LINCOLN AND LEE
By Smith D. Fry
MOUNT VERNON AND
LINCOLN AND LEE
SMITH D. FRY
Historian of the Capitol
All of Fry's Patriotic Stories Disseminate
the American's Creed
By HON. WM. TYLER PAGE
I BELIEVE in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable, established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies.
COPYRIGHTED IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS BY SMITH D. FRY, 1922; COPYRIGHTED FOR PUBLICATION IN BOOK FORM; COPYRIGHTED FOR PRODUCTION AND DISSEMINATION ON THE SPEAKING STAGE; COPYRIGHTED FOR REPRODUCTION AND DISSEMINATION ON THE SCREEN STAGE FOR MOTION PICTURES; COPYRIGHTED COMPLETELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Address all communications to
SMITH D. FRY,
P.O. LOCK Box No. 1714,
LINCOLN AND LEE
American History Story of Drama, Romance, and Tragedy
in Real Life, Told at Last, in Full
Listen! Hearken and Heed the wonderful words which were given to the world by Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem; by Jesus, the un-heeded Carpenter of Nazareth; Jesus, the Marvelous and Popular Philosopher of Galilee; Jesus, the Betrayed Man of Sorrows in Gethsemane; Jesus, the Christ of Calvary; Jesus, who sat within the boat, oh the crystal waves afloat while he taught the listening people on the land; the Master who said:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he will lay down his life for another.”
TO my wife, Mary Randolph, daughter of Lieutenant Commander John B. Randolph, U.S. Navy, this last literary effort of a long life of endeavor, is heartily and fervently dedicated, with the hope that better than marble, bronze, brass or granite this work of historic value will prove to be a monument worthy of the subject; a woman that was a model for womanhood, a wife of incomparable fidelity, a mother of angelic affection and a friend of legions who benefited by her friendship; a monument chiseled with the heart and hands of love, by
FROM the dawn of the day when the curtain was raised on the stage of the first theatre in this country, each, every and all playwrights and play-writers have sought and striven in vain for the theme, the suggestion or the story from which might be developed and produced the outstanding and the everlasting Great American Play.
George Washington Custis Lee and William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, first and second-born sons of Robert E. Lee, were present, and in their youthful ways participated in the great reception at Arlington Mansion; a reception concerning which there has been nothing recorded heretofore; a reception which surely deserves a paragraph or a page in the history of our country.
From the lips of those participants in the reception the narrator obtained vivid informative descriptions of the event. The second son, known at home as “Rooney,” remembered a great deal, in fact nearly all of the utterances of his grand-father, whom he loved and almost idolized. While “Rooney” was a Member of the House of Representatives in Washington he was frequently a dinner guest or an evening caller at the home of the writer. He spoke unreservedly and with wonderful loving appreciation of the heroism of his elder brother during the tragedy of the Civil War.
But, concerning the silent suffering of Charlotte Wickham, his beloved wife, “Rooney” was surely ignorant entirely.
General Custis Lee absolutely commanded every member of the family to be silent concerning his own unexampled self-sacrifices. The only thing that he would say to the folks at home, or to trusted friends, was that “General Ould had charge of the exchange of prisoners, and I did have some conversation with him about that matter.”
General Custis Lee never spoke of Charlotte, nor allowed any conversation concerning that almost unknown heroine, except on one exceptional occasion when he described to the writer the scene of his visit to inform Charlotte that he was going to visit “Rooney” in prison; and even then the marvelous man was unemotional, apparently, as he quietly said: “That was the last time that I saw Charlotte. I did not realize then that she was really dying, even as she gave me a farewell smile and waved her hand so cheerfully. I understood her tears, but I did not understand her physical condition.”
Not until General Custis Lee was in the sere and yellow leaf of life when he knew and fearlessly faced the fact that he should soon stand before “the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem” did that masterful and mandatory man modify his command of silence concerning his unparalleled deeds.
On the occasion of his last visit to Washington City, not many months before he reclined upon the bed of illness which held him for more than a year, General Custis Lee met with the narrator by appointment at the Ebbitt House; and there, after a brief conversation concerning family affairs and the final success which he had achieved in obtaining recompense from the federal government for the Arlington Estate, he listened patiently to the hundredth-time request for permission to write his story because it seemed to the writer to belong to American history. Laying one slight and slender hand upon the shoulder of the smaller man, and holding before his eyes the other up-lifted hand as though giving an oath to a witness, General Custis Lee said:
After I am gone you may write, but with the absolute understanding that nothing that I have done shall be blazoned forth so as to share nor to shade the glory and fame of my father whose memory I worship. The people of the South must know no other hero than General Robert E. Lee.
That impressive inhibition, which could not be forgotten nor evaded, may give to history an innate idea of the magnificent grandeur of the character of General George Washington Custis Lee.
LInasmuch as the great peasant prince, Abraham Lincoln, was called upon by the conditions into which the life of Custis Lee ran, to stand forth as a commanding figure in the story, mention must be made of him in this prefatory statement. Not many years previous to the production of this work, the narrator gave newspaper publication to the most marvelous description of Abraham Lincoln that ever had been uttered, and it is here reproduced:
“No sculptor has told the story and no artist has recorded the drama-comedy-tragedy revealed in the features of that meteor of humanity and spirituality which flashed its brightest iridescence on the field of Gettysburg,” said Colonel Richard J. Bright, long time eminent in Washington as the matchless executive official of the United States Senate, the good man who was closing the eighty-fifth year of his sojourn on this planet as these lines were written.
“I saw Abraham Lincoln when I believed him to be the homeliest creature in human form ever permitted to cumber this earth, by walking and talking with the statesmen of our republic,” said the venerable sage.
I saw Abraham Lincoln on the platform engaged in earnest discussion of then current topics and I believed him to be the most forceful character ever known in the political arena.
I saw Abraham Lincoln keyed up to righteous wrath on the subject of human slavery and I regarded him as a singularly lofty demon of immense proportions, stirring strife between the sections of our sacred union of confederated States.
I saw Abraham Lincoln administering justice in military and naval affairs, when he seemed to be a composite incarnation of Julius Caesar and the hero of Trafalgar.
I saw Abraham Lincoln in the White House tenderly offering to a mother mercy for her condemned son, sentenced to death by court martial; saw him revoking the doctrine of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” substituting for it the new commandment “that ye love one another,” and I believed his face to be the most awe-inspiringly beautiful cameo ever cut by Almighty God to demonstrate that Omnipotence had “created man in His own image,” and then sent His Son to say concerning mortal man:—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Future generations cannot see Abraham Lincoln in marble, in bronze, nor on canvas, for no human being can portray him with chisel nor with brush. Almost do I offer up a prayer, for inspiration when I strive in words to picture that wonderful man, of whom it may be said with becoming reverence that he was indeed also “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
when mournful and sorrowing millions were bowing their heads in poignant grief, while the mortal remains of Abraham Lincoln, the great Disciple of the Golden Rule, were being laid away in their windowless palace of Rest, at Springfield, Illinois, who would have supposed that the Boys in Blue and the Boys in Gray would ever again become reconciled; would ever fervently repeat the vow of the lamented Lincoln, “with malice towards none and with charity for all?” At that time, such a re-union would have been deemed utterly impossible.
And yet, in less than a quarter of a century, the sons of the valiant American soldiers who had followed Grant and Lee, were enthusiastically marching together, shoulder to shoulder, in Cuba and in Porto Rico, under one flag, with the greatest American soldier then living, Major General Nelson A. Miles, and the greatest living American cavalry leader, Major General Joseph Wheeler.
And furthermore, who then would have supposed that any one of those Boys in Blue would ever be pleading for an enlargement of the reputation in history of an officer of the Boys in Gray?
And yet, during the summer and autumn months of the year 1922, Ira M. Bond, one of the soldiers in Blue, 1861 to 1865, having heard a casual and superficial narration of the Golden Rule life of General Custis Lee, insisted and persisted in his insistence, until the veteran and retired journalist was practically compelled by that Yankee demand for historic justice, to tell to mankind the wonderful life of the Confederate General, George Washington Custis Lee.
Without this statement of fact, giving honor to whom honor is due, this prefatory statement would not be complete. It has been owing to the persistent insistence of Ira M. Bond, himself a veteran journalist, that American history, American literature, and American valor are given this story of Lincoln and Lee; by one in the sere and yellow leaf of life; but the only writer who could produce these informative and valuable facts concerning a departed friend.
Miss Letitia C. Tyler, daughter of President John Tyler, gave to the narrator, verbally, her own version of the flag raising. The story was written and submitted to Miss Tyler for her approval, or for correction.
On Monday, August 17, 1908, on letter paper bearing the family crest and motto, “Spes et Fortitude,” Miss Tyler wrote to the narrator an autographic communication which now lies before the writer, in which letter Miss Tyler wrote:
I am afraid I shall have to ask you to call and see me about the article you have sent to me. I cannot go into the question on paper. If there is nothing to prevent, suppose you call on Tuesday night. Yours truly, Letitia C. Tyler.
Miss Tyler also gave to the narrator her view of the heroism and self-sacrifice oi General Custis Lee, after the battle of Brandy Station.
Seeking diligently to cover all possible points in the story, the narrator wrote to Col. R. E. Lee concerning the nickname of “Rooney,” and received the following letter:
Ravensworth, Burke, Fairfax Co., Virginia, March 12, 1918.
As to how Gen. W. H. F. Lee got the nickname of “Rooney” presents another difficulty. There is nothing harder to get than the truth. I can't recall my father ever telling me how he came by the name, but it is a tradition of my childhood from my earliest recollection, that there was an Irish servant employed by Gen. R. E. Lee, possibly as a groom or in some other capacity, by the name of Patrick Rooney, who, as a small boy, Gen. W. H. F. Lee resembled; and, as Gen. R. E. Lee was very fond of nicknames, having one for every child, and to distinguish W. H. Fitzhugh Lee from his cousin, Fitzhugh Lee, who was a few years his senior, the former was called “Rooney,” which name stuck to him to the day he died.
I related practically the above in the sick room of Gen. G. W. C. Lee, where he was flat on his back for fourteen months, and he said with a good deal of impatience that that was not true, that the name was gotten from the hero of some book popular at that time. He named the character of the book, a novel I think, but unfortunately 1 have forgotten both. This much is to be said, Gen. G. W. C. Lee never took any stock in accepted legends of history. He generally had a contrary version; so, realizing that fact, I am very much at sea in this matter. Either derivation is possible.
Hoping that you will advise me if I can be of further service in this matter, Yours very sincerely, R. E. Lee.
This much of private correspondence is given in order that the American people may know that, with the instinct, training and half century of experience in newspaper work, nothing was left undone by the narrator to obtain accurate historic statements; so that there can be no doubt in the future of the evidentiary facts herein given to the history of our country.
That truth is stranger than fiction is a fact thus demonstrated. Future readers and writers will place the more value upon and manifest the greater interest because it is miraculously true that these mortals did live and dwell in our own country, and that truth is told on every page of this final production of the long-sought genuine Great American Story.
STORY OF THE FRIENDSHIP
PRESIDENT ZACHARY TAYLOR
GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS
RECEPTION AT ARLINGTON
WITHOUT careful and comprehensive reading of European history you cannot comprehend American history.
Without acquiring detailed knowledge of the history of Great Britain, particularly of England, you cannot intelligently read the history of the United States. English history is a prologue to our own history.
They cannot vote intelligently in the next national elections who do not know the history of their own country; and they cannot understand conditions existing in this twentieth century, without having a clear and clearly understood knowledge of the history of our country in the three centuries preceding this century in which we live.
This great American story is told for the general welfare, and in order that the narrative may be clearly understood this prologue is a literary and educational necessity. You must at least know the name and the character of one ancestor, born two hundred years ago, in order that you may the better comprehend the marvelous character of that one of his descendants, the great, great grand-son who walked with men and talked with men and lived, “in this world and yet not of this world,” because he was intellectually and spiritually far above it, in an atmosphere of purity which was then and is now almost beyond human comprehension.
For the warp, woof and worth of this hero
Read names carved on his family tree;
Custis, Calvert, Lord Baltimore, Randolph.
“Light Horse Harry,” and Robert E. Lee.
Daniel Parke Custis, first great merchant prince of Virginia, was the founder of a family that was well nigh a dynasty. Being neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, Daniel Parke Custis had neither knowledge nor image of the fact that Mother Nature had planted within his loins and nourished with his blood the germs of America's most chivalric courage, unparalleled romance, and Galilean self-sacrifice.
John Parke Custis, only son of the merchant prince and of his wife who had been Margaret Dandridge, and who subsequently became Martha Washington, was the title holder of the famous and extensive Arlington estate; and his son George Washington Parke Custis, adopted son of George Washington, built the famous Arlington Mansion as a home for his bride. In that mansion was born his only daughter, Mary Ann Randolph Custis, and she, as the wife of Robert E. Lee, became the mother of the typical American hero concerning whose remarkable life these lines are written, George Washington Custis Lee.
During his entire life of half a century in Arlington Mansion George Washington Parke Custis was one of the most distinguished and at the same time one of the best beloved citizens of this republic. As an entertainer he had no equal during that half century and since that time his superior has not appeared.
Such were the conditions when George Washington Parke Custis announced to the society of Washington City, his intention to give a public reception at Arlington Mansion in honor of his son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, who had returned a wounded veteran of distinction and military renown from the war with Mexico; and so great was the desire of all of the leading citizens, their wives, and developing children to attend that reception in honor of Colonel Robert E. Lee, at the magnificent Colonial home of his distinguished father-in-law, that it became necessary to limit the attendance by special cards of invitation.
“OLD ZACK” WAS APPRECIATIVE
But for George Washington Parke Custis the people might have given to “Old Zack” a terrible trouncing.
Although he was an outstanding figure as a great hero of the Mexican War, there were others; and his election to the presidency in 1848 might not have been accomplished, and Zachary Taylor knew it, if the grand-son of Martha Washington had opposed him.
But, that magnificent old gentleman, then in his sixty-seventh year, prayed for guidance by the spirit of Washington, his father by adoption whom he had almost worshipped, and then George Washington Parke Custis announced that he would support Zachary Taylor, and vote for him cheerfuly. He did more, for the old Virginian, the only man living who had personally and most intimately known George Washington, went out and made several speeches for Taylor; and the political managers of that day knew how to disseminate those speeches throughout the length and breadth of the land.
In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 15th, in the year 1848, The Niles' National Register published the following news item:
The venerable George Washington Parke Custis gave his maiden vote for the presidency to General Taylor on the 7th instant. This circumstance is handsomely alluded to in the following eloquent extract of a speech delivered by him at a barbecue held recently at Bladensburg:
Strange as it may seem to you, my fellow countrymen, you see before you an old man with whitened locks and a bald head, in fact, a grandfather, who has never yet voted in his life. Living, as I aways have, within the limits of the District of Columbia, no vote was vouchsafed to me until the recent act of retrocession set that part of the District where my residence is back to the State of Virginia. And now I am about to give my maiden vote! In doing it, I shall exercise a privilege enjoyed by no other voter in the nation—the privilege of casting the only vote that can be cast hailing from the sacred shades of Mount Vernon, and representing the family of the greatest and best of departed men, the father of his country, and, oh, when I appeal to his great spirit in heaven to guide me, how I shall give my vote in this interesting and important election, methinks I hear him say, “bestow your suffrage upon the most worthy.”
Thus you will see and comprehend that it was quite natural, and to be expected, that when George Washington Parke Custis invited President Zachary Taylor to a grand reception at the Arlington Mansion, the President of the United States would be very prompt to respond, and to be glad of the opportunity to thus show his appreciation of the support of the most distinguished private citizen of our Republic.
Never before and never afterwards was there such a picture of pride and power and pomp in this country; and no such picture can ever again be presented. Over the some-time famous old Long Bridge, there was a procession of gentlemen on horse back, ladies in carriages, individual parties of ladies and gentlemen riding high-stepping thoroughbreds; and all of those ladies and gentlemen were individuals of the upper tendom of exclusive society. They represented the incipient nobility of this republic. Wealth flashed its jewels and expensive apparels, but the nobility of intelligence also was there, and compelled implicit obedience to the declaration that “all men are created equal.”
Only in memory of the aged and ageing, and only upon the pages of history can the Long Bridge live. Such styles of raiment for men as well as for women cannot now be reproduced, nor ever will be; and never upon any stage can be depicted the scene of that procession of the elect across that highway to the Arlington estate, though the embowered roadways ascending Arlington Heights, and into the great enclosure of landscape surrounding the mansion.
Gayety prevailed, happiness was the dominating spirit of the occasion. Although ambition may have shrouded the hearts of some of the guests there, as everywhere, even the faces of those were masked with smiles as seemingly real as the indescribable smiles of innocence upon the beautiful faces of babes in arms of mothers.
And so, at the appointed time on the afternoon of March 8, 1849, a wonderfully beautiful spring-time day, joy was unconfined; and as the guests began to arrive a line was formed along the graveled pathway south of the mansion; lively chattering and gossiping echoing in the trees not unlike the musical discussions of the myriads of birds.
Although the sun was shining, there was an invigorating breeze sweeping over the heights. Prudent observers realized that out of the great northwest clouds were coming and that cumuli were forming in the warm glow of the declining sun. Wise men and women of mature years realized that although the customary blizzardy storm of inauguration day had not appeared, the season was ripe for atmospheric gymnastics.
And, while the reception was at the pinnacle of perfection and “soft eyes looked love to eyes that spake again, and all went merry as a marriage bell,” the weather was developing mischief. “The snow, the beautiful snow,” was mantling the land, and, while the sun was placing its good-night kiss upon the Federal City, and was touching with gold the tall tree tops while it purpled the distant hills, the winds began to whistle wierd warnings.
Consequently there was another moving picture on the Long Bridge; a picture of unrestrained gayety and undiminished happiness, as the returning procession proceeded upon, over and through the white roadway. Bright eyes were brighter and roseate cheeks in perfect health became ruddy and glowing as the rich and the great, in the pomp and the pride of their worldly estate, rode, marched and ambled homeward. That night many a gallant knight and many a lady fair retired to a comfortable bed to “listen to the patter of the soft rain overhead.”
You should have been told before that, although useful and absolutely necessary to contiguous mankind, the Long Bridge was not ornamental, and there were no solemn obsequies when it was destroyed to make room for the modern highway bridge, an architectural achievement which is as beautiful as it is useful. But, between the two pictures of the bridge which many hated because of the thousands of young Yankees which marched across it. and, after this interlude of history, we must return and participate in
THE GREAT RECEPTION AT ARLINGTON
On the lower step of the great Greek Portico of the Arlington Mansion stood the receiving line, George Washington Parke Custis, then 65 years of age, dressed in the garments of Colonial days, and next to him his wife; next to her the son-in-law of whom they both were very proud, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, and next to him the wife who loved him with an almost idolatrous affection.
In the right of this word picture there must be shown the tables, prepared with lavish care and with lavish expenditures, attended by the slave servants who were well trained and well versed in their duties, each and everyone of them.
The Marine Band was then an infant musical organization under the direction of Professor Scala, and the members of that band were properly located on the portico.
At the head of the receiving line of that greatest home reception ever held in this republic came Zachary Taylor, President of the United States, next to him Millard Fillmore, Vice President of the United States; Howell Cobb of Georgia, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and following them the Members of the United States Senate and of the House of Representatives, and next to them the Members of the Cabinet of the new Administration.
President Zachary Taylor, Vice President Fillmore, and Speaker Howell Cobb took their places along side the receiving line while the others attending the reception proceeded on to the tables where they were met by the trained servants with mint juleps and other delicacies which were part of the necessities of all receptions in those days.
After the gentlemen had passed the reviewing line the ladies of their families came, each one with modest well-bred pride taking her proper place in the line in accordance with the rank of her husband; and after the ladies had passed the reviewing line they ascended the steps of the portico, entered the great reception room and the other rooms prepared for the reception of such a gathering of the nobility of the republic. Mrs. Custis and her daughter, Mrs. Lee, entered the Mansion to entertain the ladies who were also served with refreshments by the trained negro house servants of the estate, while upon the portico quite naturally were grouped the heroes o the war with Mexico. President Zachary Taylor, General Winfield Scott, Colonel Robert E. Lee, and other Army officials in accordance with their ranks. Senator Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, also one of the distinguished veterans of that war, and a West Point graduate of extraordinary merit, eagerly joined the coterie. Having been Secretary of War, and usually in touch with military affairs, Jefferson Davis was always welcome in military circles. While occupying the position of Secretary of War it was he who had designated Robert E. Lee to be Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. In common with all military men of that period Jefferson Davis cherished with esteem and anticipation of greatness, the chief guest of that great reception, Colonel Robert E. Lee, the almost defied son-in-law of the host of the occasion, George Washington Parke Custis.
