LEE THE AMERICAN

BY
GAMALIEL BRADFORD

BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge

COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY GAMALIEL BRADFORD, JR.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published March 1912

TO
THE YOUNG MEN
BOTH OF THE NORTH AND OF THE SOUTH
WHO CAN MAKE OR UNMAKE
THE FUTURE OF THE
AMERICA
OF WASHINGTON, OF LINCOLN, AND OF LEE

 

PREFACE

THE formal and final biography of Lee should be written by a competent military specialist, like Henderson. This book, although it aims to give an intelligible biographical narrative, aims much more to give a clear, consistent, sympathetic portrait of a great soul. In short, its purpose is not so much biography as psychography. Those to whom the latter term is new will find a full discussion of it, both in general and in relation to Lee, in the Appendix.

For material I have relied mainly upon the “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” and the lives of Lee by Long, Jones, Fitzhugh Lee, and Captain R. E. Lee. But a complete bibliography of sources would be practically a bibliography of the war literature both Northern and Southern. I have endeavored to give in the Notes my authority for every verbal quotation and for all important or disputable statements of fact.

My thanks are due chiefly to the “Atlantic Monthly,” also to the “South Atlantic Quarterly,” and the “Sewanee Review,” for their hospitality. This has enabled me to submit all my chapters to public criticism before giving them the final revision which has certainly not eliminated all errors, but has, I hope, diminished the number.

I wish to thank also the numerous correspondents who have sent me corrections and suggestions. Some have been severe. Most have been kindly. All have been helpful. I trust they will appreciate the result of their helpfulness as much as I do.

 

CONTENTS

I. LEE BEFORE THE WAR

Lee’s descent and indifference to it—his father—his mother—his childhood—education—West Point—marriage and Virginia surroundings—life until the Mexican War—service in Mexico—Scott and others praise him—domestic correspondence—professional life during the fifties—superintendent at West Point—service on the plains—political and personal details in letters—arrest of John Brown—Lee’s personal appearance.

II. THE GREAT DECISION

Growth of a Lee legend to be deplored—his strong sense of duty—his views before the war—approach of the struggle—offered command of U.S. Army—interview with Scott—resigns his commission—discussion of his course—Rawle on West Point—general excuse of secession—does not apply to Lee—his state loyalty—a natural sentiment—has also a deeper political significance—Lee thus felt he was fighting for liberty—but also fighting for slavery, the real cause of the war—Lee did not believe in slavery and this makes tragedy of his position—absolute constancy to decision once made—no thought of personal advantage.

III. LEE AND DAVIS

Material for study of DaviS—his character—an orator—practical qualities—a nervous sensitive—his general relations with military subordinates—Lee’s tact and deference to Davis—instance of this in offer to resign after Gettysburg—yet Lee does not hesitate to assert himself, when necessary—and, in spite of all his tact, finds Davis difficult—Davis’s estimate of Lee—Lee’s estimate of Davis—their relations grow more critical towards the close—Davis’s unpopularity—how far he himself was responsible for this—public disposition to set up Lee as dictator—he refuses—friendly relations between him and Davis consequently preserved to the end.

IV. LEE AND THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT

Lee takes command of Virginia forces—then enters service of Confederacy—his subordination to civil power—limits of this subordination and assertion of authority in various directions—as to retaliation—as to negro military service—his great influence shown in this and in the desire to make him dictator—could he as such have saved the Confederacy?—Motives of his refusal—not preference of state to national allegiance—rather, modesty and unwillingness to assume responsibility that did not belong to him—also a consciousness of the uncertain political future of the Confederacy—leaves this future to God—his attitude towards peace negotiations—believes to the end that success is possible, if the people will make sacrifices—loyal and lofty acceptance of the result—dies a true American.

V. LEE AND HIS ARMY

Lee’s relations to his army as showing his character—his organizing ability—his discipline, lenient, but productive of good results—discipline of officers—tact and sympathetic suggestion—difficulties as to promotion—disputes of the officers with each other—largely as to share of blame for failure—Lee’s example and influence in this regard—personal relation with officers—no familiarity, but always kindliness—his accessibility—his relations with the common soldiers—memory for names and faces—simplicity of his habits—his army’s love for him—cause of this his love for them—illustrative anecdote.

VI. LEE AND JACKSON

Character of Jackson—a fighter, sensitive and kindly, but full of devouring energy—and able to inspire others with the same—was he ambitious?—his religion—did it destroy his ambition?—what he might have accomplished—his devotion to Lee—his opinion of Lee—Lee’s opinion of Jackson—their military relations—Jackson’s subordination to Lee—his insubordination to others—his relations to his own inferiors—his soldiers love him—with his officers some friction which Lee has to remove—their relations as to generalship—which deserves the glory?—especially at Chancelloreville—Lee’s superiority in luminousness.

