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After waiting all winter for the improvement in his health, my father,yielding at last to the wishes of his family, physician, and friends,determined to try the effect of a southern climate. It was thoughtit might do him good, at any rate, to escape the rigours of a LexingtonMarch, and could do no harm. In the following letters to his childrenhe outlines his plans and touchingly alludes to the memory of hisdaughter Annie, who died in 1862 and was buried at Warrenton Springs,North Carolina:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 21, 1870.
"My Dear Daughter: The doctors and others think I had better go tothe South in the hope of relieving the effects of the cold, underwhich I have been labouring all the winter. I think I should dobetter here, and am very reluctant to leave home in my presentcondition; but they seem so interested in my recovery and so persuasivein their uneasiness that I should appear obstinate, if not perverse,if I resisted longer. I therefore consented to go, and will takeAgnes to Savannah, as she seems anxious to visit that city, or,perhaps, she will take me. I wish also to visit my dear Annie'sgrave before I die. I have always desired to do so since the cessationof active hostilities, but have never been able. I wish to see howcalmly she sleeps away from us all, with her dear hands folded overher breast as if in mute prayer, while her pure spirit is traversingthe land of the blessed. I shall diverge from the main route oftravel for this purpose, and it will depend somewhat upon my feelingsand somewhat upon my procuring an escort for Agnes, whether I gofurther south.
"I am sorry not to be able to see you before I go, but if I return,I hope to find you here well and happy. You must take good care ofyour mother and do everything she wants. You must not shorten yourtrip on account of our departure. Custis will be with her every day,and Mary is with her still. The servants seem attractive. Good-bye,my dear child. Remember me to all friends, and believe me,
"Your affectionate father, R. E. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."
"Lexington, Virginia, March 22, 1870.
"My Dear Fitzhugh: Your letter of the 17th inst. has been received.Lest I should appear obstinate, if not perverse, I have yielded tothe kind importunities of my physicians and of the faculty to takea trip toward the South. In pursuance of my resolution, I shallleave here Thursday next in the packet-boat, and hope to arrive inRichmond on Friday afternoon. I shall take with me, as my companion,Agnes, who has been my kind and uncomplaining nurse, and if we couldonly get down to you that evening we would do so, for I want to seeyou, my sweet daughter, and dear grandson. But as the doctors thinkit important that I should reach a southern climate as soon aspracticable, I fear I shall have to leave my visit to you till myreturn. I shall go first to Warrenton Springs, North Carolina, tovisit the grave of my dear Annie, where I have always promised myselfto go, and I think, if I accomplish it, I have no time to lose. Iwish to witness her quiet sleep, with her dear hands crossed overher breast, as if it were in mute prayer, undisturbed by her distancefrom us, and to feel that her pure spirit is waiting in bliss in theland of the blessed. From there, according to my feelings, I shalleither go down to Norfolk or to Savannah, and take you if practicableon my return. I would ask you to come up to Richmond, but my movementsare unknown to myself, as I cannot know the routes, schedules, etc.,till I arrive there, but I have promised not to linger there longerthan necessary; so I must avoid temptation. We are all as usual.Your mother still talks of visiting you, and when I urge her to makepreparations for the journey, she replies rather disdainfully she hasnone to make; they have been made years ago. Custis and Mary arewell, and Mildred writes that she will be back by April 1st. Weare having beautiful weather now, which I hope may continue. From
"Your affectionate father, R. Lee."
To his daughter Mildred he writes again, giving her the minutest detailsas to the routes home. This is very characteristic of him. We werealways fully instructed, all the roads of life were carefully markedout for us by him:
"Lexington, Virginia, March 23, 1870.
"My Dear Daughter: I wrote to you the other day, telling you of myintention of going South and of my general plan as far as formed.This morning your letter of the 21st arrived.... I hope you willget back comfortably and safely, and if you can fall in with noescort, you had better go as far as Alexandria, the first stage ofyour journey. Aunt Maria, Cassius Lee, the Smiths, etc., wouldreceive you. If you wish to come by Goshen, you must take the trainfrom Alexandria on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, so as to arrivehere about twelve o'clock at night. By taking the train fromAlexandria on the alternate days, Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, youwill reach Staunton that evening by four P. M., remain all night,and come over by daylight the following day in the stage. By takingthe train from Alexandria to Lynchburg, Mondays, Wednesdays, orFridays, you will reach there the same afternoon, about four P. M.,then go IMMEDIATELY to the packet-boat, and you will arrive herenext morning. This last is the EASIEST route, and the best if youfind no escort. Tell all the conductors and captains that you aremy runaway daughter, and they will take care of you. I leaveto-morrow evening on the packet-boat. I told you that Agnes wouldaccompany me. Tell my cousins Washington, Jane, and Mary that Iwish I were going to see them. I should then anticipate some pleasure.But the doctors say I must turn my face the other way. I know theydo not know everything, and yet I have often had to do what I wastold, without benefit to myself, and I shall have to do it again.Good-bye, my dear daughter. All unite in love.
"Your affectionate father, R. Lee.
"Miss Mildred Lee."