Hale, Elias W.
Autograph Letter Signed, Fairfax Institute, February 8, 1842 to his mother, Jane Hale, Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania

quarto, three pages, including stamp-less address leaf, neatly inscribed in ink, very good.

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Hale, a student at the Fairfax Institute, writes his mother describing events and daily life at the school:


     “Dear Mother,


           … I did not know that General Irvine had come home … As to General Patton’s marriage I was not much surprised to hear of it… I did think of going on to Washington next Saturday but I think that I wont go until next week perhaps not then for the small pox is in town and Mr. Smith wont let any of the boys go to town. The Doctor is here vaccinating the boys. I have not been done yet but I suppose I will for Mr. Smith says that we must all be done. Edward Jackson the boy that was sick is getting quite well again his mother went away about a week ago… I have just been vaccinated one of the boys fainted when he was done & I thought it was going to hurt dreadfully but I scarcely felt it…

           One of the High School boys died last week he had been sick for some time but they did not think him dangerous at all. Mr. Pendleton was down here the evening before he died, he said that he was not confined to bed, the Doctor gave him some medicine the morning of the day that he died and told him not to eat anything acid but as soon as the doctor was gone he went and ate two pickles and he died before night, his name was Heywood and he was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland… Just before school let out one of the servants came and called Landon Eliason out and since school let out we discovered that his mothers house is on fire it is about half way to Town I am now writing by a window and I can see the fire quite plain… Ash Wednesday afternoon we have just come home from church. Dr. Sparrow preached … I have concluded not to go to Washington until I hear from you again and I want you to write whether I should best go to see General Patton and Grady or not …”


Elias White Hale, 18 years-old when he wrote this letter, was the son of a Yale educated Pennsylvania lawyer who hobnobbed with Army Generals – a typical student at the elite Fairfax Institute, near Washington, D.C., where both northerners and southerners, particularly well-heeled Virginians were enrolled. A year after Hale wrote this letter, 11 year-old George Washington Custis Lee, eldest son of Captain Robert E. Lee, an Army Engineer at Fort Hamilton in New York City, was enrolled at the Institute, where he studied classics under the tutelage of the headmaster, Mr. Smith. While Hale went on to graduate and attend medical school, young Lee was still at the school in 1847 when his father went off to service in the Mexican-American War as a chief aide to General Winfield Scott, who defeated Santa Anna and captured Mexico City. Fourteen years later, when the Civil War began and his father took command of the Confederate Army, Custis Lee himself served as a General and aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis. He was captured by Union soldiers just days before his father surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.