Robert Edward Lee
By Emory Speer
Note: Emory Speer (1848–1918) was born in Culloden in Monroe County, Georgia. He joined the Confederate army during the last year of the war, as a volunteer in the 5th Kentucky Regiment, and by the time of Appomattox he had reached the age of sixteen. After the Civil War he attended the University of Georgia, graduating in 1869. Later in 1869 he was admitted to the Georgia bar and set up practice in Athens. In 1873 Speer was named solicitor general of Georgia. He won a seat in Congress in 1878, running as an Independent Democrat, and was re-elected two years later. He lost his seat in the election of 1882 and in March 1883 President Chester A. Arthur appointed Speer U.S. district attorney for Georgia, a position he held until 1885 when he was appointed district judge of Georgia's Southern Federal District. He held that position until 1918, and from 1893 to 1918 also served as dean of the Mercer University law school. Upon his death in Macon, Georgia, he was buried in Riverside Cemetery. His published works include Lectures on the Constitution of the United States: Before the Law Class of Mercer University (Macon, Georgia, 1897); Joseph E. Brown, of Georgia: Baccalaureate Address Commencement of Mercer University (PLACE: Foote and Davies Co., 1905); and Lincoln, Lee, Grant and Other Biographical Addresses (New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1909). The following is taken from the latter work, pp. 45–84.
R. E. Lee, from Lincoln, Lee, Grant . . .
ROBERT EDWARD LEE.*
*Delivered at Emory College, Oxford, Georgia, June, 1905; and at Yale University, New Haven, May, 1906.
In the Capitol at Washington a hall has been devoted to the images of our illustrious dead. The chamber is worthy of its consecration. It is the old Hall of Representatives. There in storied marble or enduring bronze, stand the mighty, whose patriotic imagination conceived, or whose military prowess made possible, the great Republic, whose prescient statesmanship framed or whose courage and eloquence defended its organic law, whose inventive genius enchained the mysterious forces of nature to its service, or whose scientific skill ameliorates the sufferings of its people. Majestic monitors to the day, when the night has fallen, in the chamber where once rang the musical voice of Clay, the lucid periods of Calhoun, and the melodious thunders of Webster, in ghostly shadows the silent gathering stands, as if to guard the liberty and happiness of the people whom they loved. Each State there may place the sculptor's conception of her two most illustrious sons. Virginia from her golden roll has named George Washington, and the only other in the recorded pages of time to be spoken in the hazardous connection—Robert Edward Lee.
At Stratford, an ancient home of the Lees, on the 19th of January, 1807, the hero chieftain was born. Stratford had been erected for a famous ancestor, by joint contributions from the East India Company and a Queen of England. The room in which the child was born had witnessed the birth of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, both Lees. No American had a prouder lineage, and no other depended on lineage less. His father was General Henry Lee, the famous “Light Horse Harry,” as he was termed by his loving and admiring comrades of the Continental Army. This distinguished officer was a great favorite with the patriot commander. His mother had been the charming Lucy Grimes, that “Lowland beauty” on whom the ever-susceptible Washington, in his youth lavished a share of that devotion for the fair sex, which ever marks the truly great. But Henry Lee did not secure his promotion in the Continental Army through the romantic affection of Washington. He was an accomplished and skilful officer. His command was declared to be “the finest that made its appearance in the arena of the Revolutionary War.” It was composed of equal proportions of cavalry and infantry, all picked officers and men. It is interesting to know that in this command of the father of General Lee there rode Peter Johnston, the father of General Joseph E. Johnston, ever the bosom friend of Lee, and the commander of another Confederate army, which, rivalling in all soldierly qualities the veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia, but for his untimely removal, thousands believe, would have made the red hills of Georgia as famous for defensive victory as the plain of Marathon, or the slope of Waterloo.
The Revolutionary War ended, General Henry Lee began a civil career not less noticeable and valuable than his military services. With John Marshall, James Madison, Edmund Randolph, and George Wythe he advocated the Federal Constitution in the Virginia Convention of 1788. He was Governor of Virginia. He commanded fifteen thousand militia, sent by President Washington to quell the Whiskey Insurrection in western Pennsylvania. Afterward, as a Member of Congress, on the death of Washington he was appointed to deliver an address in commemoration of the services of that illustrious man.
On the 25th of March, 1818, returning from the tropics, where he had gone in search of health, the father of Robert E. Lee died at beautiful Dungeness on Cumberland Island in our own State, and the stone which yet marks his resting-place, for nearly a century has been caressed by mosses pendant from Georgian oaks, and wooed by Georgian winds, which o'er the ashes of this hero of the Revolution there dispel the fragrance of the magnolia and the bay.
It is not generally known, I believe, that Robert E. Lee was the blood relative of John Marshall, the great Chief Justice, and of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and twice President of the United States. Marshall's mother, Mary Keith; Jefferson's mother, Jane Randolph, and Lee's grandmother, Mary Bland, were all three granddaughters of Colonel William Randolph. The home of this colonial ancestor of the great Confederate chieftain and his illustrious kinsmen, was on an island in the James, from whose shores one might have heard the thunder of McClellan's artillery at Malvern Hill, and the ripping fire of Lee's riflemen when at Petersburg they were steadily holding Grant at bay.
The mother of Robert E. Lee was the second wife of Henry Lee. Her name was Anne Hill Carter. This gentle and loving woman was the daughter of Charles Carter, of “Shirley,” a noble mansion on the James. To the care of young Robert his mother was committed when the declining health of his father compelled him to seek relief in the West Indies, and she declared that her affectionate guardian, was both a daughter and a son to her. The purity, gentleness and spiritual Christianity of General Lee was no doubt largely ascribable to the influence of the mother, and the constant association of mother and son, so beautiful to the people of Alexandria of that day, for to that historic old town, the boy had been taken that he might attend school.
In the year 1825 he sought admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His application was successful. Presented to General Andrew Jackson, the charming modesty of the manly and athletic youth appealed at once to the soldierly heart and experienced eye of “Old Hickory,” who secured the appointment for him. In four years of rigorous discipline and arduous study in that famous institution, he never received a demerit, was cadet officer, a prime distinction, adjutant of his class, and among forty-six classmates graduated second. By army regulations the cadets who graduate with honors are assigned to the Engineers, and so in 1829 Lee was appointed to this corps de élite of the Regular Army.
