Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Robert E. Lee: Fine February 23, 1865 War-date Letter Together with its Franked Envelope. A very personal Lee ALS, written from Petersburg, Virginia during one of the final campaigns of the War, to Confederate Colonel S. R. Johnston, who was then with the engineers at Chaffin's Bluff. Lee responds to a letter from Johnston informing the General that he is naming his son after him--Robert Lee Johnston.

    Johnston had a long history with Lee. Trained as a civil engineer, he entered the service as a lieutenant in the 6th Virginia Cavalry shortly after the outbreak of the War. Because of his training he was asked to conduct a number of important reconnaissance missions for Lee as well as Generals Stuart and Longstreet. On July 2, 1863 he was given a crucial assignment by Lee: to reconnoiter the ground leading up to the left flank of the Union army, which was anchored by their position on Little Round Top. Various accounts of what he reported to Lee exist, but it was apparently on the basis of information supplied by Johnston that Lee launched Longstreet's Corps in a disasterous assault on Little Round Top, a major turning point in the battle.

    Whether Johnson's reconnaissance was inadequate remains a subject of scholarly dispute. However, it is clear that Lee bore him no ill will. Interestingly, Johnston's rank at the time of Gettysburg was that of captain, but by the time the War was nearing its end in early 1865 he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.

    In his letter Lee thanks Johnston for his high compliment, but with typical modesty continues, "I would suggest for him a better name, that of his own father, whose virtues and merits I earnestly pray he may imitate. Should he be able to attain them he would enjoy the only happiness enjoyed by mortals, that of being beloved and useful."

    Johnston planned to name the boy Robert Lee Johnston, but Lee suggests,"...unless too late you must name him Robert Edward Lee (Johnston)." But, as we see from the next letter, the name had already been bestowed. Lee closes with this sentiment, "I trust he may always be as dear to his father and mother as now and that he may realize in manhood all the hopes entertained in infancy by his friends--with my kindest regards to Mrs. Johnston and best wishes for you little boy." Lee's hopes would be fulfilled, as young Robert would grow up to be a physician.

    Accompanying the letter is its original envelope of transmittal franked by Lee--a quite scarce item--as well as a beautiful quarter-plate tintype of Johnston in his Confederate uniform with hand-painted gold accents on the buttons and collar, housed in a thermoplastic case.

    All three are in excellent condition, although the ink on page 1 of the letter has faded somewhat, probably a result of the letter being displayed with that side exposed to light. Minor light staining on the cover sheet and the very left edge of page 1.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    17th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,748

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $200,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $200,000 and $2,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 May 21 - 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    Thanks a million for getting approval to sell my Civil War Hospital Death Ledger! You made them AND ME , a nice profit. You are the best!
    Ed W.,
    Mount Vernon, OH
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search