Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son
A Round of Visits
Baltimore--Alexandria--A war-talk with Cousin Cassius Lee--"Ravensworth"
--Letter to Doctor Buckler declining invitation to Europe--To General
Cooper--To Mrs. Lee from the Hot Springs--Tired of public places--
Preference for country life
Judged by what he says of himself, my father's trip South did him
no permanent good. The rest and change, the meeting with many old
friends, the great love and kindness shown him by all, gave him much
pleasure, and for a time it was thought he was better; but the main
cause of his troubles was not removed, though for a while held in
During the month of June he remained in Lexington, was present at
the final examinations of the college, and attended to all his duties
as usual. On July 1st he went to Baltimore in order to consult Dr.
Thomas H. Buckler about his health.
While there he stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Tagart.
My mother had returned to Lexington after her visit to "Bremo,"
together with my sister Agnes. To her, on July 2d, he writes:
"Baltimore, Maryland, July 2, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I reached her yesterday evening at 9:15 P. M. Found
Mr. Tagart at the depot waiting for me, where he had been since
eight o'clock, thanks to his having a punctual wife, who regulates
everything for him, so that he had plenty of time for reflection.
I believe, however, the delay was occasioned by change of schedule
that day, of which Mrs. Tagart was not advised. We arrived at
Alexandria at 5:00 P. M., and were taken to Washington and kept in
the cars till 7:45, when we were sent on. It was the hottest day
I ever experienced, or I was in the hottest position I ever occupied,
both on board the packet and in the railroad cars, or I was less
able to stand it, for I never recollect having suffered so much.
Dr. Buckler came in to see me this morning, and examined me, stripped,
for two hours. He says he finds my lungs working well, the action
of the heart a little too much diffused, but nothing to injure.
He is inclined to think that my whole difficulty arises from rheumatic
excitement, both the first attack in front of
the second last winter. Says I appear to have a rheumatic constitution,
must guard against cold, keep out in the air, exercise, etc., as
the other physicians prescribe. He will see me again. In the
meantime, he has told me to try lemon-juice and watch the effect.
I will endeavour to get out to Washington Peter's on the 4th and
to Goodwood as soon as Dr. B--- is satisfied. Mr. and Mrs. Tagart
are very well and send regards. The messenger is waiting to take
this to the office. It is raining, and I have not been out nor
seen any one out of the house. I hope all are well with you, and
regret that I was obliged to come away. Tell the girls I was so
overcome that I could not get up this morning till 8:00 A. M. Give
much love to everybody, and believe me most truly,
"R. E. Lee."
The advantages of early rising my father ever held out to his daughters,
so that he knew they would enjoy hearing of his being late in getting
down in the morning. During this visit to Baltimore he took advantage
of his proximity to many old friends to visit them.
His next letter is from Alexandria to my mother:
"Alexandria, Virginia, July 15, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I arrived here last evening from Goodwood, and was
glad to hear from Burke this morning that our Aunt Maria was as well
as usual. I wish to get out to Cassius Lee's this afternoon, and
will spend to-morrow on the Hill in visiting General Cooper, Mr.
Mason, the Bishop, etc. ["Aunt M---" was Mrs. Fitzhugh of "Ravensworth,"
and "Burke," her coloured servant; Cassius Lee, my father's cousin;
General S. S. Cooper, Adj. General of the C. S. armies;
Mr. J. M.
Mason, Senator in U. S. and C. S. Congress; the Bishop, Bishop Johns
of Virginia, all at that time living on the "Hill"--or Seminary Hill--
about two miles from Alexandria.] Next week I shall go to Ravensworth
and from there think I shall proceed to Lexington. It is so hot that
I shall be obliged to forego my visit to Nannie and the 'White House.'
It is intensely hot here and I am unable to bear the heat now. I
took cold yesterday in the cars or elsewhere and am full of pains
this morning, and was unable to sleep last night.
"I have seen Mr. Smith [Mr. Francis L. Smith was my father's lawyer.
The matter referred to which caused the remark, "The prospect is
not promising," was the chance of getting back the estate of Arlington
from the U. S. Government. Mr. Smith and Mr. Cassius Lee were my
father's advisers in this matter. "Nannie" was the widow of Captain
S. S. Lee, my father's brother.] this morning and had with him a
long business talk, and will see him again after seeing Cassius.
