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Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son


Chapter X
President of Washington College

Patriotic motives for acceptance of trust--Condition of college--The
General's arrival at Lexington--He prepares for the removal of his
family to that city--Advice to Robert Junior--Trip to "Bremo" on
private canal-boat--Mrs. Lee's invalidism

About this time my father received from the Board of Trustees of
Washington College a notification of his election to the presidency
of that institution, at a meeting of the board held in Lexington,
Virginia, on August 4, 1865.  The letter apprising him of the action
was presented by Judge John W. Brockenborough, rector of the college.
This was a complete surprise to my father.  He had already been offered
the vice-chancellorship of the "University of the South," at Sewanee,
Tennessee, but declined it on the ground that it was denominational,
and to some suggestions that he should connect himself with the
University of Virginia he objected because it was a State institution.

Washington College had started as an academy in 1749.  It was the first
classical school opened in the Valley of Virginia.  After a struggle
of many years, under a succession of principals and with several
changes of site, it at length acquired such a reputation as to attract
the attention of General Washington.  He gave it a handsome endowment,
and the institution changed its name from "Liberty Hall Academy" to
Washington College.  In the summer of 1865, the college, through the
calamities of civil war, had reached the lowest point of depression
it had ever known.  Its buildings, library, and apparatus had suffered
from the sack and plunder of hostile soldiery.  Its invested funds,
owing to the general impoverishment throughout the land, were for the
time being rendered unproductive and their ultimate value was most
uncertain.  Four professors still remained on duty, and there were
about forty students, mainly from the country around Lexington.  It
was not a State institution, nor confined to any one religious
denomination, so two objections which might have been made by my father
were removed.  But the college in later years had only a local
reputation.  It was very poor, indifferently equipped with buildings,
and with no means in sight to improve its condition.

"There was a general expectation that he would decline the position
as not sufficiently lucrative, if his purpose was to repair the ruins
of his private fortune resulting from the war; as not lifting him
conspicuously enough in the public gaze, if he was ambitious of office
or further distinction; or as involving too great labour and anxiety,
if he coveted repose after the terrible contest from which he had just
emerged." [Professor E. S. Joynes]

He was very reluctant to accept this appointment, but for none of
the above reasons, as the average man might have been.  Why he was
doubtful of undertaking the responsibilities of such a position his
letter of acceptance clearly shows.  He considered the matter carefully
and then wrote the following letter to the committee:

                                 "Powhatan County, August 24, 1865.

"Gentlemen:  I have delayed for some days replying to your letter of
the 5th inst., informing me of my election by the board of trustees
to the presidency of Washington College, from a desire to give the
subject due consideration.  Fully impressed with the responsibilities
of the office, I have feared that I should be unable to discharge its
duties to the satisfaction of the trustees or to the benefit of the
country.  The proper education of youth requires not only great ability,
but I fear more strength than I now possess, for I do not feel able
to undergo the labour of conducting classes in regular courses of
instruction.  I could not, therefore, undertake more than the general
administration and supervision of the institution.  I could not,
therefore, undertake more than the general administration and
supervision of the institution.  There is another subject which has
caused me some serious reflection, and is, I think, worthy of the
consideration of the board.  Being excluded from the terms of amnesty
in the proclamation of the President of the United States, of the
29th of May last, and an object of censure to a portion of the country,
I have thought it probable that my occupation of the position of
president might draw upon the college a feeling of hostility; and I
should, therefore, cause injury to an institution which it would be
my highest desire to advance.  I think it the duty of every citizen,
in the present condition of the country, to do all in his power to
aid in the restoration of peace and harmony, and in no way to oppose
the policy of the State or general government directed to that object.
It is particularly incumbent on those charged with the instruction of
the young to set them an example of submission to authority, and I
could not consent t be the cause of animadversion upon the college.
Should you, however, take a different view, and think that my services
in the position tendered to me by the board will be advantageous to
the college and country, I will yield to your judgement and accept it;
otherwise, I must most respectfully decline the office.  Begging you
to express to the trustees of the college my heartfelt gratitude for
the honour conferred upon me, and requesting you to accept my cordial
thanks for the kind manner in which you have communicated their
decision, I am, gentlemen, with great respect, your most obedient
servant,                                 R. E. Lee"