Like Napoleon, he was a great mathematician, and also, like him, was averse to drink. While the Army of Northern Virginia was in winter quarters at Petersburg a number of officers were one night busily engaged in discussing an abstruse mathematical problem, with occasional resort to the contents of a stone jug, environed by two tin cups. While thus absorbed, General Lee quietly came in to make some inquiry. At their request he gave a solution of the problem, and departed, the military rivals of Newton and La Place expressing to each other the hope that the General had not observed the jug and cups. The next day one of them in the presence of the others unhappily imparted to General Lee a very strange dream he had experienced the night before. The General quietly replied: “That is not at all remarkable. When young gentlemen discuss at midnight mathematical problems, the unknown quantities of which are a stone jug and two tin cups, they may expect to have strange dreams.”
Lieutenant Lee was soon absorbed with the most important duties of his corps. He was assistant engineer upon the defenses of Hampton Roads, and for a time assistant to the Chief Engineer, at the War Department in Washington. He developed such skill that in 1835 he was made assistant astronomer of the commission appointed to define the boundary between Ohio and Michigan, and was soon entrusted with the duty, successfully performed, of preventing the Mississippi from leaving its channel, and thus injuring the city of St. Louis.
In the mean time, on the 30th of June, 1831, he was united in marriage to Mary Custis, the daughter of George Washington Park Custis of Arlington. The father of this bride was the grandson of Mrs. Martha Washington, and the adopted son of Washington himself. It is said by one of his most interesting biographers that Lee was in love from his boyhood. How many sweethearts he had is not disclosed. They were doubtless numerous at this period, for in the esteem of the fair sex the profession of arms is equalled only by the clergy of those pious denominations wherein celibacy is the exception and not the rule. It is said that the young mistress of Arlington admired him whenever he came to Alexandria on a furlough from the Military Academy. A handsome youth, in his cadet uniform he was even more attractive, “straight, erect, symmetrical in form, with finely shaped head on a pair of broad shoulders.” The wedding at historic Arlington was witnessed by a happy assemblage of fair women and brave men from two States, and from the Capital of all the States. A contemporary chronicler declares that the stately mansion never held a happier assemblage. As to the bride, writes that preux chevalier, Fitzhugh Lee, it is difficult to say whether she was more lovely on that memorable June evening, or when, after many years had passed, she was seated in her arm-chair in Richmond, busily engaged in knitting socks for the sockless Southern soldiers.
The most ardent passion in the heart of this illustrious American was love for his wife and children. But he was not more devoted than discreet. One of his biographers recounts that when his eldest son, now General Custis Lee, was a very little child, his father took him to walk in the snow one winter's day. For a time he held the little fellow's hand, but soon the boy dropped behind. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Custis imitating his every movement, with head and shoulders erect, putting his little feet exactly in his father's footprints. “When I saw this,” said the General, “I said to myself, it behooves me to walk very straight, when this fellow is already following in my tracks.”
His care for his children was not confined to their childhood. Late in life he writes to his son, Robert E. Lee, Jr., “I am clear for your marriage, if you select a good wife, otherwise you had better remain as you are for a time. An improvident or uncongenial woman is worse than the minks.” We must recall that these bad minks are the chief pests of the Virginia farmer.
When General Winfield Scott was in 1846 entrusted with the command of our small but efficient army, intended for the reduction of the city of Mexico, Robert E. Lee, now captain of Engineers, was selected by that great soldier as a member of his personal staff. So profound was the impression he made on his veteran commander, that years afterwards, General Scott exclaimed to General Preston of Kentucky, “I tell you that if I were on my deathbed to-morrow, and the President of the United States should tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and ask my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, ‘Let him be Robert E. Lee’.”
The Mexican War over, with several brevets for distinguished services he came home and took part in constructing defensive works for Baltimore harbor, served for three years as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, and two new regiments of cavalry having in 1855 been authorized by act of Congress, Captain and Brevet-Colonel R. E. Lee of the Engineers was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel of the Second and afterwards to the colonelcy of the First Regiment. The latter was his command at the outbreak of hostilities between the Northern and Southern States.
We have now reached the period in the life of this great American where the current of events swept him swiftly to the foremost place among the military leaders of all the English speaking race. It is universally known that as General-in-Chief of the Confederate armies Lee at once achieved the most illustrious rank in the profession of arms, and was subjected to that fierce and for long implacable censure which invariably attends the most furious manifestation of human passion, a great civil war.
The time seems opportune for the American people to dispassionately inquire whether Robert E. Lee ever merited the reprobation even of the most ardent advocate of our “perpetual Union.” It is also opportune for their countrymen to know that Southern men may rejoice in the reunited nation, and yet yield not a heart-throb of devotion to the noble soldiery of the South and their incomparable chieftain. Rich as it is in military glory, brilliant though the bead-roll of its heroes, the Nation can no longer afford to question the military and personal honor of Lee and his fearless compatriots, nor can our country with all its acknowledged power disclaim that warlike renown which gleamed on the bayonets and blazed in the volleys of the soldiers of the South. Nor do her greatest and her best longer question the one or decry the other.
In the “Memoirs of General Grant” that great leader declares that his fearless foemen were as sincere in their devotion to the cause for which they fought, as were his own gallant armies to the flag of the Union. And of the soldiers of the South our soldier President of to-day has declared, that “they had the most hearty faith in the justice of their cause,” and that “he is but a poor American whose veins do not thrill with pride as, he reads of the deeds of desperate prowess done by the Confederate armies. And if they were sternly fighting for their convictions of right, and if the Nation should thrill with the story of their valor, how irrational it is to question the military or personal honor of their hero chieftain.”
To the Constitution as he understood it, it is easily demonstrable that Washington himself was not more devoted than Lee. His written and spoken words, in that day of ungovernable passion, portray in the clearest light his immovable aversion to disunion. On January 23, 1861, to the wife to whom his heart was ever open, he wrote of Washington: “How his spirit would be grieved could he see the wreck of his mighty labors. I will not, however, permit myself to believe until all grounds of hope are gone, that the fruit of his noble deeds will be destroyed, and that his precious advice and virtuous example will so soon be forgotten.” On the same day he wrote to his son: “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many safeguards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for a perpetual union, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of the people in convention assembled.” Since this and much other evidence of General Lee's devotion to the Union was first presented at Emory College, there came to the speaker a letter from Sacramento, California. It is written with the pathetic, tremulous hand of age and infirmity. It seems an important contribution to history, and the permission of the writer to make it public has been obtained.