The prospect is not promising. I got your letter at Charles's.
Thank Agnes for hers. All were well there and on West River, and
sent you all messages of love. I will give all particulars when
we meet. I am at the Mansion House, where it is piping hot. I had
felt better until I caught fresh cold, but no one can avoid it in
such weather. Love to all. I cannot fix yet the day of my return,
but it will be the last week in July.
"I hope Custis has got off, though I shall not be able to see him.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
Mr. Cassius Lee was my father's first cousin. They had been children
together, schoolmates in boyhood, and lifelong friends and neighbours.
He was my father's trusted adviser in all business matters, and in
him he had the greatest confidence. Mr. Cazenove Lee, of Washington,
D. C., his son, has kindly furnished me with some of his recollections
of this visit, which I give in his own words:
"It is greatly to be regretted that an accurate and full account of
this visit was not preserved, for the conversations during those
two or three days were most interesting and would have filled a
volume. It was the review of a lifetime by two old men. It is believed
that General Lee never talked after the war with as little reserve
as on this occasion. Only my father and two of his boys were present.
I can remember his telling my father of meeting Mr. Leary, their old
teacher at the Alexandria Academy, during his late visit to the
South, which recalled many incidents of their school life. They talked
of the war, and he told of the delay of Jackson in getting on
McClellan's flank, causing the fight at Mechanicsville, which fight
he said was unexpected, but was necessary to prevent McClellan from
entering Richmond, from the front of which most of the troops had been
moved. He thought that if Jackson had been at Gettysburg he would
have gained a victory, 'for' said he, 'Jackson would have held the
heights which Ewell took on the first day.' He said that Ewell was
a fine officer, but would never take the responsibility of exceeding
his orders, and having been ordered to Gettysburg, he would not go
farther and hold the heights beyond the town. I asked him which of
the Federal generals he considered the greatest, and he answered
most emphatically 'McClellan by all odds.' He was asked why he did
not come to Washington after second Manassas.
"'Because,' he replied, 'my men had nothing to eat,' and pointing
to Fort Wade, in the rear of our home, he said, 'I could not tell my
men to take that fort when they had had nothing to eat for three days.
I went to Maryland to feed my army.'
"This led to a statement of the mismanagement of the Confederate
Commissary Department, of which he gave numerous instances, and mentioned
his embarrassments in consequence. He was also very severe in his
criticism of the newspapers, and said that patriotism did not seem
to influence them in the least, that movements of the army were
published which frustrated their plans, and, as an instance, he told
of Longstreet's being sent to the Western Army and the efforts that
were made to keep the movement secret, but to no purpose, the papers
having heralded it at once to friend and foe alike. I also remember
his saying that he advocated putting the negroes in the army, and the
arguments he advanced in favour of it. My father remarked at table
one day that he could not have starved in the Confederate service if
he could have gotten bread and milk.
"'No,' replied the General, 'but frequently I could not get even that.'
"His love of children was most marked, and he never failed to show
them patient consideration. On the occasion of this visit, his answers
to all our boyish questions were given with as much detail and as
readily as if we had been the most important men in the community.
Several years before the war I remember that my sister, brother, and
myself, all young children, drove over to Arlington Mills, and that
while going there Colonel Lee rode up on a beautiful black horse. He
impressed my childish fancy then as the handsomest and finest horseman
I had ever seen--the beau-ideal of a soldier. Upon seeing us he at
once stopped, spoke to each of us, and took my sister, then about ten
years of age, upon his horse before him, and rode with us for two
miles, telling her, I remember, of his boy Robby, who had a pony, and
who should be her sweetheart. Often have I seen him on the road or
street or elsewhere, and though I was 'only a boy,' he always stopped
and had something pleasant to say to me."
The Mr. Leary mentioned here was my father's teacher when a boy in
Alexandria. His regard and esteem for him was very high, as is shown
in the following letter:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 15, 1866.
"Mr. Wm. B. Leary.
"My Dear Sir: Your visit has recalled to me years long since passed,
when I was under your tuition and received daily your instruction.