VII. LEE IN BATTLE

Amount of Lee’s direction in actual conflict—how much had he of the soldier’s passion for fighting?—quality of his courage—exposure to danger—was he unbalanced in great crises?—his heroic combativeness at Antietam—his bearing and manner in battle—picture of him after defeat—Lee and his soldiers in battle—triumph—failure, the surrender—Lee and Grant.

VIII. LEE AS A GENERAL

Difficulty of estimating greatness—especially military greatness—brief outline of Lee’s military career—partial judgments in his favor—Southern enthusiasm—partial judgments against him—Badeau, Grant—impartial Northern judgment—recognition of Lee’s difficulties—discussion of mistakes—but enthusiastic praise—foreign judgment—mistakes again—but high and discriminating commendation—verdict of expert member of U.S. general staff—summary of Lee’s great qualities—organizing ability—boldness or rashness?—energy and rapidity—independence—knowledge of adversaries—his character even more important than his generalship.

IX. LEE’S SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC LIFE

Lee’s manner in general society—his fondness for the society of women—his jesting and quiet fun—his courtesy and kindness in business intercourse—had he intimate friendships?—a letter of Johnston’s—illustrative anecdotes—domestic relations—with his servants—with his children—advice and guidance—affection—generosity—playful enjoyment—Lee and his wife—always isolated—three social motives—with Lee only kindness, human fellowship—love of children—of animals—still always isolated—one friend only, God.

X. LEE’S SPIRITUAL LIFE

Lee’s education—his style as a writer—shows little love for intellectual pursuits—little taste for æsthetic pleasures—mild enjoyment of nature—eminently practical—not cold, however, quick temper, well-controlled—his purity and general self-control—order and system—New England conscience—reserve of speech—sometimes misinterpreted—thoroughly democratic—had he ambition?—domesticity and religion—his religion not sectarian—not dogmatic—essentially humble—and largely practical—public worship—forgiveness and Christian spirit—missionary tendencies—prayer—Lee’s indifference to its inconsistencies—personal relation to God—God the cardinal fact in his life.

XI. LEE AFTER THE WAR

Withdraws immediately into private life—attitude towards U.S. government—refuses to take pan in politics—avoids war topics, but loves and is loved by old soldiers—his few recorded opinions on the war—avoids all publicity—affectionate relations with neighbors and family—refuses lucrative positions and accepts presidency of Washington College—his labors and aims as an educator—management of his faculty—discipline of students—as to conduct—as to scholarship—influence in college and through whole South—greatness in failure—value of this for all times and especially for twentieth century America.

APPENDIX

Psychography and its difficulties—partiality—from general prejudices—from the desire for rhetorical effect—from personal sympathy—from laziness—objective difficulties—difficulty of accuracy as to fact—actions—words written and reported—greater difficulty of deducing motive from action—still greater difficulty of generalizing motives into qualities of character—in spite of these difficulties character-study to be pursued for its fascination—also for its practical value—choice of great men as subjects—their common humanity—danger of psychography degenerating into gossip—remedy for this, love—Lee lovable—his influence and desirability of extending it.

[Titles of Books Most Frequently Cited]

NOTES [Notes moved to end of each chapter]

INDEX [Omitted]

 

ILLUSTRATIONS

GENERAL ROBERT EDWARD LEE. (Photogravure). Frontispiece

From a painting by Theodore Pine (1904), in the possession of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va. Now reproduced for the first time.

ROBERT E. LEE

From a painting, about 1831, by West (son or nephew of Benjamin West), in the possession of Washington and Lee University. The uniform is that of a Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. It is the first painting of Lee, and is said to have been painted Shortly after his marriage.

JEFFERSON DAVIS

From a photograph by W. W. Foster, Richmond, Va.

GENERAL LEE ON TRAVELER

From a photograph by Miley & Son, Lexington, Va.

STONEWALL JACKSON

Drawn from life, in 1861, near Ball’s Bluff, by Dr. Adelbert
Volck of Baltimore.
Reproduced by the courtesy of Mrs. S. B. Herrick.

MRS. ROBERT E. LEE

From a photograph by Miley & Son, Lexington, Va.

ROBERT E. LEE

From the painting by Pioto in the possession of the Virginia Military Institute. Now reproduced for the first time.

FACSIMILE OF LEE’S LETTER ACCEPTING THE PRESIDENCY OF WASHINGTON COLLEGE

[page 1]
[page 2]

Reproduced by the courtesy of the University.

ROBERT E. LEE

When president of Washington College. From a photograph by W. W. Porter, Richmond, Va.

HEAD FROM RECUMBENT STATUE OF LEE

By Edward V. Valentine.
In Lee Memorial Chapel, Washington and Lee University.
From a photograph by Miley & Son, Lexington, Va.

 

LEE THE AMERICAN

Au reste, dans toutes ces citations je ne prétends pas endosser les passages que j’emprunte; je m’attache, comme toujours, à faire valoiret à faireconnaitre l’auteur que j’analyse, par ses meilleurs côtés, laissant au lecteur la balance de tout et l’arbitrage. Sainte-Beuve.

GENERAL ROBERT EDWARD LEE. (Photogravure). Frontispiece