342: Robert E. Lee Als, 1835
Robert E. Lee ALS, 1835
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870). 3pp ALS with military content, dated February 18, 1835, at Washington, addressed to My Glorious Jack (Jack Mackay, Lee's West Point roommate and one of his closest friends).
Holding the rank of second lieutenant at the time of writing, Lee was serving as an assistant in the chief engineer's office in Washington but was anticipating an appointment to some project for the summer. He makes clear his preference for hard work on a necessary project as opposed to an easier assignment guarding some far-flung or unimportant outpost:
My opinion upon the matter has been formed, from the little experience I have had of a Garrison life in time of Peace, where I have seen minds, formed for use & ornament, degenerate into sluggishness & inactivity, requiring the stimulus of Brandy or Cards, to rouse them to action, and apparently a burden to the [?] and perhaps an injury to their companions. I intend no compliment, when I say, I believe you are in no danger of the kind attended to, or any other, affecting the character of a Gentl' or officer, and that your good sense & natural feeling will always prevent you from falling into such habits, yet as in my own person[?] I shall not wish to be exposed to the temptation, neither would I wish you.
Lee ended up being ordered to survey the Ohio/Michigan Territory border in anticipation of Michigan's admission to the Union, which he indeed found challenging, evidenced by a letter to his wife that summer in which he rebuked her for requesting his early return home by saying "I rather require to be strengthened & encouraged to the full performance of what I am called on to execute." The task was certainly not a run-of-the-mill surveying job as the claims of both sides had resulted in the armed standoff known as the "Toledo War", and Lee's border became part of the final compromise.
Lee uses the remainder of the letter to update Mackay with the latest news regarding their former classmates and mutual friends:
.... Joe Johnston is here & from occasionally accompanying me over the [?] is in some danger of being caught by a pack of Blackeys. Jim Z. is at Ft. Gibson Arkansas river. Me & Mine are all well and, after Congress rises[?] you will hear more of us. My Brother Smith was married on the 5th inst. to Miss Hanie Mason, we had a grand Frolick for the balance of the week.
One third of the letter slightly faded, but legibility is impeded more so by Lee's handwriting.