The Regional Review

Volume IV - No. 2

February, 1940

Lee Note Preserved at Fort Pulaski


Fort Pulaski National Monument, Georgia, possesses the distinction of having been the scene of Robert E. Lee's first assignment to duty in the United States Army after his graduation from the Military Academy at West Point.

About November 1, 1829, as a brevet second lieutenant, he reported to Major Samuel Babcock, of the Corps of Engineers, for duty on Cockspur Island, in the Savannah River. For two winters he served on this lonely, mosquito-infested marsh island, wading hip deep through mud and water while making topographical surveys and helping to place the foundations of the massive fortress that was to be constructed.

In Savannah, twelve miles up the river, lived the charming family of John Mackay, Lee's chum and roommate at the Academy, and to Savannah Lee was accustomed to go as often as he could get leave from work. Between visits he wrote frequent notes to John's mother, Mrs. Robert Mackay, and to his sisters, Eliza and Kate. One of these notes [reproduced on this page, slightly reduced] is now in the manuscript collection of Fort Pulaski National Monument, the gift of Mrs. Franklin Buchanan Screven, of Savannah, a great-granddaughter of Mrs. Mackay. The note in itself is not of historical moment, but it is of considerable sentimental value as tangible evidence of Lee's sojourn on Cockspur Island. A transcription of the text follows:

One boat has just brought us in some Bass. Another is on the point of Starting for Savannah.

Will Mrs. Mackay allow me to put one of them in this last, with orders for it to be delivered alive in Broughton Street?

R. E. Lee

P. S. Perhaps Ma'am I have heard from Bull's Island more lately than yourself? Robbin, Cudjoe &c, Returned from there on Monday, and reported all well -
Thursday 9 O'Clk.

It appears probable that the Misses Mackay were visiting on Bull's Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina. Robbin and Cudjoe likely were slaves.

--- Ralston B. Lattimore.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002