But, before giving details of the sayings and doings on that great occasion; before telling of the discussions which followed the juleps and other refreshments, let us look over the line of the visitors who came to receive the hospitality of the host and to honor the chief guest of the occasion, the military hero concerning whom the whole world was to hear, and whose deeds were to fill the pages of American history for all time. The guests were distinguished and numerous, as you will observe by scanning the list of those who came to
THE GREAT RECEPTION
President Zachary Taylor of Louisiana,
Vice President Millard Fillmore,
Secretary of State James Buchanan,
Secretary of War Wm. L. Marcy,
Major General Winfield Scott,
Senator John C. Calhoun,
Speaker Howell Cobb,
Senators Mason and Hunter of Virginia,
Senators Dickinson and Seward of New York,
Senators Downs and Soule of Louisiana,
Senators Gwin and Fremont of California,
Senators Houston and Rusk of Texas,
Senators Douglas and Shields of Illinois,
Senators Clay and Underwood of Kentucky (Underwood was grandfather of Oscar U.),
Senators Webster and Davis of Massachusetts,
Senators Jefferson Davis and Henry Foote of Mississippi,
Senator Cass of Michigan,
Senator Benton of Missouri,
Senators Tom Corwin and Salmon P. Chase of Ohio,
Wives, daughters and ladies of families of Senators and Representatives.
Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, who was to become Vice President by the election of the national ticket of a new political party only twelve years in the future; Hannibal Hamlin attended the great reception, althoueh he came some time after the formal greetings of the reception line.
You will observe that there was no North and no South in those days, although the slavery question was forging to the front.
In the large carriage with Senator Hannibal Hamlin there came an active and alert little man; one whose eyes and face radiated intelligence; a man so slender as to excite wonder at his palpable fires of inexhaustible energy. The small man was a Representative from Georgia, named Alexander Hamilton Stephens. It was written in the book of fate that he should become Vice President of a newly organized government, twelve years later, and at the same time that Hannibal Hamlin was to become Vice President of the United States.
The new government was to be known, while it lasted, as the Confederate States of America.
Now, where did that name come from? Who originated.it? If you will read the brief inaugural address of President John Tyler, you will observe that he therein spoke, officially, of “this CONFEDERACY”; and President Tyler thus gave the first and only official interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, holding that instrument to be indeed “a rope of sand”; as British diplomatic officials always had declared it to be.
John Tyler was the first eminent official in this country to thus proclaim the right of secession of a sovereign state. That statement in the inaugural address of President John Tyler gave the name to the Confederate States of America.
Incidentally it must be noticed that the leading men of the North and of the South knew each other well. Those in civil life and those in military life were well acquainted; and, when the disunion came so speedily after that great reception at Arlington, the leading antagonists knew and could respect the merits and mental calibers of each other. But, at that time, on that particular date
THERE WAS ONE
Member of the House of Representatives who was not very well known. He was not included in the list of guests invited to the great reception. That he failed to receive an invitation was not because of his obscurity only. His name was well known. His one term of two years was concluded, and he was preparing to return to his distant home, after calling and paying his respects to the recently inaugurated President, Zachary Taylor.
But, even if he had remained in Washington City, the obscure Member would not have received an invitation to the reception. It was utterly impossible that he could even expect an invitation, for he belonged and he knew that he belonged to that class of citizens known as “poor white trash.” He was known to be a working man. It was known that he had always been kept hard at work for his bread and butter. Men of the working classes were not expected to invade the classes of the prosperous; and they did not expect to receive invitations. This neglected Member of Congress had been working on farms of the western frontier of American civilization. Quite a large part of his lifetime had been spent in felling trees, cutting them into logs, for home building. Thousands of those felled trees, after having been cut into logs, this Member of Congress had split into rails for the building of fences. He was known, and contemptuously known, as “a rail splitter.” His home was in Illinois, and his
name was Abraham Lincoln; and, as he sat alone in his room at Gadsby's Hotel on the night after inauguration there came to him visions of his prairie home and the frontier friends with whom he was popular; and the coming gorgeous reception received not even a passing thought; certainly not a wish nor a regret in the simple and honest heart of Abraham Lincoln.
On the contrary, the new Congressman was solemnly reflective, saying to himself:
Our Father in Heaven has been very good to me. He has led me out of the wilderness of poverty and anxiety into the Promised Land of peace and plenty. He leadeth me by still waters. He restoreth my soul. My ways now are ways of pleasantness and all of my paths are paths of contentment. And, Mother has plenty, too. Praise the Lord!
As he prepared for “tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep,” he glanced at the big old-fashioned bedstead, and smiled. It reminded him of the big bed in the rooming house of old Mrs. Bedloe, in Springfield, where, only a few years before, he had experienced difficulty in earning the money with which to pay a modest monthly rental.
Vivid memory brought before him a moving picture of old Father Speed, the gentleman from Kentucky who kept the general store at Springfield; the kind of a store that lives only in history; or, in the memories of those now old and gray or bald, or both. In those days the “frontier general store” carried a stock of everything, from pins and needles to buffalo robes and bullet molds; also molds for making tallow candles.
This merchant (Speed) had a young man from Louisville as his principal clerk; although he employed others as they were needed by the day or week. One damp, chilly, windy day of November the young lawyer (Lincoln) came into the big caravansary of merchandise, which covered almost half an acre of ground, sat silently beside one of the big cannon stoves which heated the place, until he caught Speed at leisure for a minute, and Lincoln said:
Speed, I want to know what it will cost for a single bedstead, mattress and a pillow. I've got a big buffalo robe, which I use in the cutter when I am obliged to travel; and that robe will do for a covering at nights on my bed. I have two rooms at my shack. The front room is all the law office I need, and I can make a bedroom of the back room and thus save rent. Times are awful hard and if I can buy a little bed and outfit, with time to pay for it, I can save quite a bit of money in rent in the course of the year.
That little statement told of poverty and of a struggle for existence without thinking of comfort, much less of luxury. Abraham Lincoln was poor; yes, pitifully poor.
WHEN LINCOLN MOVED
After some conversation on the subject Speed told the young lawyer, whom he liked very much and for whom he had a special regard, because of his having been born in Kentucky; for Kentuckians are clannish, always have been, and may they always continue to be, neighborly clannish; so Speed liked Lincoln and told him that his clerk, the young man from Louisville, was going back home on the following day, which was Saturday; that he was to be married and remain in Kentucky. Speed then asked the poor young lawyer to go upstairs with him, and Lincoln accompanied him.
The second story (and it was the top story, too) contained hundreds of barrels and boxes of merchandise of all sorts. Threads were strung all around the walls and ceilings, and they carried dried apples and dried peaches for sale and use during the winter. In the center, near the sheetiron “drum” which surrounded the stovepipe and radiated heat for that upper floor, there was a big bedstead, with feather bed and feather pillows, and also plenty of bedding. Speed said:
If you can get along here, Abe, you can have this place, rent free, until you get better fixed. Take the place, save rent, keep warm, be comfortable, and take what you want to eat out of the store; and pay me, boy, when you get good and ready.
Gravely and sincerely Lincoln thanked Speed for the offer, knelt down beside the bed for a couple of minutes and went downstairs. There was no telephone to use in those days. There was no transfer company. Drays were few and far between on that day when Lincoln wanted to move his household goods. But he managed to pack up all his belongings that afternoon and move. Inside of half an hour after leaving the store Abraham Lincoln came back, carrying across his shoulders an old-fashioned pair of saddle bags, such as were carried on horses' backs back of the saddle. Lincoln passed through the store, went upstairs, walked to the bed and was heard to drop the saddle bags. Then he ran lightly downstairs, went to the big cannon stove, sat down in an old, well-whittled chair, poked his big feet up against the railing around the stove, looked at the proprietor and said:
Well, Speed, I've moved!
EXTRAVAGANCE OF HENRY CLAY
In the early morning of the day of the Great Reception at Arlington the obscure Congressman was downstairs, and at the newsstand of the hotel he had paid five big round copper pennies for the Weekly Patriot, published by Major Beverly Tucker, an eminent Virginian. By his side there came an elderly gentleman, as tall as himself, and as homely, too; but of a different type. The young man immediately recognized, and modestly introduced himself to the most popular man in the United States; a man whose personal popularity was never equaled in political affairs until fifty years had elapsed, and Theodore Roosevelt stood in the spot-light. The young man said:
Please pardon me, Sir, but I know you by sight; and am one of your countless thousands of admirers. Having been born in old Kentucky you will pardon me, I am sure, for introducing myself to Senator Henry Clay. My name is Lincoln. I was born in Hardin County.
Like all men truly great the distinguished statesman from Kentucky was approachable. With kindly geniality he greeted Mr. Lincoln, and at once launched into the narration of one of the numberless stories for the telling of which he was justly noted. Clasping the ample wage-earning hand of the man from Illinois, Senator Clay said:
Your name reminds me of my enthusiastic friend Bill Linkins of Breathitt County, who has told to hundreds of people about his meeting with me on an Ohio river steamboat. He tells all of them that I am a good fellow, but that I am frightfully extravagant. He proves his story by showing to everybody the silver-handled tooth brush that I gave him as a present; and I must admit that it was an expensive present.
The big mountaineer came into the wash room of the Ohio river steamboat one morning and noisily washed his be-whiskered face, sputtering profusely as he held double handsfull of water before his mouth and nostrils. He noticed me combing my head, and borrowed my white bone hair comb. I gave him the comb to remember me by; and had barely done so when he asked me to loan him my tooth brush also. I cheerfully complied, and, when he handed it back to me I made him a present of it, telling him to show it to his friends as a memento of Henry Clay. He does so, and grows eloquent over my generosity, liberality, and extravagance.
Not only Senator Hannibal Hamlin and his friend Representative Stephens were late comers; for, as is customary even until this day, there are men and women whose heart-beats are so slow and so irregular that they cannot learn the value of time. Moreover, those unfortunates quite naturally hate the men and women who are favored by nature with perfect physiques and perfect mental machinery; who are also blessed with educational training which impels promptness and reliability.
Until this day we have millions of pretentious men and women who falsely proclaim themselves to be ladies and gentlemen, who are neither, for they deliberately lie and lie and lie. Their promises are worded “I'll try” to be there, or “I'll try” to do as you wish, when they do not intend to try, and they do not try. They are habitual liars, and double dealers in falsehood.
For, when chided for their falsehoods, they always answer with another lie, saying: “I was too busy;” when they had not been busy at all. Graduates of the schools of U. S. Grant, of Robert E. Lee, of Nelson A. Miles and of John J. Pershing, are always on time, and always keep their engagements.
On the occasion of the great reception at Arlington there were no graduates of those military schools; and so, there were many late arrivals. But, dilatoriness was customary, and nobody cared or even noticed the absentees, until they arrived with excuses. Some of those excuses were based on good foundations.
Within an hour after the beginning and ending of the formal reception a most distinguished gathering thronged the great and grand Portico, each gentleman having his own pipe and canvas bag of tobacco; or, having Pennsylvania stogie cigars or the more pretentious makes then coming into the markets. Moreover, each gentleman had his mint julep, excepting Mr. Custis and a very few others who preferred small glasses of wine. It was in view of this assemblage of great men who were then makers of great events, that a belated big carryall arrived bringing Judge and Mrs. Wickham from their estate west of Mount Vernon; and as the country roadways in the spring time are always rough and frequently impassable, it was wonderful that they had been able to come at all, despite the fact that they were among the nearest and dearest of neighbors in those days when the individuals of neighborhoods were dwelling apart many miles. Guests who had not known the Wickhams were greatly surprised to note in the seat between Judge and Mother Wickham
A GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL DOLL,
and it was so well dressed, so carefully tailored, with such wonderfully long golden curls, the people were astounded; and the more so, when, as soon as Judge and Mother Wickham had alighted, the big beautiful doll baby came to life and moved. Yes, it more than moved, for it sprang out onto the Portico steps and fairly flew over to Grand-pa Custis and almost over-turned that gracious and incomparable host. Grand-pa Custis took up the little beauty and held her in his arms until Senator Mason of Virginia took her, and then loaned her to President Taylor, who said that she seemed a little angel that had come down with the falling stars of the previous night. She knew the great big Christian Goliath, reached out her arms to him. and General Scott lifted her up and seated her upon one of his broad shoulders, and then everybody could see lovely little Charlotte Wickham. the 12-year-old wonder girl of eastern Virginia; and they saw the deep yellow golden curls that were hanging and glistening away below her waist; such curls as can only be seen, usually, in the Scandinavian countries where the girls grow up on the hill sides with the sheep flocks; and they saw such ruddy red cheeks as are only worn by peaches in full bloom; and Charlotte smiled at everybody and showed to all of them such tremendously large and well proportioned intelligent blue eyes as one expects to see only in old Ireland “where the river Shannon flows.” And little Charlotte gave to all of them such an honestly innocent, interested and interesting baby stare, that immediately, everybody loved Charlotte Wickham.
As she sat there perched upon the shoulder of the greatest soldier of our country, with a little arm around his head and neck, as she beat a tattoo on his broad breast with her white slippered feet, the little assemblage noted the pretty white silk pantalettes with ankle flounces, the graceful movements of the energetic little marvel, and they saw Charlotte Wickham just as she appeared a few weeks later, saying to Mother Wickham
I'm to be Queen of the May, Mother;
I'm to be Queen of the May.
And, peeking through the stone balustrades of the Portico, observers could see the admiring, worshipful eyes of the big boy, the second son of Robert E. and Mary Ann Lee; eyes that looked in wonder and amazement as one might view in some tabernacle, the Holy of Holies; and thus, during all his tesselated after life, William Henry Fitzhugh Lee looked upon Charlotte Wickham. The first of the happiest moments in his recollection was the day when little Charlotte called him by the nickname of his home, the name by which his father called him; and after that day he was always “Rooney Lee” in the vocabulary of little Charlotte Wickham.
And, just think of the pernicious, misleading hands of fate that feed us with hope and give to all of us the poison drink of disappointment. It was only in the natural routine of destiny and fate that Charlotte should admire her playmate, trust him. rely on him for defense if needed, believe in his integrity and almost love him in full partnership with his admiration of her; but Charlotte knew that, somehow, it was not Rooney, but another whose coming made her heart go pit-a-pat and made her breasts defy her control as they heaved faster, breaths that were close imitations of sighs; and, her heart did not go pit-a-pat nor her breast heave the faster nor her breath fade into gasps, when Rooney came. And yet, she did love Rooney; just, honor bright, a little bit; but to Rooney, Charlotte was not a thing of his life a part; she was his whole existence.
Rooney Lee did not have the vocabulary to express his worshipful admiration; nor did he have the courage to even attempt an expression of adoration, for it requires assurance as well as courage to go to a sacred shrine and ask for selfish possession. And so, Rooney “stood outside the door” of her heart and did not dare to say a word; and yet his heart throbbed with hope for the future; the future which is so distant from boyhood's vision. Rooney only knew
“The smiles and tears of boyhood years
The thoughts of love, unspoken.”
The hopes and fears of manhood years
Ambition's temples broken.
To Rooney, Charlotte was incarnate perfection. To Charlotte, Rooney was a worthy descendant of Martha Washington, a creditable son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, a very obedient swain and social subject that she could command, and trust; and she liked him better than she liked the other boys that she knew. But, before we analyse these children, let us take up the next page of our history which is replete with interesting moving pictures. One of the best of those scenes is that of the
INAUGURATION OF PRESIDENT ZACHARY TAYLOR
which occurred on March 5, 1849. It must be remembered that there were not more than twenty thousand inhabitants of Washington City at that time; but more than five thousand prosperous people who could afford to travel came from all parts of the country to witness the induction into office of a new president; and one so wonderfully popular. In the throng that came from the western and southern frontiers there appeared the Texas man who desired to be the “Minister to Dahomey.”
Great crowds, intense enthusiasm, noisy demonstrations, all in beautiful weather, characterized the day of the inauguration of the Mexican war hero on that first Monday in March, 1849. The ceremonies had been deferred one day, because the fourth day of March came on Sunday and President Polk remained in the White House until the evening of that day.
Excepting only the wonderful executive mansion, there were only two public buildings completed in Washington City at that time. The Patent Office covered an entire block of ground between F and G Streets on the south and north sides of the building; Seventh and Ninth Streets being the boundary lines east and west. On the south side of F Street, extending to E Street was another building worth while. It was only half as large as the Patent Office building, and extended from Seventh to Eighth Streets, as it does until this day. It occupied the site of Blodgett's Hotel, a large brick structure which had been used by the Congress after the British vandalism of 1814. The new marble building was occupied by the Postofnce Department.
On Capitol Hill there were two buildings, one hundred feet apart, and connected by a covered wooden bridge. Those two buildings formed the nucleus of the magnificent Capitol of subsequent years; a building which is today, thanks to Architect Elliott Woods, the most beautiful and imposing Capitol in the world.
On Seventeenth Street, one block west of the White House and south of Pennsylvania Avenue, there were two large brick buildings, each sixty by one hundred feet in dimensions, and three stories high. The one facing Pennsylvania Avenue was occupied by the War Department; the other one by the Navy Department; and, on that site today stands the immense marble structure which is known as the State War and Navy Department building.
On the corner of Fourteenth and S Streets, there is a large brick building which has been used for many years as an orphan asylum. It was occupied by the Department of State previous to 1877, and was “away out in the country.”
That three-story brick building is an enlargement, twice the size of the State Department building of 1849; and it was located on the ground now covered by the north wing of the modern Treasury Department. Public buildings in Washington were few and far between when General Taylor was inaugurated. Moreover, the inaugural procession marched on dirt roads, for there was not one paved nor improved roadway in the city; improved by other than grading and leveling processes.
The sidewalks between Capitol Hill and the White House were improved by the sprinkling and spreading of ashes and oyster shells; the leveling processes having been accomplished by the leather soles of the pegged shoes, which were the only foot-wear of the people of that day and generation. So, Zachary Taylor was inducted into a great office, as executive head of a great people, but the Capitol city that was seen and known by Grover Cleveland, William McKinley and their successors was not known to Zachary Taylor. Indeed, an imagination of such a Capitol city would have been to him like “dreaming of castles in Spain.”
At 11 o'clock on inauguration day General Taylor entered an open carriage at Willard's Hall, on F Street. That was a very large brick structure with marble pillared front. It was connected by a secret passage with the old Willard Hotel, where General Taylor was a guest. At the head of
A LARGE PROCESSION,
for those days, General Taylor proceeded to Fifteenth Street and then down Pennsylvania Avenue to Twelfth Street, the location of Irving's Hotel; on the corner afterwards occupied by the Kirkwood House, where Vice President Andrew Johnson resided and where he took the oath of office as President in 1865; and there President Polk came forth, entered the carriage, and rode to the Capitol with his successor. There the oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Taney. The newly inaugurated President read a carefully prepared address. Accompanied by ex-President Polk, who entered the carriage with him, President Taylor again headed the procession, which proceeded to the White House, where ex-President Polk remained for dinner. There were three inaugural balls that night, each one of them being visited by President Taylor and Vice President Fillmore. For the first time in our history
THE WEST POINT CADETS
appeared in an inaugural procession, and many hundreds of the visitors to Washington came particularly to see those young gentlemen in their matchless manoeuvres. With official permission those young gentlemen attended the inaugural balls in the evening. On the following day the corps of cadets returned to West Point, although a few, with homes in the vicinity, were given brief leaves of absence. Thus it happened that one of those cadets, the tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, handsome, popular preparatory Cadet, George Washington Custis Lee, on leave of absence for three days, was at his home in Arlington Mansion during the great reception given in honor of his father, Colonel Robert E. Lee; and thus it happened that he came upon the Portico as the distinguished gentlemen guests gathered around their host, his grand-father, George Washington Parke Custis; and the wonderful little one, Charlotte Wickham, who was to be Queen of the May, rushed pell mell into his arms. She accompanied him into the Mansion to join the ladies there. Then the handsome and agreeable host of the occasion told
THE STORY OF ARLINGTON
when President Taylor requested him to do so, asking: “Will you kindly tell us something of the history of your estate, how and when you built the mansion? Who was the architect, and who drew the plans?”
“This entire magnificent little kingdom of 6000 acres,” said Mr. Custis, “was presented to Robert Howsen by Governor William Berkeley of Virginia, without money and without price. In that great land grant the modern city of Alexandria and the splendid Mount Vernon Estate were included. The Governor of the original Colony was supreme, and the acreage of the Colony was limitless, as you know, because out of that Colony the sovereign people have since carved several great commonwealths of the republic.”
“Did you or your father buy it from Howsen?” inquired the President.
“No, Mr. President, Howsen sold it to John Alexander for six hogsheads of tobacco.”
“Do you know the date of the original grant?”
“Yes, Mr. President, the Howsen grant was dated October 21, in the year 1669. Howsen sold it for the tobacco to Alexander, and it remained in the Alexander family, by entailment, until Christmas Day, 1778, when my father, John Parke Custis, bought eleven hundred acres from Gerald Alexander, and paid him eleven thousand pounds in cash. That would be fifty-five thousand of our American dollars.”
