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Tags: Articles, Biographies, Civilian Letters, Elizabeth Blair Lee, Samuel Phillips Lee
Categories : Articles, Civilians, Private Correspondence
The author of this letter in the Resources section, Elizabeth Blair Lee (left, 1818-1906) was the daughter of Francis Preston Blair, middle sister of Montgomery and Frank Blair, and wife of Union naval officer Samuel Phillips (Phil) Lee (right, 1812-1897). These portraits were done by noted artist Thomas Sully.
Elizabeth wrote to her husband nearly every day while he was away on duty. Phil would rise to the temporary rank of rear-admiral during the war, and attain that level permanently again after the war.
Elizabeth and Phil lend their name to the combined Blair-Lee house across the street from the White House – it currently houses visiting heads of state. The left half of the house was first a wedding gift from Blair Sr. to his daughter and son-in-law. I wrote a little bit about the Blairs and the house here and here.
You can read a more detailed biography of Elizabeth here.
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Tags: Civilian Letters, Elizabeth Blair Lee, Resources
Categories : Civilians, Private Correspondence, Resources
To Samuel Phillips Lee, Her Husband
Silver Spring, MD
July 17, 1861
Entries for July 17, 18 & 20 omitted
July 19. We have been on tiptoe of expectation all day Father returned late saying that our advanced brigade had been repulsed and the Bull Run Battery of the Enemy – Genl Scott ordered the army to stop – rest reconnoitre – & he says nothing can happen until this evening – that at ten olk tonight he will have dispatches from Genl McDowell – This he said to the President – who replied – Genl it is your duty to report to me every movement & action – “The General look up to find he had a superior officer & promptly replied – “Yes sir & in that & as in all else I’ll do my duty” This the P. told Father – who repeated it confidentially to Govr Gibbs wha has known Genl Scott intimately for years – & who after a long silence – Well Mr L knows him & knows how to manage him -”
There is a good deal of skirmishing in Missouri Frank – Apo – Betty – the Martins – Evy & Troop – go tomorrow down to Fort Monroe – & return Monday I suppose Frank goes on business Congress adjourned until Monday & the Members are off to the battlefield tomorrow – Mother & I have as usual been quiet at home – from which She won’t go – & I really feel loth to leave her so much alone so I staid home today – I have not taken Blair to the City for a month or more
July 21st Sunday A day long to be remembered in the annals of the world This morning at dailight the morning guns seem very loud to me – & when the[y] continued to rumble I grew too restless – & got up about nine After breakfast I begged Maria to go walk hoping the woods would stop the roar in my ears – but down at the Grotto – I heard it plainer & then spoke of it to Maria told her it was the Battle at Bull Run – 30 miles off She soon distinguished the sounds & on our return to the house – All the house soon became listeners Brother & Mr Dennison came out early & said that Genl Scott had sent word to Mr. Lincoln that the attack would commence with dailight – It was some time ‘ere Mr. Dennison could distinguish in the Vally by Violets spring – the belchings of the Cannon & strange it was not heard in the city – but just as plain – oh so torturingly plain to me – all all this long day – When last news at 5 olk came in our side were victorious 3 batteries taken – the Confederate lines broken – & they retreating to their entrenchment at the junction – but at 8 olk – as I was rocking our boy to sleep I heard that dreadful roar still – & it ceased – or I to hear it from about 15 minutes after eight Oh what a sad long weary day has this sabbath been to me –
Becky went to church & I had to look after Blair as well as the house – & as so often in his precious life – he was such a stay & comfort to me – My duty in looking after an[d] amusing him just kept me wailing & weeping over the terrific scene of carnage of my own kindred & countrymen – within my hearing –
Washington July 22nd I enclose you a note from John – Father when we first heard of the fearful rout of our army said Betty Blair Appo & I must go north at 2 olk I sent for John – as in yr absence I never feel willing to ought of moment without your Brother’s counsel He said go at first & then with me the enclosed when I sent word Father said I might stay to consult John over again So here I am – going to stay Our army was overcome by numbers they have ascertained that one hundred & ten thousand troops in battle – John says this defeat cements Maryland in the Union
[Laas, Virginia Jeans, ed., Wartime Washington: The Civil War Letters of Elizabeth Blair Lee, pp 63-66]