“I have just seen in my daily paper,” wrote my aged correspondent, “a very short synopsis of your tribute to General Lee, delivered at Oxford, Georgia, June 9th. The synopsis is altogether too brief for me, who treasure anything said in praise of that brilliant soldier and Christian gentleman. I ask as a personal favor that you will send me a copy in extenso, if it was so published. In line with the quoted letter to his son, I recall an incident just prior to the civil or sectional war. General, then Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, in command of the First Cavalry, U.S.A., had his headquarters at Fort Mason, Texas. I was then a first lieutenant, temporarily in command of Company A of that regiment. I left him at the post when I went on a short leave of absence to San Antonio, Texas. On my return I stopped for lunch at a place about half way to Mason, where a cool spring and some large live oaks made an ideal camp or resting-place. A few minutes after I got there, an ambulance came from the opposite direction, and I was pleasantly surprised to see General Lee step from it. After a cordial greeting he told me he had the day before received an order to report to General Scott at Washington, and he feared it was to consult in regard to a plan of campaign against the South. He also said that Virginia, true to its past history, would not act upon impulse or be controlled by other States, but in a patriotic, dignified manner would only secede after exhausting every honorable means to avert secession, but that if his State seceded, he should resign, as he deemed it his duty to do so. As he talked on, time and again he oft repeated, with emotion that came from his heart, the hope that Virginia would not secede and that the Union might be preserved. His emotion, emphasized by the tears that moistened his eyes, impressed me the more deeply, as he was usually entirely self-contained. Virginia seceded in the manner he prophesied, he resigned, and offered his services as he said he would. I next saw him when I reported to him at Richmond. Every day I met him off duty at our lonely post, I was more impressed with the simple grandeur of his private character, and speaking of him, eulogy becomes cold truth. I am unable to write except painfully with a pen, and must therefore beg to be excused for writing with a pencil.
“I am, very respectfully your obedient servant,
“(Signed) GEORGE B. COSBY,
“Ex-Brigadier General, C.S.A.”
Why then, it has been asked, did Lee draw his sword in maintenance of secession, which he foresaw and prophesied would inflict such calamities upon the people? The reply is that, as he understood it, he did no such thing. His attitude is made plain in the letter to his son, already quoted: “If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State, and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defence, will draw my sword on none.” The evidence that he acted from the loftiest sense of duty is irresistible. To Francis P. Blair, who, as the messenger of President Lincoln, offered to him the active command of the Union armies then about to take the field, he exclaimed: “If I owned the four million slaves in the South, I would be willing to sacrifice them all to the Union, but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native State?” To him, what he had deemed revolution had come. He was convinced that the Union was in fact dissolved and the Government in fact disrupted. To him, Virginia, and Virginia alone, was his country. He was dealing with no theory, but with what he believed an appalling fact. It is not necessary to the vindication of Lee, to argue, as some have done, that secession was a constitutional remedy, nor that it was thus taught at West Point. This made no impression upon him. We have seen that he did not believe it. This much is plain—he did believe that the secession of the Southern States ex proprio vigore did in fact disrupt and dissolve the Union; that by revolution already accomplished, the Union had already ceased to exist, and henceforth that his allegiance was due to the State of his birth.
General Lee was now fifty-three years of age, and his character was known to thousands. Never in any army was the morale and spirit of personal honor more elevated than among the renowned officers who held command in the old Regular Army of the United States. To these men the reputation of Robert E. Lee was as familiar as household words. Suspicion had not regarded; envy, the meanest of human passions, had spared him. Back-wounding calumny was voiceless before the honor of Lee. From his youth upward he had walked with God. No man can read his life and utterances and hesitate in the opinion that this man not only believed, but had positive knowledge of the presence of the Divine Spirit. His every announcement of victory was couched in terms of the sincerest gratitude to God.
He was no propagandist of revolution. He reiterated his regret for the bitterness in the public discussions of the day. He had no censure of Southern men who, like Thomas, Drayton, and Farragut, adhered to the Union. Nor is there a syllable of evidence that he attempted to withdraw from the Union cause any one of the multitude of skilful officers who were inevitably within the scope of his personal influence. For his own son, Lieutenant Custis Lee, a brilliant officer in the Regular Army, he wrote: “The times are indeed calamitous. The brightness of God's countenance seems turned from us, and His mercy stopped in its blissful current. Tell Custis he must consult his own judgment, reason, and conscience as to the course he may take. I do not wish him to be guided by my wishes or example. If I have done wrong, let him do better. The present is a momentous question which every man must settle for himself, and upon principle.”
But this is not all. He was as self-sacrificial as sincere. His life had been spent in the Army. His cordial friendships were there. His beloved home Arlington was within the cordon of entrenchments of the National Capital, and than he no one knew more clearly that his adhesion to the cause of the South meant the loss, not only of his professional income, but of all his earthly means. Ever observant, knowing thoroughly the preponderant mechanical and military power of the Northern States, and knowing far better than most Southern men the imperturbable constancy and resolute courage of their citizenship, from the first he did not deceive himself as to the probable outcome of the struggle. To Southern men, who would depreciate the valor of the Union soldier, he was accustomed to say, “You forget that we are all Americans.”
In addition to all of these considerations, there were influences powerful with ordinary men, indeed with many great men, by which it was sought to retain his matchless military genius in the service of the Union. As we have seen, the chief command of the Union Armies was offered him. No greater temptation, or greater opportunity, was ever offered a man of his marvelous genius for war. And after all, and as unanswerable as the unchallenged word and the stainless honor of Lee, for his vindication, there stands the record of his people, the steadfastness, the constancy, the sacrifices, the heroism of eleven American States, an empire vaster than that of imperial Rome under the reign of an Antonine or a Trajan. “I do not know,” said Edmund Burke, “the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.”
He desired to withhold his resignation until after his State had acted. He wrote to his brother, Sidney Smith Lee: “After the most anxious inquiry as to the correct course for me to pursue, I concluded to resign and send in my resignation this morning. I wished to wait until the ordinance of secession should be acted upon by the people of Virginia; but war seems to have commenced and I am liable at any time to be ordered on duty which I could not conscientiously perform. To save me from such a position, and to prevent the necessity of resigning under orders, I had to act at once, and before I could see you again on the subject as I had wished. I am now a private citizen, and have no other ambition than to remain at home. Save in the defence of my native State, I have no desire ever again to draw my sword. I send you my warmest love. Your affectionate brother, R. E. Lee.”
He offered his resignation. It was promptly accepted.* From the white porch of his home he might behold the long columns and hear the approaching tramp of armies, hostile to his people and his State. The sword of Lee flashed from its scabbard. His resolve now that the awful hour had come, to die if need be for his loved ones and his home,—
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his father
And the temples of his gods?
