Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter X: President of Washington College: Trip to "Bremo" on private canal-boat

The Document

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."

Mrs. Lee's invalidism

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee,, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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