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Virginia Library Acquires Letter Written By Robert E. Lee

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The letter from Robert E. Lee to William Casenove is dated Feb. 14, 1862.
The Alexandria Library Local History Special Collections Department
The letter from Robert E. Lee to William Casenove is dated Feb. 14, 1862.

Opening up an acid-free box and pulling out a pale blue file folder, Special Collections Director George Combs produces the library's latest acquisition: a letter from Feb. 14, 1862, written by Lee to his cousin, William Cazenove.

"It's so exciting, and it's great to be able to actually hold in your hands -- but very carefully -- something that was in the hands of Robert E. Lee over 150 years ago," Combs says.

The letter reveals a world of 19th-century patronage. Casenove was trying to use his famous cousin's connections to get a high-ranking position in the Confederate Army.

"A man in his 40s, he realizes that probably the best use of his abilities is probably not shouldering a musket. It's probably doing some sort of staff work, some sort of work that requires more thought than actual labor," Combs says.

Did it work? Combs says he'll be digging into the archives to unearth the rest of the story.

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