“Your father invested a large amount of money in a wilderness.”
“Yes, Mr. President, it was a wilderness then; but it is developing into the most valuable property in our country.”
“Were there any residents on the property?”
“Yes, Mr. President, on Four Mile Run my father and mother had a spacious mansion; but, my father died in 1781. My mother went to her original home at Mount Airy, Maryland, and I went to live with my grand-mother, Martha Washington; for I became the adopted son of General Washington; a good father whose memory I reverence with love that is almost idolatrous.”
“Where did you get the name of Arlington?”
“That, Mr. President, was the name given to the estate in honor of the memory of Henry, the Earl of Arlington, to whom, with Lord Culpeper, the grant of all of Old Virginia was given by King Charles, the Second. This great estate was named after that Earl of Arlington.”
“But, Mr. Custis, please tell us now about the Mansion.”
“Very well, Mr. President, it is not a pleasant memory, but when my grand-mother, Martha Washington, was called higher, there was no home for me at Mount Vernon. I went to Four Mile Run, and from there I wandered afoot and horseback all over the estate until I had finally chosen this site for my home.”
“All this is very interesting, and ought to be given to American history. Now, if you please, tell us about the architect?”
“Mr. President, at the age of twenty-two years, I really believed that I was myself the architect. In later years I have learned that I was only an assistant to the real architect.”
“That seems rather strange and a bit mysterious.”
“Well, Mr. President, after selecting this site I went on horseback to Charlottesville, Virginia, and was there welcomed by a true friend of General Washington. I remained there several days with the genius of democracy, Thomas Jefferson; and he was the real architect of this wonderful mansion.”
“Day after day ex-President Jefferson entertained me in his library, that great collection which was incomparable on this continent; the library which afterwards formed the nucleus and basis of the Congressional Library. He showed me all of his wisely selected volumes, paintings, engravings, and pencilings. One afternoon Mr. Jefferson said to me:
“ ‘Please look at this Temple of Theseus, at Athens. All day that has been prominent in my mind. I have been wondering if that would not just about suit your ideas of an outline for the mansion we have been trying to design.’
“It was a mingling of friendship for Washington and for his adopted son that led Mr. Jefferson to choose that design, and to make me accept it as my own by his skillful diplomacy and wonderful tact. Then he asked me to let him help me with my drawings of the inside of that great temple. When I came away Mr. Jefferson came out with me and, after I was mounted, he said:
“ ‘It was very kind of you, my young friend, to come all the way over here to see me, and it was a great compliment that you have paid me in permitting me to see the wonderful mansion as you developed it all in my home. I am sure that the bride will love you all the more when she sees what an architectural treasure you have designed for her.’
“And, boy like, Mr. President, I really believed that I had done
it all, myself.”
“Well, you did the designing yourself, didn't you?”
“No, Mr. President, I did not. Fully a score of years went by before I became fully aware of the fact that Thomas Jefferson was the architect, and that I was only a very crude assistant.”
“Do you have many visitors on this side of the river?”
“Yes, Mr. President, everybody of eminence that visits Washington City, visits me. All of the friends of Washington know that this mansion was built, largely, to take the place of Mount Vernon where public receptions were almost continuous.”
“Have you entertained any President heretofore?”
“Yes, Mr. President, excepting President Washington who had passed away, and President Adams, who never came here after the close of his term, I have entertained every President since the beginning of the Federal Government.”
Here Colonel Lee turned towards the big front door of the mansion where his wife appeared, calling “Robert, Robert, dear,” and signaling with her finger tips for him to come within and meet with the ladies, and Colonel Lee, bowing and saluting the President and General Scott, responded to the summons and entered the mansion, where he was greeted by all of the ladies, as a war hero should be greeted; but the others remained on the portico, as Mr. Custis continued his story.
“What tent is that old-fashioned one over there? Is that a play house for your grand-sons?”
“No, Mr. President, that tent is never pitched on the lawn except on such rare occasions as the present one. That is the original
‘TENT OF WASHINGTON,’
and I took it from Mount Vernon surreptitiously. That is my most valued possession.
“In the year 1824 I pitched on the lawn the ‘tent of Washington,’ because President James Monroe visited me, and brought with him the Marquis de Lafayette. That venerable friend of General Washington was my guest for a number of days. As soon as he and President Monroe alighted from their horses and stood on the portico, Lafayette smiled with considerable interest as he exclaimed:
“ ‘I stood beside General Washington inside of the entrance of
that tent, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.’ ”
“Had Lafayette known you before?”
“Yes, Mr. President, he knew me, although I did not remember having met with him. After telling President Monroe that he had seen the tent before and recognized it, he turned to me and said:
“ ‘Mr. Custis I have a very pleasant memory of you when you were a very small gentleman, with a cockade and a big feather, as you stood on the veranda at Mount Vernon, holding with one hand the fingers of your grand-mother, the beautiful and peerless Martha Washington, while with the other little hand you clung to one of the fingers of the great and good and gentle but powerful General Washington.’ ”
Senator Seward of New York came forward at this moment, bringing a large and well-cushioned rocking chair which he placed so that the venerable host could be seated easily, and he said:
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Custis, but I went after this favorite chair of yours without asking your permission, for a double purpose. I would not interrupt and ask for a servant to bring it to you; and I wanted to have the personal pleasure of rendering a little service to one whom all Americans appreciate, respect and admire. Please be seated, sir.”
“Thank you, Senator Seward,” replied Mr. Custis, and then he signaled his body servant, saying: “Moses, as a precaution I ought to have my Paisley shawl while seated in this afternoon air. By the way, Mr. President, I feel snow in my rheumatic ankle, and that is a matchless forecaster of the weather of the morrow.”
To the congenial gathering on the portico President Taylor then said: “Now that Mr. Custis is made comfortable, thanks to Senator Seward, I am going to ask our wonderful host to tell us some more things that we ought to know, and that history ought to record.”
Turning to the seated host, and courteously bowing to him. President Taylor said:
“Undoubtedly, Mr. Custis, you are the only person living that really knew George Washington.”
“Yes, Mr. President, only one ever knew him better.”
“And who was that?”
“My sainted grandmother, Martha Washington.”
“Out of your memories of home life can you tell us who was the Boss at Mount Vernon?”
“No, Mr. President, I cannot, for there was no Boss there.”
“But, the General was Master there, wasn't he?”
“Yes, Mr. President, Master of the slaves and of the estate. But, you must comprehend that nobody ever was Boss to George Washington, and he was never a Boss to anyone.”
“You remember him well, don't you?”
“That can only be answered in Yankee fashion, Mr. President.”
“How is that?”
“By asking another question, Mr. President. Do you remember
your first love?”
From the portico there pealed forth lively laughter which echoed in the trees; and the President joining in the hearty applause of the sally of the aged gentleman, said:
“Please tell us about the great man, as you knew him.”
“Well, sir, speaking of a boss or a master, you must know that George Washington received and obeyed the commands of but one American officer. After that, he always commanded.”
“Who was his American commander?”
“It was Colonel Joshua Fry, founder of the chair of Mathematics at William and Mary College. When the First Virginia Regiment marched to the relief of Fort DuQuesne, it was under the command of Colonel Joshua Fry; and his lieutenant-colonel was a Virginia gentleman named George Washington.”
“Did Colonel Fry leave a military name for history?”
“Yes, Mr. President, Colonel Fry died at Fort Cumberland, on the march to Pittsburgh. The command then devolved upon Colonel Washington, and he carved upon a great oak tree this tribute:
“ ‘Beneath this tree lie the remains of the pure, the great,
the good, the noble Col. Joshua Fry.’
“That tribute was overgrown by the bark, and the tree was lost in what was then a wilderness. But, General Washington often spoke of his only commander, and always with great kindness and respectful admiration. It is too bad that the tree could not have been preserved.”
Readers will remember the great truth set forth by one of the great dramatists, in the words:
“The pen is mightier than the sword,”
and it must be said here, parentically, but with some degree of pride that, although the tree has disappeared and with it the inscription carved by the sword of Washington, that tribute is now inscribed upon the permanent page by an unpretentious and obscure descendant, so that history will restore to mankind the tribute of Washington:
“Beneath this tree lie the remains of the pure, the great, the good, the noble Col. Joshua Fry.”
Inasmuch as the genial host was in willing mood, and the other guests were intensely interested, President Taylor continued, saying:
“As there was neither Boss nor Master at Mount Vernon, you have memories of a happy home, haven't you?”
“Yes, Mr. President, Mount Vernon was a home where Joy was duty and Love was law. My venerated grandmother, Martha Washington, worshiped God; but her husband was her shrine.”
“There was one, however, not an American officer, who commanded George Washington, and whom he obeyed cheerfully and loyally.
“Tell us about that masterful man, for we have never heard of him.”
“No, Mr. President, his domination has not been recorded by any writer. Indeed, you are really the first to know of him. When he was only two years of age I have heard him calling: ‘Father,’ and have seen, as I now see in vivid memory, the greatest man in the whole wide world obediently answer the call. He never failed to answer the command: ‘I want you, Daddy. He always came, and took the little boy in his arms. Many an hour he walked about the vast lawn and on the spacious veranda, carrying that little fellow in his arms, caressing him and answering questions that taxed even his boundless stores of knowledge.
“He would answer the call of the voice of a child, whether it cried: ‘I want my Father,’ or if it shrilly cried, from the corner of the Mansion: ‘Papa can't find me.’
“Not infrequently, I may say all too frequently, the command rang out impatiently: ‘Pop, why don't you come to me?’
“Concerning no one else could the Scripture have been ever so practically applied, for indeed, concerning the greatest living leader of men it was true that ‘A little child shall lead him.’ ”
“Were you old enough to know his politics, before he passed away?”
“I was 18 years old, and had been with him daily and hourly; and so, I knew his politics, national and international.”
“To what party would he belong today, do you suppose?”
“To neither party, for they would all belong to him. So long as he dwelt on earth, his fellow citizens were followers of his politics, and of his policies. May God have mercy and may God have pity on our beloved country, if the people ever depart from his patriotic instructions, and his divinely wise leadership; particularly his divinely inspired and God-sent warning to beware of foreign entanglements.”
At this moment there occurred an incident which excited no comment whatever, because similar incidents were constantly occurring everywhere and on all sorts of occasions.
One of the ablest, most worthy, most capable of the statesmen on the portico fell forward upon the shoulder of another; and it happened to be one of his most virulent political antagonists. But, the sober statesman put his arm around his weakening fellow-statesman, and with the aid of other gentlemen of national renown helped the half-drunken man to a chair, and left him there with a negro slave to look after him. It was no disgrace, only a weakness, to succumb to the influence of alcohol a bit of time sooner than others of like habits would fall. But, the large majority of gentlemen were always sober in those days. President Taylor then asked:
“Mr. Custis, I presume that there were superior wine cellars at Mount Vernon, were there not?”
“Undoubtedly, Mr. President, and the stock on hand was of the largest and best in the land. General Washington, however, looked upwards rather than downwards, and the wine cellars were opened only when guests were there who expected and really required some sort of liquor; for General Washington obeyed the Golden Rule, and his guests could always have the kind to which they were accustomed. The General did not force his views of living upon others.”
“Did not General Washington indulge in stimulants of any kind?”
“He certainly did, and, as the years kept rolling on he needed stimulants, as all aged persons need them. He used Madeira and sometimes a Cuban wine which was very sweet. In winter time the General found both food and stimulant in our home-made hard cider.”
“You had beds of mint, too?”
“The best in Virginia, and I believe the largest. You must understand, Mr. President, that General Washington was the greatest and the most liberal entertainer in our country.”
“Then he enjoyed mint juleps as all other gentlemen do?”
“Quite the contrary, Mr. President, General Washington hated every form of distilled liquor. I remember that one Friday Mr. Jefferson came to Mount Vernon, and on Saturday morning Mr. Hamilton came. It was not a political meeting, I am sure, for Mr. Hamilton was surprised when he found Mr. Jefferson there. But both of the gentlemen were induced to remain over Sunday; and so, on Sunday morning they went with the General to the old Pohick church. In the afternoon, while on the veranda, General Washington spoke very emphatically, and I can remember his language as well as his emphatic and angry manner, as he walked along the veranda, for he said:
“Gentlemen, there is an evil spirit over-shadowing our country. Several gentlemen brought bottles in their carriages, as though they could not even worship God without their spirits in bottles. That habit is growing in the upper classes. It will sink down to the lower classes. I can foresee riots and ruin in every bottle of distilled liquor.”
“Mr. Hamilton, the only man I ever knew who was emphatic with the General in his expressions of contrary opinions, protested against the extreme violence of the outburst of Washington, and, after listening to Hamilton, as he always did with great respect, General Washington said:
“No wise man will ignore the wisdom of Holy Writ. It is there recorded that they who draw the sword shall perish by the sword. Remember, gentlemen, that the original inhabitants owned this land on which we stand. White men drove them out, robbed them, and will exterminate them. But, white men have accomplished their purposes not with bullet and sword alone. They have done it with ‘Fire-Water.’ The Indians properly named the poison which they like so well, and it has led them to ruin. This government of the people will be everlasting under proper conditions. If this government ever shall fade from the earth, it will be because of internal dissensions and disagreements, all of them caused by ‘Fire- Water.’ ”
BABBLE, BABBLE, BABBLE
with jabber, jabber, jabber, came the interrupting voices of children, and piercing through the din came the laughing but shrieking cry of “I don't believe it,” and little Charlotte Wickham came racing across the portico, followed by Archie Ashby, the sturdy red-headed boy from the Mountains, with cheeks redder than the hair on his head. Pushing aside those most potent, grave and reverend seigniors of American statesmanship Charlotte raced to the host and climbed upon his knees as she asked the question:
“Grand-pa Custis, did you ever see a Yankee?”
Her big blue eyes were fairly glimmering with curiosity and intense earnestness, as she impatiently awaited the answer, which was:
“Why, of course, Charlotte, I have seen a Yankee. Why do you ask such a question?”
“But, Grand-pa Custis, I mean, did you ever see a real Yankee alive and on its feet?”
“Now, Charlotte, you little terror, what is your joke about? What interests you on that subject?”
“But, Grand-pa Custis, did you ever see a real Yankee really and truly alive and without any hat, all bare-headed? Now, honor bright, Grand-pa Custis, did you?”
“Yes, child, I have seen quite a number of Yankees, all of them very much alive, walking around, and many of them I have seen bareheaded, too. Now, what is it all about?”
All of the statesmen there gathered around the little inquisitor and the venerable sage, listening. Charlotte said:
“Why. Grand-pa Custis, Archie Ashby says that Yankees are all alike. They have long-spiked tails and have horns on their heads, just like Apollyon, in the Pilgrim's Progress. Is that so?”
“No, little one, that is not so. It is an awful lie. Somebody has been lying to Archie, and he has been misleading you. Archie, boy, remember, always, that Grand-pa Custis told you that you must never tell that story again. Some bad man started that story. I suppose that it was some man drinking 'Fire-water' that started that story. You must tell all of your boy and girl friends that it is an awfully wicked lie, and an unpatriotic lie, too.”
Then, turning his attention to Charlotte, while the sturdy boy stood there astonished but unafraid, Mr. Custis said:
“Now, my dear Charlotte, I am glad that you came to me with the story. Going out from here, you and Archie can do a great deal of good for our glorious country, by denying that story. And now, Charlotte, how would you like to see a real live Yankee?”
“Oh, Grand-pa Custis, can I ever see a live Yankee? Can I go where they live?”
“Yes, you innocent little dear, there is a live Yankee right near to us. You know Senator Seward, and you like him, too. Well, Senator Seward is a really, truly, sure enough live Yankee, and he represents a million Yankees that resemble him, without spiked tail and without horns.”
“Oh, Senator Seward, please take me up again and hold me, so that I can tell everybody that I love a real Yankee. Will you?”
Laughing immoderately for one of such studied dignity, the Senator from New York took Charlotte into his arms, and then he said:
“Look right over my shoulder, Charlotte, and there is the greatest orator in the world, Senator Daniel Webster, and he is a Yankee, too; and he represents about a million other Yankees.”
Her friend whom she dearly loved, General Scott, then took the little one in his arms, and said:
“Remember, my little sweetheart, that General Scott told you that thousands of Yankees went with him to Mexico, and they were brave American soldiers. General Jackson had some Yankees with him at New Orleans, and General Washington was surrounded by Yankee soldiers when he raised the first-made Stars and Stripes over his headquarters at Cambridge on January 2, 1776.”
“I'm mad at Archie,” said Charlotte as she gracefully glided down to the floor. “I like Yankees, so I do. I wish I could marry a Yankee right now. I'd do it, just to spite Archie. So there!”
Quite a bit of excitement was caused in the group of statesmen by that thrilling little incident. When quiet reigned again for a moment, President Taylor spoke to Mr. Custis, saying:
“That shows how strife is impending, and how it is being cultivated secretly by some unpatriotic politicians. What do you suppose General Washington would do, Mr. Custis, under such circumstances? What would he do if the North and the South would separate?”
“There can be only one answer to that question, Mr. President,” said Mr. Custis. “Two Presidents have spoken for Washington; and another will arise, in God's own good time to speak for Washington. The North and the South can never separate.”
“But, Mr. Custis, many men of superior capability believe that separation is inevitable. What two Presidents have spoken particularly for General Washington?”
“Well, Mr. President, it has been very clear to me that President Monroe was acting somewhat, and I believe a great deal, under the influence of the spirit of Washington, when he made it impossible for ‘foreign entanglements’ to come to our shores. President Monroe warned all Europe to keep away. He would not, and he could not, invite foreign governments to come into our midst.”
“Then, President Andrew Jackson spoke for Washington, when he declared with such emphasis: ‘The Union must and shall be preserved’!”
“But, Mr. Custis,” continued President Taylor, “do you suppose that General Washington could control such conditions as are now so prevalent?”
“Could he?” exclaimed Mr. Custis, rising from his chair. “Washington could do everything, and do it well. If the General were living, he would make it clear to the North and to the South that separation would mean complete destruction. General Washington would make them understand that in the event of separation the South would not, and the North could not, enforce the Monroe doctrine. Washington would make it clear to both sections that separation would be only the beginning of British domination. That would follow as night follows day.”
“While I admire with you the Father of our country,” said President Taylor, “I do not believe that anyone could so control affairs in our country, under existing and growing conditions.”
“Then, Mr. President, you have read history in vain. Remember that Washington held with one hand the incomparable Thomas Jefferson, and with the other hand, at the same time, he held the indomitable Alexander Hamilton. Thus, today, he would hold the revolutionary statesmen from South Carolina, and also the masterful centralizing statesman from Massachusetts. General George Washington would and could hold together this great and growing country, so that all of the people would avow the doctrine set forth by Senator Webster in his reply to Senator Hayne, that ours is and shall be ‘a government of all of the people, by all of the people, for all of the people.’
“And furthermore, Mr. President, let me assure you that I have a religious faith and belief that the spirit of Washington will always be with us; so that, if this sentiment of separation shall continue, and an effort be made to that end, this country will have a President who will have the influence of the spirit of Washington with him always, so that he will proclaim as his own doctrine that he will preserve for all time the ‘Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.’ ”
That the venerable host was somewhat weary was becoming apparent. Having arisen, he remained standing by his chair. He drew around him the heavy Paisley shawl, and said:
“Gentlemen, those March winds are shrieking and beginning to moan angrily, and you will pardon me for covering my head with this light cockade, for a sudden chill might prove to be serious with me.”
President Taylor, who had been giving very close attention to every word, said, apologetically:
“Please pardon me, Mr. Custis, I am sure that I speak for all present when I say that you have given to us a wonderful entertainment; but I should like to have you enlighten me, and of course enlighten all of us, concerning General Washington's refusal to accept another term in the Presidency. Do you know the real, inside purpose and reasoning for that decision?”
“Yes, Mr. President, and I believe that every citizen of our country should know, for everyone will spontaneously approve the reasoning and the high purpose of the first President of our republic.
“The subject was prominent in conversations at home on a number of occasions. When my grand-mother was asked for her opinion, she replied, as she did to his inquiry on every national topic, in these words: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go.’
“Before making public his decision concerning a third term, the General stated his conclusion and his reasoning, in substantially these words, which were spoken to grand-ma:
“ ‘You know, as well as I do, my dear Martha, and maybe you know better than I do, that my days are gliding swiftly by, and it is probable that I should not live through another term of office. The task is constantly growing in magnitude and in responsibilities. It is necessary for me to look into the future, for the welfare of the country.
“ ‘If I should accept a third term in the presidency, and live through that term, and then decline to serve for a fourth term, that would make a precedent which might limit the aspirations of ambitious men in after years to three terms in an office which is constantly increasing in power.
“ ‘But, suppose that my term of life should cease during my third term of service. There would then be no precedent whatever to curtail the ambitions of someone with King George's love of power. Some man with superior talents for leadership might serve two terms, and make use of the power of the office to secure a third term. Having accomplished that object, there would be no precedent to prevent such a man from seeking and compelling a fourth term.