*The biographer, the historian, and encyclopedist have made little, if any, mention of the acceptance of General Lee's resignation. I am indebted to the Secretary of War for this authoritative information, and the extract from the records of the War Department on this point, herewith printed:
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, March 27, 1909.
MY DEAR JUDGE SPEER:
In response to your letter of the 24th instant, relative to the acceptance of the resignation of General Robert E. Lee, I beg leave to say that the official records show not only that the resignation of General Lee (then Colonel, First Regiment, United States Cavalry) was accepted, but that he was officially notified of its acceptance, and that the fact of the acceptance was publicly announced in special orders issued to the Army.
Thinking that copies of the original documents in the case may be of interest to you, I transmit herewith a copy of Colonel Lee's tender of resignation, dated April 20, 1861, and of the indorsements thereon; also a copy of a letter from the office of the Adjutant-General of the Army, dated April 27, 1861, notifying Colonel Lee of the acceptance of his resignation, and a copy of War Department Special Orders, No. ng, of April 27, 1861, publishing the announcement of the acceptance of the resignation.
Thanking you for your very kind expressions concerning
myself, and with assurance of my high personal regard, I am
Very truly yours,
(Signed) J. M. DICKINSON, Secretary of War.
ARLINGTON, WASHINGTON CITY P.O., 20 April, 1861.
Honble. SIMON CAMERON, Secy. of War.
SIR: I have the honour to tender the resignation of my Commission as Colonel of the 1st Regt. of Cavalry.
Very respt. your obt. servt.
R. E. LEE, Col. 1st Cavy.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, WASHINGTON, April 20, '61.
Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant-General by direction of the General-in-Chief.
E. D. TOWNSEND, Asst. Adjt.-Genl.
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.
A.G.O., Apr. 24, '61. L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.
Accepted. SIMON CAMERON, Secy. of War.
Apl. 25, ?61.
ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE,
WASHINGTON, April 27, 1861.
Col. ROBERT E. LEE, 1st Cavalry, Washington, D.C.
Sir: Your resignation has been accepted by the President of the United States, to take effect the 25th instant. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Sgd.) JULIUS P. GARESCHE, Asst. Adjt. General.
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, April 27, 1861.
Special Orders, No. 119.
1. The resignations of the following officers have been accepted by the President to take effect on the dates set opposite their names respectively, to-wit,
Colonel Robert E. Lee, First Cavalry, April 25, 1861.
By order L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.
Napoleon said that Marshal Turenne was the only example of a general who grew bolder as he grew older. The campaigns of Lee will demonstrate that, aggressive from the first, his audacity was intensified until that final day at Appomattox, when his worn, wasted, and starving veterans, assailed on rear and flanks by the massy Army of the Potomac, were confronted by the overpowering force of the Army of the James. Indeed, the predominant features of his generalship are a daring audacity, associated with the clearest penetration of his adversary's designs, the profoundest combinations of strategy, and an influence over his soldiers unsurpassed by that of a Napoleon or a Caesar.
Holding the fortifications of Richmond in June, 1862, with a small force, and summoning to his aid from the Valley of Virginia the illustrious Stonewall Jackson, he boldly determined to cut loose from his entrenchments with the remainder of his army, and assailing the right flank of McClellan, sweep down the north side of the Chickahominy, and roll up like a scroll the long lines of his opponent, raise the siege of the Confederate capital, and if possible capture the gallant and powerful army by which it was threatened.
The astonishing military genius of his lieutenant, whom General Lee now called to his aid, General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, immortalized as “Stonewall,” has cast unfading luster on the arms of the American soldier. This great commander had amazed the world with his campaign in the Valley of Virginia. His thoughts too were ever with God. A Presbyterian, and one of that numerous class, the Southern Puritan, his massive iron jaw gave earnest to his statement that to be under a heavy fire filled him with “delicious excitement.” While in camp he organized prayer-meetings among the soldiers. However, that dashing sabreur, Fitzhugh Lee, whose manoeuvres at that period of his life perhaps did not compass many of these devotional exercises, informs us that when the meeting began, the hymn was raised, and the proceedings were evidently a success, Stonewall often went to sleep. It was General Ewell who declared that he admired Jackson's genius, but that he never saw one of his couriers approach without expecting an order to assault the North Pole. It was this renowned officer, who eluding the army of McDowell in his front, with his seasoned veterans, now swiftly joined Lee on his left, when they precipitated themselves upon the foe. In seven successive days of furious fighting, McClellan after tremendous losses of men and munitions of war was driven to the James, the siege of Richmond was raised, and the Union Army was transferred by water to the defense of the Union Capital itself. In the mean time, Lee had determined if possible to expel the Union forces from the soil of Virginia, and with little respite for his army, now flushed with victory, moved northward against the army of Major-Genera1 Pope. This officer was the possessor of no small degree of military capacity. He was, however, not more unfortunate in the result of his contest with Lee, than in the proclamations with which he announced his plans. He stated that his headquarters would be in the saddle, that he was not accustomed to see anything of rebels but their backs, etc. General Lee started Stonewall for this confident warrior. General McClellan, who was a highly scientific commander, anxiously observing the situation, did not have his apprehensions altogether allayed by Pope's proclamations. He wired to the War Department in Washington: “I don't like Jackson's movements. He will suddenly appear when least expected.” General McClellan was prophetic, for Jackson struck Pope with terrible impact at Cedar Mountain, by a tremendous forced march swept around his flank, tore up the railroad in his rear, captured a number of guns, many prisoners, and several trains loaded with stores and munitions of war. The weary “foot cavalry” of Jackson, as they were called, now revelled in luxuriant plenty. They were not, as usual, violating the scriptural injunction by saying “what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed.” And now Pope, perceiving the exposed position of this Confederate force, informed General McDowell that he would “bag Jackson and his whole crowd”; but that warrior, after his soldiers were stuffed to repletion with the delicious “commissaries” designed for the nourishment of Pope's army, bearing off everything not too hot to hold, or too heavy to carry, set fire to the rest, and leisurely marched away in another direction. Pope marched to Manassas. Jackson was not there. Misled by the track of two divisions, which to deceive him Jackson had sent in that direction, Pope posted off to Centerville, but Jackson was gone. In the mean time, “Old Jack,” with “all his war paint on,” and with his intrepid veterans, was in battle formation waiting for Pope, behind the line of an unfinished railroad stretching from the Warrenton turnpike in the direction of Sudley's Mill, where it suited him to make his fight.
Against this single corps of Lee's army, Pope,
having been largely reinforced by McClellan, directed
a dreadful attack. The disproportion in
numbers against the gray fighters was terrifying,
but with unshaken tenacity they held their ground.