In parting from you, I beg to express the gratitude I have felt all
my life for the affectionate fidelity which characterised your teaching
and conduct toward me. Should any of my friends, wherever your lot
may be cast, desire to know your qualifications as a teacher, I hope
you will refer them to me; for that is a subject on which I can speak
knowingly and from experience. Wishing you health, happiness, and
prosperity, I am, affectionately,
"R. E. Lee."
His next letter is from "Ravensworth," where he went after his visit
to the "Seminary Hill:"
"Ravensworth, Virginia, July 20, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I arrived here yesterday from Alexandria and found
Aunt Maria well in general health, but less free to walk than when
I last saw her. She is cheerful and quiet, but seems indisposed to
try any of the healing baths, or, indeed, any of the remedies resorted
to in cases of similar character, and seems to think nothing will
be of avail. I hope in time that she will be relieved. Her niece,
Mrs. Goldsborough, the daughter of her sister Wilhelmina, is with
her. She seems to be a nice little lady--has a big boy of eight
months, and is expecting her husband to-morrow, so nothing need be
said more on her account. Mr. Dickens was over last evening, and
reports all well with him. All the family are to be over this evening,
so I cannot say more of them. Ravensworth is looking very well--I
mean the house and grounds, but little of the farm seems to be
cultivated, and is growing up with pines. I received your letter
directed to Alexandria after my return from my visit to Cassius,
also Colonel Williamson's. Resolutions will not build the church.
It will require money. Mr. Smith did not give so favourable an account
of Mr. Price as did Mr. Green. I did not see Mr. P---, for it would
have been of no avail without having the plans, etc., and I cannot
wait here to receive them. I shall have to send them, or to invite
him to Lexington after my return. I propose to leave here, if nothing
prevents, on Monday, 25th inst. If I go by Goshen, I hope to reach
Lexington that night, or Tuesday morning after breakfast. I have
heard a rumour that the water has been withdrawn from the canal above
Lynchburg for the purpose of repairs. If that is so, I shall have to
go by Goshen. My cold continues, but is better. The weather is very
hot and to me is almost insupportable. At 6:00 P. M. yesterday, the
thermometer in Ravensworth hall marked 86 degrees. This morning,
when I first went out, it stood at 84 degrees. Thank Agnes for her
letter. I cannot respond at this time. The letter you forwarded
from Mrs. Podestad describes the sickness her children have passed
through. She is now with them at Capon, and Miss Emily has gone to
visit Mrs. Barksdale in Greenbrier. Mrs. P--- says she will be ready
to visit you any time after the middle of August that you will notify
her. I am glad all are well with you, and hope the garden will give
you some vegetables. I am anxious to get back and see you all. Give
much love to the girls, including the Misses Selden. Tell them they
must not leave till I return, that I am hurrying back as fast as
rheumatism will let me. I have abandoned my visit to Nannie and the
boys on the Pamunkey. Tell them it is too hot and that I am too
painful. Aunt M--- sends love to all. Remember me to all friends.
I must leave details till I return.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. R. E. Lee."
The building of the church here referenced to was the Episcopal church
in Lexington, which it was proposed to take down and replace with
a larger and better building. My father was a vestryman, and also
a member of the building committee.
Dr. Buckler, whom my father had consulted in July, was at this time
on a visit to Baltimore, having lived abroad with his family since
1866. When about to return to Paris he wrote and asked my father to
This invitation he was obliged to decline.
"Lexington, Virginia, August 5, 1870.
"My Dear Doctor: I have just received your letter of the 4th inviting
me to accompany you across the Atlantic, and I return you my cordial
thanks for your kind solicitation for my health and comfort. There
is no one whom I would prefer to have as a companion on the voyage,
nor is there one, I am sure, who would take better care of me. But
I cannot impose myself upon you. I have given you sufficient trouble
already, and you must cure me on this side of the Atlantic. If you
are the man I take you for, you will do so. You must present my
warmest thanks to your wife for her remembrance of me and her kind
offer of the hospitalities of her house. Should I ever be able to
visit Europe I shall certainly accept them, but I hope she will soon
return to this country and that you will bring her up to the mountains
to us. We are all peaceable here now and she will find that we are
not as bad as we have been reported to be, and every one will extend
to her a hearty welcome, whereas Europe is now convulsed with the
horrors of war or the agony of its expectancy, and I fear for a season
is destined to feel the greatest calamity that can befall a people.
