Lot 8
  • 8

Lee, Robert E., as Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army

Estimate
35,000 - 50,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

Autograph letter signed twice ("R E Lee"; "Robert E. Lee," in text), 3 pages (10 x 7 3/4 in.; 252 x 198 mm) on a bifolium, Jefferson, Missouri, 28 July 1855, to Captain George Washington Cullum, Corps of Engineers, at Charleston, South Carolina, with autograph address panel on verso of second leaf; seal tear and upper right corner of first leaf repaired, some fold separations neatly mended. Brown morocco portfolio gilt.

Condition

Autograph letter signed twice ("R E Lee"; "Robert E. Lee," in text), 3 pages (10 x 7 3/4 in.; 252 x 198 mm) on a bifolium, Jefferson, Missouri, 28 July 1855, to Captain George Washington Cullum, Corps of Engineers, at Charleston, South Carolina, with autograph address panel on verso of second leaf; seal tear and upper right corner of first leaf reparied, some fold separations neatly mended. Brown morocco portfolio gilt.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

Catalogue Note

Lee responds to Cullum's request for biographical information: "I am without any papers or records & have to refer to a bad memory. What can you expect from a Cavalry Officer?"

George Washington Cullum served as an instructor at West Point during Lee's tenure as Superintendent. In 1855, Lee was reassigned to cavalry and Cullum to field engineering, including work on Forts Moutrie and Sumter in South Carolina. Lee here responds to Cullum's letter seeking information for his celebrated Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy (Lee's Cullum number is 542). 

Lee precedes this letter proper with a brief summary of information about fourteen other West Point graduates who Cullam had difficulty tracking down. "I have recd. your Circular of the 1st Inst. & as you will perceive by the preceding sheet ... have endeavored to furnish 'a few facts' in reference to certain graduates therein named. They have been gathered principally from Officers I have met here, & though they are not all I could desire, still added to others you will no doubt collect, may be of some service." Lee explains that he is still expecting further information on four of the men listed, and will supply it when it arrives: "Indeed, I have been waiting a week now, & determined to wait no longer. Among the officers that Lee provides information about are future Union General Joseph Hooker, who he describes as a "Farmer at Sonoma California"; Thomas Hunter ("Lawyer—New Orleans"); Moses Scott ("Merchant I believe in the City of New York"); and Owen P. Ransom ("Civil Engr. Vermont").

Lee abstracts his own career as well, beginning with his Mexican War service as "King of Spades: "Chapultepec Mex. Chief Engineer of the Army in the Mex. under Genl. Scott, from Nov. 1847 to June 1848. Member of the Board of Engrs. from 8 Sept, 1845, to 13 Mar. 1848 & from 21 July 1848 to [blank space] 1853. Supt. Mil. Acady from 1st Sept. 1852 to 12 Apl. 1853. Appointed Lt. Col. of the 2nd Regt. of Cavry. 3 March 1855."

In commenting about his own biographical sketch, Lee jokes about his faulty memory. "As regards my personal history, I have found nothing to amend. I have introduced the period I was the Senior Eng[inee]r with Genl. Scott's Army after the return to the U.S. of Col. Smith, but as nothing material occurred then, am doubtful whether it Comes within the scope of the Register. If it does not, you have only to strike it out. The date of the order relieving me from the Board of Engrs. in the Spring of 1853, I have forgotten. It was ab[ou]t the time of its re-organization, when Dutton & Breverton were detailed in it. I am without any papers or records & have to refer to a bad memory. What Can you expect from a Cavalry Officer?"

The letter then turns to a much more serious discussion of the overwhelming health problems afflicting the Jefferson Barracks: "I arrived here from Louisville about the 20th June. Col. [Joseph] Johnston having assumed charge of the Recruiting Service, & Sent me to the School of Instruction. We have about 700 men present now, & except for the existence of the Cholera, which has existed here Since the Commencement of the hot weather in June, more or less, I think the Regt. would have been full. For besides the deaths & desertions Consequent upon the existence of a fatal disease, by which we have lost over 100 men, it has reacted upon the recruiting ... men refused to enlist on the grounds that they were unwilling to go where it was raging. At this time it has ameliorated & we have not over 150 men on the S[ick]. Report. The truth is Capt. Cullum—The recruits ought not to have been Sent here. Cholera has existed here every Summer, so the Statistics shew when ever there has been any Cases in the County. In addition in the Fall, they have violent Bilious & Congestive Fevers, & Dr. Craig says it is by 50 per % more unhealthy than any Post in the Army. The Statistics to shew it have been forw[arde]d to Wash[ingto]n, but because  there are some vile houses & falling down stables, it is Continued a Cavry. Depot. We have 500 horses picketed out under the trees. Having no Stables for them, & no bridles & Sadells to use them with. We have no arms, & but little clothing. Plenty of sick men & therefore make little progress in instruction." Lee is comfortable enough with Cullum to again adopt a sardonic tone in concluding this grim report: "Still we do progress, & time I hope will overcome every thing. At any rate when you d become Prest. of the U.S. which one day I hope to see, you must Correct it."

Perhaps underscoring—unnecessarily—the point that at the moment he himself is not, Lee concludes, "I trust you are well & happy."