HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN V1RG1N1A,
ARL1NGTON, May 30, 1861.
MRS. R. E. LEE.
MADAM: Having been ordered by the Government to relieve Major-General Sanford in command of this Department, I had the honor to receive this morning your letter of today addressed to him at this place. With respect to the occupation of Arlington by the United States troops, I beg to say it has been done by my predecessor with every regard for the preservation of the place. I am here temporarily in camp on the grounds, preferring this to sleeping in the house, under the circumstances which the painful state of the country places me with respect to these properties. I assure you it will be my earnest endeavor to have all things so ordered that on your return you will find things as little disturbed as possible. In this I have the hearty concurrence of the courteous, kindhearted gentleman in the immediate command of the troops quartered here, and who lives in the lower part of the house to insure its being respected. Everything has been done as you desire with respect to your servants, and your wishes, so far as they have been known or could have been understood, have been complied with. When you desire to return every facility will be given you for doing so. I trust, madam, you will not consider it an intrusion when I say I have the most sincere sympathy for your distress, and, so far as compatible with my duty, I shall always be ready to do whatever may alleviate it. I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
Your most obedient servant,
P. S. — I am informed it was the order of the general-in-chief if the troops on coming here should have found the family in the house, that no one should enter it, but that a guard should be placed for its protection.
SOURCES: John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 143; Fitzhugh Lee, General Lee, p. 106-7