“ ‘I have thought of the coming of some young man into the office, a man of forty years, one who could command popular applause by territorial aggressions with Patrick Henry's oratorical talents; or, one with a natural love of power imbued with the spirit of Henry the Eighth; and such a man might persist in a fourth or even a fifth term. Then, a dynasty could be formed, and this republic fade from the earth as all other republics have faded, except the Helvetian republic, and that one so small and reclusive as to be really no forceful precedent.
“ ‘And so, my dear Martha,’ said General Washington, ‘I am sure that the last service that I can render the country will be the best service, in thus leaving a precedent which will be likely to prevent the lapse and destruction of the republic; a precedent which patriotic men will always be able to use to thwart selfish ambitions. I will make it clear that a third term is unwise and unpatriotic. I will decline it.’
“Mr. President, the General died in what would have been the middle of a third term if he had accepted it. His declination was wise, patriotic, far-seeing, and that declination was the greatest of all of the great deeds of General Washington for his country.”
Then, turning towards the massive door of the Mansion, Mr. Custis said:
“Mr. President, that little elderly lady coming out of the Mansion with her son-in-law, Colonel Robert E. Lee, attended the first reception ever held at Arlington Mansion. At the beginning of the year 1804, the year when the Mansion was completed, she was Miss Mary Lee Fitzhugh, scarcely 16 years of age. But, in that year the negroes of the estate held the first reception here. They came from the slave quarters and gathered on one side of the lawn, when Miss Mary Lee Fitzhugh arrived here, a 16-year-old bride, accompanied by her happy husband, and she became the mistress of the grandest colonial mansion ever built in America. She has been a wonderful wife and mother.
“See how proud she is of her handsome and distinguished hero son-in-law.”
“She has ample reason to be proud,” said General Winfield Scott, “for Colonel Robert E. Lee is a marvelous man, and a magnificent soldier. My successes in Mexico were largely due to the skill, valor, and undaunted courage of Robert E. Lee. He is the greatest military genius in America today.”
[END OF PROLOGUE.]
MANY years ago an unpretentious, modest, retiring and reclusive assistant pastor of a church in Washington City delivered an elaborately scholarly lecture entitled “The Light of the Dark Ages”; and every hearer was undoubtedly as deeply impressed and as largely enlightened as this narrator. The lecturer subsequently became Archbishop of Dubuque, and still dwells in Dubuque, as these lines are written.
Attention was directed by the lecturer to the conditions in the world before and after the Dark Ages; he pictured vividly the awful and frightful conditions of the centuries when the spirits of evil predominated and seemed to dominate. And then the beloved Father Keane directed his hearers to “the little gleam of light, so small and so obscure that only the keenest eyes of educated intelligence can discern a single ray. But, the light was there and it shone through all of the Dark Ages; and without that light the world would have continued in darkness. But, we have knowledge today, history, science, religion, and social development, all because of the Light of the Dark Ages; that little bit of a slender light that shone unfalteringly through the blackness of the fog of brutality and crime.
“The Light of the Dark Ages,” said Father Keane, “came from the tallow dip of the cloistered monk, for it was he who secretly and religiously preserved for you and for me and for all future generations, the gems and precious metals of history that would have been forever lost but for that light of the Dark Ages.”
Thus it was that mankind was given the works of the historians from Herodotus to Bancroft, the science and logical philosophy of Aristotle, the literature of Homer and of Virgil; and, how much we owe to the historians of other days has not been nor ever can be calculated.
Plutarch gave us the lives of the great men of Rome, and, without Plutarch's Lives, Shakespeare could not have given to literature the characters of Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, Antony and Augustus; nor, could Longfellow have had the inspiration to tell to youth the fact that
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Foot-prints in the sands of time.
Without that light of the Dark Ages there could have been no Luther to enlighten the sagging church that now begins to realize its indebtedness to that masterful man. There could have been no Melancthan, no Calvin, no Cranmer, no Knox, no Wesley, no Adoniram Judson; not even a hare-brained but prosperous evangelist out of the sporting arena of our country.
And so, the writer of history today deserves recognition and appreciation because, even in a most humble sphere, he is following the commendable example of the cloistered monk whose tallow dip gave to mankind the faithful but faint ray of the Light of the Dark Ages.
Long before he fell from grace and lapsed into the inconsequentially of a lordship, while he was himself alone crowned by the literary jewels of his brain, Alfred Tennyson enriched the world with ideals divine. Two facts of inspiration are set forth, by Tennyson in the three lines, telling
Howe'er it be, it seems to me,
'Tis only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets.
Those facts were as seed sown and cultivated in the brain and heart of George Washington Custis Lee when he was barely out of swaddling clothes. His tutors were magnificent and incomparable. Those salient facts of life were taught to Custis Lee by his grand-father, George Washington Parke Custis; by his grand-mother, Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis; by his mother, Mary Ann Randolph Custis Lee; and by his father, General Robert Edward Lee. Those tutors taught him according to the Bible plan, “precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” so that he was nurtured and developed day after day, as the Man of Galilee, whose life he was to live over again, would have had him developed.
In prattling babyhood, in boyhood, at school, at church, in the Military Academy he carried into his daily life the Golden Rule which all mankind should bear and wear; and in the last days of his mortal existence he was doing good to others.
For his unexampled deeds of greatness and nobility, in peace and in war, General George Washington Custis Lee abjured kindred and friends to be silent. As Jesus abjured his disciples to “tell no man,” but let his deeds speak for themselves, so Custis Lee loved others, and he shrunk into voluntary retirement from public acclaim. His noble heart of incomparable worth was gentle, kind, and over-shadowed with devotion to love and duty.
It was because of that Christ-like spirit of self-abnegation that even this narrator was awed into silence concerning the life and deeds that all mankind should know; but, at last, mankind shall know concerning Custis Lee that his life, his love, his courage all shone forth before all who knew and loved him, as brilliantly as the lights of the stars of the morning that “sang together for joy.”
During the first hundred years of the existence of the American republic the rising and succeeding generations were sanely democratic because they sincerely believed that “all are created equal.” Because of that condition of affairs Custis Lee was democratic in all of his associations, although he was a scion of nobility, with environments which made it utterly impossible for him to forget that he was and must live as a thoroughbred. Even the illiterate slaves always looked up to him as to a saint amongst men.
You must understand and comprehend that it is a task as well as a duty to become, even superficially, the historian of a superman, and yet, it is a labor ipse voluptas. When it fell to the lot of Virgil to write concerning a man of similar mould, he said
ARMA VIRUMQUE CANO
and, as Virgil thus began the Aeneid, the identical words should be used in this story of virtue and valor, for it is true that “I sing of arms, and a hero.”
The epic of Virgil narrated misfortunes on foreign soil. This greatest American story ever told begins with “colonial days,” and narrates blue blood heritage even unto the fifth antecedent generation. First of all to come upon the stage is the incomparable merchant prince of the new world. Although not armed cap-a-pie as knights-errant for conquest of dominions including lady fair, the makers of America were worthy followers of the best of the Crusaders; and, in a better, nobler sense it may be said of them:
In days of old, when knights were bold,
And barons held their sway,
they faced foes invisible and conquered them. He who conquested the wealth of the new world, who became the most alert, far-seeing and most venturesome in mercantile affairs, shall hold the stage for time sufficient to let you know the firm foundation of physical and mental power which our hero manifested on every epochal occasion in his wonderful career. That knight of old was the first merchant prince of the Colony of Virginia.
The maternal ancestry of our hero also must shine forth in the story, because his great-great-grand-mother was a wonderful woman whose childhood, girlhood, maidenhood and wifehood all combine into a laminated illumination of the pages of the early history of our nation. Wise as she was winsome, she chose a man among men who had achieved leadership; such a man as could transmit to his progeny forcefulness and strength.
Martha Dandridge was the most beautiful and the most brilliant of the belles of Williamsburg when Williamsburg was the Capital City of the British Colony of Virginia; and that incipient metropolis was the recognized colonial capital because Governor William Gooch made the village his abiding place.
Admitted by all as being the most regal in appearance, the most royal of manner and the most democratic in social intercourse with conceded equals in the colonial court, Martha Dandridge was sought by many admirers, and with reverential courtesy. But the queenly Martha was icily adamantine in her ideals. Ignoring all courtly courtings, her heart gave no warning throbs, until at last came one who was as threateningly dangerous as
ANOTHER YOUNG LOCHINVAR
and Martha Dandridge knew it immediately. When an immovable body is athwart the pathway of an irresistible body there can be but one result; an inevitable smash-up. That's what occurred at Williamsburg almost two hundred years ago when Daniel Parke Custis came upon the scene, a sane Petruchio; a roystering, boisterous, aggressive, irresistible, but always courteously gentle knight, a determined master of affairs; and he snatched the spotlight, pervaded the play, and allowed no other hero in the act. Well-born, well-bred, of powerful physique and tireless brain, he followed with business acumen the riot of society which Sir Walter Raleigh had started by carrying tobacco to Europe; an un-heard-of vegetable, a novelty, a habit-producer for which the wealthy classes were ready to pay in cash, even fabulous prices. The father of
DANIEL PARKE CUSTIS
catered to that expensive folly of the old world nobility. Rapidly he grew into affluence and distinction. The worthy and self-assertive son of such a man could not be denied, for he would not be denied. He was a handsome fellow, too, and so Martha Dandridge capitulated, because her heart was carried by storm. In June, 1749, Daniel Parke Custis brought his bride to the best colonial mansion in America; brought her to “The White House,” still famous on the vast Custis estate on the Pamunkey river. It was built upon an estate which was a wedding present from his father. There they dwelt in harmonious happiness until 1757, when the master merchant went the way of all flesh, leaving “The Widow Custis” in possession of an estate worth more than One Hundred Thousand Dollars; an immense fortune for those days, and she became known as “the wealthy widow.” Of course there were suitors, too many of them.
Wise and prudent in her virgin beauty, Martha Dandridge had been unapproachable by flatterers or adventurers. And now the beautiful Widow Custis rejected attentions and resented assertive courtings. No selfish fortune-hunting Lothario could tell to her any tale of adulation that could equal the story told to her by the mirror in her own palace. She was living only for the little ones that had been sent to her from the other side of the veil of eternal life.
And thus two years floated away into the dismal darkness of forgetfulness; two happy years, for she devoted her time and all of her educated talents to John Parke Custis and to his little sister, Martha Parke Custis, teaching them the rudiments of the knowledge of their environments; also opening visions of future distinction and responsibility. Suitors continued to come and to go, and their presence might be recorded as interesting as entertainments during dull moments. But at last came the handsome soldier, the tall, athletic masterful man who gave to an attendant slave the care of his horse and accoutrements, and entered the door as a welcome guest; welcome, because Martha Custis was impressed by complete recognition of the greatest and grandest man she had ever known; and thus it happened that the most beautiful woman in Virginia soliloquized: “How beautiful men are!”
That handsome young officer was personally attractive; one of that rare class of men who are not made more attractive by the uniform, nor more adorable by an amorous dance. He was a real man, a manly man, and Martha Custis fully realized his worth. The young officer had won honor by unexampled courage and bravery, and by having demonstrated superior military ability. Moreover, he had won fame as a surveyor of vast forests in virgin mountains, and in vales beyond the mountains. He was a hunter, too; and had acted as a guide for a large army, far away along the Potomac to Fort Cumberland; so that his spotless military career had resulted in the popular approval of the people, who called him
THE HERO OF BRADDOCK'S FIELD
and so, with fame, distinction, manly pulchritude, wealth, ambition, and genuine affection for the children as well as for the widow, Colonel George Washington led his bride away from the “White House Farm” in March, 1759, to his own home at Mount Vernon, on the Potomac; the home that was to become distinguished and famous as the home of the first super-man on this continent; the home also of Martha, the worthy wife of the man who was “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of his Countrymen.”
Never has there been a wedding during the present era in which events have demonstrated greater manifestation of the truth of the sacrament, “What God hath joined together.” George Washington was as near an ideal of perfection at home and in peace, as on the tented field. The little ones had a kindly, helpful instructor, a happy home, and love divine in that home. When the family moved to Mount Vernon the little boy was 6 years, and the baby girl was 3 years old; and both of them were beloved companions of George Washington as well as of their marvelous mother.
Happiness they enjoyed, happiness seemingly eternal in their fairy-like environments, without a cloud of any kind for twelve years; and then, the baby, Martha, when only 16 years of age, was called from the narrow vale of life between the peaks of two eternities; and thereafter she was seen only with the aid of the lenses of Faith and Hope; and to the boy, 19 years old, the master mind of that age gave all of his attention. That boy was to become sole owner and possessor of the
TITLE TO ARLINGTON
and concerning that estate we will now invite your attention, briefly. It must be remembered that those magnificent forest-crowned hills bordering on the Potomac were the beautiful embowered homes of birds and animals whose presence made musical and fairy-like the vast expanse of wonderland, the happy hunting grounds of the Powtowmack tribes of the South and the Susquehanna confederacy of the North; and those people held title in fee-simple to all of those lands; and, for those lands, in priority, the original tribes waged many wars in long past centuries. Early settlers on “Observatory Hill,” in Washington, disinterred countless skeletons of Indians of both of those tribes, numberless weapons of warfare alongside of them; mute but unquestionable evidence that aborigines were enacting tragedies and fatal follies ages before their successors manifested equally insane notions of human aggrandizement at Gettysburg. When the marauding white men came, they ignored God-given titles, and made records of their own declarations of metes and bounds. Never earth's philosopher traced with the golden pen, on the deathless page, truths half so sage as the poet wrote for men, declaring that
“MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN
makes countless thousands mourn.” One of the first known records in well-preserved archives sets forth that the British Governor, William Berkeley, of the Colony of Virginia, gave to one Robert Howsen an estate of six thousand acres (6,000) of the colonial domain as a priceless present. October 21, 1669, is the recorded date of that first colossal outrage against the copper-colored proprietors of that land. It was located “along the Potomack River, south of the lower rapids, and westward as may be surveyed.”
Robert Howsen sold that magnificent acreage to John Alexander “for six hogsheads of tobacco.” Then, after retaining the vast estate in the family by entailment, more than one hundred years, it was divided on Christmas Day, 1778, after a very hilarious celebration of Christmas; for, on that date, Gerald Alexander conveyed eleven hundred acres (1,100) of the estate to John Parke Custis, prodigal son and heir of the opulent merchant prince and land operator, for the sum of eleven thousand pounds in the currency of the Colony of Virginia; an amount equal to so many pounds sterling.
THE EARL OF ARLINGTON
was the first free-booter that came from Great Britain with the King's warrant proclaiming for him the ownership of all of Virginia; and that included the boundless domain from which other sovereign States of this republic were subsequently carved. Assuming proprietorship “by right of discovery,” King Charles the Second issued that grant which made Henry, then the Earl of Arlington, the owner and ruler of a domain more vast than all of the other British possessions of the world. The great-grand-father of John Parke Custis named his small estate in Northampton County after that first Earl; and this young wassailing son of Daniel Parke and Martha Custis named his estate of 1,100 acres along the Potomac, after that smaller estate of his ancestor. The first owner of that particular acreage, John Parke Custis, was
SUCH A BAD BOY
that he was not a dutiful son to his marvelous mother. When he was 18 years of age he was sent to King's College, in New York; but he remained there only a few months. He was not a student, and would not be. He was an heir, and a sole heir after the death of his sister during her minority. Women could not own land. When his mother ceased to be his guardian, the estate of Daniel Parke Custis came to the young spendthrifty wassailer. He was disobedient to his mother and insolent to his masterful guardian. He could and did indulge his fondness for fine raiment, the best horses and dogs and all sports, particularly hunting.
Wandering from one worry today to another for the morrow, is usually the fate of every mother of a wild and selfish child. And so, while the bereaved mother at Mount Vernon was weeping for the loss of her little girl she was constantly anticipating other sorrow, probably greater grief, on account of the reckless and indolent son. Like a meteor out of a clear sky came to her a letter which opened up a new and vast vista of amazement. He informed his mother that he had taken the vows of matrimony on February 4, 1774, having been married on that date to Eleanor Calvert of Mount Airy, Maryland; a child of only 16 years concerning whom his mother knew substantially nothing. However, she was a descendant of Lord Baltimore, and her ancestry was replete with the names of men of achievements. Time amply attested, and his mother soon learned, and gladly, that her son had made no mistake in his choice of a wife, for “Nellie Custis,” as she became known, was popular in the higher circles, and particularly popular in the heart of the wonderful childless mother at Mount Vernon; for, after the death of her daughter and the departure of her son, and the public demands which were made upon her husband, Martha Washington had been wandering about her empty home with empty arms and empty heart. Her bright daughter-in-law was, to Martha Washington, a continuous ray of sunshine, and a star of hope in the reclamation of her son. It was Nellie Custis who induced her husband to build their home at
FOUR MILE RUN
on the Arlington estate, only eight miles north of Mount Vernon. There three children were born and bred. They also brought light, love and happiness to their grand-mother. The two families were near neighbors and the children were accustomed to having two homes in which they reigned as the queens of both hearthstones. Thus, “after many days,” John Parke Custis became a faithful husband and a good father in a home where Joy was duty, and Love was law. That home was the first and then the only home on the now famous Arlington estate. There the three little girls were born. But when the time approached for the coming of a fourth child the young mother responded to the calls from her home at Mount Airy, Maryland; and there she went without opposition, but greatly to the regret of Martha Washington. And so it happened that Nellie Custis was in the home of her childhood, maidenhood and young wifehood when the fourth child came; a little boy who was christened with the name of his (to be) guardian angel,
GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS
and it should be engraved upon fadeless and lasting bronze that the lad so named became indeed one of Nature's noblemen, and he always bore and wore that matchless name with unblemished honor; maintained it untarnished.
Moreover, it should be said in letters both bold and bright that when the little boy was only 6 months old his father died; was called hence, prematurely, because of exposure and hardships which he endured as a soldier in the last campaign of the great struggle for Liberty and Independence. He died for his country. Before entering the army John Parke Custis had become a most worthy citizen.
George Washington legally adopted the fatherless boy. That great and good man was the only father the little fellow ever knew. From Washington he learned how to live; and he lived always in accord with the lessons learned from the life and from the lips of the matchless man whom he loved and revered.
Muscles, bone, and sinew are powerful. Knowledge is power. George Washington Parke Custis obtained knowledge and wisdom from the greatest source in this country. From his paternal companion and guardian he learned all about the history of his country; all about the War of the Revolution, its causes, military annals and its triumphant achievements. From Washington he learned all about the Constitutional Convention, and about the Constitution which that Convention developed; a Constitution which could not or would not have been accepted and adopted but for the influence of Washington himself. Providentially, and for the ultimate development of our modern super-man. Washington was transmitting greater and more lasting influence than might have been handed down to posterity by a descendant of his own. His adopted son learned by observation during the two presidential terms of Washington; learned diplomacy, statecraft, and the glamors of official hypocrisy that parades as “Society” in circles more envied than enviable.
BLAZING LOG FIRES
in the immense fire-places at Mount Vernon not only warmed the great mansion during frigid wintry nights and stormy afternoon, but they lighted the rooms and illumined the features of the great instructor of the adopted son. When there were favorable weather conditions the great man and the apt pupil were along the river banks, under the trees, hunting, rowing and philosophizing. And because the youth loved his benefactor with an almost idolatrous affection, he avoided all of the roads that lead to fame. He wanted distinction to belong to his mentor; the undivided admiration of all mankind. Thus, it will be observed that the man who was to become the
TEACHER OF THIS HERO
thus practiced the self abnegation and self-effacement which stand forth in another generation. When the summons came which called his grandmother to another sphere and left him homeless as well as fatherless and motherless, George Washington Parke Custis went forth quietly from the home at Mount Vernon, retaining only the vivid memories of babyhood, childhood and youth with the foremost man and woman in the new world. From the smaller home at Four Mile Run he went abroad every day, viewing and surveying the great estate of which he was the sole heir. From every point of view he studied the topography. He also peered into the future far enough to anticipate the growth of the great capital city, and then he selected the forest-clad heights to be the site of the new home which he had been forming architecturally in his own mind with the aid of the library and personal views of Thomas Jefferson. Then he superintended the digging for the foundations into which should be laid the massive blocks of stone; he selected the flagging stones for the magnificent portico; personally he directed the roofing and the decorations; with plummet in hand he watched the placing of the portico pillars. Every brick used in the work was moulded and burned on the estate. Giving to everything his personal attention, he did what he knew George
Washington would have done; and so, he produced
and finished it for occupation in the year 1804. It was builded to last for all time. No longer could he entertain the national and international friends of Washington, as he had been doing at Mount Vernon. But he could and would entertain them in his own home. For well-nigh half a century he did lavishly entertain those friends, as Washington would have had him entertain them. When he was 23 years of age he was married to Mary Lee Fitzhugh; an admirable Virginian virgin of ancient lineage. The first mistress of the grandest colonial mansion known then, or ever, in this world, was only 16 years old. It was a wonderful home for a child mistress, but the little princess reigned with queenly grace in the mansion which is now “on Fame's eternal camping ground; where Glory guards, with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead.”
