Near Fredericksburg

5 April 1863

Genl Stuart brought me this morning your letter of yesterday dear Mary. I am much better I think, in fact when the weather becomes so that I can ride out, I shall get quite well again. I am suffering with a bad cold as I told you, & was threatened the doctors thought with some malady which must be dreadful if it resembles its name, but which I have forgotten. So they bundled me up on Monday last & brought me over to Mr. Yerby’s1 where I have a comfortable room with Perry to attend to me. I have not been so very sick, though have suffered a good deal of pain in my chest, back, & arms. It came on in paroxysms, was quite sharp & seemed to me to be a mixture of your’s & Agnes’ diseases, from which I infer they are catching & that I fell a victim while in R[ichmond]. But they have passed off I hope, some fever remains, & I am enjoying the sensation of a complete saturation of my system with quinine. The doctors are very attentive & kind & have examined my lungs, my heart, my circulation, &c. I believe they pronounce me tolerable sound.  They have been tapping me all over like an old steam boiler before condemning it. I am about a mile from my camp & my handsome aids ride over with the papers after breakfast which I labour through by 3 p.m., when Mrs. Neal sends me some good soup or something else which is more to my taste than the doctors pills. I am in need of nothing. I have tea & sugar & all that I want. My brother officers too have been very kind. Some have sent me apples, some butter from the Valley, others turkey, tongue, hams sweet potatoes, &c. so it seems to me I had better remain sick. But I should enjoy your company very much & should much prefer my little Agnes to Perry. I am not however altogether destitute. Mr Yerby is very kind & is a perfect Sir Charles Grandison2 in manner. He has a married son living with him & the young wife of course has a baby. Then there is Mrs. Neal & a Capt & Mrs. McIntyre & their two daughters, relatives, refugees from Fredericksburg. The whole family came in one day to see me. The baby & black George besides. They expressed great sympathy for my condition, & Mrs N[eal] thought she could make me a cotton shirt, that would extract all the pain out of me. But the doctor lacked confidence, & I was wanting in faith so the scheme fell through. Thank Mr. and Mrs. Caskie for their kind invitation. My thoughts have reverted very often to their pleasant house, & I have imagined how comfortable I should be in the sick room, with Miss Nannie & Norvell running in to enquire my wants. But then I thought they might not run in as often as they did when it was previously occupied, & that would be dreadfully mortifying. I shall therefore have to remain where I am as long as I can attend to my duty. When I cannot I must then give it up to others. But I think I shall be well soon & in the meantime must suffer, & I do not see how you can relieve me. Soldiers you know are born to suffer & they cannot escape it. I am still confined to my room. I am very glad to hear you are better, & trust you will go on to improve. We had a terrible snow storm last night which continued this morning. It caught Fitzhugh’s brigade on the march, I fear, & I apprehend both men & horses suffered last night, as they were probably without tents, &c. I thought the late fine weather might bring Mr. Hooker over, as he has been so anxious, but he stands fast yet awhile. I am glad Mary is well, but grieve for our poor people who have been so plundered. There is a just God in Heaven, who will make things right in time. To Him we must trust & for that we must wait.

Remember me very kindly to all with you. Give much love to Agnes & believe me

Always yours                  

R E Lee




1. Thomas Yerby (1798-1868), who owned “Belvoir,” a two-story brick plantation house a mile from Hamilton’s Crossing, where Lee was brought from his headquarters on March 31 to recover from his heart attack. The house was used as a hospital for wounded men after the battle of Fredericksburg. Generals Stonewall Jackson and Richard Ewell, as well as Lee, spent time at the house during the war. On Yerby’s house, see Jon Hennessy, “Belvoir: The Thomas Yerby Place Spotsylvania County,” available at His son, Thomas Pratt Yerby (1837-1907) was married to Jane Dickinson Yerby (1837-1919), a native of Carroll County, Virginia. They were married in July of 1860 and had had children in 1861 and 1862. Thomas was drafted into the service and was captured by Union forces in the last few days of the war and hospitalized with chronic dysentery.   

2. Reference to the novel The History of Sir Charles Grandison by Samuel Richardson, published in 1753.



Source: Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, ed., The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, 427-429

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2022 January 31