<br /> Lee Letter: wl103

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George William Green
Recipient: Robert E.Lee


I have intended writing to you for some time, and have only delayed thinking that perhaps your correspondence would never reach you, and now there is a chance I take the earliest opportunity of addressing you and paying my respects to the great chief of the Confederate cause – I may begin by saying that since the war with Russia in 1855, (which you will remember, being in the Crimea with General McClellan) nothing has attracted the attention of Englishmen so much as the late struggle in America, Austrians, Prussians and Danes might burn and destroy each other, that was nothing, they were only feigners, but the Americans, (and especially the South) were of English stock, spoke the same language, and every one in England felt the deepest sympathy of the Combatants, – of course both North and South had their supporters, but in Newcastle, the center of the coal district, the majority were decidedly in favour of the South, and many were the disputes, crying nearly to quarreling that I have witnessed – I am happy to say I was a strong Southerner, in fact so strong were my opinions in your favour that by many of my friends I was called the G.C. (i.e. Great Confederate) and I am glad to say that I made more than one convert to the Southern cause – I had the Southern flag floating form the flagstaff in the garden, and each morning, if the news was bad, I had it half mast, but if the contrary, I had it floating triumphantly in the breeze, and so it continued higher or lower as the case might be till that fatal time in April last, when I lowered it, and in the words of the last Confederate song “The Vanquished Banner,” “Furled it gently, for its peoples hopes were fled” – Until that time I had no fear of the final result the news came, the Surrender of Richmond, clearly followed by that of your own, which as ill luck would have it happened on my birth day – Then when you were gone I must say I lost heart, for I had the fullest confidence in you, it may sound like flattery, but I have always held that truth is not flattery – The soldiers led by you seemed to be invincible – Any disasters happening the cause in the South but I did not think much, so long as you were unbroken, I did not perhaps attach the full value to the operations in other quarters, and fully endorsed the opinions of a writer in a Monthly magazine, called the British Army and Navy Review – as follows

Grant will hurl a thunderbolt at the heart of the revolt
We shall see
Other men have tried and failed, other men have blanched and quailed
Facing Lee
Oh when Grant, we seek the pay, kill your myriads, that you may
Crush the brave
But there are great deeds to be done, ere your mercenary crew
Passes Lee etc

During the whole time I read the papers carefully, and the alarming statements made by the pro-Federal papers never troubled me, & I knew that you were between the Northern hosts and Richmond, and I had no fear of the result – I felt in my heart so long as you stood, the Confederacy would stand – how often have the mighty hosts advanced to the undoubted capture of Richmond, and how often have they been driven back vigorously – Now that people can calmly think of it, the final result of the struggle is not to be wondered at, the North getting thousands of Emigrants daily can fill up the places of those who fell, while the South, hardly getting a single outside recruit, to them the loss of a single man, an irreparable misfortune, so that Grant could well afford to give 4 or 5 Mercenaries for one good Southerner fighting for his country, his home, and all he held dear – Peace to the memory of the fallen heroes, they could do no more, like Harold of England they gave their all, their lives for their country, and the names of Stuart and Stonewall Jackson, and many more heroes will live in the pages of history – Side by side with the names of the fallen, will be the names of Lee, Longstreet, Davis and Hood, who fought till all hope was gone, and when resistance would have been perhaps criminal, gave up the contest, and saved the lives of their fellow creatures, an act which gained for them the praise of all true Christians – As a strong contrast to this, what will be the opinion of posterity upon Lincoln, Butler the Beast, Grant the Butcher, Sherman the Merciless, and many men of similar caliber that I could name, what Northern General is there excepting perhaps McClellan, but who will be held up to execration by impartial historians – Compare the March of Sherman through Georgia, or that of Sheridan up the Shenandoah Valley, with your invasion of Pennsylvania, and great praise will be given to the “lawless Southern Rebels” By land and sea the glory has mainly been with the South, on land their armies have all at times suffered defeat, till by mere force of numbers, the South may be said to have been strangled – By sea what ship of the North has gained the renown of the Merrimac, Alabama, Florida, or Shenandoah, the Arkansas, Manassas, is the Tennessee will the deeds of the names filled the world with amazement, while the three cruisers roamed over the ocean at pleasure – The capture of the Florida was certainly not an act to be proud of, and the “accident” by which she was sunk would have been disowned by any nation but the Yankees – Farragut is the only seaman they can be proud of, and he I understand is a Southerner by birth, but the defense of the “Tennessee” at Mobile will rival any deed he committed, I could enumerate hundreds of actions which excited my admiration, but of course you know them much better than I do – I see they are now prosecuting poor Semmes, and the way they keep Mr. Davis in prison, shews anything but a generous spirit, but what better can be expected from the countryman of Butler, Parser Browton, Beecher etc

I think if the Conservative, had been in office in England the South would have had a much better chance, as there would not have been many restrictions placed upon the efforts of the South to obtain ships, etc, the two famous rams of Lairds would have got to sea safely – The miserable Whig government of Lord Russell threw every obstacle possible in the way of the South whilst it allowed the North to nearly openly enlist men, in fact a more partial government I have never heard of – however this is now idle talk, the past is gone, and cannot be recalled, and the result of all can only be lamented, one thing is certain, that if valor, courage and skill, united with patient endurance such as perhaps the world never seen, could have availed, the South would now be free; and the flag which was first raised at Charleston would still be waving over a free land –

I have only now to express my sorrow that such has not been the case, and also hope you will try to be spared to your country, and that Providence will be kinder to you for the rest of your honoured life, than what it has been lately – I see by the papers you have gone back to Virginia from Washington, and I can assure you I read with great pain the account the correspondent of the London Standard gave your melancholy visit to the house of Arlington – Nary a one in England has read that with sorrow, for the English who have so many stately ancestral mansions can fully sympathize with you in gazing upon the ruined home, and that line is well known “Dear even to a savage is the land of his birth.”

I am afraid I will have troubled you in writing this ill connected letter, but I am one where literary efforts are not large or numerous, so I trust you will pardon me, and accept this as a true feeling of regard I have for you and your noble deeds – I have a small request to make, which, if you could oblige now will make me very happy, your portrait, a Photograph I would treasure highly – I have seen some of yours here, but do not know whether they are authentic or not, so they bear no proof – Hoping you will grant this request, I remain, with many wishes for your welfare, and that of your country

Yours obediently

George William Green


Robert E. Lee CollectionLeyburn Library, Washington and Lee University

Endorsed by Lee: “England 14 March ’66 George W. Green Sends regards etc.”