At last, Longstreet's columns came pouring
through Thoroughfare Gap. Lee, massing his
artillery against the flank of Pope's army and at
the same time directing against it the flaming advance
of the Confederate infantry, paralyzed the
attack on Jackson. The Union army, driven from
the field with fearful loss, took refuge in the entrenchments
at Washington, and the victory was
complete. Well might the exultant boys in gray
lift their voices in their lilting marching song:
Lee formed his line of battle,
Said, “Boys, you need not fear,
For Longstreet's in our center,
And Jackson's in their rear.”
Of the sensations of General Pope, on the other hand, we have no adequate account, but notwithstanding his recent proclamations, it is possible that he was willing to resign his task to some other great general. Possibly his state of mind was like that of an unregenerate church member, who had listened to a long and somewhat tiresome sermon on the Major and Minor Prophets. And when the good preacher asked, “Where shall we place Amos?“ “Brother,” said the tired one rising up, “Amos may have my place if he wants it, for I'm going home.”
Not content with these successes, General Lee determined to carry the war into his enemy's country. The Army of Northern Virginia, its bands playing the inspiring strain “Maryland, My Maryland,” forded the swift Potomac, while Jackson assailed a large force of his enemy at Harper's Ferry and reduced that place. Leaving another to arrange the details of the surrender, Jackson marched with amazing speed to join Lee at Sharpsburg, where the latter was confronted by the magnificent army of McClellan. General Lee was now in great danger. Nothing indeed saved him but the skill of his dispositions and the desperate determination with which his slender line of infantry, almost without artillery support, for hour after hour, beat back and fought to exhaustion one of the bravest and most powerful armies ever assembled under the Stars and Stripes. Fighting McClellan to a standstill, Lee at his leisure coolly withdrew his army across the Potomac. Here he was followed, but with such display of caution by the Federal commander, that the Government at Washington, losing patience with that distinguished officer, removed him from command. Genera1 Burnside, a courtly gentleman and heroic soldier, was now entrusted with the task of taking Richmond.
The winter was now at hand, and Burnside moved his gigantic force to Fredericksburg. From the heights of Stafford, like Moses on Pisgah, he “viewed the landscape o'er,” but no “sweet fields beyond the swelling flood” enchanted his vision. Instead, the spectacle of Lee's gray fighters, holding every coign of vantage, inviting him to come across. So indeed he did, and through one of the bloodiest days in all its glorious history, the Army of the Potomac again and again essayed to break those fierce lines which barred its way to Richmond. The carnage was fearful, and despite the unshrinking courage of the Union Army, under the pitiless death hail the task was impossible. For a moment, in that portion of the line commanded by Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate formation was broken, but the brave division of General Jubal Early came rushing to the point of danger. Ever jocular in the moment of greatest peril, the shouts of those farmer boys were heard above the roar of battle and the shriek of shells: “Here comes old Jubal; let Jubal straighten that fence.” And the fence was straightened and not again broken. Jackson's men feigned to ascribe their temporary disorder to the fact that their general had that day replaced his ordinarily dingy suit with a bright new uniform resplendent with gold lace. Some of them said that “Old Jack was afraid of his clothes and would not get down to his work.”
After this disaster General Burnside was removed, and General Hooker was placed in command of the Union army. Crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan above Fredericksburg without resistance, the mor[n]ing of April the 30th, 1863, found his army concentrated at Chancellorsville. At the same time, General Sedgwick crossed the river below Fredericksburg with a force of fifty-two thousand four hundred and one men. It was presumed that Lee would confront this powerful demonstration on his right, and thus enable Hooker to move down the river, overwhelm his left and take his fortifications in reverse.
In the mean time, Stuart's cavalry had kept the Confederate commander advised of all these movements. The cool judgment of Lee was not disturbed. He saw that Sedgwick was three miles below Fredericksburg, and that Hooker was ten miles above. He determined to retard the march of Sedgwick, to move on Hooker, and crush him before he could get out of the Wilderness. On the morning of the first of May, General Hooker, persuaded that Lee was attempting to stand off Sedgwick thirteen miles away, put his massive columns in motion on the road towards Fredericksburg; but when the head of his columns debouched from the forest near Chancellorsville, to his amazement he beheld the ragged but confident veterans of Lee advancing in line of battle. General Hooker was a soldier of fame and a man of intrepid courage. He had meant to attack Lee, and it had not occurred to him, it seems, that he might be himself attacked. Perceiving that Lee would destroy the heads of his columns as fast as they would come out of the forest, he ordered his army to fall back to their lines around Chancellorsville. Lee swiftly followed. The Confederate leader soon discovered that frontal attack on Hooker's line was impossible; but that night a belligerent parson, the Rev. Dr. Lacy, came with Stuart to Lee, and informed him that it was practicable to move around by the Wilderness tavern, and strike Hooker on his right flank. Jackson, with his whole corps, was immediately ordered to make this movement.
The next morning witnessed the last meeting, in this life, between Lee and Jackson. Lee was standing hard by the bivouac, watching Jackson's troops as they sped by with the untiring pace of the forced march. Jackson stopped and exchanged a few words with his noble chief, but speedily rejoining his troops, their last parting was over. The Duke of Wellington, it is said, declared, “A man of fine Christian sensibilities is totally unfit for the profession of a soldier;” but of this incomparable pair it is true that all the bloody annals of our race contain no account of two others who surpassed them in military genius or achievement, and of no other with more implicit faith in the promise to the Christian of salvation and immortal life beyond the grave.
The sequel of the movement of Jackson's corps is familiar history. Fitzhugh Lee by personal reconnaissance had located the exact position of the Union right, and conducted that great soldier and his terrible infantry to the point of attack. Swiftly forming his divisions as they came up at right angles to Hooker's line, Jackson's men with their terrifying charging yell burst upon the unsuspecting Federals. It is said that “Rabbits and squirrels ran, and flocks of birds flew in front of the advance of these twenty-six thousand men, who had dropped so suddenly into their forest haunts. The surging, seething sea swept away all barriers. Many of the officers attempted to turn back the human tide, but as well might Pharaoh have tried to resist the walls of the Red Sea. Lee's audacity had won. Hooker's right had been fairly turned and rolled in a sheet of flame upon his center.”
Now the night had fallen. In the confusion and darkness, Stonewall Jackson fell by the fire of his own men. Jackson had lost his left arm; Lee, as he declared, the right arm of his army. To the last, Jackson's men upheld to the uttermost their renown as incomparable soldiers, but never again did men behold the fire and fury of their battle, as when driven by the impassioned energy of that impetuous soul, now gone to its reward. The next morning the battle was renewed. After a bloody day Hooker and Sedgwick were both driven across the Rappahannock, and for two years more the Stars and Bars were to float defiantly above the Confederate Capital.
