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Lee, Robert E. (1807-1870) to John MacKay, re: remote posting, improvements on Mississippi

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01071 Author/Creator: Lee, Robert E. (1807-1870) Place Written: St. Louis Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 27 June 1838 Pagination: 4 p. 25 x 20 cm

Summary of Content: Lee's signature is cross-written on p.4 as part of the address leaf. This letter betrays some bitterness towards politicians even as it teases MacKay for JM's remote posting.

Full Transcript: St. Louis 27th June 1838
Will you tell me my dear Jack where the "Cherokee Agency near Calhoun Tenn." Is? Is it in these United States, or to what Country does ...it belong? Are all Avenues of information, closed, shut up and cut off; and is there no method of learning what is doing tin the world? I tremble my friend least you have been smuggled [strikeout] off the Continent, buried alive, and your days lost to you, year and nights too. Why you do not know that I am a sojourner in the "Western Metropolis"! Well! The whereabouts of the great can be but little noted in the "Agency", and a man can be better reconciled not to be famous. And what is more my dame and the little Lees are with me. It is a rough Country to bring them to I acknowledge, but they smooth it to me most marvellously. You will now know why your letters have been so long reaching me. The first, March 11th must have nearly died of fatigue, as that of May 18th was treading closely on its heels. This last reached me just as I was on the eve of setting off to the Rapids, [struck: and] about a fortnight since, and I sat down and penned a note instantly to the Genl. To know what was the State of the Appt for the imp[rovemen]t of the Savannah river, the intention of the Dept. in regard to it [2] the prospect of the work giving on it and whether they wanted a good man & true like yourself to take charge of the business. This of course was done in unofficial way, and I know the Genl will give one all the information in his power, which where recd. I shall lose no time in handing over to you. But it will take time MacKay it will take time. Why do you allow the "sovereighns" to bother you? Don't spate them a thought. Do you recollect the don's injunctions to Sancho after he had Slid from his mule through the fights [struck: and] upon his being questioned as to the cause of certain orders that reached his Highness' nose? "Let it alone Sancho I tell you, the more that you Stir it, the more it will stink". I believe though I can appreciate the feelings which have led you to think thus seriously of the Step you have in view. The manner in which the Army is considered and treated by the Country and those whose business it is to nourish and take care of it, is enough to disgust every one with the Service, and has the effect of driving every good soldier from it, and rendering those who remain, discontented, careless and negligent. The instance that you mention in your own person, of the Authorities oat W. listening to the miserable Slander of dirty legislators and then acting upon such filthy ex-parte evidence is an insult to the Army and Shews in what light its feelings are estimated, and its rights Sacrificed at the Shrine of popularity. But I am getting angry MacKay and will stop, else I shall be no better than those who have excited my bile. If you [3] could have converted the Mississippi into the Savannah, and you had been willing to lend a hand in the manner you speak of, I think together we should have been able to put the river in Such a State, that Boats would navigate it of themselves, if they could only induce the Captains & Engines not to blow them up. I found Bliss, you know Horace, in Baltimore this Spring laying on his ?ars and looking out for rail Roads; and proposed to him to come out with me and take charge of the immediate supr of the operations at the Rapids, whereupon he packed up his trunk and came. He is now there getting all things in readiness [struck: for] by the time the river falls. The object is to endeavor to get a channel through the Rapids for S. Boats during the stages of low water - a [loss] will consist in blasting the rock under water and removing it from the channel. The Lower Rapids are 11 miles long and 250 miles above this. The upper are 14 miles long and 150 above the Lower. Besides this they have let me work to do something for this Harbor. There is a large bar as they call it, or rather Island upwards of 200 acres extent, covered with a growth of cotton wood, which has been growing from year to year, situated at the lower part of the city and threatens to shut up their Harbor, and Cong had made an appt of 50,000 to remedy the evil, and which is about enough to commence it. One half is already spent in S. Boat stone Boats, Pile drivers &c and we are now at work in building a pier to give direction to the current. I have been also directed to do something to the Missouri, but they [4] have given as yet no money and of course nothing has been done. I wish all were done, and I was back again in Virginia. I volunteered my services last year to get rid of the office of w_- and the Genl. At last agreed to my going. I was confident of so much iniquity more ways than one, that I feared for my morality at no time Strong, and had been trying for two years to quit. I spent last winter in W. partly on duty and partly not. Had a pleasant time with my friends in Virginia, and am now here working for my country. I have got through with my paper and have hardly commenced talking to you. We really must have a meeting MacKay, for this letter business is all a humbug. Your acct. of the Cherokees &c was very interesting to me. I hope you will be able to arrange matters peacably. I see the Sa. Papers are throwing out some commendations upon Genl. Scott so I suppose his course is satisfactorily to them. To Rumours of the disturbances on the N. Frontier you get from the papers. The boys in Wash hold out hopes of the passage of the Army Bill and think it will. I hope so but am dubious. I was very glad to hear of all in Broughton street. I think of them every day. The increase of the Lee Children is delightful to but who is doing it MacKay. Mrs. L. joins me in much love to all of them.
Your true friend
R. E. Lee

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Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: InfrastructureMilitary HistoryPoliticsConfederate General or Leader

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

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