Primary Resource

Letter from Robert E. Lee to Henry Lee (December 6, 1859)

In this letter to his nephew Henry Lee, dated December 6, 1859, Robert E. Lee discusses matters related both to their family and politics, including John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, which Lee had helped thwart.

Transcription from Original

6 Decr 1859

My dear Henry

Your letter of the 28th ulto only reached me yesterday. I am sorry I am not in position to enable me to Comply with your request. But I was picked up on the 29th & sent up here to look after the friends of Mr. John Brown. "Poor fly he done buzz" as the crazy man said, but I think I shall remain till after the 16 to prevent the necessity of returning. I will however send your letter to Arlington & ask some of your Cousins to copy the Coat of Arms, from the plate in the House. I do not know that we have any other, but perhaps there may be. Mr John A. Washington of Mt. Vernon no doubt has it, & could give it to you more accurately.

I hope the Society of which you are a member may flourish, & that you may be an ornament to it. Do not decline any post of honour, but fit yourself for it. I am very glad that you have the opportunity as well as desire to improve yourself & become a good & useful man. That is the main object of life & I am sure you will not loose [sic] sight of it.

I left your father & mother (& C) at Arlington but fear they will have left before my return. I very much regret not being with them while there, for I have scarcely seen them since my return from Texas.

I have with me here 4 Comps of Artillery from Ft. Monroe, about 280 men. Sam Cooper is attached to one of the Comps. The weather for the last three days has been very disagreable, & we are not the most agreably situated for winter storms.

The military from Charlestown are returning daily, almost hourly to their homes, & I suppose the force is rapidly diminishing. Reports of alarm still Come in, & last night I was informed that 1400 men were on their way to meet us. I want to bed known & find this morg they did not arrive. In fact I hardly think they will be here this month, & these young soldiers will have to return to their oysters at old Point, without their breakfast on the sympathizers.

I am glad to hear that you are well & doing well & remain your affectionate

Uncle R E Lee