From the 14 April 1900 issue of The New York Times.

HINTS FROM THE MAILBAG.


Gen. Rusling’s Tribute to Robert E. Lee.

Gen. James F. Rusling of Trenton, N.J., writes concerning our recent review of his book “Men and Things I Saw in Civil War Days,” and the letter we printed from Ellen Meade Clark, who quoted the reviewer as saying Gen. Rusling was “unwilling to admit that Gen. Lee amounted to much.” He remarks that the writer of the letter “proceeds to castigate me and vindicate Gen. Lee,” and then adds: “I confess I do not blame the lady, with her lights, and beg leave to reply to you both as follows: 1. I certainly nowhere say in my book that Gen. Lee ‘did not amount to much,’ and I am sure I never dreamed of saying so. On the contrary, I have a very high opinion of Gen. Lee, and always have had. On Page 51 of said book I speak of him as ‘a Confederate gamecock’; on Page 55 I say he was ‘a gentleman and chivalrous foe,’ for returning Gen. Kearny’s body, &c., after Chantilly; on Pages 68 and 69 I speak very highly of his conduct at Gettysburg; on Pages 70 to 74 I pronounce him a ‘shrewd and capable commander,’ on a large scale; on Pages 77 and 79 I admit he ‘outmanoeuvred and outwitted’ Gen. Meade in the Culpeper-Centreville campaign, (1863); on Page 152 I say: ‘In the Wilderness, and from the Rapidan to the James, (1864), he fought magnificently, with bent brows and flashing eyes, like a Roman gladiator.’ On Page 153: ‘At Petersburg he certainly made a gallant defense, and fought Gen. Grant for all it was worth. It was a grip of two giants. It was a wrestle between two Titans.’ On Page 155: ‘Lee was, indeed a man of excellent parts. * * * He was a gentleman, a patriot, and a Christian. * * * On Page 156: ‘Let Lee abide in his own place. It is a large place, and he fills it well. For he was a gallant gentleman and an accomplished soldier; intelligent, alert, vigilant, brace, resolute, determined, * * * a hero worthy of any age or any land.’ On Page 157: ‘What would Lee have done in Grant’s place? Evidently * * * he would have succeeded magnificiently, * * * and gone down to history as our second Washington. * * * Clearly the Confederacy produced no man equal or nearly equal to him. * * * None of them could hold a candle to Robert E. Lee.’

“Now, I do not see how I could well have been more generous to Gen. Lee. But I had to be honest, and also add, ‘But I respectfully submit he was not Grant’s superior as a soldier, nor, indeed, his equal,’ and surely this will be the final verdict of history, whatever our ‘prejudices,’ so called. Certainly both Grant and Sherman were his superiors as great military commanders—conducting vast aggressive campaigns and great sieges successfully, and compelling surrenders of whole armies—much beyond what Gen. Lee achieved.

“2. So, it is submitted with courtesy, I nowhere said ‘Lee was nothing short of being stupid’ at Chancellorville, as you charge. On the contrary, I expressly said: ‘At Chancellorville, it is conceded, he whipped Hooker well,’ (Page 151), ’but I think Lee was somewhat in laches at both Fredericksburg and Chancellorville for not following up his great victories there—much the same as McClellan was at Antietam and Meade partly at Gettysburg. Per contra, consider Thomas after Nashville, and Grant after Five Forks.’ ” It is proper to add that the representation made of Gen. Rusling’s views of Gen. Lee was carelessness on the part of the reviewer difficult to understand.