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Letters of General R. E. Lee.

Anything that pertains to the life or character of our Great Chieftain is read with deep interest by our people, and we propose giving from time to time some of his hitherto unpublished letters. Those which follow were written after the war to his friend W. W. Corcoran — the great philanthropist and liberal benefactor of the South--and will have for our readers a double value:

Lexington, Va, 26 February, 1868.
My Dear Mr. Corcoran--I sympathize most deeply in the great sorrow that has fallen upon you and your house,1 and trust that He, from whom it comes, may in His mercy give you strength to bear it, and enable you to say His will be done.

I know how hard it is for you to feel this sentiment; to relinquish her who has been your pleasure, your comfort and your link with the future; but think of the peace, the surpassing happiness, she enjoys, and the grief and suffering she has escaped.

I remember with peculiar pleasure her last visit to us at Arlington, and the recollection of her will always bring me happiness.

I hope you will visit the mountains of Virginia this summer, and it would give me great pleasure if you will come and see us at Lexington. I can assure you of a cordial welcome and the sympathy of early friends.

Most truly yours,

White Sulphur Springs, 14 August, 1869.
My Dear Sir — I gratefully acknowledge the receipt of eight hundred and five dollars, the proceeds of the concert given by Madam Wieller, Mrs. McDowell, Misses Jones and Heald and Hon. Blacque Bey for the benefit of the Episcopal church in Lexington, Virginia, and in the name of the vestry present their sincere thanks to those who so kindly undertook and so successfully executed it, as well as to all those who generously patronized it.

Besides the material aid which this sum will give to the church, the sympathy it extends to the congregation trying to maintain and enlarge it, will encourage them to continue their efforts until they shall finally succeed.

To you, sir, who have been so instrumental in procuring this aid and in eliciting this sympathy, I offer my cordial thanks.

With high respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, Vestryman Grace Church. W. W. Corcoran, Esq., Chairman Finance Committee, White Sulphur Springs.


Lexington, Va., 23d September, 1869.
My Dear Mr. Corcoran--I am sure that you will be gratified to know that the proceeds of the concert given at the White Sulphur Springs for the benefit of the Episcopal church at this place, have enabled it to pay its last debt, and that the congregation, released from the burden that has oppressed them for years, and full of gratitude to those who have relieved them, for the reasons set forth in the annexed appeal, have determined to enlarge the church, and for this purpose have collected among themselves over $1,000.

I send you the appeal, not to solicit any additional contribution from you, who have already so generously aided us, but that you may be apprized of our efforts and be able to satisfy other friends as regards our purpose who may desire to assist us.

Wishing you a long life and a full measure of happiness,

I am most truly yours,

Lexington, Va., 2 October, 1869.
My Dear Mr. Corcoran--I am exceedingly obliged to you for your interest in Washington College and for your desire to have assigned to it the claim of Mr. Peabody upon the State of Virginia. Mr. Russell wrote to me from Baltimore on the subject, and said that he was expecting you on the following day, when he hoped the matter would be arranged. One point he wished to ascertain, the corporate name of the college, and as he requested me to address my reply to New York, which will be too late for him to use, provided the assignment is made in Philadelphia, I will repeat the name to you in case you should require to know it. It is simply “Washington College, Virginia.”

I hope Mr. Peabody will send the papers of assignment to you, for I would prefer your taking charge of the matter to any one else. As I stated to you before I shall be as much obliged to Mr. Peabody for his kind intentions to the college in the event of its receiving nothing as though it had; for the moral effect will be the same, and it will mark his approval of a college founded by Washington and evince his wish for its success. But if the endowment of the college could be enlarged it would add greatly to our usefulness and to our means of aiding the destitute youth of the South. We shall have this year over fifty beneficiaries, and if we could afford it would have more, so great is the poverty of the people. On this account I hope the fund will be realized.

