Camp Fredg 6 March ’63

I recd two days since my dear Mary your letter of the 28 Ulto: & am grieved to hear that you are still suffering. I wish I Could be with you to nurse & attend to you though I fear I Could not be as efficient as the kind friends around you. I am in indifferent health myself & feel almost wornout, so that I fear I may be unable in the approaching campaign to go through the work before me. God I trust will give me relief in some way, & I pray that he may be ever with you & sustain you. Since my last letter to you, I have recd your letter of the 5th Feby. Col: Corley1 upon recg the package of socks & gloves sent them out to one of the divisions to be distributed to the most needy, not knowing it contained the letter. It was then discovered & found its way back to me. The socks I am told were excellent & the gloves very serviceable. You had better not send any more of the latter now but reserve them for next winter. I will send down by first opportunity the likeness cards for Mrs. Louise, for the sight of which you must thank her, but tell her I am sure she did not think I would bestow a look on those old men. Little Ella2 was with them all. I know nothing of Beverley, & am sorry for Cousin Mary’s trouble. I have heard lately from Fitzhugh & Charlotte & as I have not time to relate what they say will send their letters. Please burn them after perusal. Give much love to poor little Agnes. I hope her neuralgia has left her, & when you write to Mildred tell her how pleased I am at the character given of her by DrSmead.3 I hear nothing of Mary now. The enemy’s pickets are so closely posted & they exercise such vigilance in keeping all within their lines quiet that ingress & egress are now very difficult. You must expect our enemies to do us all the ill they can there & elsewhere. George4 does very well. You know he can be very smart when he chooses, & he now seems to choose. He has not at present a great deal to cook, but sufficient for our wants. A little meddling of bacon & rice, with bread & coffee. He is much better than our former cook. Thank Miss Emily5 for her pickles. Keep them for the present as we have some & they will be more wanted hereafter than now. Major Talcott has lately recd letters from his father & mother in Mexico.6 They were very well, comfortably established & the latters health better than it has been for years. She expects to go to England with Fannie, where Mary & Anna will join her.7 It will be necessary for the Col: to be there for some time to make the necessary contracts for iron, engines &c for his R. R. Remember me very kindly to the Caskies & all, friends

Truly your husband

R E Lee

P. S. I find Bryan8 is going down today & send the cards for Mrs. R. Carter, also a belt & sash sent me from Baltimore, which can be put in my trunks or left as they are with Mrs. Caskie if she will give them houseroom. I cannot wear them now, & have those more siuted [sic] to my present position. I send the note accompg them as it may amuse you in your suffering. I do not know tho who are the fair donors

R E Lee   


Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 436, Section 21, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 May 4

1. James Lawrence Corley (1829-1883), Chief Quartermaster. He was born 1829 October 5 in South Carolina and was married to Mary Coffin Riddell Corley (1840-1934). He died on 1883 March 28 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, Virginia.

2. Likely Ella Calvert Campbell (1840-1902) of Baltimore, who was living in Richmond and had given birth to a daughter the month before. The Calverts are mentioned regularly in Lee family correspondence. See Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee’s letter of 1863 March 27.

3. Lee is likely referring to Dr. Morgan J. Smead (1814-1871), a teacher and professor of languages at the College of William and Mary. Born in New York, he taught in Virginia for years and is listed in the 1860 as dwelling in Henrico, Virginia. He died in Athens, Georgia, and is buried in Wilmington, North Carolina.

4. One of several of Lee’s African American body servants with him during the war.

5. Likely Emily Virginia Mason (1815-1909), known as the “Florence Nightengale of the Confederacy” for her work with soldiers. She was a good friend of the Lee family.

6. Thomas Mann Randolph (1838-1920), one of Lee’s staff officers, who later rose to the rank of colonel. He was the son of Andrew Talcott (1797-1883), an engineer whom Lee knew for many years, and Harriet Randolph Hackley Talcott (1810-1888). Born in Philadelphia, Major Talcott was married to Nancy Carrington McPhall Talcott (1837-1922), with whom he had many children. He died in Richmond on 1920 May 7 and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery. The reference to Mexico has to do with the fact that Andrew Talcott had spent years in Mexio before the war and had gone back there in 1862 to work on a railroad project. He was captured in New York while traveling to the city with a railroad official to purchase supplies. He was accused of spying and imprisoned in Boston though later released.       

7. Frances Lewis Talcott was born in 1843 in Connecticut. Her sisters mentioned here are Mary Gray Talcott (1837-1921) and Ann Cary Talcott Boteslawski (1845-1906). 

8. Lee’s mess steward.