Arlington Mansion has a frontage of 140 feet; including the main building and the wings of either side. From numberless samples in the Jefferson collection the young master selected the Temple of Theseus, at Athens, as the style for the great portico; and it is a faithful reproduction.
That portico is sixty feet wide. With proper proportion it is twenty-five feet deep.
The gracefully beautiful entablature is uplifted by eight impressively massive Doric columns.
The site is wonderful beyond powers of description. It is incomparable. From the portico there is an unobstructed view of the Potomac river. That view is glorified by the hills of Maryland which green-wall the National Capital City with waving forest leaves; green walls which seem like frames formed by Nature for the picture that no camera can reproduce and no artist can paint.
Anticipating unworthy conditions at the old home, the affectionate grand-son of Martha Washington managed to carry to his new home numerous mementoes, unknown to others, and that which he valued most highly and guarded most carefully was the
TENT OF WASHINGTON
and when he desired to do special honor to any one of the best friends of Washington, the famous old war-worn and weather-beaten Tent was pitched on the lawn before the Mansion. When General Lafayette was entertained in Washington City by the Federal Government, on October 12, 1824, the noble Custis loaned that Tent to the Reception Committee, and it was pitched in the rotunda of the Capitol building. Then, during the month of January, 1825, Lafayette spent almost a week in the Arlington Mansion, and there, upon the lawn, the “Tent of Washington” was pitched, and there it remained during that entire visit. One afternoon while standing beneath the covering of that tent, where he had stood with the great master of men in “the days that tried men's souls,” Lafayette was so agitated with memories of the great general and the great events of the war that the withering cheeks of the venerable soldier of Liberty were moistened with tears which shone like jewels reflecting his recollections of the campaigns, marches, thrilling charges, victories and glories of those days. To the noble Custis, whose honored guest he was, Lafayette said:
“I first saw you at Mount Vernon, in 1784, when you were a very little gentleman, with a feather in his hat, holding fast to one finger of the strong hand of the good General George Washington.”
HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION
Character is no stronger than its foundations. Very few of our people know the true breadth and strength of the marvelous character of George Washington; and, that being the case, our people have not comprehended the character of his adopted son, his beloved pupil, George Washington Parke Custis, to whom Washington imparted a daily motion-picture review of all that was good and great in the character of the Father of his Country; and thus was reproduced the fundamental principles of that great character.
These facts are stated, and emphatically, in order that you may comprehend how it happened that the greatness of the character of George Washington was imparted to the hero of this story.
Sir George Otto Trevelyan, describing the encampment at Valley Forge as the most celebrated encampment in the history of the world, says:
“Depressed and anxious, Washington was not perturbed out of measure, inasmuch as he believed himself to be in direct relations with an Authority which was superior to Congress. The old iron master at Valley Forge, with whom Washington lodged, related that one day, while along the creek, he found the General's horse fastened to a sapling. Looking around he saw Washington in a thicket by the roadside on his knees in prayer. The honest man, who was a Quaker preacher, said: ‘I felt that I was on holy ground, and withdrew, unobserved.’ On returning to his home he told his wife that the Nation would surely survive its troubles, because, if there was anyone on earth to whom the Lord would listen, that one was General Washington.”
That firm foundation of character was transmitted to his beloved youthful companion and pupil. To his daughter George Washington Parke Custis transmitted that firm foundation. Then she and her father taught to the hero of this story, in his youth and young manhood, how to found, build and develop the character which made him the American hero of whom but few have heard, but concerning whom all mankind shall know and to whom deferential appreciation shall be given.
AMERICA'S GREATEST ENTERTAINER.
While living in, for, and with mankind, George Washington did not wear the sacred emotions of his nature on his sleeve, nor did his pupil nor did the hero of this story. Washington mingled with men with democratic demeanor, assuming no superiority, and yet receiving the voluntary obeisance of his fellow men. When he laid aside his public duties on March 4, 1797, and returned to his Virginia home, all men of distinction followed him to that home, so that Mount Vernon became the Mecca of America. The distinguished master there was the greatest entertainer then or ever since on the American continent. That fact was observed and comprehended by the young master of the Arlington Estate who was rapidly approaching manhood; and thus it naturally followed that when he could not continue at Mount Vernon to receive those friends of Washington, he planned to make and he did make Arlington Mansion the greatest and most generous place of entertainment in the United States; a Mansion most richly furnished, with china, silver, gold, silk and mahogany; and no historian ever has liberally and gracefully described the magnificent manner in which his child-wife cordially co-operated with him. During the life-times of the friends of Washington they were welcomed with all of the well-bred dignity and cordial courtesy that was habitual to Washington himself on all occasions.
“Welcome” was signaled by the beds of flowers, over the various gates and on the genial faces. of the gentleman and the gentle woman who cheerily greeted all visitors; and they were numberless. The growth of Alexandria, which was a commercial port, and of Washington, the National Capital City, the increasing population in the farm lands of near-by Virginia and Maryland, supplemented the generous hospitality, so that the children of the churches, Sundays schools, and the mature folks of lodges and civil societies wended their ways towards the “Arlington Springs,” and the Arlington Estate became the favorite picnicing grounds of the surrounding country; and those parties continued to grow in numbers until the political disturbances of 1860 and 1861, when clouds of national insanity obscured the sunlight of fraternal love. During the year 1856 upwards of 20,000 people enjoyed outings there, and
HUNDREDS OF LITTLE CHILDREN
were entertained by an elderly gentleman, dressed as in colonial days, distinguished in appearance but wearing welcoming smiles. He came to their gatherings, clasped their little hands, talked with them, and entertained them with popular tunes on a violin; and that elderly gentleman was a master musician, too.
That was George Washington Parke Custis, the beloved grand-son of Martha (Custis) Washington, the adopted son and worshiping companion of George Washington; the wonderful man, heretofore so little known, the only man ever tutored by George Washington.
Mark ye! What Washington did for that man in his youth, George Washington Parke Custis did for his own grand-son, George Washington Custis Lee, the eldest son of Robert E. Lee.
Thus, you see, the tutoring of the Father of his Country was transmitted, first hand, to a worthy and capable pupil. This, as well as his heritage of superior intelligence, must in some measure account for the magnificent manhood of George Washington Custis Lee.
Unless conversant with provincialisms and pronunciations, you could not know that the word P-i-e-r-c-e is pronounced Purse, nor that in New England the word Q-u-i-n-c-y is pronounced Quinzy.
On July 1, 1854, General Franklin Pierce, a distinguished veteran soldier of the War with Mexico, was President of the United States and concededly the most strikingly handsome man that had ever held that high office after Thomas Jefferson. Officially present at West Point on that date, President Pierce reviewed the corps of cadets and participated in their commencement exercises.
The first honor man of the graduating class was George Washington Custis Lee of Virginia. The young cadet was personally congratulated and complimented by President Pierce; and mirabile dictu, he was handed his first commission by the Secretary of War, who was also a soldier and hero of the War with Mexico, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.
Constantly conscious of the fact that he was the grand-son of “Light Horse Harry Lee,” of revolutionary fame, the young first honor man was also intensely impressed with consciousness of the fact that he was the son of the Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point; and his father, Colonel Robert E. Lee, was also a hero of the War with Mexico. Christened with the name of the Father of his Country, and with an enviable ancestry, it was natural only that the young cadet should strive to be worthy of his antecedents and environments.
During his long life of four score years Custis Lee never forgot those salient facts; nor ever once did he fail to act well his part in the drama, romance, tragedy and glory of the epochal years of his immediate future.
Seven years after that commencement day at West Point the Superintendent and his son, the first honor man, had occasion to delve in vivid memories of the day; for, that same Jefferson Davis was President of a vaster, more populous, more prosperous, and more promising republic than Washington had ever dreamed of; and, that same Jefferson Davis was beckoning to both of them to come to his side. They did not stain the escutcheon of the Lees with ingratitude.
On the morning following the commencement exercises at West Point, President Pierce was accompanied by Secretary Jefferson Davis, General Winfield Scott, Colonel Robert E. Lee, and other officers on the trip to New York City, and thence to their various destinations; so that in the evening of July 3, Colonel Lee arrived at Arlington Mansion for a brief vacation.
Quite naturally the young lieutenant spent some time in the big city, not in recreation, but in shopping. He desired to carry home some presents, and he also selected some little mementoes of the metropolis for neighbors near and a neighbor dear to him. In the early morning of July 5 the negro house servants who were on the lookout for him hastened to notify his mother and she was soon clasped in the arms of her first-born son, a stalwart, handsome young athlete, straight as an arrow and carrying himself with princely pride.
Together they ascended the stone steps of the great portico, when, at the door, appeared Colonel Robert E. Lee. Instantly the young lieutenant withdrew his arm from his mother's waist, came to “attention” and saluted his superior officer, who returned the salute, and then the father came and clasped the hand of the son of whom he was so proud. After entering the great reception room, the mother said:
“My boy, my first-born son, I am so proud of you. Your father tells me you are the first cadet that ever went through West Point without a single demerit, and also came forth at the head of his class. It's wonderful to me. I'm so happy.”
“Mother mine,” said Custis, “we are in perfect harmony as usual, for I am as happy and as proud as you are; happy that I have made my mother happy, and proud because my mother is proud of me.”
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, the younger brother, came running across the lawn, having just been informed of the arrival of Custis. He was almost 16 years old, stout, much heavier than Custis, but very active. Quickly after the greetings the younger brother, whom they always called by his nickname “Rooney,” said to Custis:
“I want to go into the army, too, like Grand-pa and Dad, and like you. I don't want to go to Harvard. I want to go to West Point, too.”
Colonel Lee said: ”I'm glad you have that ambition, ‘Rooney,’ and maybe I can find the political influence to put you there when you are a few years older. Just now, I have no influence worth while; but I will keep in mind your proper ambition.”
Custis Lee, the elder, although weighing twenty pounds less, always spoke of his younger brother as “my little brother.” He said:
“Some day when I can win my way to an assignment in the War Department, I will direct my energies to finding that influence for my little brother. He ought to go to West Point if we can put him there.”
BEING IN LOVE WITH A GIRL
very early in the morning July 7, 1854, at Arlington, Brevet Lieutenant Lee departed, on horseback, his proud mother saying:
“Charlotte is a prize, my son; but no girl is going to win my boy away from me. Maybe, after I am gone, you may think seriously of Charlotte; but not now. Give to her and to her mother and father our hearty regards and neighborly affection.”
Also very early morning, July 7, 1854, at the home of Judge Wickham, a spacious frame Virginia Mansion, on the portico was Charlotte Wickham (a little blonde, like Delia Fox) with her mother. Charlotte, being in love with a young man, was restless, remained standing there, went down the path to the gate and back again several times, and Mrs. Wickham, kindly reproving her daughter, said:
“Charlotte, my child, Custis will remain with his mother and the family for some days before coming here. Remember, clear child, his mother has not seen him since he closed his vacation last October; and his mother of course wants to have her boy with her for a while.”
Charlotte replied: “Well, when Custis is my boy his mother will have to come here to see him. I'll never let him leave me; never.”
“But, Charlotte, you simple little, impatient not-to-say selfish angel; I am afraid that Custis is not half as crazy about you as you'd want him to be. Yes, don't frown at me, because I meant to add, as I'd like him to be. But, he hasn't proposed yet. He can't be here today. So, quit promenading to the gate. Be patient a few days.”
With full skirt extending only a few inches below the knees, and with ankle flounces around the bottom of her pantalettes, Charlotte was a picturesque as well as graceful little human gazelle as she ran to her mother smiling, but almost petulantly saying:
“Mother, I'm sure you never were in love.”
Well, there was prophecy or some other kind of inspiration in Charlotte's hopeful and loving heart; for she was right in confidently anticipating the coming of Custis. Maybe it was telepathic communication. At any rate, Charlotte continued her out-looking excursions to the big gate, gazing down the long road again and again and slowly returning to the veranda or up stairs to the mother who continued to reprove her.
However, in the early evening when Charlotte walked down the stairs to gaze into the gloaming, the Judge and Mrs. Wickham tauntingly accompanied her. But, no sooner were they near the gate where they could see the roadway for a mile or more, than sure enough there they saw the young lieutenant in uniform, accompanied by his negro valet, slowly approaching; slowly because the horses had been urged onto a forced march by the young lieutenant who was as anxious to see Charlotte as that little one was anxious to see him.
Instantly Charlotte unclasped the gate-lock and tried to open the gate so that she could run down the road to meet Custis. But, Judge and Mother Wickham restrained her. Decorum and dignity required that Charlotte return to the house and she was required to accompany Mother Wickham to her room, and Mother Wickham said:
“Nice-looking eyes you now have. Sit here and keep cool, as a well-bred Virginia gentlewoman should be. Remain here with your mother until the coming of the guest is announced to your father. He will cordially welcome the visitor. Then he will send Aunt Lize to announce him. We will take our time getting ready to meet with him.”
Charlotte, stamping her foot and shaking her head saucily, said:
“I'm not a gentlewoman, Mother; not yet. I'm just 16, and I love Custis. We're ready now, both of us. There needn't be any getting ready at all. I'm going downstairs right now. Ain't he handsome?”
“No, dear, we're not ready. His coming is a surprise to us. Shame on you that your mother must stand against the door this way to protect you from your own folly. Custis must not know that we are ready, nor that you are anxious to throw yourself at him. Remember, you are a Virginia gentlewoman now; and you must always act well your part. Your father must not be ashamed of your appearance nor of your manners and style.”
“Dad don't like Custis, and I know it,” said Charlotte.
“On the contrary,” said Mother Wickham, “your father says that Custis is the brightest and best young man that he knows of; and that Custis always has been a model boy, worthy of his ancestry and his heritage.”
“Can't you see that both of us would like to have Colonel Lee and Mrs. Lee look upon our daughter in like manner; as a model of the highest type of Virginia gentlewomen?”
“Pardon me, dear old Mom. I'll be good. 'Deed I will. But, Mother, I know you never were in love.”
And it was high time for Charlotte to be drying her eyes and powdering her nose. Her cheeks were ripe cherry red always, but they colored a peach-bloom deep pink as she glanced out of the window and saw her Custis dismounting by the big iron gates and handing the reins to his butler, who led the horses away while Custis stepped upon the graveled path with sprightly tread and approached the veranda upon which Judge Wickham was standing. The Judge was wearing his smoking jacket and burning Virginia tobacco in the meerschaum pipe which he had been diligently coloring for more years than Custis had lived.
Walking towards the top step of the veranda with slow and stately dignity, Judge Wickham received Custis with a hearty hand-clasp and words of sincere and cheerful greeting. After crossing the broad portico and entering the spacious reception room, Custis inquired with manifest interest if the ladies were well, and if they were at home.
Judge Wickham jingled a tiny silver bell which always was available on the center table. Immediately black Liza, slender, clean, graceful, intelligent, a model house servant, appeared, received the inquiry, and retired to announce the guest to the ladies.
Slaves of the best and most aristocratic families were illiterate, but cunningly cute as they grew to maturity in the house and home. And so, as Liza ascended the stairway she looked back, smiled and went on up to the chamber of Mother Wickham. As Liza entered the room she began saying:
“Missus, Mr. Custis Lee—”
Charlotte ran impulsively towards the door, but her mother intercepted her and replied to the message by saying to Liza:
“Go and tell your master that my daughter and I will both of us be very glad to meet and welcome the gentleman as soon as we can prepare ourselves.”
Mrs. Wickham restrained Charlotte, closed the door, and when Liza returned directed her to stand with her back against the door; for the prudent and controlling mother knew that her daughter was straining at the mandatory leash of maternal discipline; and, although well bred and biddable, the time had arrived when independent womanhood was beginning to assert itself and Charlotte might become uncontrollable. Liza took her position, her black countenance beaming with emotions of admiration and hope for her young mistress, and Liza said:
“Miss Charlotte, yo' shore is han'sum t'day. Hoccome?”
Judge Wickham was wisely entertaining the welcome visitor by directing his conversation to the subject with which he was most familiar, and Custis was answering questions galore concerning West Point and the daily life of routine there. Upstairs, when the grand-father's clock had marked the passage of fifteen minutes, Mother Wickham said:
“Liza, go and tell your master that we will be downstairs in just another minute.”
But Mother Wickham restrained Charlotte for another five minutes, and then preceded Charlotte in descending the stairs. Mother Wickham greeted Custis with a kiss, just as she had been greeting him from the days of his babyhood. How Charlotte did envy her mother when she kissed her Custis and while she was saying:
“This is a great honor, Custis, and a great surprise. Of course you have been home, haven't you; and are all well there?”
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Wickham, all are well, and I bring messages of neighborly regard and affection from both father and mother.”
Charlotte's greeting was as effusive as might be expected of one so young, and so emphatically in love; and yet, she was coyly dignified until her mother had first greeted the guest. Charlotte said:
“I told Mother yesterday and today that you were coming, and I am delighted to see you.”
“Thank you, and many thanks to all of you, for your friendship and kindness. I am on to Richmond. I shall visit our White House Farm estate on the Pamunkey, the tuidal home of Grandma Martha Custis, and then I go on to Richmond to be made a Mason in the lodge of which my noble father is Past-master.”
Mrs. Wickham took her place beside her husband. Charlotte conducted Custis to a large old-fashioned hair-cloth sofa. All were seated, when Mrs. Wickham rang a little silver bell. When Liza appeared, Mrs. Wickham said:
“Prepare tea at once, and send Jim here.”
When Jim, the black butler, arrived, Judge Wickham gave him orders, and he soon reappeared with the Virginia nectar, in two big goblets, with mint stems extruding profusely over the tops. As host and guest sipped their juleps, the conversation proceeded. Judge Wickham told his wife and Charlotte that
“Custis came out at the head of his class, the first honor man.”
“Just as might have been expected of the sqn of Colonel Robert E. Lee,” said Mrs. Wickham.
“Just as I KNEW it would be,” said Charlotte.
“But, my friends, I am more proud of my record of four years at West Point without a demerit, nor a reproof.”
“How like the great-grand-son of Martha Washington,” said Mrs. Wickham. “Surely all of your great ancestors are happier, even in heaven, to see you growing into perfect manhood.”
“But, I am not growing into perfect manhood,” said Custis.
“Mother, dear, remember that flattery is not good for young men,” said Judge Wickham.
“Flattery can never hurt me,” said Custis. “I am absolutely proof against it.”
“Why, Custis,” said Mrs. Wickham, “it is impossible for any human being to be unmoved by flattery.”
“But my armor is of divine origin,” replied the young man very earnestly.
“Now, Custis, isn't that sacrilege?” asked Mother Wickham.
“No, indeed, it is not. That is religious reverence. I can never be flattered into self-conceit, because I know my own inferiority to the only perfect man living.”
“Why, Custis, you are talking like a preacher, and I don't understand,” said Mrs. Wickham.
“Well, I can explain,” said Custis. “I have before me, always, the man whom I can never equal, the hero of America, the greatest soldier, and the typical southern gentleman, too. I shall follow his example, but there can be and there will be no other idol of American hearts.”
“And, who is this perfect man, this great soldier, this typical southern gentleman? Tell us, Custis.”
“General Scott has described him, spoken of him as the master military mind of this age. His wife, his children, and all who know him pronounce him typical in all manly virtues and powers.”
“But, Custis, is there such a man?”
“Yes, there is such a man. It is my noble father, Colonel Robert Edward Lee.”
DIPLOMACY AT HOME
While Cadet-Lieutenant George Washington Custis Lee was starting for the Wickham home, in July, 1854, his father, Colonel Robert E. Lee was playing the part of a West Point cadet by “walking his beat,” as his frequently facetious wife termed it. The Colonel was walking from the big front steps of the big front yard, all around the big mansion to the big back yard. Colonel Lee was also indulging his well-known habit of “letting down and hauling up” with the pulley rope of the splendid and still inexhaustible well. Where water was a-plenty Colonel Lee was always a heavy drinker. So, as he walked and walked, he frequently stopped and drank from “the old oaken bucket that hung in the well.”
Disappearing afar off on the road amidst the trees, he could see Custis, graceful always on horseback, accompanied by his worshipful valet, a negro only a few years older than Custis, who had been serving “the young master” from the days of short pants and close-fitting round-a-bouts. On each trip, as he turned the corner of the Mansion, the Colonel halted, looked after his son, and walked on to, the well, “with the dairy-house nigh it;” and then back again. At last, as he was “getting on her nerves,” he was hailed by the mistress of the manse, with the ancient taunt: “a penny for your thoughts.”
“I'm thinking of that foolish boy. I'm wondering how to circumvent or surround him, and capture him. He's running right into an ambush, and I know that he won't heed a warning. I must capture him before he is captured. You know what ails the foolish boy, don't you?”
