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After General Lee had accepted the presidency of Washington College,he determined to devote himself entirely to the interest and improvementof that institution. From this resolution he never wavered. An offerthat he should be a the head of a large house to represent southerncommerce, that he should reside in New York, and have placed at hisdisposal an immense sum of money, he declined, saying:
"I am grateful, but I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish.I have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many ofthem die on the field; I shall devote my remaining energies to trainingyoung men to do their duty in life."
To a request from some of his old officers that he should associatehimself with a business enterprise in the South, as its president, hereplied with the following letter:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 14, 1869.
"General J. B. Gordon, President,"Southern Life Insurance Company, Atlanta, Georgia.
"My Dear General: I have received your letter of the 3d inst., andam duly sensible of the kind feelings which prompted your proposal.It would be a great pleasure to me to be associated with you, Hampton,B. H. Hill, and the other good men whose names I see on your listof directors, but I feel that I ought not to abandon the position Ihold at Washington College at this time, or as long as I can be ofservice to it. Thanking you for your kind consideration, for whichI know I am alone indebted for your proposition to become presidentof the Southern Life Insurance Company, and with kindest regards toMrs. Gordon and my best wishes for yourself, I am,
"Very truly yours,
"R. E. Lee."
His correspondence shows that many like positions were made to him.
The Christmas of '69, neither my brother nor myself was with him.Knowing of our plans in that respect, he wrote before the holidaysto Fitzhugh, wishing us both the compliments of the season and apleasant time in the visits we were going to make:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 18, 1869.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: I must begin by wishing you a pleasant Christmasand many, many Happy New Years, and may each succeeding year bringto you and yours increasing happiness. I shall think of you and mydaughter and my grandson very often during the season when familiesare generally united, and though absent from you in person, you willalways be present in mind, and my poor prayers and best wishes willaccompany you all wherever you are. Bertus will also be remembered,and I hope that the festivities of 'Brandon' will not drive from hismemory the homely board at Lexington. I trust that he will enjoyhimself and find some on to fill that void in his heart as completelyas he will the one in his--system. Tell Tabb that no one in Petersburgwants to see her half as much as her papa, and now that her littleboy has his mouth full of teeth, he would not appear so LONESOME ashe did in the summer. If she should find in the 'Burg' a 'Duckie'to take his place, I beg that she will send him up to me.
"I duly received your letter previous to the 12th inst., and requestedsome of the family who were writing about that time to inform you.When I last wrote, I could not find it on my table and did not referto it. 'The Mim' says you excel her in counting, if you do not inwriting, but she does not think she is in your debt. I agree withyou in your views about Smith's Island, and see no advantage in leasingit, but wish you could sell it to advantage. I hope the prospects maybe better in the spring. Political affairs will be better, I think,and people will be more sanguine and hopeful. You must be on thealert. I wish I could go down to see you, but think it better forme to remain here. To leave home now and return during the winterwould be worse for me. It is too cold for your mother to travel now.She says she will go down in the spring, but you know what an exertionit is for her to leave home, and the inconvenience if not the suffering,is great. The anticipation, however, is pleasing to her and encourageshope, and I like her to enjoy it, though am not sanguine that shewill realise it. Mildred is probably with you, and can tell you allabout us. I am somewhat reconciled to her absence by the knowledgeof the benefit that she will be to Tabb. Tell the latter that she[Mildred] is modest and backward in giving advice, but that she hasmines of wealth on that subject, and that she [Tabb] must endeavourto extract from her her views on the management of a household,children, etc., and the proper conduct to be observed toward husbandsand the world in general. I am sure my little son will receive manywise admonitions which he will take open-mouthed. I have receiveda letter from your Uncle Carter telling me of his pleasant visit toyou and of his agreeable impressions of his nephew and new niece.He was taken very sick in Richmond and delayed there so long that hecould not be present at Wm. Kennon's wedding, and missed the festivitiesat his neighbour Gilliam's and at Norwood. Indeed, he had not recoveredhis strength when Lucy wrote a few days ago, and her account makes mevery uneasy about him. I am glad Rob has so agreeable a neighbouras General Cooke, and I presume it is the North Carolina brigadier[A Virginian--son of General St. George Cooke, of the Federal Army,who commanded a North Carolina brigade in A. P. Hill's corps, A. N.Va.]. When you go to Petersburg, present my kind regards to Mr. andMrs. Bolling, 'Miss Melville,' and all friends. All here unite withme in love to you, Tabb, and the boy, in which Mildred is included.
"Your affectionate father,
"General William H. F. Lee."
In a note, written the day after, acknowledging a paper sent to himto sign, he says:
"...I wrote to you yesterday, Saturday, in reply to your former letter,and stated the reasons why I could not visit you. Your mother hasreceived Mildred's letter announcing her arrival in Richmond and willwrite to her there. I can only repeat my love and prayers that everyblessing may attend you and yours. We are as usual.
"Truly and affectionately,