To present a clearer view of some of the motives influencing my father
in accepting this trust--for such he considered it--I give an extract
from an address on the occasion of his death, by Bishop Wilmer, of
Louisiana, delivered at the University of the South, at Sewanee,
Tennessee:

"I was seated," says Bishop Wilmer, "at the close of the day, in my
Virginia home, when I beheld, through the thickening shades of evening,
a horseman entering the yard, whom I soon recognised as General Lee.
The next morning he placed in my hands the correspondence with the
authorities of Washington College at Lexington.  He had been invited
to become president of that institution.  I confess to a momentary
feeling of chagrin at the proposed change (shall I say revulsion?) in
his history.  The institution was one of local interest, and
comparatively unknown to our people.  I named others more conspicuous
which would welcome him with ardour at the presiding head.  I soon
discovered that his mind towered above these earthly distinctions;
that, in his judgement, the CAUSE gave dignity to the institution,
and not the wealth of its endowment or the renown of its scholars;
that this door and not another was opened to him by Providence, and
he only wished to be assured of his competency to fulfil his trust
and this to make his few remaining years a comfort and blessing to
his suffering country.  I had spoken to his human feelings; he had
now revealed himself to me as one 'whose life was hid with Christ
in God.'  My speech was no longer restrained.  I congratulated him
that his heart was inclined to this great cause, and that he was
prepared to give to the world this august testimony to the importance
of Christian education.  How he listened to my feeble words; how he
beckoned me to his side, as the fulness of heart found utterance;
how his whole countenance glowed with animation as I spoke of the
Holy Ghost as the great Teacher, whose presence was required to make
education a blessing, which otherwise might be the curse of mankind;
how feelingly he responded, how ELOQUENTLY, as I never heard him
speak before--can never be effaced from memory; and nothing more
sacred mingles with my reminiscences of the dead."

The board of trustees, on August 31st, adopted and sent to General
Lee resolutions saying that, in spite of his objections, "his connection
with the institution would greatly promote its prosperity and advance
the general interest of education, and urged him to enter upon his
duties as president at his earliest convenience."

My father had had nearly four years' experience in the charge of young
men at West Point.  The conditions at that place, to be sure, were very
different from those at the one to which he was now going, but the work
in the main was the same--to train, improve and elevate.  I think he was
influenced, in making up his mind to accept this position, by the great
need of education in his State and in the South, and by the opportunity
that he saw at Washington College for starting almost from the
beginning, and for helping, by his experience and example, the youth
of his country to become good and useful citizens.

In the latter part of September, he mounted Traveller and started alone
for Lexington.  He was four days on the journey, stopping with some
friend each night.  He rode into Lexington on the afternoon of the
fourth day, no one knowing of his coming until he quietly drew up and
dismounted at the village inn.  Professor White, who had just turned
into the main street as the General halted in front of the hotel,
said he knew in a moment that this stately rider on the iron-gray
charger must be General Lee.  He, therefore, at once went forward, as
two or three old soldiers gathered around to help the General down,
and insisted on taking him to the home of Colonel Reid, the professor's
father-in-law, where he had already been invited to stay.  My father,
with his usual consideration for others, as it was late in the
afternoon, had determined to remain at the hotel that night and go to
Mr. Reid's in the morning; but yielding to Captain White's (he always
called him "Captain," his Confederate title) assurances that all was
made ready for him, he accompanied him to the home of his kind host.

The next morning, before breakfast, he wrote the following letter to
my mother announcing his safe arrival.  The "Captain Edmund" and "Mr.
Preston" mentioned in it were the sons of our revered friend and
benefactress Mrs. E. R. Cocke.  Colonel Preston and Captain Frank were
her brother and nephew:

                                    "Lexington, September 19, 1865.