With his army at the very acme of its morale and its efficiency, Lee now determined to again cross the Potomac. Thus the campaign of Gettysburg began. No other great movement directed by the Southern commander ever had more hopeful promise of success. Never so formidable was that heroic American army of the Southern States, seasoned and inured to war, which marched under their shot-riven battle-flags to Gettysburg, the high-water mark of the Confederacy. The story of this battle of Titans is an oft-told tale. I will not discuss the causes of disaster there to the Army of Northern Virginia. The profession of arms and the students of military history the world around discuss it. But it is known of all men that it was ascribable neither to error of military judgment, to faulty dispositions on the part of the Confederate commander, nor to the want of valor and enthusiasm by his devoted soldiery. Beyond the nobility, almost superhuman, of assuming the blame himself, Lee was silent. From his lips no word of censure ever fell upon the military renown of his great corps commander, the intrepid and immovable Longstreet.
We have seen Lee in victory. Let us for a moment regard him in defeat. Colonel Freemantle of the Coldstream Guards is our witness. Pickett's division had been destroyed. In the hour of their repulse the Confederate officers were every moment expecting the counter-stroke, like that with which at Waterloo Wellington had crushed Napoleon. Said the distinguished officer of the British Army, from whose account I quote: “The further I got, the greater became the number of wounded. At last I came to a perfect stream of them flocking through the woods in numbers as great as the crowd in Oxford Street in the middle of the day. Some were walking alone on crutches, composed of two rifles, others were supported by men less badly wounded than themselves, and others were carried on stretchers by the ambulance corps; but in no case did I see a sound man helping the wounded to the rear, unless he carried the red badge of the ambulance corps. They were still under a heavy fire; shells were continually bringing down great limbs of trees, and carrying further destruction amongst this melancholy procession.” Colonel Freemantle continues: “The conduct of General Lee was perfectly sublime. He was engaged in rallying and in encouraging the broken troops, and was riding about, a little in front of the wood, quite alone * * * the whole of his staff being engaged in a similar manner further to the rear. His face, which is always placid and cheerful, did not show signs of the slightest disappointment, care, or annoyance; and he was addressing to every soldier he met a few words of encouragement, such as, ‘All this will come right in the end; we'll talk it over afterwards; but, in the mean time, all good men must rally. We want all good and true men just now,’ etc. He spoke to all the wounded men that passed him, and the slightly wounded he exhorted to ‘bind up their hurts and take up a musket’ in this emergency. Very few of them failed to answer his appeal, and I saw many badly wounded men take off their hats and cheer him. He said to me, ‘This has been a sad day for us, Colonel, * * * a sad day, but we can't expect always to gain victories.’ It was difficult,” said Colonel Freemantle, “to exaggerate the critical state of affairs as they appeared about this time. Notwithstanding the misfortune which had so suddenly befallen him, General Lee seemed to observe everything, however trivial. When a mounted officer began licking his horse for shying at the bursting of a shell, he called out, ‘Don't whip him, Captain, don't whip him. I've got just such another foolish horse myself, and whipping does no good.’ General Lee and his officers were evidently fully impressed with a sense of the situation; yet there was much less noise, fuss, or confusion of orders than at an ordinary field-day. The men as they were rallied in the wood were brought up in detachments, and lay down quietly and coolly in the positions assigned to them.”
In all that gallant army Colonel Freemantle saw but one demoralized man. “I happened,” he said, “to see a man lying flat on his face in a small ditch, and I remarked that I didn't think he seemed dead; this drew General Lee's attention to the man, who commenced groaning dismally. Finding appeals to his patriotism of no avail, General Lee had him ignominiously set on his legs by some neighboring gunners.” This observer quotes the non-commissioned officers and privates to whom he talked: “When they saw General Lee, they would say, ‘We've not lost confidence in the old man; this day's work won't do him no harm. “Uncle Robert” will get us into Washington yet; you bet he will’,” etc. And he adds, “No words that I can use will adequately express the extraordinary patience and fortitude with which the wounded Confederates bore their sufferings.”
The day after this terrible and disastrous fighting, the retreating army of Lee again came under the observation of this critical and impartial observer. There were no signs of disorder or defeat. He said, “The road was full of soldiers marching in a particularly lively manner * * * the wet and mud seemed to have produced no effect whatever on their spirits, which were as boisterous as ever. They had got hold of colored prints of Mr. Lincoln, which they were passing about from company to company, with many remarks upon the personal beauty of Uncle Abe. The same old chaff was going on of ‘come out of that hat * * * I know you are in it * * * I see your legs a-dangling down’,” etc.
Indeed, the evidence of impartial observers, of Confederate officers, and of the events after the battle, notwithstanding this terrible experience, and the loss of twenty thousand four hundred and fifty-one men, is that the morale of Lee's army was in little or nothing impaired. It had inflicted a loss upon its gallant opponents of twenty-three thousand and three killed, wounded and captured. No serious attack was made upon its retreating columns. So severe was the blow it had inflicted upon General Meade, and so cautious was his advance, that, nettled by criticisms from Washington, the general of the victorious army at once tendered his resignation.
But General Meade was not to blame for his caution. It is obvious that before there can be a pursuit, there must be somebody to run away, and nobody ran from Gettysburg. Indeed, after the First Manassas, a routed or disorganized army was scarcely seen on either side in the great Civil War. The opposing armies were of the people. When the call to arms came, the plow was stopped in the furrow, the whirr of machinery was hushed, and the hammer slumbered voiceless on the anvil. Oh, how quickly they came, and how gallantly and lightly they marched into the valley and the shadow of death. They could not foresee its horrors. Theirs had been the piping times of peace. But when they closed with the foe on the crest of battle, also theirs was the blood and nerve the king of terrors himself could not appall. Four years of deadly fighting, dreadful suffering, and unshaken constancy convinced the world that the military virtues of the American soldier have never been surpassed. Whether like the thin red line that held the slopes at Waterloo, they withstood the assault and rolled back the charging columns, or like the Household Brigade at Steinkirk, with the shout, “We must do it with the sword,” the gentlemen of France hurled their column on the foe, they were equally unsurpassed. But few remain. Most are old and worn. The untiring step which kept the pace of the forced march is now feeble. The hand that pulled the lanyard or guided the steed is tremulous. The clear eye that glanced along the deadly rifle is growing dim. And when the last of the venerable throng shall
Sink to rest,
With all his country's wishes blest,
then will their deeds, as they deserve, receive proud recompense.”
