<br /> Lee Letter: wl057

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Thomas J. Hardin
Recipient: Robert E. Lee


It is with a profound Sensation of esteem and regard that I now address you. Though unacquainted with you personally yet your name is as familiar as that of a father. The events of the last five (5) years are sufficient to render your name commonplace in the mouth of every individual within the length and breadth of the land and will be handed down to the latest posterity upon the pages of glory and of honor. My object for addressing “you” is to obtain some information with reference to the institution which you have the honor to preside. Having known something of this institution before the war and thinking it a superior one at that time I have reasons now to believe it one of the first institutions on the American continent. You will send me your latest issue of catalogues and give any additional remarks you may deem necessary. All of which will be thankfully and gratefully received. I suppose that the military department has been discontinued at present because of the late war between the two sections of our country. As regards myself I entered the Confederate Army when fifteen years of age. I served it well and faithfully as became my duty as soldier and as one who claimed protection and liberty under its proud banner. Born and raised in the South I flatter myself it is no dishonor. The last five years tell too plainly the Southern character. They have gone to history. They are not lost. They have left lessons and memorials that will be instructive and entertaining until time shall be no more. They make up but a small portion of time but this small portion was more animated and brilliant with characters and scenes and incidents than any other in the vast cycle. Over all portions of our country events transpired, deeds were done and scenes were enacted that will make the pages of history glow with unwonted splendor. But this I will leave to historians, but who will be historians who will rescue the honor of that cause from the ignominy with which its enemies seek to overwhelm it and present it to us and to posterity in its attractive drapery of truth and justice? By our own Southern band these heroic deeds were done. They went out at their country’s call to repel invasion. Many thousands never have – never will return. In what dwelling is there no vacant seat – no heart that does not mourn for the loved and lost? Many thousands have returned broken in health, mutilated in body and ruined in fortune. Some have one arm and some go about on crutches – mute badges of valor and of misfortune. Our cause is lost.

We will never again kindle the fires of revolution. In the terrible reminiscences of the war, the Southern people have their own griefs and glory isolated from all others. We weep over the same graves – we feel a common thrill at the rehearsal of the same battle. Scenes we exult over the same victories and sorrow over the same defeats – we fought under the same banner, mingled our shouts when it waved in triumph and our regrets when it trailed in disaster and when that banner went down in darkness and blood of agony burst from the universal Southern heart. A great nation has ceased to live and we are about to be hurled from the political stage of the world. But let it be. We must be as true to the new position of affairs as we were to the old; at least if we cannot act in conjunction with; we must not act in opposition to the authority of the Government. Our military honor demands it; if not our duty as citizens does not demand it and let us preserve our military honor pure and spotless under all circumstances. My fate is indissolubly linked with that of my country whatever it may be. I have often regreted that civil strife and discord ever found its way into our great and happy nation; but probably fate had so ordained it. I am not a fatalist but it seems that each has his destiny in the world. And as I said before, my fate is that of my country. Then let my destiny be fulfilled, whether noble in its tendency or degrading in its character remains to be seen. I have supported her in her adversity, her gloom and desolation. And since it requires great men to meet great events so each should prepare himself well to act well the part assigned him in this great dramma of the world. And now let the patriot son either sink into the night of her infancy or raise himself to eternal glory upon her ruins. I have long obeyed your orders as Gen.-in-Chief of the C.S.A. And can now render the same obedience as a student in the halls of science and literature as I once did when a soldier through the bulwarks, over mutilated bodies and bristling bayonets of the enemy. I am now nineteen years of age and will have several years yet to devote to my textbooks before passing the usual age of graduation in college. And now dear father of our lost and downtrodden country, though but a boy yet I can appreciate your pure and spotless character, your moderation and justice, when you held the destinies of millions in your hands. And now in your fallen, though honorable attitude receive my adoration the only testimonial of respect I am able to give. The earliest reply to this unworthy communication is most respectfully submitted

Thos. J. Hardin


Robert E. Lee CollectionLeyburn Library, Washington and Lee University

Endorsed by Lee: “Texas – 23 Jany ’66 Circular Ansd 14 Feb.”