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.
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.
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
on first page in General Lee’s handwriting:
reference to mill etc