1830-1922; bulk: 1847-1865

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Francis L. Lee, farmer and colonel of the 44th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, and includes correspondence, personal papers, military papers, and printed material.

Biographical Sketch

Born on 10 December 1823, Francis Lowell Lee of Brookline, Massachusetts, was the son of Boston merchant Henry Lee (1782-1867) and Mary Jackson Lee (1783-1860). He entered Harvard College in 1839. While working as a supercargo for the Lee family business during the 1840s, he traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Cuba; and Kolkata, India. He built his country home, "Stoney Sides," on Lake Champlain in 1847, where he farmed and became involved in the Champlain Valley Horticultural Society. In 1848, he married Sarah Wilson Lee, with whom he had six children: Mary Lee (later Hale), Francis W. Lee, Alice Lee, Thomas Lee, Anne Lee, and Robert Lee.

On 26 May 1862, Lee became major of the 4th Battalion of Infantry in First Brigade and First Division of the Militia of the Commonwealth. Lee was commissioned as the colonel of the 44th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in August 1862, and in October the regiment was sent to North Carolina, where it joined with Stevenson's Brigade. The regiment returned home from North Carolina and disbanded in June 1863. After his honorable discharge, Lee became a military advisor at the Massachusetts State House. He died in 1886.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the personal and military papers of Francis L. Lee of Brookline, Massachusetts, a farmer and colonel of the 44th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The collection includes correspondence related to Lee's studies at Harvard, including letters to his father Henry Lee and mother Mary Jackson Lee, from Samuel A. Ripley and Josiah Quincy. An account book and letterbook document his business dealings as a supercargo in India. Between 1847 and 1859, Lee's correspondence deals primarily with personal matters, including the construction of his country home "Stoney Sides" near Lake Champlain, his marriage to Sarah Wilson Lee, family news, agriculture, politics, and personal finances. Frequent correspondents include Mary Jackson Lee, Henry Lee, Sr., and brother Henry Lee, Jr. During the Civil War, Lee received letters from his wife and children about their daily activities on the homefront in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and the progress of the war. Other letters discuss military matters, such as the formation of African American regiments, pay disputes and routine military business. Notable correspondents include Wallace Hinckley, Gov. John A. Andrew, Charles Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz, and Albert S. Bickmore. The collection does not contain letters written by Francis L. Lee during his service in the Civil War. Several documents and letters in the collection were sent to Lee's son Francis W. Lee after his father's death. Also included in the personal papers series are theater papers and drawings.

Approximately half of the military papers series consists of ordnance-related reports and returns. The remainder of the documents are an assortment of material related to the 44th Regiment, including petitions from the officers, a list of items taken from Southerners, and Lee's 1863 discharge certificate. The printed material series contains a wide assortment of items, including political pamphlets and articles, agricultural reports, and newspaper clippings, including obituaries for Sarah Wilson Lee.

Acquisition Information

Gift from the estate of Mary Lee through Thomas S. Walker, executor, Dec. 2007.

Processing Note

Due to severe mildew, approximately one-half of the personal papers and one-fifth of the military papers are photocopies. The originals were photocopied and discarded for safety reasons.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Personal papers, 1830-1922

A. Correspondence, 1830-1922

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains letters written to, by, and about Francis L. Lee, including correspondence related to his role as the colonel of the 44th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. It also includes several letters written to his son Francis W. Lee, as well as a small assortment of personal documents.

Correspondence from 1838-1840 relates primarily to Lee's studies, including letters to his father Henry Lee and mother Mary Jackson Lee, from Samuel A. Ripley and from Josiah Quincy concerning Francis L. Lee's studies and difficulties at Harvard. In 1844, Lee wrote a letter to his friend Thomas B. Hall describing his travels in Rio de Janeiro as a supercargo for the family trading business. An 1845 account book and letterbook document Lee's family business dealings in India, including the purchase of silks, linseed, and general merchandise.

Correspondence from 1847-1859 deals primarily with personal and family matters. His primary correspondents include Mary Jackson Lee, Henry Lee, brother Henry Lee (1817-1898), sister-in-law Lizzie Cabot Lee, and friend Thomas B. Hall. One major subject is the building, outfitting, and remodeling of his country home, "Stoney Sides," located near Lake Champlain. Other subjects include family news, such as his marriage to Sarah Wilson Lee, visits to friends, the birth of his daughter Mary Lee (later Hale) in 1849, the birth of his son Francis W. Lee in 1852, and the birth of his daughter Alice Lee in 1854. Additional topics include farm life and agriculture, Lee's finances, the economic effects of the railroads, and Lee's 1853 trip through Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, in which he discusses slavery and his impressions of the South.

