Primary Resource

Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (January 24, 1864)

In this letter to his wife, Mary Randolph Custis Lee, dated January 24, 1864, Robert E. Lee talks of family matters, the war, and ongoing issues regarding the estate of his father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis.

Transcription from Original

Camp 24 Jany '64

I have recd two letters from you dear Mary since I last wrote. That of the 16th accompang the bag of gloves & socks, & one without date enclosing Martha's letter. The likeness you mentioned did not come & according to your desire I return her letter. I also send one from the QrMr of a Louisa Brigade to whom some of your socks were given. The socks I think are more useful than the gloves, though all are appreciated. The latter after the next month will not be of much advantage. I also recd the pair of socks from Mrs. Radford. They are very nice, but I have not yet worn them. As regards the people at Romancoke, I much prefer their recg their free papers & seeking their fortune. It has got to be done & it was in accordance with your father's will. I am unable to attend to them & I am afraid they will suffer or come to some harm. I do not see why they can not be freed & hire themselves out as others do, & think it might be accomplished. I am afraid there is some desire on the part of the Community to continue them in slavery, which I must resist. I wish you would talk to Mr. Caskie on the subject & Mr. Frank Smith, whom I see is in Richmond. Mr. Collins can hire some of them out at any rate. It will diminish the number to clothe & feed. How are clothes & shoes to be obtained for them? I wish I could hear of your being benefited by your new Dr. It is pleasing at least to learn that his medicines are agreable & that he holds out hopes. Tell Mildrid I am glad to hear that she has taken the socks in hand. I shall expect great numbers now. I have given out that my daughter just from a celebrated school is at work & the expectations of the soldiers are raised. I have read Fitzhugh's letter with much interest. Poor fellow he has nothing to draw his thoughts from his deep sorrow & I fear it will wear him down. You must not trouble your self to send me anything. I want nothing but a little bread & meat, & that thank God I yet awhile get. Try & take care of yourself & get well. That is the greatest benefit you can do me. I have endeavoured to get to Beverly Turner his shirts & have had them put up & properly directed for some days, but as yet have not found an opportunity. I have had to disperse the Cavy as much as possible to obtain forage for their horses, & it is that which causes the trouble. Provisions for the men too are very scarce, & what with light diet & light clothing I fear they suffer. But still they are cheerful & uncomplaining. I received a report from one division the other day, in which it was stated that over 400 men were barefoot & over 1000 without blankets. Give much love to the girls & Custis. I received yesterday a letter from Rob. He was well.

Very truly & affly yours

R E Lee