We give in charge their names to the sweet lyre.
The historic Muse, proud of the sacred treasure,
Marches with it down to latest times,
And Sculpture in her turn gives bond in stone and ever-during
To guard and to immortalize the trust.
No complaint ever fell from Lee's lips, but on more than one occasion he declared, “If General Jackson had been at Gettysburg, we would have won a great victory.”
The winter of '63 and '64 was passed by General Lee in unremitting efforts to strengthen his army for the dreadful campaigns to ensue. The Confederacy had been cut in two by the fall of Vicksburg. The presence of hostile armies in North Georgia had restricted the resources of the Army of Northern Virginia practically to three States, and these were denuded to the soil. But scanty supplies could be forwarded, for the condition of the railroads and rolling stock was irremediable. Such are the misfortunes of a people without mechanical skill, or power. All of the ports were now tightly blockaded save Wilmington, and that was closed with the fall of Fort Fisher. Well informed men everywhere, and especially military men, were convinced that the army of Lee could not endure another campaign. The impossibility of feeding his men overwhelmed the General. One day he received by mail an anonymous communication from a private soldier, containing a minute and meager slice of salt port carefully packed between two oak chips. With this came a letter, stating that this was the daily ration of meat, that the writer could not live on it, and though a gentleman, was reduced by the cravings of hunger to the necessity of stealing. This incident gave General Lee great pain and strong remonstrances were addressed to the commissar department, but all in vain. He writes his wife that “thousands are barefoot, thousands with fragments of shoes, and all without overcoats, blankets, or warm clothing.” Of a movement he was compelled to abandon, he declares, “I could not bear to expose them to certain suffering on an uncertain issue.” Doing all in his power to alleviate their physical sufferings, he does not neglect the spiritual welfare of his men. He confers with the chaplains and attends their religious services. More than once, in the stress of a swift ride to the front, he is known to dismount and join in the simple prayer service of his soldiers. His headquarters during that winter are in a plain army tent stationed on a hillside near Orange Court House. He shares all the privations of his men, and writes home to his distressed wife with unabating cheerfulness. One day he writes, “All the brides have come on a visit to the army, Mrs. Ewell, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Heth, etc.” General Ewell, who had lost one of his legs in the campaign of '62, had been married in a romantic fashion. “Virginia,” said a contemporary, “never had a truer gentleman, a braver soldier, nor an odder, more lovable fellow.” He was very absent-minded. His bride had been a widow, a Mrs. Brown, and he would with great formality introduce her, “Allow me to present my wife, Mrs. Brown.”
And now the year of battle was at hand. The entire military power of the Union was placed under the control of one master mind, General U. S. Grant, a great commander, not more clear-sighted and formidable in the operations of war, against his enemy with arms in his hands, than gentle and magnanimous to that enemy in honorable defeat. So absolute was his authority, that on April 30, 1864, Mr. Lincoln wrote him: “The particulars of your plans I neither know nor seek to know. I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you.” Well had it been for the hopes of the Confederacy had similar powers been given to General Lee. This was finally done, but only a few days before Appomattox.
Lee now commands sixty-two thousand men. There are present with Grant's colors one hundred and eighteen thousand. These deployed in double line of battle would cover a front of thirty miles, and overlap Lee's line by fourteen miles. Grant may confront Lee with equal numbers, and at the same time with fifty-six thousand men assail him on either flank. Nor does this take into account the enormous reinforcements which the Union General is constantly receiving.
On the 5th of May Grant crosses the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, and starts with his massy columns on the road to Richmond. Soon his thousands are entangled in the Wilderness, and Lee, ever audacious, with a portion of his army is thundering on his right marching flank. “It is,” said a biographer of General Lee, “a terrible field for a battle, a region of tangled underbrush, ragged foliage, and knotted trunks. You hear the Saturnalia, gloomy, hideous, desperate, raging unconfined. You see nothing, and the very mystery augments the horror; from out the depths comes the ruin that had been wrought, in bleeding shapes borne in blankets or on stretchers. Soldiers fall, writhe, and die unseen, their bodies lost in the bushes, their dying groans drowned in the steady, continuous, unceasing crash.” Both armies fight with all the intrepid courage of their heroic line.
With great sweep to the left, Grant seeks to reach Spottsylvania Court House, and interpose between Lee and Richmond, but when he reaches his objective the riflemen of Lee are in his path. For twelve days the intrepid army of the Union reiterated the fierce and continued assaults upon the thin gray line. Occasionally broken by overpowering numbers, but rallying and charging anew under the inspiring presence of their leader, these heroes in rags ever hold their ground.
At half past four on the morning of the 12th of May, over a salient on General Ewell's works, that gallant Union General whom Meade termed “Hancock the superb” rushed a storming column,
taking many Confederate prisoners and twenty
pieces of artillery. The line was untenable. The
engineering eye of Lee had detected this defect,
but while withdrawing the artillery to make a realignment,
the charging columns came. The moment
was critical. The Confederate army was cut
in two. And, determined to restore his line, with
the fighting blood of his hero strain lighting his
face with the glow of battle, Lee, mounted on
“Traveler,” brave as his master, dashes to the
front of the charging columns, and bares that good
gray head, to lead his men into the death hail
sweeping the Bloody Angle. But another is there!
In civil life and on the crest of battle a leader of
men, daring, magnetic, eloquent, a hero fighter
while the war is on, but ever afterwards an apostle
of peace and reconciliation, who, reflecting glory
upon the generation he survived, crowned with all
that should accompany old age, idolized by every
Southern and venerated by every American heart,
to the last “sustained and soothed by an unfaltering
trust,” has now drawn
The drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams,
Lieutenant-General John B. Gordon. And under the wave of Gordon's sword, the fearless veterans advance. The Stars and Bars, and Stars and Stripes, are in actual contact across the bloodstained rampart. The driving storms of rifle-balls gnaw off the forest trees, which crushing fall on friend and foe. Drenched with rain, covered with clay, and blackened with powder, the opposing lines desperately fight. Shells bursting from mortar fire rain down destruction, storms of canister sweep the parapets, the Minies ceaselessly hail across the appalling scene. The dead bodies sometimes four deep are again and again thrown from the trenches, which run with blood. When after twenty hours of death grapple, through sheer exhaustion, the battle fails, unshaken in their lines stand the heroes in gray, and Gordon's pledge to Lee is kept.
