Coosawhatchie, S.C.

22 Decr 1861


I recd last night dear Mary your letter of the 12th & am delighted to learn that you are all well & so many of you are together. I am much pleased that F[itzhugh] has an opportunity to be with you all & will not be so far removed from his home in his new field of action. I hope to see him at the head of a fine regiment & that he will be able to do good service in the cause of his country.

If Mary & Rob get to you Xmas you will have quite a family party especially if F[itzhugh] is not obliged to leave his home & sweet wife before that time. I shall think of you all on that holy day more intensely than usual & shall pray to the great God of Heaven to show his blessings upon you in this world & to unite you all in his courts in the world to come with a grateful heart I thank him for his presentation of you thus far & trust to his mercy & kindness for the future. Oh that I was more worthy, more thankful for all he has done & continues to do for me!

I think my last letter should have reached you before you wrote & also one to Annie. The mails I perceive are very slow now, caused I presume by the heavy transportation on the R. Roads which prevents connections at their different termini. I do not know what to tell you or what I can say more than I do. I am very well & as comfortable as I can be. The people here are very kind & polite, are much exercised about their property & people, but do not seem to realize the necessity of exertion on their part to arrest the evil or defend themselves, but are willing to leave that to others. In fact we have all at the south had so easy & comfortable a time, that it is difficult for us to practice the self denial & labour necessary for our present position. It will require misfortune & suffering I fear to induce us to do what we ought in this respect. Perry & Meredith1 are very well & do pretty well. The former you know is very lackydaisical in his operations. Means well but never objects to getting rid of work & permits you to do as much of his business as you choose. Meredith is very willing & if he was with some one to teach & superintend him, & had a special nurse to keep him clean & decent would be very valuable. I have quite a Household when all my staff are present. Capt Washington Adjt Genl, Major Long, Ordne & Arty Capt Ives Engr Capt Taylor Asst Adt Genl. Capts Moffit & Walker Aids [sic] de Camp, Mr Meminger clerk.2 All of these gentleman however except three have their special servants, but Perry is our dining room svt & M. the Cook. We have but two meals a day. Breakfast at 8 am & dinner at 6 P. M. The hungry ones have a bunch of what they can find, but I reserve myself for dinner. Our fair is plain, but enough & we have appetites that make every thing palatable. At night we enjoy our camp beds & blankets & I endeavour to get into mine by 11 P.M. I am not always allowed to remain in mine till morg, & last night was aroused twice. I am sure you will never want for information now. I have given M. his letter at which he seemed much pleased. You had better invite Custis to visit you Xmas. During my late visit to Charleston I saw Col & Mrs Talcott with their daughter Fanny. I enjoyed their compy very much, as I was out all day would sit in their room with them an hour or so at night. The Col is one of the best men in the world. Mrs. T. was a little complaining at the world. The former said as there was nothing he could do in Va, he was making arrangements to prosecute his work in Mexico. I happened to arrive in C. the night of the great fire & was fortunate in getting them to a place of safety.3 As regards our enemy I am sure you see all his movements in the papers. His last act has been to block up the entrance to Charleston by sinking from 14 to 17 stone vessels in the main channel over the bar. They cannot wall up the waters of the sea & they will make themselves a channel somewhere. It shows however their pusalanimity & their despair of getting possession of the city, as they could not make use of the harbour if they did even to bring in their own provisions. I do not know where I shall be as I am extended over a long coast. But write here

Perry & Meredith send their respects to all. Give much love to every body. Tell F I do not know that I [c]an write to him this time. How are your friends? Truly & affy

R E Lee




Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Mss1 L51 c 329, Section 16, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 May 17    


1. Two of Lee’s body servants.

2. Thornton Augustine Washington was born 1826 January 22 in Virginia. He was educated at West Point and Princeton and joined Lee’s staff in November of 1861. He died in Washington, D.C., on 1894 July 10. General Armistead Lindsay Long (1825-1891) was also a native of Virginia. A West Pointer, Long became close to General Lee and served in the major campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. He surrendered with the army at Appomattox. Joseph Christmas Ives (1829-1868) was an explorer and botanist before the war. True to his name, he was born on Christmas Day in New York in 1829. He served for several years as one of Jefferson Davis’ aides in Richmond. He died in New York City. Walter Herron Taylor is one of Lee’s better known staff officers. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on 1838 June 13 and attended VMI before joining Lee’s staff on 1861 December 10. He served with Lee for the rest of the war and died in 1916. George Hall Moffett was born in South Carolina in 1829. In addition to Lee’s staff, he also served with Charles Simonton’s South Carolina brigade and with General Johnson Hagood, who fought in major battles with South Carolina troops in the Army of Northern Virginia before being transferred to Fort Fisher. Moffett died in Charleston in 1875. “Walker” is likely Joseph Walker of South Carolina. Christopher Memminger, Jr., was the son of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury. Born in 1840, he was a native of Charleston. He lived in New York City and Florida after the war. He died in 1905 and is buried in North Carolina.         

3. A serious fire swept through Charleston on 1861 December 11. Lee was staying at the Mills House Hotel when it happened.