DID NOT see my father again until he came to my mother at Arlington after the death of her father, G. W. P. Custis, in October, 1857. He took charge of my mother's estate after her father's death, and commenced at once to put it in order--not an easy task, as it consisted of several plantations and many negroes. I was at a boarding-school, after the family returned to Arlington, and saw my father only during the holidays, if he happened to be at home. He was always fond of farming, and took great interest in the improvements he immediately began at Arlington relating to the cultivation of the farm, to the buildings, roads, fences, fields, and stock, so that in a very short time the appearance of everything on the estate was improved. He often said that he longed for the time when he could have a farm of his own, where he could end his days in quiet and peace, interested in the care and improvement of his own land. This idea was always with him. In a letter to his son, written in July, 1865, referring to some proposed indictments of prominent Confederates, he says:
"... As soon as I can ascertain their intention toward me, if not prevented, I shall endeavour to procure some humble, but quiet abode for your mother and sisters, where I hope they can be happy. As I before said, I want to get in some grass country where the natural product of the land will do much for my subsistence, ..."
Again in a letter to his son, dated October, 1865, after he had accepted the presidency of Washington College, Lexington, Virginia:
"I should have selected a more quiet life and a more retired abode than Lexington. I should have preferred a small farm, where I could have earned my daily bread."
About this time I was given a gun of my own, and was allowed to go shooting by myself. My father, to give me an incentive, offered a reward for every crow-scalp I could bring him, and, in order that I might get to work at once, advanced a small sum with which to buy powder and shot, this sum to be returned to him out of the first scalps obtained. My industry and zeal were great, my hopes high, and by good luck I did succeed in bagging two crows about the second time I went out. I showed them with great pride to my father, intimating that I should shortly be able to return him his loan, and that he must be prepared to hand over to me very soon further rewards for my skill. His eyes twinkled, and his smile showed that he had strong doubts of my making an income by killing crows, and he was right, for I never killed another, though I tried hard and long.
I saw but little of my father after we left West Point. He went to Texas, as I have stated, in '55 and remained until the fall of '57, the time of my grandfather's death. He was then at Arlington about a year. Returning to his regiment, he remained in Texas until the autumn of '59, when he came again to Arlington, having applied for leave in order to finish the settling of my grandfather's estate. During this visit he was selected by the Secretary of War to suppress the famous "John Brown Raid," and was sent to Harper's Ferry in command of the United States troops.
From his memorandum book the following entries are taken:
"October 17, 1859. Received orders from the Secretary of War, in person, to repair in evening train to Harper's Ferry.
"Reached Harper's Ferry at 11 P. M. ... Posted marines in the United States Armory. Waited until daylight, as a number of citizens were held as hostages, whose lives were threatened. Tuesday about sunrise, with twelve marines, under Lieutenant Green, broke in the door of the engine-house, secured the insurgents and relieved the prisoners unhurt. All the insurgents killed or mortally wounded, but four, John Brown, Stevens, Coppie, and Shields."
Brown was tried and convicted, and sentenced to be hanged on December 2, 1859. Colonel Lee writes as follows to his wife:
"Harper's Ferry, December 1, 1859.
"I arrived here, dearest Mary, yesterday about noon, with four companies from Fort Monroe, and was busy all the evening and night getting accommodation for the men, etc., and posting sentinels and pickets to insure timely notice of the approach of the enemy. The night has passed off quietly. The feelings of the community seemed to be calmed down, and I have been received with every kindness. Mr. Fry is among the officers from Old Point. There are several young men, former acquaintance of ours, as cadets, Mr. Bingham of Custis's class, Sam Cooper, etc., but the senior officers I never met before, except Captain Howe, the friend of our Cousin Harriet R----.
"I presume we are fixed here till after the 16th. To-morrow will probably be the last of Captain Brown. There will be less interest for the others, but still I think the troops will not be withdrawn till they are similarly disposed of.
"Custis will have informed you that I had to go to Baltimore the evening that I left you, to make arrangements for the transportation for the troops. ... This morning I was introduced to Mrs. Brown, who, with a Mrs. Tyndall and a Mr. and Mrs. McKim, all from Philadelphia, had come on to have a last interview with her husband. As it is a matter over which I have no control I referred them to General Taliaferro. [Footnote: General William B. Taliaferro, commanding Virginia troops at Harper's Ferry.]
"You must write to me at this place. I hope you are all well. Give love to everybody. Tell Smith [Footnote: Sidney Smith Lee, of the United States Navy, his brother.] that no charming women have insisted on taking care of me as they are always doing of him--I am left to my own resources. I will write you again soon, and will always be truly and affectionately yours, "R. E. LEE.
"MRS. M. C. LEE."
In February, 1860, he was ordered to take command of the Department of Texas. There he remained a year. The first months after his arrival were spent in the vain pursuit of the famous brigand, Cortinez, who was continually stealing across the Rio Grande, burning the homes, driving off the stock of the ranchmen, and then retreating into Mexico. The summer months he spent in San Antonio, and while there interested himself with the good people of that town in building an Episcopal church, to which he contributed largely.
(From "Letters and Recollections of General Lee," by Captain Robert E. Lee)