General Fitz Lee, in his life of my father, says of him at this time:
"Self-possessed and calm, Lee struggled to solve the huge military problem, and make the sum of smaller numbers equal to that of greater numbers.... His thoughts ever turned upon the soldiers of his army, the ragged gallant fellows around him--whose pinched cheeks told hunger was their portion, and whose shivering forms denoted the absence of proper clothing."
His letters to my mother during the winter tell how much his men were in need. My mother was an invalid from rheumatism, confined to a rolling-chair. To help the cause with her own hands as far as she could, she was constantly occupied in knitting socks for the soldiers, and induced all around her to do the same. She sent them directly to my father, and he always acknowledged them. November 30th, he says:
"...I received yesterday your letter on the 27th and am glad to learn your supply of socks is so large. If two or three hundred would send an equal number, we should have a sufficiency. I will endeavour to have them distributed to the most needy...."
"...I received day before yesterday the box with hats, gloves, and socks; also the barrel of apples. You had better have kept the latter, as it would have been more useful to you than to me, and I should have enjoyed its consumption by you and the girls more than by me...."
His friends and admirers were constantly sending him presents; some, simple mementos of their love and affection; others, substantial and material comforts for the outer and inner man. The following letter, from its date, is evidently an acknowledgement of Christmas gifts sent him:
"December 30th.... The Lyons furs and fur robe have also arrived safely, but I can learn nothing of the saddle of mutton. Bryan, of whom I inquired as to its arrival, is greatly alarmed lest it has been sent to the soldiers' dinner. If the soldiers get it, I shall be content. I can do very well without it. In fact, I should rather they should have it than I...."
The soldiers' "dinner" here referred to was a Christmas dinner, sent by the entire country, as far as they could, to the poor starving men in the trenches and camps along the lines. It would not be considered much now, but when the conditions were such as my father describes when he wrote the Secretary of War,