I am pursuing your directions and hope that I am deriving benefit
from them. I have made my arrangements to visit the Hot Springs,
Virginia, on Monday next, as you recommended, and trust I may find
relief from them. My rheumatic pains continue, but have diminished,
and that in my shoulder, I think, has lessened under the application
of the blister. I shall endeavour to be well by the fall. The letter
you inclosed to me was from Mrs. Smith on the Hudson--and not from
Mr. Henry White, as you supposed. Good-bye, my dear doctor; may
you have a prosperous voyage and find your family all well on your
arrival, and may your own health be entirely restored. My family
unite with me in every kind wish, and I am most truly,
"R. E. Lee.
"Dr. Thomas H. Buckler."
This letter to General Cooper (Adjutant General of the Confederate
States Army), written at this time, explains itself, and is one of
many witnesses of my father's delicate consideration for old soldiers
"Lexington, Virginia, August 4, 1870.
"General S. Cooper, Alexandria, Virginia.
"My Dear General: Impressed, with all the people of the South, with
your merits and services, I haev with them admired your manly efforts
to support your family, and have regretted that more remunerative
occupation, better suited to your capacities and former habits, had
not presented itself. This has been a subject of conversation with
some of us here, and when in
Savannah last spring I presented it to
General Lawton, Colonel Cole, and others, and suggested that efforts
be made to raise a sum for the relief of any pressing necessity.
The idea was cordially adopted, and it was hoped that an amount
would be contributed that would enable you to receive some relaxation.
I have received a letter from General Lawton regretting the smallness
of the sum collected, $300, and explaining the delay that had
occurred, the general poverty of the people, the many calls upon
them, and the disposition to procrastinate when facts are not known
to them personally. To this sum I have only been able to add $100,
but I hope it may enable you to supply some immediate want and
prevent you from taxing your strength too much. You must also
pardon me for my moving in this matter, and for the foregoing
explanation, which I feel obliged to make that you might understand
"With my best wishes for your health and happiness and for the useful
prolongation of your honourable life, I am, with true regard,
"Your friend and servant,
"R. E. Lee."
He remained at Lexington only for a short time, as it was decided
that he should go to the Hot Springs, Virginia, where he could
try their famous waters for his rheumatism. On the day of his
arrival he writes to my mother:
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 10, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: We reached here this morning about 9:30 A. M., Captain
White and I, after as pleasant a journey as we could have expected.
After taking the cars at Goshen, the old route by Milboro' rose up
so strong before me that we determined to adhere to it. Reached
the Bath Alum about 4:00 P. M., where we passed the night and were
in luck in finding several schools or parts of them rusticating on
alum-water. Mrs. Heath was in charge of the detachment from Dr.
Phillips's [a well known girl's school at Staunton]. They presented
a gay and happy appearance. This morning we breakfasted at the
Warm and had the attention of Richard. There is a small party there,
Admiral Louis Goldsborough and his wife and Miss West amongst them.
Here thee is quite a company. Mrs. Lemmon from Baltimore, her
daughter Mrs. Dobbin, Mrs. General Walker, wife of the ex-Secretary
of War of the
Confederacy, Mrs. and Miss. Sivent, etc., etc.
"Dr. and Mrs. Cabell are here, and the Tandys and Mrs. Mac regret
that you are not with me...I saw Mrs. Maise at the Warm, and her
sister from Kentucky, Mrs. Tate. Rev. Mr. Mason and the Daingerfields
have a girls' school in the village. The Warm seems to be retrograding.
I hope the new man, Edward, has arrived. Tell him to take good care
of the cow, and ask the girls to see to he and the garden, etc. I
saw Mrs. Caskie at the Baths. She looks very well. Her niece, Gay,
is with her, a pretty child. Mrs. Myers and her children are also
there. Mrs. Asher also. Small company, but select. All pleased
with Mr. Brown [the manager of the hotel]. Tell the girls I have
no one to rub me now. Shall miss them in this and other ways much.
Dr. Cabell says I must continue my medicines and commence with the
hot spout to-morrow. He has great confidence in the waters, and
says that 95 out of 100 patients that he has treated have recovered.