“No, Robert, I don't know it. Custis is not a foolish boy, but a very sane young gentleman, and very safe, too.”
“But, Mary Ann, don't you see that he has courtship, love, marriage and all of the sequences, right before him? We will lose him, and he will throw away his great career. He is shadowing the rainbow of hope, and the rainbow of promise, with clouds.”
“Now, Robert, you may apprehend that Custis will not obey the orders of his father much longer; but I can assure you that he will not and don't intend to get away from his mother's apron strings. Moreover, Robert. I can assure you that he can't get away from his mother's apron strings. I've been weaving them carefully for years, and they are strong enough for any emergency.”
“What does he care for a mother's apron strings? Why, Mary Ann, a woman's apron strings are imaginary, anyway.”
“Well, Robert, maybe they are, ordinarily; but my apron strings are cables. You've never tried them yourself, Robert.”
“Well, of all the mysteries on earth,” exclaimed Colonel Lee, “I've never been able to, fathom the wild, baseless logic of the ladies. You beg the question, always, by jumping to another subject. I'm not worrying about your apron strings. I'm worrying about Custis. He's in love, and that's no condition for a soldier with his spurs and eagles yet to win.”
“Well, Robert, Custis is now a lawful citizen, full grown, and capable of doing his own thinking and fully capable of reaching his own conclusions. Why worry?”
“Can't you see, Mary Ann, his stimulated eyes, his blushing cheeks. That snip of a girl is not sixteen. Now, Mary Ann, you know that she won't do.”
“Won't she, Robert dear? Don't be so sure of that. My grand-father married Eleanor Calvert when she was only sixteen; and surely Nellie Custis was a success, a wonderful success.”
“Yes, Mary Ann, your grand-mother was a marvelous woman; but she was an exception.”
“Oh, well, Robert, there are other exceptions. My own mother was only sixteen when she came to this mansion as a bride. She has been a success in every way.
“But Charlotte Wickham is a mere child. She can't make a man of Custis.”
“Now, take a little time for reflection, Robert. Charlotte has good material to work on. Custis is not common clay. He is as good as the material that I have been moulding for a quarter of a century.
“Of course, Many Ann, I know that as well as you do. But he will need a good moulder, not a blonde baby in pantalettes.”
“That is mean, Robert, positively mean. Charlotte will have intuition and common sense to play her part, just as a young lady did right here on this portico in 1830 when a foolish boy came from West Point, proud of his new uniform, and made love to the girl who could see and foresee that she could make a real worth-while man of him.”
Then Mary Ann Lee turned and called to Bow-legs, the ready and always smiling valet, saying: “Bowly, bring your master's pipe.”
Then she smiled at her beloved husband and said: “Robert, it is time for you to go and consult your oracle. Bowly, bring the oracle!”
As he received the long-stemmed pipe Colonel Lee stepped backward toward his big chair under the tree and said: “The enemy is appearing in great force on the horizon, and I will now retire while I can retire in good order.”
And that was all there was of that.
Then “Rooney” came to his mother. Almost as tall as his father, growing stout, too, this second son of Robert and Mary Ann Lee was sixteen years of age, and his mother had always “baby-ed” him. He brought an Indian-made buck-skin hassock and sat upon it, beside his mother, and, looking up at her, began very earnestly to tell his troubles, saying:
“Some day, Mother, and soon, I want you to do something for me, and you will, won't you?”
“Why, I'll do what you want right now, ‘Rooney,’ if you'll tell me all about it. What is it?”
“Nothing for Pop to hear,” the big boy replied in a whisper, with a cautious raising of his hands. “Pop wouldn't understand. You know Pop is too military and too soldier-like. But you'll understand.”
“Come along with me,” exclaimed his mother. “Come on, ‘Rooney,’ and walk your father's beat with me for a while. We won't let the grass grow up on it.”
After they had turned the corner, his mother took his arm, and he told his secret to her, saying:
“I wanted to ask Custis, but I was ashamed to ask him. So, now I want you to tell Charlotte Wickham for me, that I love her, and I don't want her to go off and get married. I want her to wait for me.”
Now, while she was thinking of Custis and of Charlotte, her husband had just been telling to her his troubles, and here came ‘Rooney’ with another problem for diplomacy. She stopped, kissed the anxious lad, who was suffering with his first attack, and then she frankly threw forth the facts, saying:
“Why, my baby boy ‘Rooney,’ you are only one year older than Charlotte; yes, less than a year. It will be five or six years before you can really think of marriage. Lots of things will happen in five or six years. Charlotte is not likely to wait that long for any one. Every one that sees her falls in love with her, women as well as men. Inside of five or six years, Charlotte will have to accept some man, or else she will have to refuse a hundred, or more.”
“But, mother, can't she be told, and asked to wait?”
“Why, my boy, I'm so glad you came to your mother about it, for your mother knows and understands. Charlotte is a grown woman now, and old enough to be married. My own mother was only sixteen when she was married to your dear grand-father. If any boy of sixteen or seventeen should come to her with a love story I mean any boy except one she likes as well as she likes you if any other boy should go to her with a love story, she would just laugh, and laugh and laugh. I'm afraid, my boy, that she would even laugh at you, too. No, no, no, you'd better wake up and get up; or else turn over on your side, for you've been dreaming, and it's likely to become a nightmare, if you don't wake up.”
“Rooney” leaned his face over on the shoulders of the dear mother that he loved so well, and wept like a child; like the big child that he was. While he was still sobbing out his first great grief, the voice of his father was heard, saying:
“Come off of my beat. You two are up to mischief of some kind. Come off of my beat.”
“Run along, dear ‘Rooney’ and cry it out under the trees,” said his very affectionate mother, as she gently and lovingly pushed him away towards the big spring, and the home diplomat returned to engage in a cheerful chat with the Colonel.
CUSTIS WAS A HUMORIST
We must now return to the Wickham home, and see the young soldier in happy mood, the welcome guest of a superior family; a family in which Charlotte was not alone in her anticipation that, some day, Custis would be one of the family. Judge Wickham, reverting to the encomium that Custis had utered concerning his father, said:
“Custis, that is a noble sentiment that you have uttered concerning your father; the soldier of whom all Virginians are proud.”
“It is only what is due to my father,” said Custis.
“Very true,” said Judge Wickham, “but few sons appreciate their fathers. I wish that I had a son like you.”
“So do I, Papa,” said Charlotte.
Mrs. Wickham said: “Custis, with such an ideal before you, we may expect you to be another Washington, the typical American who never told a lie; whose name you wear so well.”
Custis smiled, and said: “But may be his biographer did some lying.”
“But, Custis, don't you believe that story about Washington never telling a lie?” inquired Charlotte.
“I can't say that I doubt it, exactly,” said Custis. “Washington may have lived without having told a lie. He had one great advantage over modern soldiers.”
“What was his advantage, that would have kept him from ever telling a lie?” asked Judge Wickham.
“Well, Sir, he never was a West Point Cadet.”
Charlotte asked “Why, Custis, do you mean to say—
“Joe,” the Custis butler, exclaimed: “Massa Custis, Massa Custas, Sah,—”
Custis turned and said: “What is the matter, Joe?”
“Nawthin, Sah, Massa Custis, Sah, Nawthin, Sah.”
“What is it Joe, what's on your mind?”
“Nawthin, Sah, Massa Custis, Ah was jess thinkin', Sah, dat you all nevah tole no lie, nevah Sah, Massa Custis, cause I always backs yo up, Massa Custis, Sah, don't I?”
Custis smiled and said: “Now Joe, you can back up into the kitchen.”
THE COLONEL SURRENDERS
Colonel Lee was trying to solve a problem and he never went to bed with a real problem unsolved, if it was solvable. Concerning Custis, and his intentions for the immediate future, Colonel Lee was intensely interested. He could not throw off from his mind and take up any other subject until that problem was solved. Before going to bed, before sundown, if possible, he was determined to reach a conclusion and write upon the last page of his problem, after the solution, quod demonstrandum erat. And so, after evoking several additional crisp statements in defense of Custis and Charlotte, he said:
“Well, as you seem to favor this match, and seem to believe that Charlotte is the proper life companion for Custis, I can count on no assistance from you in checkmating or capturing Custis. But I am confident that I must break off this affair, before it goes any farther.”
“Why Robert, dear, you may as well try to dam up the Potomac river with a horse-fly net. Mortal man cannot accomplish the impossible. If ever we agree to break off this association, it will be I and not you that can accomplish the result.”
“On the contrary,” said Colonel Lee, “I believe that I can call off Custis, although it may be a little hard on him.”
“Yes, Robert dear, and heart-breaking on me, too. When you set your mind on a matter, you must succeed if you have to blow up all of the world. You are a soldier, a tactician, a campaigner, but I can see clear through your plan in this campaign. It will only end in failure and in probable disaster.”
“If you can read my thoughts so well, tell me what my campaign is to be, and I'll surrender to you,” said Colonel Lee, with the faint trace of a smile of affection lightening his determined face.
“Why, Robert, that's easy. You intend to go to General Scott and have Custis ordered away out in the west, where you used to be. You plan that it will take him away from Charlotte, will do Custis no harm, give him a valuable experience which he don't need, and that Charlotte will then marry another; but she won't.”
Colonel Lee arose, kissed his wonderful wife, and said:
“Mary Ann, my sweetheart, I surrender. That's easy though, for I'm getting used to it around home.”
“Why Robert,” said Mrs. Lee, “that course would weld them together so fast that nothing but death would part them. Charlotte would live on and live on with no God before her daily life but Custis Lee. She would be as loyal to him as the sacrament of marriage could make her. She would be utterly dead to the world of society. She would go nowhere, see no one, and spurn any attentions from other men.”
“Now it seems to me that you are drawing heavily on your imagination,” said the Colonel.
CONFESSING HER FIRST LOVE
“On the contrary, Robert, I know all about it. I had just such an experience myself, with the first man that I loved, and nothing on earth could have driven me away from him.
“Well, well, well,” said Colonel Lee. “Now that you have mentioned it yourself, please tell me more about the first man that you loved so well; that you had to fight for. I'm not jealous, but curious.”
“Well, I don't mind telling you Robert; but men are always jealous, and sometimes mighty mean about it, too.”
“I'm too old to be jealous. But, my dear Mary Ann, I'm wild with curiosity. Did your parents object to him?”
“No, only my prudent father. My mother did not object. She would listen to me. But father objected, and it was hard for me to keep my hero from knowing it.”
“What became of him, though, if you couldn't give him up? How did you break off with him?”
“I didn't break off with him. My mother had some influence with my father, as a good and true wife always ought to have. My mother brought my father to his senses, and so I married the young man. That's the best way to settle real, genuine love affairs.”
CUSTIS AND CHARLOTTE
remained on the veranda for a little while and then in the Wickham carry-all went a-visitin' the Fitzhughs, near neighbors; and, returning in the moonlight, Charlotte began her investigation of the heart of Custis, asking:
“Custis, now that you never will go to school any more, of course you will soon be married; won't you?”
“No, Charlotte, not for a very long while.”
“I'm glad of that Custis,” said Charlotte.
“Why, tell me why you're glad of it?”
Charlotte answered, laughingly: “For two reasons. First, no ordinary girl is good enough for you; and, second, because I'd want to name the girl, when the time comes. Now, Custis, what are your reasons?”
“I have many reasons. First, a Second Lieutenant in the army is a dressed up Nobody. Second, a First Lieutenant, is a respectable Nobody, and is spoken to and of by his rank, but usually as ‘Loot.’ Next, only when a man has a double bar on his shoulder, and is known as Captain, is he a Sombody in the army. It takes years to get double bars and be called Captain, and be a Somebody in the army; and the girl I love shall not marry a Nobody. It may take years, but when the girl I love is married she will marry a Somebody; a Captain.”
Dismounting, they entered the mansion, and, very soon, Mother Wickham escorted Charlotte to her room. Judge Wickham and Custis were seated, and the Judge rang for “Jim” who answered, and the Judge said:
“Custis, will you join me in a night-cap before retiring?”
Custis bowed, but remained and continued talking about West Point and other matters for another hour, until Judge Wickham said, somewhat suggestively,
“I beg your pardon. Custis, but that night-cap was not a real night-cap, after all. We usually go to bed after taking a night-cap.”
Custis said: “No, General Wickham, not yet. The Virginia night-caps always have two strings, don't they?”
The Judge called: “Jim, bring those other juleps.”
ROMANCE IN THE AIR
On a morning in May, 1857. At the Wickham home. Judge Wickham, on the broad veranda, was walking back and forth. After a while he went to the door and called to the ladies, upstairs, for “Jim” was outside the gate, with the horses and the handsome coach ready for driving.
Ustairs. Mrs. Wickham was saying: “We should do our shopping in Baltimore; and not in Washington. You will not see Custis, for he is in charge of engineering at Fort Washington.”
“But, Mother,” replied Charlotte, using an old-fashioned and sizeable handkerchief over her tear-dimmed eyes; “but, Mother, you know that Custis goes to Washington and reports to the War Department. We can do our little shopping in Washington just as well.”
They went downstairs, and coming out on the veranda, Mrs. Wickham said: “We have concluded to do our shopping in Washington, although we may not do so well as in Baltimore, but, we must not neglect our lonely old friend at Arlington, and we can call there, thus making a double journey in one.” Then they departed, on a beautifully embowered road.
Earlier, the same morning Lieutenant Custis Lee, at Fort Washington, on the Potomac river, started on horseback for Washington City.
At Arlington Mansion, William Henry Fitzhugh (“Rooney”) Lee and his grand-father were together on the portico, when the Wickhams arrived there, on their way to Washington.
“Rooney” asked Charlotte to drive to town with him in his new buggy; a present from Grand-pa. And, the old gentleman took Charlotte's place for a ride to the city, for recreation.
On the way, “Rooney” pleaded with Charlotte to “see Custis for me and have me appointed to the army from civil life.”
Charlotte refused. Rooney begged her to do so, saying: “Custis will do anything you ask him. He can't refuse YOU.”
Charlotte interestedly inquired: “Are you SURE of that?”
Rooney replied: “I KNOW it.”
Misunderstanding, and believing that Rooney knew that Custis loved her. Charlotte beamed with happiness and agreed to plead the case for Rooney.
As the two vehicles arrived at the old War Department building on Pennsylvania Avenue, near 17th Street, the occupants saw, coming along the dust-road on Pennsylvania Avenue, Lieutenant George Washington Custis Lee, mounted and in uniform; the uniform dusty with the long ride.
Charlotte went inside the building with Custis, took him by the arm, and in the corridor insisted that Custis make some effort at once to get Rooney into the army as a second lieutenant. Custis hesitated, but finally said:
“I will ask General Scott about it.”
Charlotte clasped the hand of Custis in both of her own, and standing on her tip-toes, kissed him. She said:
“It makes me very happy to have Rooney cared for, and provided for.”
It never occured to Custis that she wanted Rooney disposed of, so that there could be no one between Custis and herself in their new home; the home which her imagination had been picturing daily, for several years.
As they came out of the War Department, Custis said:
“Charlotte, I will have double bars on my shoulders in a few weeks, or maybe in a few days.”
“Oh Custis!” That is all she said, but she meant so much.
The next morning Lieutenant Custis Lee called on Lieutenant General Scott, was admitted, saluted and invited to be seated. He stated his case very earnestly, and the calm, kindly-disposed physical giant listened with manifest interest to the story. Finally, General Scott said:
“I will recommend the appointment in writing. I will see the Secretary of War. I will see President Buchanan, too.”
General Scott called on the Secretary of War, presented a letter and said:
“Mr. Secretary here is a matter very near to my heart. I am recommending and requesting an appointment in the army from civil life for the younger son of Colonel Robert E. Lee. You know my high appreciation of Colonel Lee, and you know what a magnificent soldier his son Custis has already become. I want to obtain your approval of this recommendation, and would like to have your permission to go to the President with it, in person, to make this request.”
The Secretary of War then read the following letter:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY
8th of May, 1857.
Hon. J. B. Floyd, Secretary of War, Sir: I beg to ask that one of the vacant lieutenantcies be given to W. H. F. Lee. son of Brevet Colonel R. E. Lee, at present on duty against the Comanche Indians. I make this application for the extraordinary merits of his father, the VERY BEST SOLDIER THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN IN THE FIELD. Very respectfully,
Lieutenant General, U. S. Army.
General Floyd gave his endorsement. General Scott went to the White House. (There were no wings to the White House then.)
President Buchanan listened to the sincere appeal, and ordered the commission to be issued.
General Scott then sent an orderly to inform Rooney at Arlington.
TRIBUTE OF GENERAL SCOTT
The very next morning an orderly came to Custis with a written order directing him to report to General Scott.
After the customary delay at the door, admission and salute, Custis was directed to be seated, while General Scott signed papers before him. Then he ordered Cusis to come to him, and handed to him his commission as Captain in the regular army, and, as he laid his hand on the shoulder of the young man, General Scott said:
“Captain Lee, this commission carries with it increased official responsibilities. I know that you are prepared for them, and capable of meeting every emergency as well as any man could meet such responsibilities.
“But please remember that General Scott told you that your responsibilities are greater and more grave than are likely to ever fall upon any other captain in our army. You have before you the opportunity to render services of increased value to your country, and you have before you also, the titanic task of living up to the record of your father, a matchless soldier, and an absolutely honest man. I know Colonel Robert E. Lee, and I tell you now, as I have told the Secretary of War, as I have told President Buchanan, your father is the greatest soldier now living in our country. He is one of the greatest men in this world. It behooves a son of Colonel Robert E. Lee to have before him always the record of his father, as an inspiration, a bright oriflamme brighter than ‘the helmet of Navarre.’”
“The bravest are the tenderest,
The loving are the daring,”
and so it was that General Scott saw in the eyes of Captain Lee large tears of pride, and then upon his cheeks the glow of determination, as Custis Lee said:
“My father is now and always has been my talisman, General Scott. Wherever my father goes I will follow; and no other general could lead me more valiantly and courageously. But, General Scott, my sword will be brighter, and my courage greater by reason of the inspiration that you have given to me; and I will always remember, word for word, what General Scott said to me about my father. I thank you.”
TRAGEDY THROTTLES ROMANCE
No sooner had Custis reached his room than he wrote a brief letter to Charlotte, because to see her big blue eyes gazing admiringly on the double bars of his rank would be to him as glorious as was the Star of Bethlehem to the Magi of the East. But the letter was not sent.
Of all sad words, of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these:
“It might have been.”
In after years General George Washington Custis Lee was destined to go into battle frequently; to face death in all of its hideous battle-field forms. But never before in all of his life was the man so suddenly surprised, so tried even to the searing of his soul as was the young newly-made Captain Custis Lee on that day.
His “Little Brother,” the newly appointed Second Lieutenant W. H. F. Lee, came to town, went to the War Department, called on Custis and immediately on entering the room exclaimed:
“Custis I've gotten the commission and have been ordered to the First Regiment, to go at once to Utah under command of Col. Albert Sidney Johnston.”
He did not know and did not congratulate Custis; and Custis did not mention his own promotion. He sincerely and enthusiactically congratulated the brother for whom he had obtained the appointment, with the aid of the wonderful record of Robert E. Lee. “Rooney” hastened to say:
“While I'm gone, Custis, I want you to look after Charlotte Wickham for me. Don't let any fellow beat me there.”
Stricken as with a thunderbolt, Custis remained calm, as he asked:
“Why, Rooney, are you engaged to Charlotte; engaged to be married?”
“No, not yet, Custis,” was the reply. “But Charlotte knows of my admiration, and I'm going to ask her to wait for me. I know she will. It was on my account that she came after you to get my appointment; and you know how much in earnest she was. I'll tell her that you will look after her for me; for you will, won't you?”
Wonderful, miraculous, self-sacrificing Custis Lee! For his “Little Brother” then and there, instantly, quietly, calmly Custis gave up his love, his first love, his only love, the one sincere love of his life time. Calmly, quietly, he made that sacrifice for “Rooney,” and promised to aid him, as requested. No hero of flood or field ever did so much, so grandly, so gracefully. No other man on this earth ever made such a heart-breaking and complete self-sacrifice, save One; and Custis Lee entered the Garden of Gethsemane alone, quietly, gently, strengthened by silent prayer. The clasp of his hand in the hand of his happy “Little Brother” was the assurance of the sincerity of a demi-God. The fraternal smile that “Rooney” saw was sweet, because it was saintly; the saintly spirit of his great-great-grandmother, Martha Washington, who worshipped God. and whose husband was her shrine.
DAMON AND PYTHIAS WERE OUTCLASSED
by the eldest son of Robert E. Lee, for the younger son of that well-nigh matchless American soldier.
LOVE took up the harp of life
Struck on all the chords with might;
Struck the chord of SELF, that, trembling,
Passed, in music, out of sight.
