Camp Fredg

21 Decr ’62


My dear Mary

I have just recd your letters of the 11th & 19. The former written before your visit to Hickory hill & the latter on your return to Richmd. I am glad dear Chass is out of Richmond. I hope she will soon recover now. Tell her she must be very prudent & whenever she eats think of her Pa’a & his military family at sunrise & at dusk in the evg, with their tin plates & cups freezing to their fingers out of doors, enjoying their sup & tough biscuit, & restrain herself. I have not the same opinion of her judgment that she has. It only wants proper exercise. As regards the servants. Those that are hired out can soon be settled. They can be furnished with their free papers & hire themselves out. Those on the farms I will issue free papers to as soon as I can see that they can get a support. As long as they remain on the farms they must continue as they are. Any who wish to leave can do so. The men could no doubt find homes, but what are the women & children to do? As regards Mr. Collins he must remain & take care of the people till I can dispose of them some way. I desire to do what is right & best for the people. The estate is only indebted to me now. The legacies & debts are paid, & I wish to close the whole affair, but whether I can do so during the war I cannot say, nor do I know that I shall live to the end of it. I cannot give the date of your father’s will. The papers are not with me. Perhaps Custis can get at them. The will was probated before the County court of Alexa. Custis has also the bonds of the men who hired Reuben, &c when he returns see him about it. He will return with the Pres: who will be back before New Years day. I shall not issue any free passes to the people while they are on the farms. As long as they remain there they must work as usual. I will be willing to devote the net proceeds of their labour for the year to their future establishment. Those at Arlington & Alexa I Cannot now reach. They are already free & when I can get to them I will give them their papers. Thank Mr. C[askie] for his Kindness & give love to Agnes & kind remembrances to all friends. Tell Mrs. Conway I am very grateful for the prayers of her house. I feel that I require them all. That boy for Rob has arrived. Carter left this morg. Give love to Smith. Tell him he must not Concern himself about me. I have no time to think of my private affairs. I expect to die a pauper, & I see no way of preventing it. So that I can get enough for you & the girls I am content.

Truly & affy

R E Lee



Source: Photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 413, Section 20, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 April 4