I shall alternate the spout with the boiler. But he says the great
error is that people become impatient and do not stay long enough.
I hope I may be benefited, but it is a tedious prospect. I hope
that you all will continue well. If you wish to go to the Baths,
or to come here, you must do so and write me what you want, if there
is anything I can do or get for you. Give love to all the girls
and remembrances to all friends. Tell our neighbours that I was
so occupied the last days I was in Lexington that I had not time
to bid them adieu. If you want more money let me know. God bless
you and preserve you all. Good-bye, dear Mary.
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee."
The Richard mentioned had been lately his house servant at Lexington,
and Edward was a new man he had engaged for the garden and stable.
The letters written to my mother and others of his family from the
Hot Springs at this time were frequent, and I give them in full,
as they tell all we know now of his visit there:
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 14, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I received this morning the last letters forwarded
by you. The first batch arrived yesterday. I am glad to hear that
you all continue well. I hope my letter of the 10th, announcing my
arrival, has reached you. It should have done so, it seems to me,
previously to your note of Friday. I have but little more to say
than I had them. I have taken four baths, Hot Spout, which seems
to agree with me very well, but it is too soon yet to look for results.
I receive the water on my shoulder, back, and chest. The sensation
is pleasant, and so far I have succeeded in preventing taking cold.
The atmosphere, however, is damp, and temperature variable. When
the sun shines, it is hot; but when it rains, which is the usual
condition of the weather, the former the exception, it is cool.
Mrs. Sledge and party are here, the former improved. She was much
better, went over to the White and Sweet, retrograded, and returned.
Will stay here September. Many of our invalids are improving.
Society has a rather solemn appearance, and conversation runs mostly
on personal ailments, baths, and damp weather. There were some
pretty tableaux last evening. The Misses Tardy, Mrs. Dobbin, and
the little girls, the performers. Mr. Washington [William Washington,
a well known painter of that day, who was for a short time professor
of painting and drawing at the Virginia Military Institute at
Lexington] is here. He looks well, is quiet, and has been copying
points of scenery in the neighbourhood. I do not know whether he
was in search of health or the picturesque. The latter is more easily
found in these mountains than the former. Captain White is well
and sends remembrances to all. I hope Edward has arrived and is an
improvement on the present occupant of the situation. If he does
not present himself, retain Henry till I come. I will endeavour
to find some one. You do not mention the cow; she is of more interest
to me than the cats, and is equally destructive of rats. I am glad
the girls are well; what are they troubling about now? I wish they
were with me. I find many ladies here for neuralgia. Mrs. General
Walker has been much benefited, also others. If little Agnes should
desire to try the effects of the waters, tell her to come on, I will
take care of her. I suppose Tabb will go with her husband. I am
sorry Fitzhugh is complaining. I have written to Rob and Miss
Lottie [Miss Charlotte Haxall, afterward Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Jr.,
who died in 1872]. I heard of Charles Carter's [Charles Carter, of
"Goodwood," Maryland, was my father's first cousin. Mildred and
Ella, two of his daughters] passing up the road to the White, and
Mildred preceded him a week. Ella, I hear, is much improved. I
shall not go to the White unless specially called by something now
unknown, but will remain here till the end of the month, if I find
it profitable, and then return to Lexington. I hope the college is
prospering. What does Mrs. Podestad say? I understand that Markie
Peter [Mrs. Peter was a near cousin of my mother, and with her as a
little girl our associations had been very near] and child are
occupying her old quarters at the Lomaxes near Warrenton. I have a
merry time with my old cronies, tell Mildred. I am getting too heavy
for them now. They soon drop me. I am getting uneasy about Edward
and Blanche. The reverses of the French, which seem to be light,
appear to have demoralised the nation. May God help all in affliction
and keep and guard you and all with you, is my constant prayer.
"Truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee."