After 1860, Francis L. Lee's correspondents are more varied. Throughout the Civil War, Lee received letters from his wife Sarah Wilson Lee concerning the war's progress and family life at home. Lee's children Francis W. Lee, Mary Lee, and Alice Lee wrote about their daily activities and the war. Throughout the war, other officers wrote Lee letters concerning personnel, and several of the men that served under him requested letters of recommendation. Another frequent correspondent was E. J. Hunter, who was responsible for Lee's business matters at home. Several correspondents, including Charles Russell Lowell, wrote to Lee about the formation of African American regiments, and a series of 1864 letters discuss an expedition to collect specimens in Bermuda undertaken by Albert S. Bickmore for Louis Agassiz. Other letters relate to Francis L. Lee's role as a military advisor at the Massachusetts State House in 1865.

Several legal documents, including mortgages, quit-claim deeds, and discharges of mortgages, are located in this subseries. A folder of papers related to Francis W. Lee includes a quit-claim deed and a letter electing him treasurer of the Trustees of Phillips Exeter Academy.

Box 1
Box 2
January 1852-February 1863
Box 3Folder 1-35
March 1863-June 1878
Box 3Folder 36
Francis W. Lee papers, 1894-1922

B. Theater papers, 1847-1865

Arranged chronologically,

This subseries contains handwritten scenes from various plays in which Francis L. Lee performed, including The Waterman, Perfection, The Rivals, The German, Good Night's Rest, Turn Out, Damon Pythias, and Who's the Dupe.

Box 3Folder 37-40

C. Drawings, 1861-1865

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries includes drawings sent to Lee by his children during the Civil War, as well as house plans drawn by Lee.

Box 3Folder 41-42

II. Military papers, 1861-1865

Arranged chronologically.

This series is comprised of documents related to Francis L. Lee's position as colonel of the 44th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Approximately half of this series consists of ordnance-related documents, including receipts of ordnance for individual companies within the 44th Regiment and invoices of ordnance returned to regimental stores. Also included are Lee's quarterly returns of unused ordnance to the central office.

The rest of the series is comprised of a variety of documents, including daily orders, passes, receipts of pay, petitions from officers in the 44th Regiment, and signals. Other notable military papers include a list of items taken from Southerners, a regimental history, a report on the condition of company camps and barracks, Lee's 1862 appointment as major of the 4th Battalion of Infantry in First Brigade and First Division of the Militia of the Commonwealth, and his 1863 discharge.

Box 4Folder 1-31

III. Printed material, 1839-1922

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains several items related to Francis L. Lee's interest in agriculture, including Champlain Valley Horticultural Society reports on apples, pears, and other crops. The printed material also reflects Lee's involvement in the theater and includes a playbill of the comic opera Il Recrutio performed for Major General John Gray Foster in 1863. Some of the printed material pertains to the Civil War, such as sanitary regulations for camps, a roster of the Massachusetts Volunteers Field Officers, special orders from Gov. John A. Andrew, and the pamphlets Instructions for Making Muster-Rolls, Mustering into Service, Periodical Payments, Discharging from Service Volunteers or Militia and Northern Interests and Southern Independence: A Plea for United Action by Charles J. Stille. Other papers of interest relate to African American regiments, and include newspaper clippings and a subscription paper for the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. A miniature copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a program for a concert in the honor of the Proclamation appear in the collection, as well. Finally, there are several obituaries marking Sarah Wilson Lee's death in 1901.

Oversize printed material includes 1862 military ordnance supply lists; article reprints, the bulk published by the New England Loyal Publication Society in 1863; and miscellaneous material, including an 1862 Eastern Railroad notice, a Boston City Council invitation to an 1863 Independence Day celebration, and an 1865 Thanksgiving proclamation.

Box 4Folder 32-36
Box 5
OS Box

Preferred Citation

Francis L. Lee papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Lee, Francis W.
Lee, Henry, 1782-1867.
Lee, Henry, 1817-1898.
Lee, Mary, 1783-1860.
Lee, Sarah Wilson, 1821-1901.
Lee family.


Harvard University--Students.
United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 44th (1862-1863).


Account books--1845.
Amateur theater.
Agriculture--New England.
Brazil--Commerce--United States.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
India trade.
India--Commerce--United States.
United States--Army--Officers.
United States--Commerce--Brazil.
United States--Commerce--India.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Popular opinion.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories--Massachusetts Infantry, 44th Volunteers.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Ten photographs have been removed to the Francis L. Lee photographs (Photo. Coll. 500.108).