It seems that the most interesting facets of Robert E. Lee’s personality appear in his letters to his children. If you may recall, in my second featured article I examined a letter Robert E. Lee wrote to his daughter, Mildred, in 1861. In writing it, Lee was able to take himself away from the cold and dreary surroundings in order to enjoy a quiet moment on the front writing to someone he loved. In this week’s paper I present a letter Lee wrote to Mildred after the war in 1866. In it Lee dispenses life advice and reminds his daughter how much the family misses her while she’s away visiting cousins. In an unexpected turn, he then describes to her the behavior of the cats at home.
“"Lexington, Virginia, December 21, 1866.
"My Precious Life (Lee’s nickname for Mildred): I was very glad to receive your letter of the 15th inst., and to learn that you were well and happy. May you be always as much so as is consistent with your welfare here and hereafter, is my daily prayer. I was much pleased, too, that, while enjoying the kindness of your friends, we were not forgotten. Experience will teach you that, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, you will never receive such a love as is felt for you by your father and mother. That lives through absence, difficulties, and times. Your own feelings will teach you how it should be returned and appreciated. I want to see you very much, and miss you at every turn, yet am glad of this opportunity for you to be with those who, I know, will do all in their power to give you pleasure. I hope you will also find time to read and improve your mind. Read history, works of truth, not novels and romances. Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret. Your friends here inquire constantly after you, and wish for your return. Mrs. White and Mrs. McElwee particularly regret your absence, and the former sends especial thanks for your letter of remembrance. We get on in our usual way…”
“Our feline companions are flourishing. Young Baxter is growing in gracefulness and favour, and gives cat-like evidences of future worth. He possesses the fashionable colour of 'moonlight on the water,' apparently a dingy hue of the kitchen, and is strictly aristocratic in appearance and conduct. Tom, surnamed 'The Nipper,' from the manner in which he slaughters our enemies, the rats and the mice, is admired for his gravity and sobriety, as well as for his strict attention to the pursuits of his race. They both feel your absence sorely. Traveller and Custis are both well, and pursue their usual dignified gait and habits, and are not led away by the frivolous entertainments of lectures and concerts. All send united love, and all wish for your return. Remember me most kindly to Cousins Eleanor and George, John, Mary, Ida, and all at 'Myrtle Grove,' and to other kind friends when you meet them. Mrs. Grady carried yesterday to Mr. Charles Kerr, in Baltimore, a small package for you. Be careful of your health, and do not eat more than half the plum-puddings Cousin Eleanor has prepared for Xmas. I am glad to hear that you are fattening, and I hope you will reach 125 lbs. Think always of your father, who loves you dearly.
R. E. Lee.”
This letter was made available by Project Gutenberg at gutenberg.org.