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 19, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I received this morning your letters of the 14th and
18th, inclosing Dr. Buckler's, and was informed by Colonel Turner
that he had brough the package to which you referred. He has not
yet sent it to me, but, no doubt, will in time. I am sorry that
Edward has not kept his engagement, for I liked his appearance and
recommendations, though perhaps they are deceptive. You had better
retain Harry till I come, unless you fall in with a better. I am
glad that you are all well. You have such industrious little daughters
that I am sure all will go well. Thank Agnes for her letter and say
to her that I have not seen Mr. Vanmeter or Blair, but gave the letter
to the former to Colonel White, who will send it to him when he finds
out his position. Mr. Thom arrived this morning and Mr. John Jones
and family rode over from the Healing. They are there for a sick
child. My old friend, Dr. Broaddus, and the Reverend Mr. Jones
also presented themselves.... I have been trying the Boiler for
four days--and the Spout the five preceding. I do not perceive any
benefit yet, though some little change in the seat of my pains.
I will continue till the middle of next week, the 29th, when, if no
decided improvement takes place, I think of going over to the Healing.
Dr. Houston thinks that it will be beneficial, whereas, Dr. Cabell
recommends this. I am obliged to be in Staunton on the 30th ult.
to attend a meeting of the Valley Railroad Company, so I shall
leave here on the 29th for that purpose. After getting through with
that business, I shall return to Lexington. I am sorry that I shall
be called away, but I fear my stay here would be of no avail. Colonel
White is well and sends regards to all. I am glad that the cow is
better. She stands next in my affections to Traveller.... I hope
that Agnes's neuralgia is better, and as she has not accepted my
proposition I presume she declines. Hot bathing is not agreeable
to me either in its operations or effects, but I see daily evidences
of its good results on others. I wish that it suited your case.
You must try and get some one in Sally's place if Tabb, etc., come,
and make them all comfortable. If you want more money, let me know
in time. Send over to Mr. Leyburn for the flour, when you want it.
Mr. Bowie, I suspect, can arrange it for you. I fear Captain Brooks's
house will not be ready for occupancy this fall. I hope that General
Smith will begin Custis's in time. I heard of him on his way to
Edward Cocke's the other day. Mr. Washington is still here. Better,
I think. Again love to all.
"Most truly and affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"P.S.--Mr. Turner has just sent me the package.
"R. E. L."
To his son Fitzhugh, who was at the "White House" with his family:
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 20, 1870.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I am very sorry to learn from your letter of the
18th, received this morning, that Tabb is sick. I hope that it will
be of short duration and that she will soon throw off the chills.
The mountain doctors, however, do not understand them as well as the
lowland, and are apt to resort to the old practice. I wish that I
could get to the White to see you, but my time is too limited, owing
to the late day that I was able to leave Lexington. I propose staying
here till the 29th inst., which will only make my sojourn here two
and a half weeks, and then going to Staunton, where I am obliged to
attend a meeting of the Valley Railroad Company on the 30th. I hope
that I shall not be detained there longer than a day or two, when
I will return to Lexington, where I hope to find you all. You must
tell Mr. and Mrs. Podestad, Mr. Carter, Ella, etc., how sorry I am
not to see them at the White, but that I hope they will call at
Lexington. I wrote to Ella on my first arrival here, but presume my
letter failed to reach her. You did not mention how her health was.
I am much concerned at Tabb's indisposition, but am glad to hear that
the baby is well. Give my love to both, and I trust you will all be
benefited by the mountain air. My personal health is good, but I
see no change in my rheumatic attack, which is principally confined
to my chest and back. I inclose a note from your mother, transmitted
on the supposition that I would write to you. Professor White is
with me and I have some few acquaintances, but I am anxious to return.
I am glad that Bertus has had a short visit to the Orange. He says
that he will come to Rockbridge in September. Custis will be there
by the first, and we shall all, I hope, be together again.
"R. E. Lee."
