Sims-Mitchell House History

Letters of Robert E. Lee mentioning Bishop Francis Whittle

From a Project Gutenberg Etext, Recollections and Letters of General Lee by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son.

My father's first letter after his return to Lexington was the following:

"Lexington, Virginia, May 11, 1869.

"My Dear Fitzhugh:

"I reached here last Saturday, bringing Agnes and Miss Peyton with me from Staunton. Found everybody well and Custis better. I had, upon, the whole, a pleasant visit, and was particularly glad to see again our old friends and neighbours in Alexandria and vicinity; though should have preferred to enjoy their company in a more quiet way. Your Uncle Smith came up to meet me, and your Aunt Nannie and Fitz. were there. I had not seen them since I parted from them in Richmond after the war. I wish I could have visited you and Rob and have seen my daughter and grandson; but that pleasure, I trust, is preserved for a future day. How is the little fellow? I was much relieved after parting from you to hear from the doctors that it was the best time for him to have the whooping-cough, in which opinion the 'Mim' concurs. I hope that he is doing well. Bishop Whittle will be here Friday next and is invited to stay with us. There are to be a great many preparatory religious exercises this week. A great feeling of religion pervades the young in the community, especially at the Virginia Military Institute. All send love.

"Your affectionate father,

"R. E. Lee."

Since his establishment in Lexington, General Lee had been a member of the vestry of Grace (Episcopal) church. At the council of 1868, which met at Lynchburg, he had been sent as a delegate, and spent three days there. This year the council was to meet in Fredericksburg, and he was again elected to represent his church. This was a busy time with him. The examinations were commencing, his new home was about ready to move into, and the preparations for the commencement exercises had to be made; yet he accepted the trust imposed upon him by his church and took a week out of his valuable time to perform it. In his next letter to his son, after writing on some Smith's Island business, he tells him of his proposed journey to Fredericksburg and of his regret at not being able to visit him as he had intended:

"Lexington, Virginia, May 22, 1869.

"My Dear Fitzhugh:

"The weather here has been very hard on the corn-fields, and I hear of many having to be replanted. The wheat, so far, is very promising, and I am glad to hear that yours and Rob's is equally so. I have been elected by our little church to represent it at the coming convention, and have concluded to go. I shall leave for Fredericksburg Tuesday, June 1st, and shall endeavour while there to spend a night with your Uncle Smith, the only visit I shall be able to make him. It is very inconvenient for me to be absent at this time. The examination of the senior classes is in progress, and I must hasten back to attend as many as I can. The new house is about finished. The contractors say they will deliver the keys on Monday, the 31st inst. I will make arrangements to have it cleaned out during the week, so as to be able to move in on my return. The commencement, a busy time with me, is approaching, and we must try to be prepared. I shall not, therefore, be able to pay you a visit at this time, but hope Custis and I will be able to do so after the close of the session. I met Bishop Whittle at Lynchburg last convention, and was much pleased with him. My favourable impressions were much strengthened and increased by this visit here.

"I am so glad to learn that my little grandson is getting on so well with his whooping-cough. You must kiss him and his mother for me. We are all about the same. Your mother is becoming interested in her painting again, and is employing her brush for the benefit of our little church, which is very poor. She yet awhile confines herself to coloring photographs, and principally to those of General and Mrs. Washington, which are sold very readily. The girls are well, and have Miss Peyton with them still. Custis, I hope, is better. He is getting over some of his confinement with his classes now, which I hope will be of benefit to him. Give my love to Robert and tell my daughter Tabb I long to see her. All unite with me in affectionate love. I am,

"Truly your father,

"R. E. Lee."