Robert E. Lee's writings discovered in 2002 provide new insight

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Five years after the discovery of two wooden trunks containing letters and other writings by U.S. General Robert E. Lee, the Virginia Historical Society is making most of the materials available to researchers.

Mary Custis Lee, the unofficial family archivist, stowed the trunks at the bank because she had an account there, said Lee Shepard, the Virginia Historical Society's director of manuscripts and archives. She died in 1918, and the trunks were not rediscovered by family members and bank officials until 84 years later.

"One of the great things about this collection for me is it's very broad in terms of what we can learn about Lee," said Shepard. "It's not just the Civil War, though there is good Civil War content."

Other subjects covered in the writings, he said, include Lee's time on the Texas frontier before the war and his presidency of Washington College — now Washington & Lee — in Lexington, Virginia, after the war.

The collection includes materials from other Lee family members, Shepard said, including "many of the female members of the family, who were interesting in their own right." The oldest item dates to 1694, he said.

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