ALS signed “R. E. Lee,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 8 x 10, September 15, 1857. Lengthy letter to Major Earl Van Dorn, written from San Antonio, Texas. In full: "I have just rec'd your letter of the 5th Inst. & enclose a copy of the letter to which I presume you refer; at any rate, it contains the authority you desire for your journey to Jeff'n Bks: I am delighted to hear that your 'Statement of differences' has dwindled down to such a manageable amount, & that the number of suspended workers has been reduced to the singular. When I call to mind the trouble you have had in the matter, I can conceive the relief you must experience at the present exhibit of the hands of the Treasury. You have my sincere Congratulations.
The number of desertions are truly lamentable. What can be done to arrest them? I have always thought these long payments were injurious & have advocated, & shall continue to do so, payments every month. The English system of weekly payments perhaps is better, but in our wide extended Country, & widely separated Posts, perhaps that is not practicable, but I think the U.S. are able to pay their regular employis, civil & military, monthly. It is practiced in the Several State Depts. of the Army, & ought to be in the Regts. I do not mean to say that these deferred payments are the cause of desertions, but they afford facilities; and do not predispose men to be faithful to their engagements. When I speak to Gen'l [David Emanuel] Twiggs on the subject, he refers to the long payments of former times, a year 1-18 months, in the War of 1812 &c; & the fidelity of the men of those periods; & attributes the present faithlessness to the worthlessness of the men of these days. We have lost by desertion the past month 38 men from the Regt. At Camp Cooper they have carried off 8 or 10 horses in addition to their arms. [George] Stoneman has lost some 15 men since I left there, & [Nathan George] Evans 8 or 10—while, Stoneman’s Farrier deserted leaving $250 in money behind him. Stoneman attributes his desertion to his having been detailed in the Qr Mrs. Dept. to repair, or prepare the train for Capt. Caldwell's arrival. A thing that would be but temporary & no great hardship at best. The month before the last we lost 41 men. We now require 150 men & 58 horses in the Regt.
I hope you will be able to get up your stables & quarters, & make yourself comfortable by winter. Then perhaps your men will be better reconciled. I am very sorry that [Fitz-John] Porter could not come up with the party of Indians of which he was in pursuit, as I am sure he would have given a good account of them. Tell him he had our best wishes here from the Comm't Gen'l down. The Gen'l asked every man nearly if any account had been rec'd of him. I think when he reached Camp Cooper he was not far from a portion of his fugitives. Jack Potter got a pass from the Agent before I left Camp Cooper for 5 days. He was down on Hubbies Creek as I came along on the 18th Inf'y, hunting with his party. He has just got back. What Controul has the agent over them? I believe the Indians from the Reserve, form a part of nearly all the marauding parties, that infest that part of the frontier. They are joined by some of the Nokonies & the plunder is sent to that market where it is least liable to be recognized. That taken from the Rio Grande is carried to the Reserve, & that from your frontier to the Ouachita—Major Neighbours very naturally dissents.
We have heard nothing official of Col. [Albert Sidney] Johnston’s movements. But the telegraphic despatch, which you will see published in the Picquine, appears to be authentic. It is there stated he is assigned to the Command of the Utah Expedition. That Gen'l Harvey will remain in Kansas. That the 1st Cav'y Several comp'ys Of the Artl'y & of the 6 Inf'y will form his Command. I suppose the 2nd Dragoons will go with Col. Johnston. I have heard the Gov'r Walker wished Harvey to be detained with him. I do not think they could get a more suitable person for Utah than Col. J. I hope he may prove equal to the emergency, though I am very sorry he is taken from the Regt. & sent so far. I should not be surprized if we follow in the spring. Tell Mrs. Van D. she must catch up her ponies & prepare herself & her little children. I am not going out there without the ladies of the Regt. Sunday night (13th) news arrived that a government train with governm't stores had been attacked on the Goliad road, 50 miles below here & several men killed, & that it was unable to proceed. The authorities of the town called on Gen'l T. for aid & Lt. Graham & 20 men were despatched immediately with the sheriff to their relief. The next morn'g, Major Howard, Mr. Gilbeau, Col. Wilson & others went down to the scene of action. We have heard nothing from them since. You are probably familiar with the Cart War. I feel highly flattered Major at the high position you have placed me in your estimation. I wish I could feel I deserve it. I can say with truth as regards yourself it is more than reciprocated & that none." In fine condition, with a thin strip of mounting remnant along the left side of the first page.
In addition to his great praise for his commander Albert Sidney Johnston, whom he was to command just a few years later, Lee mentions a number of other notable military officers, including: David E. Twiggs, who as Commander of the Dept. of Texas surrendered his entire Union command and stores to the Confederate general Ben McCulloch. Branded a traitor by the US Army, Twiggs was later commissioned as a general of the Confederate States Army in 1861. George Stoneman, a roommate of Stonewall Jackson at West Point, who refused to surrender to General D. E. Twiggs, his immediate superior, when the latter cast his lot with the confederacy. He went on to serve in West Virginia on the staff of General McClellan, was Chief of Cavalry Bureau in the Atlanta Campaign under William T. Sherman, and later took office as the 15th Governor of California. Nathan George Evans participated in numerous skirmishes with hostile Indians as a captain in the 2nd US Cavalry, and later became a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. He served in operations against Ft. Sumter, and fought at both battles at Bull Run and in the Vicksburg Campaign. Fitz John Porter was a career US Army officer who after serving at Ft. Brady, Michigan, transferred to the Adjutant General’s Department stationed at Ft. Leavenworth. From 1857-60, he served with Col. A. S. Johnston’s Utah Expedition as Asst. Adjutant-General, and after fighting through the Peninsula campaign was made Major-General of Volunteers and assisted Major-General John Pope and the Army of Virginia. Porter is best remembered for his unfair court martial and subsequent dismissal following the Second Battle of Bull Run. An exceptionally detailed letter penned during a pivotal period of American history, with Lee disclosing names of men who would soon take opposing sides.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.