Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter XVIII: Mrs. R. E. Lee: Removes to Hot Springs

The Document

His daughter being convalescent, he carried out his plan, and went over to the White Sulphur Springs, after he had placed my mother and sisters at the Hot Springs. In a letter from there, on August 28th, he writes:

"...The place looks beautiful--the belles very handsome, and the beaux very happy. All are gay, and only I solitary. I am all alone. There was a grand fancy masked ball last night. The room was overflowing, the music good, as much spring in the boards as in the conversation, and the german continued till two o'clock this morning. I return to the Hot next week, and the following to Lexington. Mildred is much better, but says she has forgotten how to write. I hope that she will be strong enough to return with me.... I am, Truly and affectionately yours, R. E. Lee."

They all returned to Lexington early in September, in time for the opening of the college. Mildred was still weak and nervous, nor did she recover her normal strength for several months. She was always my father's pet as a little girl, and during this illness and convalescence he had been very tender with her, humoring as far as he could all of her fancies. Not long before that Christmas, she enumerated, just in fun, all the present she wished--a long list. To her great surprise, when Christmas morning came she found each article at her place a the breakfast-table--not one omitted.

His sympathy with all who were suffering, ill, and afflicted was warm and sincere. Colonel Shipp, now superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, was the commandant of cadets when my father came to Lexington. He tells me that the he was ill for some weeks, laid up in his room, which was next to that of my brother Custis. He hardly knew General Lee, and had spoken to him only a few times, but my father went to see him quite often, would sit by him, talk to him, and seemed much interested in his getting well. He said that he would consult Mrs. Lee ("who is a great doctor"), and he finally brought a bottle of something in which sudor-berries were the chief ingredient. Colonel Shipp found out afterward that the sudor-berries had been sent from the White House, and that my mother had concocted the medicine.

On one occasion, calling at Colonel Preston's, he missed two little boys in the family circle, who were great favourites of his, and on asking for them he was told that they were confined to the nursery by croup. The next day, though the weather was of the worst description, he went trudging in great storm-boots back to their house, carrying in one hand a basket of pecan nuts and in the other a toy, which he left for his little sick friends.

Next: Her husband's devotion

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee, http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/lee_letters/chapter18d.html, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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