Mrs. Lee and my daughters unite with me in kind regards, in which Colonel White joins,

And I remain, most truly yours,


Lexington, Va., 9th October, 1869.
My Dear Mr. Corcoran--I have received this morning your note of the 7th instant, transmitting the assignment of Mr. Peabody of his claim against Virginia, with a copy of Mr. Russell's note to you. I am truly grateful to Mr. Peabody for his generous gift to Washington College, which, I hope, will result in much good to the people of the State and in honor to him; and I am greatly thankful to you and Mr. Russell for your interest and kind offices in the matter. Will you add to my obligations by giving me your advice as to how to proceed to realize the donation? I do not propose to indulge in intemperate haste, nor do I think it advisable to approach the Legislature before it is organized, under the constitution which has been adopted, for general business — it being understood to be now in session for a specific purpose and for the fulfillment of the laws of Congress on the subject of reconstruction. I wish, also, in presenting the claim not to offend the sentiment of the people, and to obtain the aid of the leading men of the State. Perhaps it would be well to wait for Mr. Peabody's memorial and other papers, or shall I endeavor to obtain them from the files of the Legislature at Richmond?

With true regard, sincerely yours,

Lexington, Va., 26th January, 1870.
My Dear Mr. Corcoran--I am very sorry that I cannot attend the funeral obsequies of Mr. Peabody. It would be some relief to witness the respect paid to his remains and to participate in commemorating his virtues; but I am unable to undertake the journey. I have been sick all the winter and am still under medical treatment. I particularly regret that I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you. Mr. Cyrus McCormick, Colonel Christian and Major Kirkpatrick, trustees of Washington College, will represent it on the occasion. They will assemble at Mr. McCormick's house, No. 40 Fifth Avenue, New York, and will probably not leave before the end of this week. I wish you would join them, as I know they would be happy of your company. Please remember me to Mr. Thornton and Mr. and Mrs. Russell.

With great regard,

hot Springs, Va., 23d August, 1870.
My Dear Mr. Corcoran--It has been a source of regret to me this summer that I have been unable to enjoy your company while you were in the mountains. As you have left the White, I presume [155] your visit to Virginia for this season is near its close and I see no prospect of my meeting with you. I hope that you have been benefited by your visit to the mountains and will return to your home refreshed and strengthened. My best wishes accompany you wherever you are. I have been trying the effects of these waters, by the advice of Dr. Buckler, and cannot now perceive much change in my rheumatic symptoms, though I will only have been here a fortnight to-morrow. I purpose leaving here Monday next, 29th, for Staunton, for the purpose of attending a meeting of the stockholders of the Valley Railroad Company. They have been disappointed in obtaining from the county of Augusta its subscription to the road, and have to devise ways and means of making up its quota of $300,000 before they can receive the benefit of the subscription of the city of Baltimore and of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. They have an impression that, as president of the company, I can assist them, and I have been so strongly urged on the subject, that, if elected, I will accept and serve them as well as I can. I do not think they ought, however, to put me on these “forlorn hope” expeditions. I have served my turn.

I have watched, with much anxiety, the progress of the war between France and Germany, and without going into the merits of the question at issue, or understanding the necessity of the recourse to arms, I have regretted that they did not submit their differences to the arbitration of the other Powers, as provided in the articles of the treaty of Paris of 1856. It would have been a grand moral victory over the passions of men, and would have so elevated the contestants in the eyes of the present and future generations as to have produced a beneficial effect. It might have been expecting, however, too much from the present standard of civilization, and I fear we are destined to kill and slaughter each other for ages to come. You have, in addition, personal anxieties in the result, and the natural feeling lest your children should be mixed up in its complication. As far as I can read the accounts, the French have met with serious reverses, which seem to have demoralized the nation and are therefore alarming. Whatever may be the issue, I cannot help sympathizing with the struggles of a warlike people to drive invaders from their land.

Wishing you all health and every happiness,

I am, most truly and sincerely, yours,

1 On the death of Mrs. Eustis, daughter of Mr. Corcoran.

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