"My Dear Mary:  I reached here yesterday about one P.M., and on riding
up to the hotel was met by Professor White, of Washington College, who
brought me up to his father-in-law's, Colonel Reid, the oldest member
of the trustees of the college, where I am very comfortably quartered.
To-day I will look out for accommodations elsewhere, as the Colonel
has a large family and I fear I am intruding upon his hospitality.  I
have not yet visited the college grounds.  They seem to be beautifully
located, and the buildings are undergoing repairs.  The house assigned
to the president, I am told, has been rented to Dr. Madison (I believe),
who has not been able to procure another residence, and I do not know
when it will be vacated, nor can I tell you more about it.  I saw
Mrs. and Colonel Preston, Captain Frank, and his sister.  All the family
are well.  I shall go after breakfast to inquire after my trunks.  I
had a very pleasant journey here.  The first two days were very hot,
but, reaching the mountain region the third day, the temperature was
much cooler.  I came up in four days' easy rides, getting to my
stopping-place by one P.M. each day, except the third, when I slept
on top of the Blue Ridge, which I reached at three P.M.  The scenery
was beautiful all the way.  I am writing before breakfast, and must
be short.  Last night I found a blanket and coverlid rather light
covering, and this morning I see a fire in the dining-room.  I have
thought much of you all since I left.  Give much love to the girls and
Custis and remember me to all at 'Oakland.'

                 "Most affectionately yours,    R. E. Lee.

"Mrs. R. E. Lee."

When he first arrived, the family, very naturally, stood a little in
awe of him.  This feeling, however, was soon dispelled, for his simple
and unaffected manners in a short while put them at ease.  There were
some little children in the house, and they and the General at once
became great friends.  With these kind and hospitable friends he
stayed several days.  After being present at a meeting of the board
of trustees, he rode Traveller over to the Rockbridge Baths--eleven
miles from Lexington--and from there writes to my mother, on September
25th:

"...Am very glad to hear of Rob's arrival.  I am sorry that I missed
seeing the latter, but find it was necessary that I should have been
present at the meeting of the board of trustees on the 20th.  They
adjourned on the eve of the 21st, and on the morning of the 22d I
rode over here, where I found Annie and Miss Belle [Mrs. Chapman Leigh
and Miss Belle Harrison, of Brandon, both very dear friends and cousins
of my father]....  The babies [Mrs. Leigh's] are well and sweet.  I have
taken the baths every day since my arrival, and like them very much.
In fact, they are delightful, and I wish you were all here to enjoy
them....  Annie and Belle go in two, and sometimes three, times a day.
Yesterday I procured some horses and took them up to the top of Jump
Mountain, where we had one of the most beautiful views I ever saw.
To-day I could get but one horse, and Miss Belle and I rode up Hays
Creek Valley, which possessed beauties of a different kind.  I shall
return to Lexington on the 29th.  I perceive, as yet, no change in my
rheumatic affection....  Tell Custis I am much obliged to him for his
attention to my baggage.  All the articles enumerated by him arrived
safely at Colonel Reid's Thursday morning early.  I also received the
package of letters he sent....  I hope he may receive the appointment
at the V. M. I.  Everyone interested has expressed a desire he should
do so, and I am more desirous than all of them.  If he comes by land,
he will find the route I took very pleasant, and about 108 miles,
namely:  'Bremo'--Dr. Wilmer's--Waynesboro'--Greenville.  He will find
me at the Lexington Hotel....  I wish you were all here with me.  I
feel very solitary and miss you all dreadfully.  Give much love to
the girls and boys--kind remembrances to Mrs. P., Miss Louisa, and
Mrs. Thos. Cocke.  I have no news.  Most affectionately,  R. E. Lee.

"P.S.--Annie and Belle send a great deal of love to all.  R. E. L."

These little excursions and the meeting with old friends and dear
cousins were sources of real enjoyment and grateful rest.  The pains
of the past, the worries of the present, and the cares for the future
were, for the time being, banished.  My father earnestly desired a
quiet, informal inauguration, and his wish was gratified.  On October
2, 1865, in the presence of the trustees, professors and students, after
solemn and appropriate prayer by the Rev. W. S. White, D. D., the
oldest Christian minister in the town [the father of Professor (or
"Captain") White], he took the oath of office as required by the laws
of the college, and was thus legally inaugurated as its president.

