Coosawhatchie, South Carolina

December 29, 1861


I have received my dear son your letter of the 21 & am happy that you have arranged with Mr. [John] Stewart about his house. I feel badly about not having paid rent for it all this time as I fear now I ought to have done. But was misled by what was told me at the time. I am willing to do it now if it can be arranged with propriety & if you can do so let me know. Not having had to pay for my quarters in Richmond I never charged for any or fuel either, & thought that the State would gain by Mr. Stewart’s liberality if I did not. I find it would have been better for me & him too now, to have done so. If you can get pleasant people to join in taking the house, it would certainly be more agreable [sic] for you to live there than at a hotel, but I know how expensive a bachelor’s mess is &c., unless there is someone who will attend to it & conduct it economically. If you can make the arrangement, however, do so, & I will pay my share. I feel extremely obliged to Mr. Stewart for his considerate kindness & for his more than kind sentiments & I hope when you see him you will make my acknowledgements. I heard recently from your mother & hope that you were able to get to spend Xmas with them all at the W[hite] H[ouse]. Mary, she thought, would be there, & if she gets to Richmond it will be a good opportunity for her to pay a visit to her Uncle Carter. I hope C[arter] will get into a good regiment & get  promoted too. His friend [Major A. L.] Long is with me as Chief of Ordnance & Arthur Shaaff reported to me a few days since. I sent him to Savannah to organize & instruct some regiments coming into the service there. I wish indeed I could have you with me if it was best for you, but that no man can say & I am content to leave it to him who orders all for the best. I have two officers of the old service as my aids now, but may have to part with them as soon as I can do better for them. I suppose it is in vain for me to expect to keep an instructed officer, there is such demand for their services with troops.  I have wished to get one of our young relatives with me if I could find one to whom it would be agreable [sic] & useful to me at the same time, for I have so much to attend to, that I must have those with me who can be of service. I have thought of Johnny Lee or Henry, Bev. Turner &c., &c., for there are a host of our relatives in the army. Who can you recommend to me? I have had numerous applications for the post of aid from citizens, but do not want a retinue around me who seek nominal duty or an excuse to get off of real service elsewhere. I have a great deal of work to do & want men able & willing to do it. I received not long since, a letter from Lewis Conrad applying for the appointment of aid to me. I was unable to grant it, for as I have said I have two now. I should like you to tell me, however, what sort of a youth he is & also your opinion of other youths of our house. All that I have said I of course wish you keep profoundly secret. If I had [one] of them in service with me I could soon see whether they would suit me, or I them. I should dislike to invite them & then for us to be obliged to part. The news from Europe is indeed good, but I think the United States government, notwithstanding their moral & political commitment to [Capt Charles] Wilkes’ act , if it finds that England is in earnest & that it will have to fight or retract, will retract. We must make up our minds to fight our battles ourselves. Expect to receive aid from no one. Make every necessary sacrifice of comfort, money & labour to bring the war to a successful issue & then we will succeed. The cry is too much for help. I am mortified to hear it. We want no aid. We want to be true to ourselves, to be prudent, just, fair, & bold. I am dreadfully disappointed at the spirit here. They have all of a sudden realized the asperities of war, in what they must encounter, & do not seem to be prepared for it. If I only had some veteran troops to take the brunt, they would soon rally & be inspired with the great principle for which we are contending. The enemy is quiet & safe in his big boats. He is threatening every avenue. Pillaging, burning & robbing where he can venture with impunity & alarming women & children. Every day I have reports of landing in force, marching &c. which turns out to be some marauding party. The last was the North Edisto [Inlet][. I yesterday went over the whole line in that region from the Ashepro to the Wadalaw & found everything quiet & could only see their big black ships lying down the Edisto where the water is too broad for anything we have to reach them. They will not venture as yet in the narrow waters. I went yesterday 115 miles but only 35 on horseback. I did not get back till 11 p.m. I took Greenbrier the whole distance. Take good care of Richmond. Draw his forage on my account. Send him to me if opportunity offers, if you do not want him. I have two horses now with me.


Good bye my dear son


R E Lee


Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, pp. 97-99.


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 December 28