A REMARKABLE WARTIME LETTER FROM CONFEDERATE GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE, REVEALING HIS REMARKABLE COMPASSION AND SYMPATHY FOR THE GREAT PERSONAL LOSS AND SUFFERING OF SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.
The letter reads: "Near Petersburg 19 Decr '64
My dear Miss Lucy
I have just recd your note of the 17th Inst., requesting a leave of absence for Mr. Leigh Robinson, in order that he may spend Xmas with you. It will give me peculiar pleasure to comply with your wishes in this instance & I hope nothing will occur to prevent his leaving his Compy. Every indulgence should be accorded, compatible with the interest of the Service, to one whose sacrifice to his Country has been so great. Yet how happy are his noble brothers in their quiet bed, side by side! Who can wish them back to this life of trial & adversity? I did see your sorrow my Sweet Child on the Sunday you refer to. I knew the Cause & my grief was mingled with yours. The death of every man in this army cuts me to the heart. May God in his great mercy receive those appointed to die, & may he take you & all yours in his holy keeping.
Very truly yours
R E Lee
Lucy Minnegerode was the young daughter of Reverend Charles Minnegerode, the rector of St. Paul's Church in Richmond, and a social acquaintance of the Lee family. The subject of General Lee's and Lucy's correspondence, Leigh Robinson, was the son of Conway Robinson and Susan Selden Leigh, family friends of the Minnegerodes. Leigh's two brothers were killed in action prior to this exchange of letters: William Colston Robinson on Oct. 14 1863, at the Battle of Bristoe Station, and Cary Robinson on October 27, 1864, near Boydtown Plank Road. General Lee's reference to Lucy's sorrow is tied to her friend Cary's death, and his rhetorical question, "Yet how happy are his noble brothers in their quiet bed, side by side! Who can wish them back to this life of trial & adversity?," is a direct reference to Leigh's two fallen brothers. By granting Lucy's request, General Lee showed remarkable compassion, and he reveals his great emotional pain over the loss of his beloved troops after years of war. Four months after writing this letter, General Lee would offer his sword to General Grant at Appomattox.