Guide to the B. C. Lee Letter, RG 198

Processed and Listed by: Dieter C. Ullrich
Date: July 2004

Date Span:

0.10 cubic feet; 2 items.

Number of Boxes:
1 file folder.

Type of material:
Personal correspondence.

Physical condition:

Arranged chronologically.

Historical or Biographical Sketch:
Britton C. Lee was believed to have been born in Autauga County, Alabama in 1838. Lee attended the East Alabama Male College from 1859 until 1860. When the American Civil War began he enlisted as a sergeant in Company B of the 4th Alabama Volunteer Militia. He was later commissioned as a lieutenant with the 38th Alabama Infantry Regiment in 1862 and during the closing days of the war he served as a corporal in the Jefferson Davis Alabama Artillery. Following the war he relocated to Louisiana where he farmed near the Arkansas border. He died in 1928 at the age of 90 in 1928.

Scope and Content:
Consists of transcripts of letter written by Britton C. Lee, a student at East Alabama Male College, on November 11, 1859 to his mother Summerfield, Louisiana. Includes a photocopy of notebook, titled "East Alabama Male College - the "Wirt Society" - Auburn, Alabama - 1860".

Transcript of letter:

Auburn, Ala.
November 11th, 1859.

My dear Mother:

You cannot imagine how much pleasure it affords me, on this occasion, to seat myself for the purpose of writing to you, My feelings are revived - my heart is glad, & I am made to rejoice, This week, I have received two letters from my dear, my lovely, & my affectionate mother; & with feelings of gratitude, & emotions of gladness, I, now at the close of the week, enter upon the pleasing duty of responding to those letters, & informing my mother that I am still in the enjoyment of good health, & in every respect doing well.

I have labored faithfully & diligently during the past week, & I am fatigued in body & mind, yet I shall perform this duty with no degree of reluctance, hoping at the same time, that my few & scattering remarks will not prove uninteresting, or boring to you. There is nothing that affords me so much pleasure, as receiving & reading a letter from home; & especially when I am informed that all are well, I had feared that something was the matter, that some one was sick, or dead - for I have inquired at the Office every day, & anxiously expected a letter, but my bright hopes & anticipations have all been blasted, until this week, when I received your spirit reviving messenger, & learned that all were well. And I am happy to return the same good news - I am well & doing well also. The longer I remain in Auburn, the better I am pleased, & the more I am convinced that it is a place calculated to ward off any thing that would foster wickedness, & conduce to the downfall & corruption of the young. It is nearer assimilated to Summerfield than any place I ever saw - I mean, in a moral point of view - in fact, its people & customs remind me of Summerfield - I anticipate a pleasant time here-.

The inhabitants of this place are very sociable, & friendly, perhaps more so now, than they will be several years hence, for this being a new college every one is exerting himself to give it name & reputation. And the students, therefore, are treated with the greatest courtesy, & are warmly received into the families, of Auburn. The citizens take a great pride in introducing a young man, & endeavor to make him feel at home - as though he were thrown among those in whom he could confide, & with whom he could spend his leisure moments pleasantly. There are four churches here - Episcopal— Baptist- Presbyterian, & Methodist- the latter of these I have joined - by letter - I am compelled, by the laws of the college, to attend church twice on Sabbath, at either one, or the other of those churches. We have a large & flourishing Sabbath School here also. I think after becoming acquainted with the place, that it is indeed an excellent place for a college - Chemists, say, that it is the highest place in Ala. The water is the purest & best I ever drank. You asked me in regard to my boarding house; whether or not I was rooming upstairs? Yes, Ma, I am rooming upstairs - I am occupying a room second to none other in Auburn. It was my choice, & would still be my choice of all the rooms that I have seen in the place. In it, I am retired, & in quiet. And my Land Lord & Lady are as good & clever as they can be. I am perfectly satisfied with them. No better. I am boarding in a private family [home] 3/4 mile from the college. You ought not to put yourself to any trouble in reference to my safety, in being upstairs. If that annoys you - banish it from your mind - rest easy & satisfied - all will work out right.

I believe that there is 82 students in college at present - everything is moving on in peace and harmony. I am making fine progress in my studies, & I am therefore taking a high stand in my class. I think that we have a most excellent faculty here - they are all emminent men, & well educated, & sufficiently competent to carry on & conduct an Institution like this. The people of Greensboro are endeavoring to outstrip us - but we are ahead at present. They have only 43 students, while we have 82. Both colleges are in their infancy, & both opened on the same day, Greensboro college, opened with 39, & Auburn with 49 students. So you see that we made a better opening than they - & the number has increased faster here, than there, And the reason of this, is; that Auburn is so much healthier than Greensboro.

I have not heard from the relations in Autauga, since I left. I did receive a letter from John Davis, but it was very short & did not inform me in regard to the health of the people. He is going to start shortly to Mobile to attend Medical Lectures; Dick Holmes is going with him. Nearly all the young men about Autaugaville are making Doctors of themselves; & the majority of them, when they graduate will not be competent to wait on a sick horse. They are not competent to read medicine, as it should be read. I think that they should first prepare themselves, acquire an education, & then engage in a profession if they would be successful. Any "goose" or "fop" can study “at” a profession; but it takes a man who is qualified, to succeed. For that reason I am seeking an education, to fit & qualify myself, for future usefulness, & future influence. Then, if I should take a profession I would certainly be more likely to succeed. “Victory is won only by those who are prepared for the conflict.” But I hope that my Autauga friends will be successful, & stand at the head of their profession.

Ma, you wrote to me in reference to buying Julia. I believe, if I were you, that I should not make another attempt to buy her. It is true, she is a valuable negro to you, would suit you very well, & she would be the gladdest in the world to live with you; yet she is getting old, & has been very much abused, & is not worth as much as she was, when you bargained for her. Mr. Boyd did not act right with you in this matter, last winter, & if you should buy her again, or attempt it, he would no doubt pursue the same course. So I believe, that I should not say any thing more about it. There are other negroes, that you can purchase, & negroes too that would suit you as well, yes, even better than she would. However, you must do as you please, or as you think best - I have merely stated my notion in regard to the subject. They want to sell her “provided”, they can get double her worth - which is unfair & unreasonable.

Ma, if I had a little more time this winter, I would go to La, & see you all, but I shall not have more than about three weeks, & that will not be sulficiently long for me to go, & come, as I desire to stay some time when I do go. I want to see all - I am anxious to return to La. & behold once more the play-ground of my former days. You stated that brother Frank had married again. Hurrah! for him. Tell brother William to go & do likewise. "Woman was created as a help-meet for man," therefore every man ought to seek him a wife - unless he is unfortunate & can not find one that will marry him - under such circumstances of course he would be excusable for living the life of a Bachelor-. My brother will not be offended at any thing I have said, for I am not insinuating at all-, & mean no offense whatever-.

It is now time for me to close. Give my best wishes & kindest regards to all, & accept a portion to yourself-, May God, guide, preserve, & finally save you in that Heaven of bliss & happiness, is the prayer of your son,

B. C. Lee

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