ROBERT EDWARD LEE AS GENERAL IN THE CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY Frontispiece
The story of Lee as a master of war has long since passed into the consciousness of the race. He became, as it were, a military classic in his own day. Never has there been a more sudden and brilliant leap into fame, and rarely has renown grown with such majesty. It has circled the globe with its charm, and will start a spirit in remote lands and under alien skies, almost as readily as in the home of its nativity. Historians and expositors, diverse and antithetic in their point of view, Roosevelt, the apostle of the strenuous life, and Henderson, the incomparable biographer of Stonewall Jackson, have conceded in unmeasured terms Lee's rank as the foremost of the great generals who have spoken the English tongue. In the sphere of military achievement, his name has risen above the possibility or the suggestion of controversy. It has not been the primary aim of the present work to portray the glory or the greatness of Lee as a master of war. The character of Lee as regarded from a purely professional plane is not revealed in its most fascinating and appealing phase. Great and star-like as was the warrior, the man is greater. The halo of triumph, the lustre of achievements at which the world wondered, envelop the memory of the hero; but Lee at his own fireside presents a loftier and nobler ideal than Lee at the summit of crowning fortune, the campaigns of Fredericksburg and the fadeless glory of Chancellorsville. It is my distinctive purpose to exhibit the character of this man in those critical and all-pervading relations which constitute the abiding test of true greatness—Lee as a Parent, A Husband, A Christian, A Gentleman: Lee in the hour of disaster; Lee in the sanctity of his home, consecrating his energies to the restoration of the prostrate and desolate South; devoting himself with delicate and assiduous care to his invalid wife; striving to provide for the impoverished and helpless soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia; casting aside all suggestions of financial advancement or official station in the execution of his hallowed purpose to dedicate his remaining years to the recovery of his people. Lee conscious of his approaching death, gathering up his failing strength to visit the grave of his child in the remote South; and upon his return, speedily confronting the Last Enemy, almost in the act of discharging a sacred trust.
The life of Lee, especially as illustrated in its closing years, in all the abiding elements of moral greatness, passes beyond the conceptions of romance, the idealizations of poetry or of the drama. When I contemplate his story in its unity, as well as its diversity, prototypes, analogues, parallels fade into eclipse. I challenge the records of the ages to produce his peer.
My grateful acknowledgments are tendered to Capt. Robert E. Lee of West Point, Va., for the use of his valuable collection of family photographs, turned to such admirable account in the illustration of this work.