Romancoke Feb 19th/66

 

My dear Father

            Mildred’s very welcome letter reached me last Sunday.  It was the first I had heard from any of you in Lexington directly, though through Fitzhugh who saw you in Richmond, & through Agnes who had heard from some of you I knew that the silk dress  had arrived & therefore was satisfied of the household’s being well & happy.  Tell Milly I will answer her letter very soon; but I write to you now for I want your advice.   The mill is now feeding myself, hands &team besides some surplus, & will, I am confident do one third better with a respectable & competent miller which it seems impossible for me to get.  But it is in a wretched state of repair, both mill & dam & I am expecting every day either the flood-gates to burst or some of the machinery to break.  Now it may hold on for a month or two, probably six; but not possibly longer in my humble opinion & if it breaks at that time it will have to be repaired at much greater expense than at present; for if the flood gates burst, the water will undoubtably (sic) wash away the greater portion of the mill & I’ll have the whole to rebuild, if the property is kept up.  I can have a saw mill attached to the grist mill power, at the highest figure, for eight hundred dollars (I am told by a mill wright for seven) this saw mill at the lowest figure cut five thousand feet of lumber a day for which the net profits are $15 per thousand feet.

Now my plan is to borrow enough money to put the mill in thorough repair at once & attach this saw mill which will work all times when there is no corn which is nearly two thirds of the time.  I have a very fine lot of timber & there is lying adjacent to the mill, very convenient for delivery, a large quantity belonging to different parties.

In six or eight months the timber would pay off the debt & have the mill in repair & the saw attached which would pay me handsomely & certainly.  The advantage of commencing at once is that the amount of money required for repairing the dams & mill now will not be one tenth the amount if either should break; & there is a great demand for lumber now every where - & it is bringing very high prices.  I am told I can get the money easily & at six per cent payable in twelve months or longer, or as soon as I am able.  I have talked with Fitzhugh & he advised me to wait but he did not no(sic) the state of the dam or mill nor did I until I examined them.  I would willingly wait & prefer it, but it has got to be done & I think the sooner the better in every respect for if some of these heavy rains should wash every thing away I lose my meal - & would have to buy & then being the only mill in this section the whole neighborhood would suffer from it.  And putting it in order again would cost ten times as much.

            I shan’t undertake it without your approval & I wish to be guided by you for I am very inexperienced & green - & even with your approval I shall consult Fitzhugh as to the best way & means to find out every thing before I start.  It would help me greatly here.  I am getting along pretty well & if I could only be strong & well would be perfectly happy & satisfied, but these everlasting “feelings” & fevers (for I do not know what to call them) keep me so weak & indolent that I am an easy prey to low spirits, which to one by myself is awful you know, But I hope & believe that if the warm weather comes I shall recover entirely & until then can be a little put out.  You all must not be uneasy about me for I take good care of myself & if I am really sick I shall put myself under the care of some of the good ladies in the neighborhood who, though few in number are excellent housekeepers & wifes(sic).

            I am delighted to hear that Ma has such a nice maid & that Mildred’s head man is better than Pompey, I should hope he was.  Tell M she need not think anything about that cake until I come, it will keep until then.  It has been raining very hard for the last thirty six hours but has cleared up cold the wind striking me as I write for this mansion is so good natured that it can’t refuse either sun nor wind entirely.

            My best love to Ma M - & Custis & yourself    I thank you for your autographs some of them by this time have made some of your many admirers very proud & happy

                                                                                                Your loving son

                                                                                                            Robert

 

Notation on first page in General Lee’s handwriting:

Robt E. lee

In reference to mill etc

 

Ansd 6 Mar