed relatives. The country has met with a great loss in his death. Our enemy’s [sic] have stamped their attack upon our rights, with additional infamy, by killing the lineal descendant and representation of him who under the guidance of Almighty God established them & by his virtues rendered our Republic immortal. I enclose a note for his daughter. May God have mercy on them all.

Truly & affly yours

R E Lee


Edward C Turner1




1. Edward Carter Turner, Sr. (1816-1891), was the owner of “Kinloch” in Fauquier County, Virginia (built in 1823) where the Lees stayed during the war.  




Source: Transcribed from scan of original letter, written by Lee staff officer, The Papers of Robert E. Lee, 1830-1870, University of Virginia Special Collections, Charlottesville

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 November 2