On October 3d he wrote my mother:

"...I am glad to hear that Rob is improving, and hope you had the
pleasure of seeing Mr. Dana [Our old pastor of Christ's Church,
Alexandria, the trusted friend of my grandmother and mother, who had
baptised all the children at Arlington]....  The college opened
yesterday, and a fine set of youths, about fifty, made their appearance
in a body.  It is supposed that many more will be coming during the
month.  The scarcity of money everywhere embarrasses all proceedings.
General Smith informs me that the Military Institute will commence
its exercises on the 16th inst.; and that Custis was unanimously elected
to the chair of Civil Engineering [The Virginia Military Institute, a
State institution, modelled after the U. S. Military Academy at West
Point, was located in Lexington, and its grounds adjoined those of
Washington College.  Since its foundation in 1839, unto this time,
General F. H. Smith had been its superintendent.].  I am living at
the Lexington Hotel, and he must come there if he comes up....  The
ladies have furnished me a very nice room in the college for my office;
new carpet from Baltimore, curtains, etc.  They are always doing
something kind....  I came up September 30th from the Baths.  Annie
and Miss Belle still there and very well.  They expect to be here on
the 10th....  You tell me nothing of the girls.  I hope Agnes is getting
strong and fat.  I wished for them both at the Baths.  Annie and Belle
were my only companions.  I could not trespass upon them always.
The scenery is beautiful here, but I fear it will be locked up in
winter by the time you come.  Nothing could be more beautiful than the
mountains now....

                  "Most affectionately,     R. E. Lee."

In addition to his duties as college president, my father had to make
all the arrangements for his new home.  The house assigned him by the
college was occupied by Dr. Madison, who was to move out as soon as
he could.  Carpenters, painters and glaziers had to be put to work
to get it into condition; furniture, carpets, bedding to be provided,
a cook procured, servants and provisions supplied.

My mother was an invalid and absent, and as my sisters were with her,
everything down to the minutest details was done by my father's
directions and under his superintendence.  He had always been noted
for his care and attention to the little things, and that trait,
apparent in him when a mere lad, practised all through his busy and
eventful life, stood him in good stead now.  The difficulties to be
overcome were made greater by the scarcity and inaccessibility of
supplies and workmen and the smallness of his means.  In addition,
he conducted a large correspondence, always answering every letter.
To every member of his family he wrote continually, and was interested
in all our pursuits, advising and helping us as no one else could
have done.  Some of his letters to my mother at this time show how he
looked into every matter, great or small, which related to her comfort
and welfare, and to the preparation of her new home.  For example,
on October 9th he writes:

"...Life is indeed gliding away and I have nothing of good to show for
mine that is past.  I pray I may be spared to accomplish something for
the benefit of mankind and the honour of God....  I hope I may be able
to get the house prepared for you in time to reach here before the
cold weather.  Dr. Madison has sent me word that he will vacate the
house on the 16th inst., this day week.  I will commence to make some
outside repairs this week, so as to get at the inside next, and hope
by the 1st of November it will be ready for you.  There is no furniture
belonging to the house, but we shall require but little to commence
with.  Mr. Green, of Alexandria, to whom I had written, says that his
manufacturing machinery, etc., has been so much injured that, although
it has been returned to him, he cannot resume operations until next
year, but that he will purchase for us anything we desire.  I believe
nothing is manufactured in Richmond--everything comes from the North,
and we might as well write to Baltimore at once for what we want.
What do you think?  I believe nothing of consequence is manufactured
here.  I will see this week what can be done...."

And again, a few days later, he writes:

"...I hope you are all well, and as comfortable as can be.  I am very
anxious to get you all here, but have made little progress in
accomplishing it so far.  Dr. M. expects to vacate the house this week,
but I fear it is not certain he can do so....  I engaged some carpenters
last week to repair the roof, fences, stable, etc., but for want of
material they could not make a commencement.  There is no lumber here
at hand.  Everything has to be prepared.  I have not been in the house
yet, but I hear there is much to be done.  We shall have to be patient.
As soon as it is vacated, I will set to work.  I think it will be more
expeditious and cheaper to write to Renwick [of Baltimore] to send
what articles of furniture will be required, and also to order some
carpets from Baltimore...."

