Camp Orange 7 Aug 1863

My dear Custis

I have not been able to thank you for your letter of the 25th Ulto: I am glad to hear that my dear F__ is improving in health & that he will soon be restored & hope that he will enjoy that Comfort at least. I had Seen in the papers the intention announced by the Federal Govt: of holding him as a hostage for the two Captains selected to be shot. If it is right to shoot these men this should make no difference in their execution, but I have not thought it right to shoot them & differ in my ideas from most of our people in the subject of retaliation. Sometimes I know it to be necessary but it should be rarely resorted to at all times. In our Case policy dictates it should be avoided whenever possible. The opportunities as well as the desire of our enemies are so much greater than ours that they have the advantage & I believe it would be better in the end for us to suffer. Keep right in our own eyes, the eyes of the world, & the eyes of God & that justice would thereby be sooner done us, & our people would thus suffer less than if we took the opposite Course. My grief at the intention of the enemy as regards F__ of course was intensified. I believe them Capable of any enormity that meanness, pusalinimity [sic], & malice could invent, but I have not been able to bring myself to believe that even they could perpetrate such an act.

I am however powerless in the matter, & have only to suffer. Rob got up last evg. He wishes to Continue his journey to day. It would be a great Comfort to me if he Could remain, but I do not like to interfere especially as I Commenced the feeling that prompts him to go on. He says he has lost in his journey his pocket book & Some letters given him to Carry to the army. Did he leave them in R_. Among them was one from Margaret Stuart to me. Tell her I Cannot afford to lose it. She must make me another. Remember me to all friends. I have written twice to your mother since his departure for the H. S. [Hot Springs] & addressed her as she directed. But I fear there is no mail to that Country now. If you have an opportunity please inform her. Rob has given me your message concerning Mr. Collins. Under the Circumstances I think the best Course to be pursued is to let those who Can support themselves go with their families. The old people Can remain if they Choose. Cultivate their gardens fowls, pigs &c & I hope make a living. I do not know what else to do for them. If the farm be refurnished, it may be stripped the next day. The men could get work in Richmond or in the army & draw their own wages. Mr Collins Could get them their papers from the King Wm CtHouse. If he requires my authority in addition to [end of letter]




Source: Digital scan of original letter, The Papers of Robert E. Lee, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 June 3