General Robert E. Lee, The Christian Soldier, by Judith Brockenbrough McGuire, Chapter 18

General Robert E. Lee, The Christian Soldier


WHEN within a mile or two of Richmond he rode ahead of his escort, only accompanied by a few officers. Mayo’s bridge had been destroyed when the Confederates retreated, but crossing a pontoon bridge placed there by the Federals, he crossed into Richmond,—sad, enthralled Richmond, enslaved and in ruins. What a sorrowful sight to him, as he rode through the masses of rubbish in the burnt district, which reached nearly to the residence of his family. Cary and Main Streets, and large portions of others were in ruins.

As soon as he was recognized, the intelligence spread from lip to lip that General Lee had come. The inhabitants rushed from their homes to welcome him; the streets re-echoed with cheers and shouts, and were gay once more with waving handkerchiefs and other demonstrations of welcome. He wished to avoid this outpouring of feeling. He raised his hat and courteously bowed, but rode on in silence to his own home, where his wife and children awaited him. When he entered the house, the crowd silently withdrew; no one intruded on his privacy. The circumstances were too painful, and the very rabble respected his desire to be alone with his family.

The following entry is in the diary of a gentleman then in Richmond.

General Lee is in Richmond. He came without parade, but could n’t come unobserved. As soon as his appearance was whispered about, a crowd gathered in his path, not boisterously, but respectfully, and thickening rapidly as he advanced to his house on Franklin Street, between 8th and 9th, when, with a courtly bow to the multitude, he at once retired to the bosom of his own beloved family. How universal and profound is the respect felt for this great commander, though returning from defeat and disaster! He had done all that could be accomplished with the means placed under his control, all that skill and valor could do. The scenes of the surrender were noble and touching beyond the power of language to describe. General Grant’s bearing was profoundly respectful; General Lee’s courtly and lofty as the purest chivalry could require. The terms, so honorable to all parties, being complied with to the letter, our arms were laid down with breaking hears and tears such as sternest warriors may shed! “Woe worth the day.”

All over now! The trumpet-blast,
   The hurried trampling to and fro,
The sky with battle-smoke o’ercast,
   The flood of death and woe,
All ended now. The siren song
   Of Hope’s ecstatic lay is hushed;
And minor chords, in plaintive tones,
   Wail out where gayer notes are crushed.

’Neath feathery snow, in hallowed ground,
   By far Potomac’s rippling stream
Our loved ones sleep; the lulling waves
   Can ne’er disturb the soldier’s dream.
They whisper, “Peace,”—the dove of peace,
   Like Noah’s, searches for her nest;
She folds her wings among the dead,
   But with the living finds no rest.

All over now! We gave our all—
   Our loved ones, homes, and prayers;
God wills that we awhile shall wait,
   In bitterness and tears.
What need of tears? Why must they flow,
   When all but life and breath are gone?
God help us all! and help the heart
   To murmur still, “Thy will be done!”

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