In a postscript, dated the 17th, he says:

"The carpenters made a beginning on the house yesterday.  I hope it may
be vacated this week.  I will prepare your room first.  The rest of
us can bivouac.  Love to all.  Most affectionately,   R. E. Lee."

On October 19th:

"...I have been over the house we are to occupy.  It is in wretched
condition.  Mrs. M. has not yet vacated it, but I have some men at work,
though this storm has interrupted their operations and I fear little
will be done this week.  I think I can make your room comfortable.
The upstairs is very convenient and the rest of the house sufficiently
so.  I think you had better write at once to Brit [the "Brit" mentioned
here is Mrs. Birtannia Kennon, of "Tudor Place," my mother's first
cousin.  She had saved for us a great many of the household goods from
Arlington, having gotten permission from the Federal authorities to
do so, at the time it was occupied by their forces] to send the curtains
you speak of, and the carpets.  It is better to use what we have than
to buy others.  Their use where originally intended [Arlington, to that
beloved home my mother still hoped to return] is very uncertain.  They
have been tossed about for four years, and may be lost or ruined.
They can come by express to Lynchburg, and then up the canal, or by
Richmond.  The merchants say the former is the best way--much more
expeditious and but little more expensive."

Spending the summer on the Pamunkey at the White House, exposed all
day in the fields to the sun, and at night to the malaria from the
river and marshes, I became by the last of September one continuous
"chill," so it was decided that, as the corn was made, the fodder
saved, the wheat land broken up, and hands not so greatly needed, I
should get a furlough.  Mounting my mare, I started on a visit to my
mother and sisters, hoping that the change to the upper country would
help me to get rid of the malaria.  When I reached "Derwent" my father
had gone to Lexington, but my mother and the rest were there to welcome
me and dose me for my ailments.  There was still some discussion among
us all as to what was the best thing for me to do, and I wrote to my
father, telling him of my preference for a farmer's life and my desire
to work my own land.  The following letter, which he wrote me in reply,
is, like all I ever got from him, full of love, tenderness, and good,
sensible advice:

"My Dear Son:  I did not receive until yesterday your letter of the
8th inst.  I regret very much having missed seeing you--still more to
hear that you have been suffering from intermittent fever.  I think
the best thing you can do is to eradicate the disease from your system,
and unless there is some necessity for your returning to the White
House, you had better accompany your mother here.  I have thought very
earnestly as to your future.  I do not know to what stage your education
has been carried, or whether it would be advantageous for you to pursue
it further.  Of that you can judge.  If you do, and will apply yourself
so as to get the worth of your money, I can advance it to you for
this year at least.  If you do not, and wish to take possession of your
farm, I can assist you a little in that.  As matters now stand, you
could raise money on your farm only by mortgaging it, which would put
you in debt at the beginning of your life, and I fear in the end would
swallow up all your property.  As soon as I am restored to civil rights,
if I ever am, I will settle up your grandfather's estate, and put you
in possession of your share.  The land may be responsible for some
portion of his debts or legacies.  If so, you will have to assume it.
In the meantime, I think it would be better for you, if you determine
to farm your land, to go down there as you propose and begin on a
moderate scale.  I can furnish you means to buy a team, wagon,
implements, etc.  What will it cost?  If you cannot wait to accompany
your mother here, come up to see me and we can talk it over.  You could
come up in the packet and return again.  If you do come, ask Agnes
for my box of private papers I left with her, and bring it with you;
but do not lose it for your life, or we are all ruined.  Wrap it up
with your clothes and put it in a carpet-bat or valise, so that you
can keep it with you or within your sight, and do not call attention
to it.  I am glad to hear that Fitzhugh keeps so well, and that he
is prospering in his farming operations.  Give him a great deal of
love for me.  The first thing you must do is to get well.

                  "Your affectionate father,

                              "R. E. Lee."

His letters to his daughters tell, in a playful way, much of his life,
and are full of the quiet humor in which he so often indulged.  We
were still at "Derwent," awaiting the time when the house in Lexington
should be ready.  It had been decided that I should remain and
accompany my mother and sisters to Lexington, and that some of us,
or all, should go up the river to "Bremo," the beautiful seat of
Dr. Charles Cocke, and pay a visit there before proceeding to Lexington.
Here is a letter from my father to his daughter Mildred:

                                      "Lexington, October 29, 1865.

