Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee


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A few days after their arrival at the Warm Springs Mildred was takenill with typhoid fever, and during many anxious weeks my father andAgnes were her only nurses. My mother's room was on the first floorof the "Brockenborough Cottage," my sister's in the second, so shecould not get upstairs to her room. Mildred was very fanciful--wouldnot have no one but my father to nurse her, and could not sleep unlessshe had his hand in hers. Night after night he sat by her side,watching over her and attending to every want with gentleness andpatience. He writes to the same young lady, at Mildred's request:

"Warm Springs, Virginia, July 30, 1868.

"...She [Mildred] has been so anxious to write to you, and so uneasyat her inability to do so, that I hope you will permit me to tell youthe reason. She has been quite sick and is so still--confined toher bed with low fever, which retains its hold very pertinaciously.she took cold a few days after our arrival, from some imprudence, andshe is very much enfeebled. She has been more comfortable the lastday or two, and I hope is better, but I presume he recovery willnecessarily be slow. You know she is very fanciful, and as she seemsto be more accessible to reason from me, I have come be her chiefnurse and am now writing in her room, while she is sleeping.... Thisis a beautiful valley, and we have quite a pleasant company--Mr. andMrs. Chapman and their three daughters from Alabama; Mrs. Colemanand her two daughters from Baltimore; some ladies from Richmond,Washington, Kentucky, Iowa, etc., and an ever-changing scene of faces.As soon as Mildred is strong enough, we will go to the Hot, afterwhich, if she desires it, I will take her to the White. Mrs. Leeand Agnes are improving slightly, I am glad to say. We hear of manyfriends at the Hot, Healing, and White, and hope we shall reachthese respective waters before they depart.... The Harrisons havewritten me that they will be here on the 14th proximo, but unlessMildred's recovery is much retarded it will be too late for me tosee them. The Caskies will be at the Hot about the same time....I am,

"Your most sincerely,

"R. E. Lee."

On August 3d from the same place, he writes to my brother Fitzhugh:

"...this was the day I had appointed to go to the Hot, but Mildred istoo sick to move. She was taken more than a fortnight since,...andher attack seems to have partaken of a typhoid character. She hashad since a low and persistent fever, which retains its hold. Sheis very feeble, but, in the doctor's opinion, somewhat better. Imyself see little change, except that she is now free from pain. Icannot speak of our future movements. I fear I shall have to abandonmy visit to the White. Your mother and Agnes are better than whenthey arrived. The former bathes freely, eats generously, and sleepssweetly. Agnes, though feeble, is stronger. I am the same, andcan see no effects of the waters upon myself. Give much love to mysweet daughter and dear sons. All unite with me in this message....I am, as ever and always,

"Your father,

"R. Lee."

Another letter to my brother, Fitzhugh, from the Warm Springs, tellsof his daughter's convalescence. Smith's Island, of which he writes,belonged to my grandfather's estate, of which my father was executor.He was trying to make some disposition of it, so that it might yielda revenue. It is situated on the Atlantic just east of Cape Charles,in Northampton County, Virginia.

"Warm Springs, Virginia, August 14, 1868.

"My Dear Fitzhugh: I received, yesterday, your letter of the 9th,and, as your mother informed you of Mildred's condition, I deferredreplying to it until to-day. I am glad to inform you that she isbetter, and that the doctor pronounces her convalescent this morning.He says her progress must necessarily be slow, but with care andprudence he sees nothing to prevent her recovery, unless somethingunforeseen occurs. I hope, therefore, we may dismiss our anxiety. Asregards Smith's Island, I should be very glad if you could go overand see it, and, if you think proper, make such disposition of it asyou and Robert think most advantageous. See Mr. Hamilton S. Neale(Eastville, Northampton County, Virginia) and consult with him onthe subject and let me know your determination. I think you willfind him kind and intelligent. I have visited the island twice inmy life, a long while ago, and thought that, if a person lived on it,he might, by grazing, planting and fishing, make a comfortable living.You and Robert might, if you choose, buy the island from the estate.I fear the timber, etc., has been cut from it. I never thought itas valuable as your grandfather did. You will have to go to Norfolk,take the steamer to Cherrystone, where, I suppose, you can find aconveyance to Eastville. You know Cobb's Island has been a fashionablebathing-place. John Lewis wrote that the beach was delightful andfare excellent, and that they had sail-vessels there at the disposalof visitors. But Mr. Neale and Mr. John Simpkins, the present agent,can put you in the way of visiting the island, and you might carrymy sweet daughter, Tabb, over and give her a surf bath. But do notlet the mosquitoes annoy her. Give her much love from me. I amwriting in Mildred's room, who is very grateful for your interest inher behalf. She is too weak to speak. I hope Rob had a pleasanttrip. Tell me Custis's plans. I have not heard from him. Your motherand Agnes unite in love to you, Rob, and Tabb. I have a fan in onehand, while I wield a pen with the other, so excuse brevity. Mostaffectionately yours, R. Lee.

"P.S.--George and Eleanor Goldsborough and Miss Mary G--- expressthemselves as much pleased with Cobb's Island. I do not know how farit is east of Smith's Island. R. Lee."