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 23, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I have received your various notes of the 17th and
18th, and I am glad to hear of your well-being. Our good cow will
be a loss to us, but her troubles are all over now, and I am grateful
to her for what she has done for us. I hope that we did our duty to
her. I have written to Mr. Andrew Cameron to inquire about a young
cow he has of mine, and asked him to let you know if she is giving
milk. If his report is good, you had better send for her. She is,
however, young, and will require very gentle treatment. Caution
Henry on that point. I have told him, Mr. C---, also, that you would
send for the horses, which I wish you would do as soon as you can
see that they will be properly cared for. Tell Henry to be particularly
gentle and kind to them, or the gray will give him great trouble. He
must wash them clean, and not pull out their manes and tails. The
girls will have to exercise them till Custis comes. I suppose we
may give up expecting Edward. Retain Henry till you can find someone
better. You had also better engage some woman or man for a month as
a dining-room servant. I think Easter has not intention of coming
to us before October, and she will not come then if Mr.--- can keep
her. You will have so many friends staying with you that you cannot
make them comfortable unless you have more servants. As I stated in
a previous letter, I shall go to Staunton on the 29th. I hope I
shall be detained but a few days. Lest your funds may run low, I
send you a check.... The girls can get it cashed. I may be detained,
but I hope to return in time to see our children and friends. I
have been here a fortnight to-day. I hope that I am better, but am
aware of no material change, except that I am weaker. I am very
anxious to get back. It is very wearying at these public places and
the benefit hardly worth the cost. I do not think I can even stand
Lexington long. Colonels Allan and Johnston [Professors Wm. Allan
and William Preston Johnston of Washington College. The former
afterward principal of the McDonough School, near Baltimore, Maryland;
the latter president of Tulane University,
New Orleans] arrived this
evening on horseback and have given me all Lexington news. Mr. Sledge
and his wife, from Huntsville, brother of the Colonel, also arrived,
and a Mr. and Mrs. Leeds, from New Orleans, with ten children, mostly
little girls. The latter are a great addition to my comfort. I have
written to Fitzhugh and Mrs. Podestad. Robert, you know, said he
would make his annual visit the first week in September. Tell the
girls they must make preparations to welcome all. Mrs. Walker,
wife of the former Secretary of War in the Confederacy, is here with
her son, whom she says she is anxious to place in the college, and
wishes to visit Lexington with that view. I have offered my escort
and invited her to stay with us. I do not know whether she will go
with me. The girls will have to prepare my room for some of the
visitors, and put me anywhere. I can be very comfortable in the
library. Tell the little creatures they must work like beavers and
get a supply of eggs and chickens. Recollect there is flour at
Leyburn's mill when you want it. Thank Mildred for her letter.
Remember me to all, and believe me,
"Always yours affectionately,
"R. E. Lee.
"Mrs. M. C. Lee.
"P.S.--I send you an order for the horses. Tell Henry to take with
him a bridle and halter. You must write for the cow if you want
her. R. E. Lee."
Mr. Andrew Cameron owned a fine farm near Lexington, and kindly took
care of my father's horses when he was away in the summer; also at
different times supplied him with a cow and took care of any calf,
if there happened to be one, till it was of service. My father
constantly rode out to see him, and enjoyed talking farming as they
rode together over his fields. His delight in every aspect of Nature
was real and ever present. These letters show, too, his care and
consideration for animals.
His letter to his daughter Agnes is in lighter vein. His playful
moods, so usual with his children, never entirely left him.
"Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia, August 23, 1870.
"My Dear Agnes: I have received both of your letters, the last the
17th, and thank you for them as well as for your care of my room and
clothes. The former I understand is used for a multiplicity of
purposes, and the cats and kittens have the full run of my
establishment. Guard me against 'MISS SELDEN' [Mildred's kitten], I
pray you. I am sorry that you are not with me, as it possibly may
have benefitted your neuralgia. But if MISS BELLE is with you, I
am sure she will be of greater service, and tell her she must remain
till I come, that she may cure me. That you may have some other
inducements than your flowers and weeds to take you out of doors, I
will write to your mother and send for the horses as soon as she can
make arrangements to have them cared for, and then you and Mildred
and Miss Belle, the one on Traveller, the other on Lucy, can scour
the country and keep us in eggs and chickens. I am sorry for the
death of our good cow, but glad that she is out of misery.... I do
not think any of your friends are here. Mr. Washington has been
vibrating between this place and the Healing, but does not seem to
be well. Miss Alman, from Salem, Massachusetts, whom you may recollect
as having been at the White last summer, is here with her father and
mother. Miss Mollie Jourdan left to-day, and Colonel Robert Preston
arrived. The Chestnuts and Le Verts are still here. I hope that
you are well and that all is well with you. When Custis comes, ask
him to see to the horses and the cow and that they are gently treated
and properly fed. I know nothing of Henry's capacity in that way.
I hope to be home next week and am very anxious to get back.
"R. E. Lee."