Coosawhatchie 4 Jany 1862


My dear Son,

I have recd your letter of the 30th ulto enclosing decree of the Court of appeals in reference to your Grd fathers will. I am glad the matter is determined & hope it will give satisfaction to all parties. What more I can do than I have done in the execution of the will I do not know, nor how I can expedite its completion during the continuance of the war I cannot see. I must leave it to you & Custis Fitzhugh to see to matters & to do justice to all parties. Unless the legacies are considered in the light of a debt of the Estate, the people must be emancipated at the close of this year. If the legacies form a part of the debt of the Estate then they must help to pay it by their work. This is the only part not clear to me & I will write to Mr Smith1 on the subject. As the sooner the debts & legacies are paid the sooner the boys F. & R. will get their property & the people their freedom & cannot receive it before, if any of all the people can by their hire pay more than by their labour on the White House & Romancoke tell F. I wish him to do so. All the hire of the Arlington people must go to this fund. I desire you so to apply it. If any account or return is necessary this year I wish you would make it out for me & hand it in. The war, condition of the Estate &c makes it impossible to act regularly &c. & I hope will be considered by the court. The services of the people at A[rlington] if there, cannot be obtained now, & nothing I presume can be done with them. If you have not a copy of the decree of the court, I wish you would get one from the clerk of the Court in Richmond for your guidance & also give one to F for his. We must try as well as the conditions of things will permit to carry out your dear Grd father’s wishes, of which the decree is the legal & final construction & must therefore be recd as his wishes & intentions.

I have also recd your letter of the 31st Ulto, enclosing forage returns, which I have signed & return. I take up the lack mare (Capt Taylors) as mine, being in my service & use. The dates I hope are right as I have no means of correcting them. As regards Richmond unless you have your full number of horses you had better return for him as long as he is with you, as it will save trouble & be all the same to the Govt in as much as I shall drop him. If you have your full number, I will send on returns for him. I am sorry to hear about his leg. Do not let him have too much grain. I fear he will be a great trouble to you, & if you cannot exercise him I do not know what will become of him. Give much love to every body. We are all well. No news. Enemy quiet & retired to his Isds: The main seemed too insecure for him & he never went 400 yds from his steamers, not even to the extent of the range of his guns. After burning some houses, three, on the river bank & feeling our proximity unpleasant, he retreated to Port Royal again. I hope we may always be able to keep him close. But he can ove with great facility & rapidity & land any where he can bring his steamers, & burn, pillage, & destroy, & we cannot prevent him. We lost one 12 pr. It was drawn by mules with negro drivers, so hard pressed are we for men, who became alarmed at the firing, upset the gun in a ditch, broke the carriage & had to be abandoned. It was an old English gun with G. R. on it & the carriage worthless. Do you hear of any more troops coming to me, or can any be sent. The Misspi regt: Col: Russell2 I understand has gone to Tennessee & I hear of more coming in its place. The S.C. troops came very slowly. Georgia has taken hers in the state service. Your affectionate father RE Lee




1. Francis Lee Smith (1808-1877), Lee’s attorney, who handled matters concerning Arlington. He was born in Warrenton, Virginia, but had family roots in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He married Sarah Gosnell Vowell (1813-1902) in April of 1836. She was the daughter of John C. (1767-1852) and Mary J. Smith Vowell (1773-1846) of Alexandria. Smith died in Alexandria and is buried there. Brothers—merchant, planter, and soldier Robert W. Smith (1817-1889) and Colonel Marshall J. Smith (1824-1904)—eventually moved to Alabama.

2. Daniel R. Russell (1821-187), who commanded the 20th Mississippi regiment. He was born in Washington, D.C., served as a lieutenant in the Mexican War, and worked as a lawyer. He traveled to Missouri in 1861 after Mississippi had seceded to try to persuade politicians there to leave the Union. He served with Lee during his unsuccessful foray into western Virginia in 1861. In December of that year, the 20th Mississippi was supposed to join Lee’s forces in South Carolina, but before they could get there, they were ordered west to assist Confederates in Tennessee. The regiment fought at Fort Donelson, where Russell was wounded and escaped capture, though most of his regiment was not so lucky. Russell served until August of 1863, when he resigned due to “indigestion, diarrhea and general disability.” He died 1870 June 6 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Carrollton, Mississippi. See Bruce S. Allardice, Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008), 330.   



Source: Transcription of scanned original letter, Robert E. Lee Papers, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University      

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2021 October 29