Day after day the tragic, piteous story is the same. On the North Anna, at Cold Harbor, in many an unnamed battle, the army of Grant hurls itself with devoted courage against the swerveless constancy of Lee's fierce and hungry soldiery. Thousands of the bravest and the best on both sides perish. When the fight is over, the inanimate clay is in the trenches laid, and the slender earthworks which sheltered the living turned over on the silent heroes, whether of the Blue or the Gray, now shelter the dead.
Convinced that in the field the army of Lee is unconquerable, General Grant swiftly transfers his army to the south of the James. He intends to surprise Petersburg, and compel the evacuation of Richmond. But Lee's penetration is not at fault. The slumbers of the people of the Confederate Capital are disturbed by the tramp of marching thousands. It is the tireless quickstep of Lee's fighters hastening at top speed to find their foe. In all the history of human strife never was [a] march more fateful. The steam flotilla and the pontoon bridges of General Grant had given his arm a start of many hours. He was now south of the James. Petersburg, gateway to the Confederate Capital, was almost within his grasp. Lee's army was north of the river, many miles away. The most untutored of all those desperate fighters knew the danger to their cause as well as Lee himself. No sound in those fierce ranks, save the clank of accoutrements, the tread of rushing thousands, and the stern commands of their officers. With set and rigid faces, parched throats, and untiring muscles, onward, ever onward press those terrible men in gray. Not in vain now, the wind and training of years of furious fighting, hard marching, and slender rations. Not in vain through their great hearts streamed the hero blood, flowing down from far distant sires, from sires who rolled back from German forests the fierce legions of Varus, from Saxons who had hurled from the trenches at Hastings the mail-clad warriors of the Conqueror, from Crusaders who had “swarmed up the breach at Ascalon,” from yeomanry who had cloven down the chivalry of France at Agincourt and Poitiers, from ragged Continentals who had won American independence. And so, when the first blush of dawn breaks on Petersburg, the last stronghold of the Confederacy, and the charging columns of Grant rush to the attack to brush away the slender force of veterans, home-guards, and convalescents, who stood them off the night before, up rose from the trenches the rebel yell, out broke the riven battle flags, down came the rifles with steady aim, and forth blazed the withering volleys, which told the Army of the Potomac that the men of Manassas, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Cold Harbor had again arrived in time.
As predicted by General Lee, the siege of Petersburg is but a question of days. Held by a mistaken policy immovably in his lines, his unequalled powers as a strategist are now of no avail. His enemy finds him at will. His bright sword, whose lightning play for so long has parried every thrust, and again and again has flashed over the guard, and disabled his foe, now held fast as if on an anvil, may be shattered by the hammer of Grant. His is soon a phantom army. The lean and hungry faces seem to belong to shadows without bodies. The winter falls; their uniform is a rude patchwork of rags. On those rare occasions when there are cattle to kill, the green hides are eagerly seized, and fashioned into rough buskins to protect bare and bleeding feet from the stony and frozen ground. Often their ration is a little parched corn, sometimes corn on the cob. Jocular to the last, “Les Miserables” they call themselves, appropriating, with pronunciation which would have startled the author, the title of Victor Hugo's famous novel, which, reprinted in Richmond on wrapping paper, affords some of them solace through these awful days.
“ Day and night for months,” writes one of Lee's biographers, “an incessant fire without one break rained down upon them all known means of destruction. Their constancy during those dismal days of winter never failed. Night came; they lay down in their trenches where cold and the enemy's shells left them no repose. Snow, hail, wind, rain, cannon-fire, starvation—they had to bear all without a ray of hope.” Their lines stretch from below Richmond on the north side of the James, to Hatchers Run far to the south of Petersburg. In front of them, supplied with every comfort and every munition of war, is a mighty, brave, and disciplined army. In many places the Federal and Confederate lines are not a dozen yards apart. Finally, with thirty-three thousand men, Lee is holding forty miles of trenches; and every night his men unroll their thin blankets, and unloose their shoe-strings with deep forebodings of what the morrow may bring. Officers and men know that the end is at hand, but their desperate courage never falters; and when at last the powerful army of Sheridan is detached to assail his right flank, and Lee is compelled to withdraw the infantry from his line to meet this movement, in the absence of defenders, Grant, as if on parade, though with dreadful loss, marches over the Confederate lines; Richmond falls, and after a brief interval of heroic unavailing strife, the Army of Northern Virginia is annihilated. The fearless remnant of the worn and wasted veterans, surrounded at Appomattox by ten times their number, without a word of unkindness from their brave foemen, whom they had so often defeated, so long held at bay, with all the honors of war, surrender their battle-riven standards.
Then came that ever to be remembered scene, when his loving veterans gather at the side of their General, press his hands, touch his clothing, and caress his horse. In simple, manly words, he said: “Men, we have fought through the war together. I have done my best for you. My heart is too full to say more.” And then came the last order to the Army of Northern Virginia, read through tears which wash the grime of battle from the veteran's face; not tears of anger or humiliation, but tears of sympathy for him, of exultation and pride for the martial honor even for the humblest private, his leadership had won; honor preserved to them with arms in their hands, by the terms of the surrender; the proudest heritage to the latest times of all the generations of that hero strain. Aye, more, a heritage of valor and potency, now and forever at the command of our reunited land, which the powers of earth may well heed in all the contingencies threatening to our safety the future may have in store.
And came then that sad autumnal day, so many years ago, yet so near to us who wore the gray, as, standing with wife and loved ones, to invoke on his frugal table the blessing of the Master he loved and served, he sank to rise no more. Oh, what then did foe and friend say of Lee? Much was said, but all was said by one, in the words of the Arthurian legend:
Ah, Sir Lancelot, there thou liest. Thou wert head of all Christian knights, and now, I dare say, thou wert the courtliest knight that ever bare shield * * * and thou wert the kindest man that ever strake with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights; and thou wert the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in rest.
Deny him a place by Washington? Ah, is it sure, if in the awful hour when hostile armies approached Virginia's soil, the winds of the Prophet had breathed upon the dead that they might live, caught from the wall at Mount Vernon by his reincarnated hand, the defensive blade of Washington would not have gleamed beside the sword of Lee? Repel not then, my country, the fervid love of thy sons who fought with Lee, aid of their sons. Their prowess thou hast seen: on the hills of Santiago, on the waters of Luzon. The flowers of Spring thy equal hand wilt henceforth strew on graves of all thy hero dead. Repel not then his blameless name from thy Immortals' scroll. And in thy need, on those who love him thou wilt not call in vain.
HON. EMORY SPEER,|
United States District Judge for the Southern District of Georgia.