"The reverend Dr. Brantley was invited by the faculty of the college to deliver the baccalaureate sermon next June, and I invited him and his daughter, in the event of his accepting, to stay with us. Do you know whether he has accepted? I should have gone to Florida last Friday as proposed, but Agnes was not well enough. She took cold on the journey or on her first arrival, and has been quite sick, but is better now. I have not seen her this morning, but if she is sufficiently recovered we will leave here to-morrow. I have received a message saying that she was much better. As regards myself, my general health is pretty good. I feel stronger than when I came. The warm weather has also dispelled some of the rheumatic pains in my back, but I perceive no change in the stricture in my chest. If I attempt to walk beyond a very slow gait, the pain is always there. It is all true what the doctors say about its being aggravated by any fresh cold, but how to avoid taking cold is the question. It seems with me to be impossible. Everything and anything seems to give me one. I meet with much kindness and consideration, but fear that nothing will relieve my complaint, which is fixed and old. I must bear it. I hope that you will not give over your trip to the 'White House,' if you still desire to make it. I shall commence my return above the last of April, stopping at some points, and will be a few days in Richmond, and the 'White House' if able. I must leave to Agnes all details. Give much love to Custis, Mary, and Mildred. Tell the latter I have received her letters. Remember me to all friends.
"Most sincerely yours, R. E. Lee.
After visiting Cumberland Island and going up to the St. John's River as far as Palatka, and spending the night at Colonel Cole's place near there, they returned to Savannah. Colonel Cole was on General Lee's staff as chief commissary during the time he commanded the Army of Northern Virginia, and was a very dear friend of us all:
"Savannah, Georgia, April 18, 1870.
"My Dear Mary: I have received your letter of the 13th, and am glad to learn that you propose visiting the 'White House,' as I feared my journey might prevent you. I am, however, very anxious on the subject, as I apprehend the trip will be irksome and may produce great inconvenience and pain. I hope you received my letter of the 11th, written just before my departure for Florida. In case you did not, I will state that I forwarded your petition to Cassius Lee as received, not thinking my signature necessary or advantageous. I will send the money received from the 'University Publishing Company' to Carter, for whom I intend it [This was the money that came to General Lee from his new edition of his father's "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States."]. I returned from Florida Saturday, 16th, having had a very pleasant trip as far as Palatka on the St. John's. We visited Comberland Island, and Agnes decorated my father's grave with beautiful fresh flowers. I presume it is the last time I shall be able to pay to it my tribute of respect. The cemetery is unharmed and the grave is in good order, though the house of Dungeness has been burned and the island devastated. Mr. Nightingale, the present proprietor, accompanied me from Brunswick. Mr. Andrew Lowe was so kind as to go with us the whole way, thinking Agnes and I were unable to take care of ourselves. Agnes seemed to enjoy the trip very much, and has improved in health. I shall leave to her all details. We spent a night at Colonel Cole's, a beautiful place near Palatka, and ate oranges from the trees. We passed some other beautiful places on the river, but could not stop at any but Jacksonville, where we remained from 4 P. M. to 3 A. M. next morning, rode over the town, etc., and were hospitably entertained by Colonel Sanderson. The climate was delightful, the fish inviting and abundant. We have returned to our old quarters, Agnes to the Lawtons' and I to the Lowe's. We shall remain here this week, and will probably spend a few days in Charleston and Norfolk, if we go that way, and at 'Brandon' and 'Shirley' before going to the 'White House,' where we shall hope to meet you. I know of no certain place where a letter will catch me before I reach Richmond, where the doctors desire me to spend a few days that they may again examine me. Write me there whether Fitzhugh is too full to receive us. It will depend upon my feelings, weather, etc., whether I make the digression by Norfolk. Poor little Agnes has had, I fear, but little enjoyment so far, and I wish her to have all the pleasure she can gather on the route. She is still weak and seems to suffer constantly from the neuralgia. I hope I am better, I know that I am stronger, but I still have the pain in my chest whenever I walk. I have felt it also occasionally of late when quiescent, but not badly, which is new. To-day Doctors Arnold and Reed, of this city, examined me for about an hour. They concur in the opinion of the other physicians, and think it pretty certain that my trouble arises from some adhesion of the parts, not from injury of the lungs and heart, but that the pericardium may not be implicated, and the adhesion may be between the pleura and ---, I have forgotten the name. Their visit was at the urgent entreaty of friends, which I could not well resist, and perhaps their opinion is not fully matured. I am continuing the prescriptions of Doctors Barton and Madison. My rheumatic pains, either from the effects of the medicine or the climate, or both, have diminished, but the pain along the breast bone ever returns on my making any exertion. I am glad Mildred has returned so well. I hope that she will continue so. After perusal, send this letter to one of the children to whom you may be writing, that Doctors Barton, etc., may be informed how I am getting along, as I have been unable to write to them or to any one at Lexington. I have so many letters to write in answer to kind invitations, etc., and so many interruptions, that my time is consumed. Besides, writing is irksome to me. Give my love to Fitzhugh, Tabb, and Robert and to Custis, Mary, and Mildred when you write. Agnes said she was going out to return some of her numerous visits to-day, and I presume will not be able to write. She has had but little comfort in her clothes. Her silk dress was spoiled on the way, and she returned it to Baltimore, but has learned that they can do nothing with it, so she will have to do without it, which I presume she can do. I hope you may reach the 'White House' comfortably. I will apprise you of my movements from time to time. I hope my godson will know you. Tell him I have numbers of his namesakes since I left Virginia, of whom I was not aware. I hope they will come to good.
From the following letters--all that I can find relating to this part of the journey--it appears that the travellers started for Virginia, stopping at Charleston, Wilmington, and Norfolk. Of their visit to Charleston I can find no record. He and Agnes stayed at the beautiful home of Mr. Bennet, who had two sons at the college, and a lovely daughter, Mary Bennet. I remember Agnes telling me of the beautiful flowers and other attentions lavished upon them.
At Wilmington they spent a day with Mr. and Mrs. Davis. His coming there was known only to a few persons, as its announcement was by a private telegram from Savannah, but quite a number of ladies and gentlemen secured a small train and went out on the Southern Road to meet him. When they met the regular passenger-train from Savannah, General Lee was taken from it to the privateone and welcomed by his many friends. He seemed bright and cheerful and conversed with all. He spoke of his health not being good, and on this account begged that there would be no public demonstration on his arrival, nor during his stay at Wilmington.
On reaching that place, he accompanied Mr. George Davis [Attorney General in Mr. Davis's cabinet] to his house and was his guest during his sojourn in the city.