Sudley1            March 4th 1821


My dear Mary


When I parted with you I expected to see you again in a few days, but Aunt Calverts health has improved so much it is not necessary I should be there, and altho It would give me much pleasure to spend some time with her, it would be exceedingly inconvenient for me to leave home at this time. I intended writing to you by the last post but my mind has been in such confusion for a week past I could not do anything. A day or two before my Husband left me he received a Letter from Uncle R. S. requesting his immediate attendance in Westmoreland, and giving the dreadful information of Betsy McCarty, having been seduced by H Lee, he says every vile art was used to accomplish this deed of darkness, and H Lee left home the day after the discovery was made to him and he did not suppose would ever return. My Uncle said, she had had a child, but leaves us all in the dark about particulars; poor wretched Ann was quite ignorant of the whole transaction at the time he wrote and also the poor old grandmother. William wrote me a few lines from Alexandria saying there were a number of Horrible tales in Town; one of which was that HL had killed the child by laying it as soon as born in an out House during the severe weather, where it was found frozen. I do not think this can be true; or my Uncle would have said something about it; and it is improbable, as there is a vault in the garden; and an unoccupied wine vault under the cellar besides many other places about the House, more convenient and likely to be chozen. Yet it often has happened that an overruling providence deprives a guilty wretch of his accustomed craftiness; and leads him to do the very thing; most likely to bring him to justice. If this story is true it is certain the degraded man can never return, for he would have to stand a tryal for his Life. What will be done with the deluded girl I know not; my Uncle says she is more to be pitied than condemned; but I shall not think so, unless I see her spend the balance of her Life in penitence and prayer.

Dear miserable Ann I should think would be more likely to recover her composure if removed out of the neighbourhood; and I intend to solicit her coming to Live with us. Oh Mary! how great is the debt we owe to restraining grace; but for that, might we not have been as vile in the eyes of our fellow creatures, as we have often been in the eyes of him who see’th the secret chambers of the Heart?

Nancy Rose and myself were lamenting the ungodly Lives of our relations when I was last in Westmoreland concluded by joining to express our apprehension that some great affliction would attend those who had received so many favours; without acknowledging the hand from whence they came: my Uncle now reaps the fruits of his pride and indulgence, he brought those girls up to think they were too grand to be advised, by two poor old women—consequently Ann engaged herself without asking any advice and poor Soul was married to disgrace and misery. The other was always self willed, and unruly, and when I was in Westmoreland, I saw improprieties, which caused a suspicion to cross my mind; which I banished immediately, as an uncharitable suggestion of the evil one. These reactions are made in confidence to you. When my Husband returns you will see him before I shall and hear all the particulars for he will know it is useless for him to attempt to conceal anything.

We seem to lead a very fashionable Life, for he has been more from Home in the last 12 months, than for many preceeding years taken together. But I trust the same will never happen again; we must now be prudent and saving that we may have something to lend into the Lord who has thus far upheld us, and oh may he never leave us to ourselves. The girls send much Love to you and Sally wishes you to take the missionary Herald for her and have it sent to Chantilly. May there be some word in it directed by the blessed spirit to cause light to shine on the darkness which surrounds her is the fervent prayer of your

A C R2




1. Sudley plantation in Prince William County, originally the home of the Carter family.

2. Ann Calvert Stuart Robinson (1784-1823) was the daughter of Dr. David Stuart (b. 1753) and Eleanor Calvert Custis (1758-1811). Ann married William Robinson of Westmoreland County, Virginia, who was the uncle of Betsy McCarty. Ann’s parents were Daniel McCarty and Margaret Robinson. Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis (1788-1853) was the wife of George Washington Parke Custis and the mother of Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee.



Source: Photocopy of original letter, Mary Custis Lee Papers, Mss1 L5144 a 561, Section 10, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 September 6