Lexington Va: 20 Decr ‘65


My dearest Markie

I only recd a few days since your letter of the 2nd Sept: accompg Thos: a Kemps imitation of Christ, which you kindly sent me.1 I have read some of your favourite chapters, & hope I may derive from the perusal of the book, the good you desire. I prefer the bible to any other book. There is enough in that, to satisfy the most ardent thirst for knowledge; to open the way to true wisdom; & to teach the only road to salvation & eternal happiness. It is not above human comprehension, & is sufficient to satisfy all its desires.

The difficulty is to conform the heart the mind & thoughts, to its teaching, & to obtain strength to bring the body under the Controul of its spirit.

The delay in my reception of your letter, was caused by its having been sent to Cumberland, whence it reached here, with the baggage of your Cousin M. who preceded it about ten days.

She arrived a fortnight since, accompd by Robert & Mildred. Agnes is in Richmond, helping Miss Sallie Warwick to get married, & Mary is with the Goldsboroughs, on the E. shore of Md.

I have been intending for some time to reply to your long kind letter of 4 Aug; but I have so much writing to do; & my occupations are so continuous, that I am compelled to defer replying to those, with whom I would prefer to communicate. I hope dear Markie that the anxieties, which then pressed upon you, have passed away. That you have found satisfactory schools for your nephews; that your neuralgia has left you, & that you have enjoyed peace & tranquility of mind. I cannot tell you how deeply I have sympathized in your sorrows; how I have grieved over your great grief; & how sincerely I have prayed, that the Almighty hand of our Merciful Father should be always extended to you. In looking back upon the calamities that have befallen us; I cannot trust my hand to write the feelings of my heart; but how in humble submission to His will, who never afflicts us unnecessarily, or punishes us without a merciful purpose. His will be done! I have endeavoured to do what is right, & in his eyes, it never can be made wrong.

You have been led into errour by the newspaper statements. I am not writing a history of the war. I am endeavouring to repair as far as possible the loss of my papers, records, reports, orders, &c, & desire if not prevented, to write the history of the Campaigns in Virga. If I complete it, I shall put it in the hands of some publisher, either here or abroad. I am very much obliged to you for your kind offer. But there will be no need of troubling you. My only object in writing, is that the truth should descend to posterity. Custis is quietly pursuing his duties as Profr of Engineering at the Mil: Institute. Our house cannot afford him a room under its roof, but he takes his meals with us. Robt: left us this morg. It was a great comfort to me to see him for a little time. He has been suffering much through the summer & Fall with fevers. He improved rapidly on his first arrival, & I hoped they had left him. But as he was preparing to leave us, they returned; much modified however, & were soon arrested. He considered it so important that he should be at Romankoke before the end of the year, that he left us this morg in the rain. Fitzhugh has leased the White House, & Robt; desires to commence farming at R—I hope he will make his bread.

I must leave dear Markie, to your cousin Mary, the narration of domestic matters. I have been obliged to write in haste, & with many interruptions. You must therefore make allowance for my rambling letter. I have endeavoured to get a photograph from Richmond, to send you, but have not succeeded. I have requested Agnes to bring some with her, but her arrival is uncertain, & I will not detain this for it.

with constant love & affection

I remain your Cousin

R E Lee       




Source: Scan of original letter, Letters of Robert E. Lee to Martha Custis Williams, 1844-1870, Huntington Library, San Marino, California              

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 September 26



1. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis was a Christian devotional book written by Kempis in the early 15th century. Kempis was a German priest who moved to the Netherlands, where died in 1471.