Ft. Monroe 28th November 1833

Dear Jack

I flatter myself it is entirely useless, or as Captain Fabius would more elegantly express it, it is surely a work of superrogation, to allude even in the remotest manner to any part of your last letter, Seeing that its contents must have as entirely passed from your recollection as from mine. I have more than once thought of telling you this before. But the tone of your last said too plainly that the muscles of your body were in a measure relaxed & to be comprehended, I must wait till they were braced by the cool weather. Therefore Jack I have comforted myself by practising, what you so strongly recommend. ‘Paciencia’ & what you say you have adopted as your motto, at least on Surveying, which however efficacious it may prove on the Savannah, does not so entirely answer on these more Northern, when a man is expecting letters from his Friends, I exhort you therefore to a contrary course in my case, and now I think of it I have a little news to relate. There are Eight Companies ordered from here to Alabama. Aye, the Alabama, Captain Whitings, Gardners, Fraziers, Gatts, Mackays (In comd. of Riggole [George Hay Ringgold[1] (1814-1864), Washingtons, Porters & Griswolds, Qmr. Dusenbury, Adjt. J. E. Johnston, Surgeons Berry and Heiskell[2] under command of Major Heileman. This sweeps the Point excepting Capt. Lyons Compy & a few of the Standards. Two ships are now in the Roads, arrived this morng to take them to Savannah, whence they will go to Augusta in S. Boats[3] & march across to Ft. Mitchell. There are now coming to the wharf 71 Recruits, Bob Temple and Dr. Macomb, to fill out the compies. An officer has been sent to Phila. to hasten on some part of the new uniform for the men, So that they will go as fine as a fiddle and astonish the natives with their brilliant Epaulettes, flowing Plumes, & bright stripes. The Band is also to accompany them & is to be used to entice the squatters into their own Country. Col Eustis is ordered to expidite their embarkation and will then have a furlough. I begg Genl. Macombs pardon, a leave of absence, for three months, to see after matters on his Estates — Mackay, I long to see you a Colonel. It would be so good for you my child – & as a recompense for his arduous duties. As you may suppose every one is in busy preparation, & the younger offrs in great glee, purchasing tin cups, flasks and what not, Burnishing their pumps & Gold chains, & parading their Blankets. Hope you know is a Goddess that lives in activity. I take it they calmly consider the matter in their Berths, they will not see the great pleasure of the squatter Hunt. But the poor Ladies Jack, require all your sympathy. They are now all Niobes & will prove themselves Penelopes. Among them are Three Brides, and one of them not more than a week old. Besides some others, that are quite as pretty & of as tender feelings, some others again are more advanced, & their Husbands upon their return will be welcomed by one more, than they take leave of. What a picture Mackay for a Bachelor of your tender heart – I am to console them, & am in the right disposition to sympathize with them as Mrs. Lee and her little lamb[4] are at Arlington. The Miss Masons are well & as sweet as ever. I shall say to them this winter all kinds of things for you. Will you do me the same favour with Miss Mackays & Andersons, your Mother, Aunt, Sisters &c. It is needless to tell you that I have galloped this off in great haste. I will write by J. E. Johnston & my present object was to have you in the way when the troops arrived. There are two new comps ordered here, one from Boston, Capt. Anderson & one from N. London Capt. Thurston.


Believe me as ever,

R. E. Lee


Addressed to Lt. John Mackay

U.S. Artillery, Savannah, Georgia


Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 3, M2009.181, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 September 2



[1] George Hay Ringgold (1814-1864) graduated from West Point in 1833. His father was Congressman Samuel Ringgold (1770-1829).

[2] Henry Lee Heiskell (1803-1855), a native of Virginia, and who was Acting Surgeon General of the Army during the Mexican War.

[3] Presumably he means steamboats.

[4] Lee is referring to George Washington Custis Lee, born 16 September 1832. Custis was the first child born to the Lees, who were married on 30 June 1831.