Leyburn Library’s Special Collections has added to its archive five original Robert E. Lee letters and two copies of letters from the great-niece of Lee’s cousin and correspondent, Louisa Washington.
According to Vaughan Stanley, special collections librarian at W&L, these documents represent the largest number of Lee letters donated to the University in 20 years. The Winter 2011 edition of the library’s newsletter, “Library Letters,” describes the new donation this way:
“Lee wrote to Louisa Washington six times between 1861 and 1868, mostly concerning Lee’s grief and condolences at the death of Louisa’s father, Colonel John A. Washington. Colonel Washington was the last Washington family owner of Mount Vernon. He sold the iconic plantation to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1859. (This group continues to own Mount Vernon to this day.) Col. Washington was killed by Union fire while riding patrol with Lee’s son, Rooney, in the mountains of what is today West Virginia. Rooney himself was nearly killed in this ambush as three shots went through his horse.
“Lee always had a special place in his heart for Louisa and other members of the Washington family. George Washington was Lee’s hero and Lee refers to him in one letter as ‘him who . . . by his virtues rendered our republic immortal.’ “