"Coosawhatchie, South Carolina, December 25, 1861
I cannot let this day of grateful rejoicing pass, dear Mary, without some communication with you. I am grateful for the many among the past that I have passed with you, and the remembrance of them fills me with pleasure. For those on which we have been separated we must not repine. If it will make us more resigned and better prepared for what is in store for us, we should rejoice.
Now we must be content with the many blessings we receive. If we can only become sensible of our transgressions, so as to be fully penitent and forgiven, that this heavy punishment under which we labor may with justice be removed from us and the whole nation, what a gracious consummation of all that we have endured it will be!
As to our old home [Arlington], if not destroyed it will difficult ever to be recognized. Even if the enemy had wished to preserve it, it would almost have been impossible. I fear, too, books, furniture, and the relics of Mount Vernon will be gone. It is better to make up our minds to a general loss. They cannot take away the remembrance of the spot, and the memories of those that to us rendered it sacred. That will remain to us as long as life will last, and that we can preserve.
You must not build your hopes on peace on account of the United States going into a war with England [via the Trent Affair]. We must make up our minds to fight our battles and win our independence alone. No one will help us. We require no extraneous aid, if true to ourselves. But we must be patient. It is not a light achievement and cannot be accomplished at once.
The enemy is still quiet [here] and increasing in strength. We grow in size slowly but are working hard.
Affectionately and truly, R.E. Lee"
(The Civil War Christmas Album, Philip Van Doren Stern, editor, Hawthorn Books, 1961, page 18)