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John Letcher to Robert E. Lee, 1865-08-02

 Item — Box: 7, Folder: 6

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

This collection contains primary and secondary resources pertaining to Robert E. Lee and the Lee family. Included are correspondences from, to, and about Lee and various family members; memorabilia, pamphlets, photographs, reminiscences, miscellaneous personal papers, family history and genealogy. The collection includes materials acquired from the Lee family and items donated to and purchased and compiled by W&L University since Lee's tenure as president of Washington College from 1865 - 1870. Adminstrative papers, such as President's Reports, etc..., from Robert E. Lee's presidency of the school may be found within the W&L University Archives. Please contact W&L Special Collections for information regarding the University Archives.


  • Creation: 1865-08-02


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.


From the Collection: 24 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



John Letcher, a Lexington, Virginia native, Washington Academy alumnus and governor of Virginia from 1860 to 1864, wrote to Robert E. Lee from Lexington not long after his release from prison. Letcher had appointed Lee as commander in chief of Virginia’s army after Virginia seceded from the Union, but before Virginia agreed that its forces would be under the direction of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Letcher explains to Lee that he was arrested on May 20 under an order from the Secretary of War, however, Letcher was never charged. He was imprisoned in Washington D.C for more than six weeks, but wrote of his excellent treatment, especially from members of Congress, many who he knew while serving as a member of the House of Representatives from 1851 to 1859. He wrote of an interview with President Andrew Johnson after his release, writing that: “I had a very agreeable interview with President Johnson. He received me most kindly and courteously, and alluded to our former service in Congress, in pleasant terms. He spoke liberally and in the most conciliatory terms of the South, and the Southern people. His manner indicated sincerity and if we meet him in a spirit such as he exhibited, we will have reason to regard him as our best friend. Now that the war is ended, we should exhibit no sullen and dissatisfied spirit, but should encourage harmony and conciliation. We have to live under the same government, and it is the part of wisdom and duty, to seek to restore confidence, and cultivate kindly relations. We must show sincerity, honesty and faithfulness in fulfilling the obligations we have assumed. This is the advice I have given to our people, ever since your surrender.” Letcher goes on to tell Lee of the great respect and kind feelings that officers and others in the North had for him.

Repository Details

Part of the Washington and Lee University, University Library Special Collections and Archives Repository

204 W. Washington St.
Lexington VA 24450 USA