After the departure of “Rooney” Custis gave way to his grief, by walking about the room, sitting down, writing a note and tearing it up, sitting with head in his hands, looking upwards to heaven, and saying:
“God bless my dear little brother!”
Rooney, in uniform, then hastened to the Wickham's home. With no evil intent, without any idea of unfairness, certainly with no idea of double-dealing, Rooney proceeded to misrepresent Custis, mislead Charlotte, and ruin two lives; for Custis and Charlotte were indeed
Two souls with but a single thought;
Two hearts that beat as one.
THUS HEARTS ARE BROKEN
“Charlotte, tell me something,” said the big-man-size boy, “Rooney;” and he continued, “If a girl loves a man will she wait for him when he is compelled to be absent?”
“How long must she wait?” asked Charlotte.
“Well, if a soldier is ordered away, and hasn't the courage to tell of his love, and the girl knows he loves her, will she wait?”
To Charlotte, that meant Custis, talking through his brother as a messenger; and she replied:
“For a soldier who loved her, but who did not speak his love the girl who really loved him would wait for him no matter how long, provided he let her know of his love somehow.”
“Then, Charlotte, you'll wait, will you?”
“My soldier, my hero-lover, may be assured that I will wait.”
That was meant for Custis, and the message never reached him, because “Rooney” understood it to be for himself.
When they parted, after Rooney had told that he was going to far-off Utah, away across “the Great American Desert,” the happy big boy said:
“You'll want your soldier to be assured of your love by giving a good bye kiss to me, won't you Charlotte?”
Charlotte gave to Rooney the kiss that she believed she was sending to Custis, whom she had loved so long, and who would not marry “until the Captain's double bars are received.”
Charlotte did not know that Custis was then wearing the bars that he wanted to show to her, but did not, on account of his great-hearted unselfishness. He was living the Golden Rule, as uttered by the Man of Galilee.
George Washington Custis Lee, the man she loved and the only man that Charlotte Wickham ever loved whole-heartedly, was at that very time riding along the Potomac river, on the Maryland side of that historic stream, on his way to Fort Washington, then an earthwork but of late years an impregnable fortification and a matchless offensive as well as a defensive of the national capital city.
On another road leading to the Wickham home was “Joe” the black-skinned slave valet of Captain Custis Lee. He was the bearer of a written message of heart-wringing importance to Captain Lee, and of heart-breaking importance to beautiful, innocent, trusting, hopeful, loving Charlotte; who, by some outrageous fate of ill-fortune was to lose all hope and happiness in this world and without cause. Why such things happen, in numerous lives, mortal mind cannot fathom. But we hope that
In the hereafter angels may,
Roll the stone from the grave away.
At the Wickham home, while Captain Custis Lee was on the road to Fort Washington, and while his valet was carrying to the Wickham home that taste of vinegar, gall and wormwood in a written message, the innocent, cheerful, hopeful and girlishly happy Charlotte, believing herself to be the prospective bride of her own, and the only, Prince Charming, anxiously awaiting—yes, impatiently awaiting his coming—went to the window again and again, going up stairs at last to obtain a farther view of the highway. Back and forth she ran to her mother with chatter and queries, finally using the words of the ages of womankind:
“He cometh not, she said.”
But there is an end to all disappointment, disaster, suffering in every life. And there is also an end of happiness at some point in every human heart. And so the end of all earthly hope was coming to Charlotte, for “Joe” appeared, respectfully came to the back door of the mansion, delivered his message to Liza, and she carried it to the dainty little mistress.
Smilingly, hastily, hopefully Charlotte opened the wax-sealed envelope bearing the Lee coat-of-arms, read the brief farewell, and fell down upon the floor in a dead faint. Mother Wickham was summoned and came swiftly to the side of her fallen idol, and almost fainted herself, for Charlotte never could have appeared more pale and death-like than she seemed to the anxious eyes of Mother Wickham, as she laid prone upon the floor, holding in seemingly lifeless ringers the perfumed paper deathblow to all of the hopes that had been developing and blossoming in her heart since with Custis Lee she had roamed the meadows and climbed the heights to pluck the first ripe flowers and bear them home in childish triumph. These were the brief and emphatic words of a soldier's farewell:
Dear Charlotte: The condition of the work at Fort Washington requires my immediate and personal attention. The Department will expect me to remain there on duty until I finish the work, and make that defense of the Capital City absolutely impregnable. Awfully sorry that I can't be with you all today, to show you my double-bars.
When Charlotte had been restored to consciousness, her eyes were turbulent with the opening floodgates of grief. Then very gently and sympathetically Mother Wickham said: “As tears only can drown a woman's sorrow, I am glad that relief is so spontaneous. Cry it all out now, Charlotte; and then you'll cry no more.”
“But, Mother, why didn't he come himself, instead of sending his message by Rooney?”
“Because he has Government orders, and, as a good soldier, he proceeds to obey orders.”
“But, Mother, I don't want any Government to come between me and Custis. You don't have any one else but your own self to give orders to Papa, and nobody else dares to order him.”
You know, child, I never order your Papa under any circumstances.
Then, as innocently and unthinkingly as though it were a comedy and not a tragedy, Judge Wickham came, saying: “I came, Julia dear, to inquire—”
“Never mind about inquiring, Sir; please go back to your pipe in the library. Charlotte and I are discussing grave problems.” Judge Wickham retired, and Mother Wickham continued her counsels, saying:
“You should be proud of such distinction and honor as the Government confers on Custis.”
“I am proud, Mother dear, but I am so disappointed that he did not come to show us his shoulder straps.”
“Just think of it, Charlotte. The Government has sent Custis to Fort Washington on the Potomac, giving him charge of the defenses of the national capital city. Custis will make that fort as strong as Gibraltar.”
(Note, that three years later the same Custis Lee planned and prepared the defenses of Richmond, and the Yankees never did break through those defenses because they were impregnable.)
While Mother and Charlotte Wickham were discussing their grave problems, Custis was examining the hills and the surrounding country; then back to his desk planning the improvements of defenses; also worrying about Charlotte and Rooney. Frequently, on the hillside, beneath the trees, Custis fell upon his knees and prayed: “Let this cup pass from me:” and no wonder, because we know that
The groves were God's first temples
E'er man had learned to hew the shaft
Or lay the architrave.
WASHINGTON, LINCOLN AND LEE
While the “ragged regimentals in their worn continentals” were hungering, shivering, freezing, dying at Valley Forge, which was the greatest because the most renowned military encampment in history, their commander went away often, all alone, into the wooded by-ways. It is recorded that an old blacksmith noticed the general's horse standing not far from his shop, and he went to look for General Washington, followed his footprints in the snow, hurried home and reported to his wife that “Washington cannot be defeated. He has put on the armoir, the breast-plate, the sword and buckler of the Lord God Almighty, and he has with him the Lord God of Hosts.”
Senator Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois, whose young manhood was enlightened and elevated by the friendship of Abraham Lincoln, and was in his later years an enlightening and elevating influence upon the yqung manhood of the writer, narrated an experience which has never been in print. It seems to have been lost in the mass and maze of stories concerning that wonderful nobleman who lived and died among mortal men in our own land, “with malice toward none and with charity for all.”
“Senator Trumbull accompanied me to the White House one afternoon,” said Senator Cullom.
“Dark clouds were hovering over the horizon Disasters and defeats developed discouragements day after day. Over the minds of statesmen at the Capitql apprehension brooded from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same.
“With the purpose of encouraging the serious-minded, care-worn President who received us, Senator Trumbull cheerfully greeted President Lincoln, saying:
“ ‘Mr. President, I hope that you are looking on the bright side of affairs. On Capitol Hill we all wqnder that you can do so well in these trying times, especially as you have no precedent to guide you in anything, judicial, civil or military.’
“Heartily grasping the hand of Senator Trumbull, and also clasping mine, Abraham Lincoln looked straight into the eyes of the Senator and squarely turned toward me, and I saw upon the face of that grand man a smile of contentment, peace and hope, such as few men ever saw; and Lincoln thrilled me with his manner and his words. Even now the memory of his wonderful smile, his confident manner thrill me. He very earnestly said:
“ ‘Thank you, Senator Trumbull for every word of encouragement. But, please tell the boys on Capitol Hill that I have precedents for everything. Tell them all that I shall commit no dangerous error; that I shall not blunder, because I have precedents, and I carefully follow them. I get my precedents, Trumbull, by my bedside at night. I get them while I am on my knees. I seek my precedents then and there; and they come to me from the source of all wisdom.’
“As we were going away Senator Trumbull turned around, went back and grasped the hand of the President, saying:
“ ‘Abe Lincoln, you are simply a wonder!’
“Then the great big man seemed to, grow even larger as he said:
“ ‘I'm glad that you think so, Lyman. In fact, I wish that all of our people, every man and woman and child in our beloved country, would trust me and look on me in some sense as a wonder. I do so want their trusting confidence for the welfare of all of us, and not for myself. For, Trumbull, ‘why should the spirit of mortal be proud?’ ”
“I have always felt and believed that I saw and heard Abraham Lincoln in one of his greatest moments, when his spirit was in touch with the Great Spirit that sent him to us.”
And Custis Lee, like George Washington and all other men truly great, sought wisdom at the Source of Wisdom, and found it; for it is written, “Knock and it shall be qpened unto you.”
BOUQUETS AND JEWELS OF MEMORY
Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, whether that desire shall be uttered or unexpressed. Prayers are petitions,, usually vain vagaries of solicitation for self-interest, for self-advancements. The man or the woman who has not bowed in fervent prayer has not begun to develop educated intelligence. Custis Lee did not seek the Throne of Grace for himself. As Washington went to his knees in the snow, and as Lincoln went to his knees on the treeless prairies, beside his cot in a log cabin, and in the White House, each one of them petitioning divine help for his soldiers, for his country, for civilization, so Custis Lee prayed that strength and beauty, happiness and home might be given to Charlotte. But for himself he was as resigned and humble as was the One whose most earnest petition was: “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
The night has a thousand eyes,
The day, but one;
The light of the whole life dies
When love is done.
Thus it was with Custis Lee. Charlotte Wickham had been the light of his life, his day-star of hope. She had been his pillar of fire by night, and his pillar of cloud by day. But the heroic soul was living during all of the following days and years in prayer and hope only for her happiness, and not for his own. Work, work and more work claimed and commanded his attention. But in the silent midnight watches Charlotte came to his memories and in the unconscious cerebrations of his dreams. Always and evermore she was appearing sweetly to him and lovingly in memory. Dearer and dearer she grew. In the minds of other men bereaved, the bouquets of memory are shorn of their beauty and of their fragrance by envy, jealousy or revenge. The jewels of memory are dimmed into base and beclouded glass, by resentments and wrath. But in the mind of Custis Lee there came brightness, fragrance, sweetness, adoration and obeisance, in every memory vision of the loved and lost.
HUMAN HEARTS AND CUPID'S DARTS
In the spring a livelier iris
Shines upon the burnished dove;
In the spring a young man's fancy
Lightly turns to thoughts of love.
It was in the wonderful springtime of the year 1850 that the ambitious youth, Custis Lee, noted that Charlotte Wickham was taking more than a second glance at him, that she was seeking his side frorn time to time and leaving “Rooney” and the games that they had been playing together for so long a time. It was the springtime of Saint Patrick and of She-ila; the springtime of the Potomac and Shenandoah valleys, the season that seems an exact duplicate to that springtime of beautiful Ireland, the springtime that travel and experience only can comprehend. It was the springtime when some parts of the country are yet purely clad in the white velvet raiment of winter; that season when the trailing arbutus with its lovely blush of pink reflected the peach bloom of nature on the cheek of little Charlotte; and young Custis knew, as well as Charlotte knew, that each one of them was gazing into the eyes of a soulmate and a helpmate; that Mother Nature had already proclaimed that “they twain shall be one flesh.”
In that wonderful springtime, the most wonderful of all the seasons in the memories of Custis and Charlotte, they went together one bright and crisp morning to brush aside the soggy leaves, peer beneath the spots of snow and crush away the lingering gritty snow-ice so that they could find those modest little arbutus faces blushing and smiling, while they at the same time breathed forth that indescribable perfume of spicy fragrance from the roots in the soil; blushing trailing arbutus imitating the cheeks of human softness that Charlotte wore and that Custis caressed and kissed; wonderfully beautiful cheeks they were, blushing and laughing, and they gathered the rich vegetation that was clinging to the craggy crevices; and as they wandered homeward Charlotte was the human trailing arbutus, clinging and realizing, mere child that she was, that she had learned of love; and she knew that Custis would always be her own Custis, for she knew, as all women know, that
Men are only boys, grown tall,
And hearts don't change much, after all.
And so it happened that in the springtime of nine years afterwards, the memory of Custis was bright as a spotlight; and in the light of that memory he knew that during all of the days of this earth life and during all of the coming eternity his thoughts would turn to Charlotte evermore. Realizing that it “is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” Captain George Washington Custis Lee did not deceive himself. On the contrary, as he gave up the love of his youth, the only love of his life, for his brother, the most knightly and noble man of that age suffered as only could suffer a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Others could not see the crown of thorns that he had placed upon his own brow, nor could his fellow men know that he had crucified himself because he so loved his brother that he gave up his life's love for him that Rooney might be contented and happy.
GREATER LOVE THAN THIS HATH NO MAN
and yet, Custis Lee had other crosses to bear as he went forward on the pathway toward Gethsemane and into the garden alone, that he might leave to American history such a life of grandeur and self-abnegation as to obscure with its Spirit of Calvary all of the deeds of all other American knights of old, in the days of all days when the most marvelous, brave, bold, and heroic knighthood of America was most gloriously in flower.
Thus it was, with full realization of his own everlasting loneliness, that Captain Custis Lee entrained for the Far West of the Pacific coast, facing a future that beckoned him only toward more perilous heights and more Balaklava heroisms from day to day; for already the war clouds were gathering and darkening the horizons of all who were capable of prophetic reflections. Truly great men. North and South, could
Hear the loud alarum bells,
What a tale of terror now their turbulency tells.
In the startled air of night
How they scream out their affright,
Too much horrified to speak
They can only shriek, shriek, and shriek,
Out of tune.
CAPTURING COMANCHE INDIANS
Light-hearted Lieutenant “Rooney,” proudly wearing his new uniform, with barless shoulder straps, mounted his thoroughbred after bidding goodbye to his proud mother on the unbounded sward of the Arlington Mansion, and down the old military road he went trotting, on his first march to the front. It was in the year of the comet, 1857.
Over the old national turnpike from Baltimore to Wheeling all of the soldiers bound to the battle fronts in the War with Mexico had traveled; and over that turnpike went Rooney. At Wheeling he went aboard the famous old racing stern-wheel steamboat, “The Tom Swan,” there meeting with his superior officer, Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, who was afterwards to win fame in the field as a general and find death in battle, under another flag.
Together they traveled to Cairo, on the Ohio River, and there they entered the Mississippi River, on which stream they proceeded to Saint Louis. On that broad stretch of water the Queen of the Ohio River ran an exciting race with the old-line Mississippi racer, “The Sucker State,” the singular name being the nick-name of the State of Illinois; and the race was won by the Ohio River speeder. From the steamer's decks they could see the comet in the sky.
Then on a slow meander they ascended the Missouri River, and traveled from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley a trip which was really exciting to young Rooney, who had never before seen the boundless and trackless prairies of the “Great American Desert,” as that region, then unexplored, was generally known. Nor had Rooney ever seen cavalry troops equipped for campaigning and accompanied by tremendous supply trains; for, in those days of the western frontier, it was necessary for the troops to carry with them food for themselves and their horses. Those prairies were indeed as foodless as Sahara itself; worse, indeed, for there were no such houses of refuge, no oases at all. It was a wonderful experience for the young lieutenant, in the year of the comet of '57.
Colonel Johnston led his regiment across the plains to Salt Lake City, and there the men saw the original Mormon Temple, which was an enlarged duplication of their great Temple at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the earlier years of their newly-established religion.
On their way tremendous herds or hordes of buffaloes were seen and many of them were killed for food. There were two encounters with Indians, both of them at night, when the savages attempted to stampede the horses and cattle, and to rob the supply train. Those were exciting occasions for the young lieutenant, who had known nothing but ease and comfort, nothing but the gentilities and luxuries of civilization in its sweetest cradle, the gentility of Old Virginia.
Not many miles, away, but beyond vision, far out of touch or communication, was Colonel Robert E. Lee, leading his little army in an eventful campaign against the Comanche Indians, a fierce, fearless and energetic tribe. There were no trains, no telegraphs, no telephones, no wired nor wireless stations; nor any such miracle as a man flying in the air. So, without seeing or communicating with his son, who was only a few miles away, Colonel Robert E. Lee conducted his campaign, won his victories, subdued the savages, captured the head chief and sub-chiefs, made a treaty that lasted; and then, he was summoned to army headquarters at Washington—summoned by letter that came by pony express.
Colonel Lee was greeted again as a military hero, congratulated by the Secretary of War, by his ardent admiring military friend, Lieutenant-general Winfield Scott, the greatest living American soldier; and, above all, by President James Buchanan, who publicly commended him.
Then, out of the West came “Old Ossawatamie Brown,” the unfortunate and insane philanthropist who wanted to give to the negro slaves a freedom which they did not seek, and did not want, for the word “liberty” was unknown to, them. As the greatest of all freedmen, Frederick Douglas, said, twenty-five years later, “The natives of Africa never accomplished anything, nor are they likely to accomplish anything, without the aid, encouragement and co-operation of the white men.”
Captain J. E. B. Stuart, who had been on duty in Kansas for many years, accompanied Colonel Lee to Harper's Ferry, where old John Brown and his followers were assembled in the warehouse afterwards known as John Brown's Fort. They were captured, of course, and “Old Ossawatamie” was identified by Captain Stuart, who knew him well.
Two years of army life; two years of absence from Charlotte Wickham, the girl who loved his elder brother, but whom Rooney loved so that she filled his waking thoughts and crowded from his dreams all other pictures; two years of planning for wife, home, children, and with Charlotte in every picture, and Rooney resigned from the army.
Letters from Charlotte, in reply to his love letters, were not such warm responses as he desired. Rooney dreamed of rivals that never lived, save in his imagination.
Dear old Mother Wickham, wise, gentle, prophetic, inspired as she must have been, sent Charlotte visiting the Fitzhughs in Warwick County, not far from Old Point Comfort; but Mother Wickham took the Judge with her to visit the lovely, wifeless old gentleman, George Washington Parke Custis, and his charming daughter, Mary Ann Randolph, the wife of Colonel Robert E. Lee.
Only because it was necessary to go first to Baltimore, and next to Washington, did Rooney go to Arlington at the close of his trip eastward; and there, fortunately for him he met Mother Wickham; and, it was exceedingly fortunate for Charlotte, that she had such a wonderful mother, then and there. Mother Wickham took Rooney to the portico, to the gardens, the walks in the woods, where he wanted to be with Charlotte, but Mother Wickham entertained him. Gradually she explained to him that Charlotte did not love him; that he must go and win her, but not take his conquest for granted. She never told of Custis; and Charlotte never told of Custis.
Mother Wickham never gave orders to her gentle husband, as we have seen; and, of course, she would not presume to give orders to a son-in-law; no indeed. Kindly and very gently she explained to Rooney that it would be wise for him to remain at Arlington for a week or two and give Mother Wickham time to go to Charlotte and intercede in behalf of Rooney. Her efforts were disregarded; of course, in a very refined and gentlemanly manner. But, Rooney wanted no mediator. He was young. He was self-confident. Like every other boy of 22 or 3, he was a self-conceited, self-important, aggressive entity; and he proclaimed his intention of leaving immediately for Fortress Monroe, letting it be known at Arlington that he was going to see and win Charlotte, and that he would brook no delay.
If Rooney could only have known what a strong character dwelt behind those great grey eyes; he would have heeded Mother Wickham. He did not know that on the following Sunday morning Charlotte Wickham was to sing in old Saint John's church, at Hampton, Virginia; nor that she would be spending Saturday night at the famous old Hygeia Hotel at Old Point, as the guest of the Misses Ashby.
While Rooney was wending his way to Richmond by rail, intending to travel by steamboat on the James River and through Hampton Roads to Old Point, the determined and wise Mother Wickham was piloting the Judge to the little telegraph office in the ancient hotel on the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington City.
Telegraphing was something new, something expensive; but Mother Wickham telegraphed to Charlotte, at Old Point, as follows:
“Prepare to leave church; go to Norfolk, take first river steamer for home. Calamity coming must be avoided.”
Charlotte was astounded. She only realized that something terrible had happened or would happen. She knew W. H. F. Lee by his nickname of Rooney; but she never dreamed of having Calamity used as a cipher code for his name.
In those days neighbors were neighbors, and the aristocracy of Virginia was one family. The Ashbys were fretted and worried; but they helped prepare Charlotte to leave for home as soon as the church services were concluded.