"My Precious Life:  Your nice letter gave me much pleasure and made
me the more anxious to see you.  I think you girls, after your mother
is comfortable at 'Bremo,' will have to come up and arrange the house
for her reception.  You know I am a poor hand and can do nothing
without your advice.  Your brother, too, is wild for the want of
admonition.  Col. Blair is now his 'fidus Achates,' and as he is almost
as gray as your papa, and wears the same uniform, all gray, he is
sometimes taken for him by the young girls, who consider your brother
the most attentive of sons, and giving good promise of making a
desirable husband.  He will find himself married some of these days
before he knows it.  You had better be near him.  I hope you give
attention to Robert.  Miss Sallie will thaw some of the ice from his
heart.  Tell her she must come up here, as I want to see her badly.
I do not know what you will do with your chickens, unless you take
them to 'Bremo,' and thus bring them here.  I suppose Robert would
not eat 'Laura Chilton' and 'Don Ella McKay.'  Still less would he
devour his sister 'Mildred' [these were the names of some of my sister's
pet chickens].  I have scarcely gotten acquainted with the young
ladies.  They look very nice in the walks, but I rarely get near them.
Traveller is my only companion; I may also say my pleasure.  He and
I, whenever practicable, wander out in the mountains and enjoy
sweet confidence.  The boys are plucking out his tail, and he is
presenting the appearance of a plucked chicken.  Two of the belles
of the neighborhood have recently been married--Miss Mattie Jordan
to Dr. Cameron, and Miss Rose Cameron to Dr. Sherod.  The former
couple go to Louisburg, West Virginia, and start to-morrow on horseback,
the bride's trousseau in a baggage wagon; the latter to Winchester.
Miss Sherod, one of the bridesmaids, said she knew you there.  I did
not attend the weddings, but have seen the pairs of doves.  Both of
the brides are remarkable in this county of equestrianism for their
good riding and beauty.  With true affection, Your fond father,

                             "R. E. Lee."

To his daughter Agnes, about the same time, he writes:

                            "Lexington, Virginia, October 26, 1865.

"My Dear Agnes:  I will begin the correspondence of the day by thanking
you for your letter of the 9th.  It will, I am sure, be to me
intellectually what my morning's feast is corporeally.  It will
strengthen me for the day, and smooth the rough points which constantly
protrude in my epistles.  I am glad Robert is with you.  It will be
a great comfort to him, and I hope, in addition, will dissipate his
chills.  He can also accompany you in your walks and rides and be
that silent sympathy (for he is a man of few words) which is so
soothing.  Though marble to women, he is so only externally, and you
will find him warm and cheering.  Tell him I want him to go to see
Miss Francis Galt (I think her smile will awake some sweet music in
him), and be careful to take precautions against the return of the
chills, on the 7th, 14th, and 21st days....  I want very much to have
you all with me again, and miss you dreadfully.  I hope another month
will accomplish it.  In the meantime, you must get very well.  This
is a beautiful spot by nature--man has done but little for it.  Love
to all.  Most affectionately,

                "Your father,

                        "R. E. Lee."

About the first week of November we all went by canal-boat to "Bremo,"
some twenty-five miles up the James River, where we remained the
guests of Doctor and Mrs. Charles Cocke until we went to Lexington.
My sister Agnes, while there, was invited to Richmond to assist at
the wedding of a very dear friend, Miss Sally Warwick.  She wrote
my father asking his advice and approval, and received this reply,
so characteristic of his playful, humorous mood:

                            "Lexington, Virginia, November 16, 1865.

"My Precious Little Agnes:  I have just received your letter of the
13th and hasten to reply.  It is very hard for you to apply to me to
advise you to go away from me.  You know how much I want to see you,
and how important you are to me.  But in order to help you to make
up your mind, if it will promote your pleasure and Sally's happiness,
I will say go.  You may inform Sally from me, however, that no
preparations are necessary, and if they were no one could help her.
She has just got to wade through it as if it was an attack of measles
or anything else--naturally.  As she would not marry Custis, she may
marry whom she chooses.  I shall wish her every happiness, just the
same, for she knows nobody loves her as much as I do.  I do not think,
upon reflection, she will consider it right to refuse my son and take
away my daughter.  She need not tell me whom she is going to marry.
I suppose it is some cross old widower, with a dozen children.  She
will not be satisfied at her sacrifice with less, and I should think
that would be cross sufficient.  I hope 'Life' is not going to desert
us too, and when are we to see you?...  I have received your mother's
letter announcing her arrival at 'Bremo.'...  Tell your mother, however,
to come when she chooses and when most to her comfort and convenience.
She can come to the hotel where I am, and stay until the house is ready.
There is no difficulty in that, and she can be very comfortable.  My
rooms are up on the 3d floor and her meals can be sent to her.  Tell
Rob the chills will soon leave him now.  Mrs. Cocke will cure him.
Give much love to your mamma, Mildred, Rob, and all at 'Bremo.'

                  "Your affectionate father,

                              "R. E. Lee.

"Miss Agnes Lee."

Colonel Ellis, President of the James River and Kanawha Canal Company,
placed at my mother's disposal his private boat, which enabled her
to reach "Bremo" with great ease and comfort, and when she was ready
to go to Lexington the same boat was again given her.  It was well
fitted up with sleeping accommodations, carried a cook, and had a
dining-room.  It corresponded to the private car of the present railroad
magnate, and, though not so sumptuous, was more roomy and comfortable.
When provisions became scarce we purchased fresh supplies from any
farm-house near the canal-bank, tied up at night, and made about four
miles an hour during the day.  It was slow but sure, and no mode of
travel, even at the present day, could have suited my mother better.
She was a great invalid from rheumatism, and had to be lifted whenever
she moved.  When put in her wheel-chair, she could propel herself on
a level floor, or could move about her room very slowly and with great
difficulty on her crutches, but she was always bright, sunny-tempered,
and uncomplaining, constantly occupied with her books, letters,
knitting, and painting, for the last of which she had a great talent.

On November 20th my father writes to her from Lexington:

"I was very glad to hear, by your letter of the 11th, of your safe
arrival at 'Bremo.'  I feel very grateful to Col. Ellis for his
thoughtful consideration in sending you in his boat, as you made the
journey in so much more comfort.  It is indeed sad to be removed from
our kind friends at 'Oakland,' who seemed never to tire of contributing
to our convenience and pleasure, and who even continue their kindness
at this distance.  Just as the room which I had selected for you was
finished, I received the accompanying note from Mrs. Cocke, to which I
responded and thanked her in your name, placing the room at her
disposal.  The paint is hardly dry yet, but will be ready this week,
to receive the furniture if completed.  I know no more about it than
is contained in her note.  I was also informed, last night, that a
very handsome piano had been set up in the house, brought from Baltimore
by the maker as a present from his firm or some friends.  I have not
seen it or the maker.  This is an article of furniture that we might
well dispense with under present circumstances, though I am equally
obliged to those whose generosity prompted its bestowal.  Tell Mildred
I shall now insist on her resuming her music, and, in addition to her
other labours, she must practise SEVEN hours a day on the piano, until
she becomes sufficiently proficient to play agreeably to herself and
others, and promptly and gracefully, whenever invited.  I think we
should enjoy all the amenities of life that are within our reach,
and which have been provided for us by our Heavenly Father....  I
am sorry Rob has a return of his chills, but he will soon lose them
now.  Ask Miss Mary to disperse them.  She is very active and energetic;
they cannot stand before her....  I hope Agnes has received my letter,
and that she has made up her mind to come up to her papa.  Tell her
there are plenty of weddings here, if she likes those things.  There
is to be one Tuesday--Miss Mamie Williamson to Captain Eoff.  Beverley
Turner is to be married the same night, to Miss Rose Skinker, and
sweet Margaret will also leave us.  If they go at three a night,
there will soon be none of our acquaintances left.  I told Agnes to
tell you to come up whenever most convenient to you.  If the house
is habitable I will take you there.  If not, will bring you to the
hotel....  I wish I could take advantage of this fine weather to
perform the journey...."

 

 

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