It is a tradition of the family that Charlotte sang on that Sunday morning as no other soprano had ever sang in old Saint John's; but that the excitement of that telegram, followed by the apprehensions and the anxiety, marked the beginning of a nervous breakdown which followed many days and weeks and months afterwards.
Judge Wickham, with Jim attending him, went to Washington to meet with Charlotte; and the Judge found it exceedingly difficult to explain the calamity impending, because Mother Wickham knew the man habit of conversation, with juleps. She had kept her own counsel.
When they reached home Charlotte was gratified to see her mother, for, among other vain imaginings had been the belief that her mother was dangerously ill. She wanted full explanations immediately, but did not get them until long after tea time. Then Mother Wickham explained to Charlotte that waiting for Custis was, had been and would be useless. That was all that Charlotte could endure for one night; and that was all that Mother Wickham told her.
“Mother, oh, Mother, if I could only have remained at Fortress Monroe, the companionships and the entertainments would have helped me weather this storm.”
“Maybe, Charlotte,” was the reply; “but there is a pending trial that must be met with right here; and here only.”
“No, no, no, child; not now. First, let all of those tears have vent until they are gone. You must realize, first of all, that Charlotte Wickham, the little sweetheart that loved Custis Lee, is dead and buried. Another spirit has taken her place in your body and brain. I can only talk further to you when you realize that you are now a woman of the world; that you must think and act accordingly. Go and finish the necessary weeping for the lost Custis; for, he's lost.”
MOTHER WICKHAM'S WISDOM
We may roam throughout life and dear friends may abound,
We may share of their love as they circle us round,
But nowhere on earth can affection be found
Like the love in the heart of a mother.
Charlotte Wickham was very fortunate in having a wonderful mother particularly at that crucial period. While she was conti[n]uing from day to day to express her regret that she could not have remained at Fortress Monroe, her mother was emphasizing to her the fact that Custis Lee was lost to her forever.
It would be impossible for anyone to describe the heart throbs and brainstorms of Charlotte Wickham, because Custis Lee was her Napoleon of military affairs, her Lord Chesterfield of society, her Prince Charming in every respect; a character as near perfection as the worshipful admiration of a sincere and brilliant girl in love could create it. Mother Wickham knew and did not undertake to deny that Custis Lee was all that Charlotte had imagined him to be, and that he was worthy of the affection she had given him from her childhood; but she knew that Custis would not stand in the way of his little brother, when the entire impulses of Rooney were centered upon having Charlotte Wickham for his wife.
It was not generally known at that time, nor is it now nationally comprehended, that the aristocracy of Virginia was the nucleus of a palpably developing nobility in this land which was founded upon a legal fiction which still endures, that “all men are created equal.”
As the men and women of nobility of the monarchial countries marry only within their classes, so did the nobility of Virginia, and practically all of the States south of Mason and Dixon's line, marry within the limits of their own classes; and Mother Wickham vividly described what actually occurred at Fortress Monroe when Rooney Lee arrived there. Of course she knew nothing of telepathy, and yet she must have had telepathic communications when she explained to Charlotte in substantially these words:
“Not only is Custis, whom you love so devotedly, but also is Rooney, the grand-son of Light Horse Harry Lee, the son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, the grand-son of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh; but both of the boys are great-great-grand-sons of Martha Washington. With such a lineage, Charlotte, you must understand that when Rooney Lee arrives at Old Point Comfort all of the girls of the best families of Virginia will be seeking recognition from him. It ill becomes my daughter, as it would ill become the daughter of any other first family of Virginia, to turn her back upon Rooney Lee, especially when our society world would know that there could be no other reason for such an action except a hopeless love for his brother, Custis, whom I am sure will not marry you nor anyone else, because he has determined to remain a bachelor.”
As a matter of fact as soon as Rooney Lee arrived at the old Hygeia Hotel there was a buzz of excitement extending to Fortress Monroe and all over the settlements of Old Point Comfort. But Rooney Lee was not there for social honor nor distinction. He was still wearing the uniform of a second lieutenant in the army because he had not yet received the acceptance of his resignation; and brass buttons were as bright and attractive in 1859 as they are until this day. Having known that Charlotte had been a guest of the Ashby girls, Rooney sought them and them alone. When he ascertained from Mamie and Minnie Ashby that Charlotte had returned to her home, the young man retired to his room in the hotel and declined to take any part in social activities. He remained alone until the morning when he could obtain passage on a boat returning up the James River to Richmond and from there to Washington by the first train.
FLANK MOVEMENT OF CUSTIS LEE
Of course the young military genius, whose engineering skill had already attracted the attention of President Buchanan, the Secretary of War, and Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott, was well informed concerning the movements of Charlotte Wickham to whom his heart was given eternally, and because of whom he had determined to remain a bachelor, as he did during his long life. Custis Lee personally went to General Winfield Scott and asked that he be ordered to San Francisco, and General Scott cheerfully gave the order, saying:
”The defenses of San Francisco need the most careful attention of a skillful military engineer and I am very sure, Custis, that you are the ablest military engineer in our army today excepting only your matchless father, Colonel Robert E. Lee, to whom I owed everything in achieving the successes that came to my army during the war with Mexico.”
And thus while Rooney Lee was attempting to win the girl who loved his brother, and whom his brother loved with such indescribable intensity; and while Mother Wickham was wisely reasoning with Charlotte, the young lady received a brief note from Custis, Lee announcing that because of an immediate order from the lieutenant-general of the army, it was necessary for him to leave for San Francisco without delay, and that therefore, to his deep regret, it would be impossible for him to call and say ”good-bye” to her and to the father and mother whom he held in such high esteem.
MIRACULOUSLY MASTER OF HIS SOUL
You have heard minstrels singing “The days of old when Knights were bold and barons held their sway,” but those days of old are imaginary and the Knights so bold are mythical. The barons who held their sway in the gradual development of civilization were robber barons and prodigious criminals unworthy of respect much less of praise. Our own American knight errant was clean and pure; the master of his own soul.
Ever since Captain John Smith, Newport and the other venturesome spirits sailed through Hampton Roads to Jamestown Island, Knighthood has been in flower in the United States; and on every occasion when heroism has been required our knights were bold, as the vanquished foeman of other nations must testify in their histories.
Knighthood, always in flower in America, was particularly bold and brilliant, magnificent and chivalric in the days of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, in the days of U. S. Grant and Robert E. Lee; and thus it is, particularly of the period when our knighthood was especially in flower, that we now sing of arms and a hero.
CHARLOTTE'S MAD VENTURE
On the morning after Mother Wickham had finally convinced Charlotte that she must not reject but welcome the attentions of the younger son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, Charlotte called for a carriage and horses in order to drive across the country to Ravensworth for a brief visit to Margaret Dickins. You must know that Asbury Dickins was Secretary of the United States Senate for well night half a century. His eldest son, Frank, married Margaret Randolph, whose mother had been an Ashby. and so Charlotte was going to visit one of the bluebloods of old Virginia when she went calling upon Margaret Dickins.
Old Jim, the family butler, was surprised but reticent when the visit at Ravensworth was concluded inside of five minutes and he was told to drive to Arlington. The order of course was obeyed and early in the afternoon Charlotte Wickham arrived at Arlington Mansion to find there only the wife of Colonel Robert E. Lee to receive her. Custis was preparing to leave Washington for San Francisco and Rooney was on his way to the home of Judge Wickham. Of course Charlotte remained over night at Arlington Mansion and on the following morning was accompanied to Washington by the mother of Custis Lee whom she had determined to see before he should leave for the Pacific Coast.
To the surprise of Custis Lee when he came to his office before noon after having said “good-bye” to the Secretary of War and General Scott, his mother greeted him on the threshold and inside the office door he found Charlotte Wickham. His mother walked away, leaving the two young people together while she visited Miss Harriet Lane at the White House.
INCOMPARABLE LOVE AND SELF-SACRIFICE
Without delay and without the prevailing mockery of maidenly modesty which prevails and causes misunderstanding and separation among worthy and loyal hearts in all countries, in every nation and in every clime, Charlotte went to Custis, stood beside him as he arose from his desk, put her hands on his shoulders, looked into his eyes with her piercingly penetrating big eyes of baby blue, kissed him, and he clasped her in his arms. She laid her head triumphant on his shoulder and asked, smilingly and roguishly:
“Did you think that you could crucify me for nothing Custis; and why have you tried it?”
Wise, wonderful, inspired Custis Lee! Ordinarily no mortal man could have maintained his determination and divine purpose. But, Custis Lee always had reserve strength from some invisible source. His life is proof of the words of inspiration, attributed to Shakespeare: “There's a divinity that doth shape our ends.”
Without wholly releasing his clasp of the willowy wonder woman, Custis smiled at her as affectionately as she might have wished or fore-ordained, but he did not return her kiss. Still holding her as she desired, Custis replied:
“My dear friend and chum of childhood, no mortal man would intentionally cause you pain; much less crucify you. Of all men I would certainly be the last to try to hurt you. And, of all men in the world I am the one who would be the first to defend and help you; even to give his life for you. So you have been misjudging me.”
“Then tell me why you intended to go away without seeing me; why you really did go away so cruelly, because that was your course when I came here, in so unmaidenly a manner, and interrupted your purpose. What is the cause, if there is a cause, of your utterly causeless rudeness to me?”
“Be seated Charlotte,” said Custis drawing a large office chair towards him. As he was gently lowering her to the chair, she arose, leaned her head again on his shoulder, and said:
“I prefer standing, Custis, just as I am.”
But as Custis put forth some force, she yielded, sat down and was almost lost in the big leather-covered office chair, which was really big enough for General Scott. Then Custis said:
“Charlotte, you are selfish, extremely selfish. That is not a complaint, nor is it fault-finding. It is merely an expressive way of compelling you to understand that you are a woman, and, like all other women, you want your own way. If you can't reach the particular apple in the particular tree that you want, you select the Adam that will suit you, and make him reach the apple or climb the tree. That apple you must have and have it immediately in preference to your soul's salvation. You have elected me for your Adam, and would lead me into the Garden of Eden, so that I shall get the apple that you want and place it in your hands, even if I only get the core or the peelings.
“But Charlotte, I am also a bit selfish. In fact I am almost meanly selfish. I have reasoned out the problem of life logically, and am wedded to my military career. I am so wedded to that idea, and so determined to be successful in my career, that I am going to San Francisco tonight even if I never see my mother, father, or other relatives again in this world.”
“You are selfish, Custis, selfish as a fiend of Hell,” said Charlotte angrily, and she added: “You have deceived me and all of your friends for you have always seemed to be truly human. To-day you manifest an inhuman character that you have never revealed to any one else. It is mysterious, maddening, angering, and brutal.”
“My other side,” said Custis, smilingly, “is a side of my character that I have flattered you in revealing. Only to one whom I respect, esteem, admire and love would I so reveal my selfishness.”
MOTHER LEE LEARNED SOMETHING
Knocking at the door, Mother Lee entered. When Charlotte arose, without saying good-bye to Custis, her moistened eyes were blazing with angry disappointment, and she said to Mother Lee:
“I will wait while you say ‘good-bye’ to Custis.”
On the way back across the long bridge, Mother Lee ventured to ask Charlotte if she had quarreled with Custis and her reply was:
“No, we have had no quarrel but a disagreement; we do not understand each other; I do not understand Custis and he does not understand me. The misunderstanding is so great that it is not likely that we ever again shall meet.”
How true it is that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
Mother Lee was diplomatically wise, prudent, and knew when she should be reticent; and so she asked no further questions. But she was a mother, and she noted that Charlotte had left her glorious son Custis with abruptness, not to say rudeness. Quietly, Mother Lee resented that well-nigh unpardonable sin. But she was a hostess, and Charlotte was her guest. Mother Lee was a woman of the world also, and it was clear to her that there had been a lover's quarrel. Of ofurse, it could not be the fault of her son; and, if Charlotte started anything unpleasant in conversation, Mrs. Lee was ready with her polite and well-bred defense of her own, her first born, Custis.
Before they had reached the Long Bridge Mother Lee had noted the frequent sighs, the deep sighs, and the dew drops on the peach-blown cheeks of Charlotte, and they had dampened the fire qf her motherly resentment. As they came to the bridge one of the sighs of Charlotte burst forth into an uncontrollable and almost heart-breaking sob.
Clatter, clatter, clatter sounded the heavy hoof-beats of a pursuing horseman, and they were overtaken by an orderly with a note to Mother Lee from Custis. As there was to be no answer, the orderly saluted and rode away, as Mother Lee was opening the note. These were the words:
“Mother, dear; be kind and gentle with Charlotte now and always. She is pure gold. Always be kind to her, and love her for my sake always. Hastily, Custis.”
Without hesitation, knowing her son so well, and knowing well also his long-cherished love for Charlotte, Mother Lee smothered her resentment, took Charlotte into her arms and “Mothered her” all the way home to Arlington. On the following day Mother Lee accompanied Charlotte to her own home; and there was considerable excitement in that home when the run-away child returned with a high fever, so that she was obliged to go to her bed at once. The old family physician was sent for; and he could do no harm. But he could do no good, for
Who can minister to a mind diseased?
The two mothers exchanged confidences. Then they both understood. They always understood; and they wisely co-operated ever afterwards.
THAT WONDERFUL WIFE AND MOTHER
“You have been absent without leave,” was the greeting with which Mary Ann Randolph Lee was met when she returned to Arlington; and on the portico she saw the Colonel, who had been at Fortress Monroe when she went away with Charlotte Wickham. Saluting her formally, the Colonel said: “Has it been desertion, or French leave? State your case.”
His military salute was utterly ruined and his dignity sent to the scrap heap, by a slap on one cheek, a kiss on the other, and then another kiss and love-tap, back and forth. The answer was this:
“Robert, dear, you can't imagine how glad I am to see you home again, and just at this time. I have been carrying out your most peremptory orders, and have accomplished the purpose of your plans. 1 have been to the Wickham's and have come to report that Custis will not marry Charlotte. She has given him up; and he has declared that he will always remain a bachelor.”
Then the Colonel scrapped some bit of dignity himself, kissed his wife, picked her up bodily, carried her up the big stone steps, and sat in Grand-pa Custis's big rocking chair, holding on his knees the girl with gray curls that he loved so well, with her arm around his neck. And he with hair and beard grown gray, too. They don't give us such pictures in the “movies.”
“But, Robert dearest,” she continued, “we are to have Charlotte in the family any way. That can't be helped. She is going to marry “Rooney.” What do you think of that?”
“Glory be,” exclaimed the Colonel. “ ‘Glory be,’ as my old Irish house man, ‘Rooney Flaherty’ used to shout; only ‘Rooney’ always needed un-corked stimulant to make him appear at his best, or his loudest. ‘Glory be,’ for I really love Charlotte, oh, so much. I feel that Custis has before him a military career of renown. But our ‘Rooney’ is a home boy, and he will make such a perfect husband as the perfect little angel deserves to have. Again I say, ‘Glory be’ and another kiss for you, Mary Ann. You: are an adjutant worth while.”
MOTHER WICKHAM ON GENEALOGY
Wisely and patiently Mother Wickham waited until her recalcitrant daughter could reason with her own self concerning her insanely selfish escapade, and its frightful failure. Mother Wickham knew that each youthful brain will always insist that its reasoning is superior to that of all others; will resort to every conceivable logical fallacy to prove that wrong is right. But, Mother Wickham also knew that after the rebellious renegade reasoning of youth has exhausted itself against the impenetrable walls of eternal truth, that exhausted youthful brain will seek sympathy; and that's the time for a Mother to step in and fill the logical gap with genuine sympathy and words of comfort. And so, when Charlotte began to call for
MOTHER, MOTHER, MOTHER
her wails were answered promptly by Mother Wickham who took to her arms the weeping grown-up baby girl who wanted to weep her last burning tears while those comforting arms were around her. Charlotte had at last surrendered. The bright little girl was, as Mother Wickham had told her, a thing of the past; and Charlotte had become a woman of the world. Every woman knows what a hard lesson that is to learn; for every woman knows that such a lesson need never be learned but for the fact that this is indeed a wicked world. And so, Mother Wickham began to teach the lessons of family pride. She said:
“Of all the families in the Old Dominion that trace their ancestry back to the earliest possible beginnings in the old world, the oldest family tree is that of the Lees; for, Charlotte, you must realize what an ancient family it is when you know that the Lees trace their ancestry back to Lionel Lee, who distinguished himself in the Siege of Acre, and who received numerous recognitions by his sovereign. There is no family in this country that can point with pride to such lineage. Remember also that both Custis and Rooney Lee are related to the Custises, the Dandridges, the Fitzhughs, the Calverts, to Lord Baltimore, and to the Randolphs.
“You cannot realize how proud I have been nor how proud your father has been while we were anticipating the marriage of our daughter to the eldest son of Colonel Robert E. Lee; in fact, we are dreadfully disappointed with the change which has come over Custis. But, Charlotte, we are just as proud of a marital alliance with the younger son of Colonel Robert E. Lee; for we know that there are many young ladies of the' nobility of Great Britain who would be glad to make and would be proud of such an alliance, for there is no older nor nobler family in all of Europe. So, you must turn to Rooney, welcome him, and be proud of his attentions, for his attentions are distinguishing to you and to all of us.”
How'er it be, it seems to me
'Tis only noble to be good;
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith, than Norman blood.
Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere,
From yon blue heavens above us bent,
The Gardener, Adam, and his wife
Smile at the claims of long descent.
Mother Wickham had never heard of that philosophy of Tennyson, and Tennyson had never known of the Lees and other aristocracies that were developing in our republic; and, of course, Charlotte knew no other philosophy than the aspirations of the home. Argal, Charlotte Wickham became a gentle- woman of the world as it had been written in the Book of Fate that she should be, and she prepared to welcome and accept the younger son of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Indeed she was but telling the truth when she reached the stage of reasoning and realization and could smilingly say to her mother:
“I have always liked Rooney, and, maybe I really liked him better than I did Custis, at first. Rooney and I could always play together and we did play together until after I was 12 years old; and then I began dreaming of Custis as my ideal. Before that, I remember that Custis seemed so dignified and so much older than I was; and so, maybe after all, I will be happier with Rooney than I should have been with the thoughtful and dignified Custis: for, you know Mother, Custis hates dances and public functions.”
WHEN ROONEY CAME HOME
On the way back to Washington, passing through Alexandria, Mother Lee called for a brief visit at the home of the other son of “Light Horse Harry” Lee; the home that had been the home of the fatherless little Robert E. Lee. There “Rooney” had left his horse and his valet on his flight to Richmond, after Charlotte, and Mother Mary Ann Lee gave orders to that valet to tell his young master that he must come home at top speed, because his mother requested it. She also said:
“Be sure and tell your young master that unless he hastens to his mother, something terrible will happen.”
There was only one train a day, north and south, between Alexandria and Richmond; and no train to cross the Potomac; so it was necessary for “Rooney” to stop in Alexandria. From there he could go to Arlington or proceed to Wickham's on horseback. But, his mother was keeping her motherly eyes on her grown-up baby boy; and her motherly eyes were in close harmony with her motherly heart; and, she must see her boy before he went blundering into the Wickham's, without first having a full dress rehearsal for his part in that moving picture.
And so, as “Rooney” was hastening pell mell homewards, he saw his father in the family carriage going towards the Long Bridge, on his way to Washington to report at army headquarters, as he had been ordered to report, by General Scott. The Colonel was on the bridge when he heard the clatter of the hoofs of the pursuing “Rooney,” and heard this shouting:
“Pop, Pop, stop Pop,” and the second son of his happy marriage overtook the Colonel.
“What has happened to Mother?” exclaimed “Rooney” with great earnestness. “What has happened?”
“Nothing serious enough for worry, my son,” replied Colonel Lee. “But, something's going to happen to you. But, be a man, and don't break down and weep. If you shed a single tear, I'll disown you. Now go to your mother, take your medicine, and be a man.”
Shocked, frightened, “Rooney” saluted the Colonel, turned his horse and hastened on to Arlington.
Colonel Lee had in mind the picture of Cardinal Richelieu when he was sending De Mauprat to meet his sweetheart, Julie de Mortimer, and told him: “Go to your punishment. To the tapestry chamber, go;” and as Colonel Lee thus sent “Rooney” to his fate, he smiled and smiled, as he went driving over the Long Bridge.
TO THE TAPESTRY CHAMBER
It was a bright, balmy afternoon, and Mother Lee was resting upon an army cot, on the portico, when “Rooney” came galloping home. When he saw his mother so reclining, his heart leaped and, but for his father's command tears would have filled his eyes. Hastening to her side, he fell upon his knees, caressed her brow gently and lovingly, and asked:
“Has there been an accident, Mother; have you been hurt; or are you ill?”
“Never mind, my baby boy; never mind, now. I am not seriously hurt, and I am not ill. But, I am very tired. There is something on my mind, something of greatest importance. I cannot tell you about it now. You must learn self-control. It was loss of self-control that sent you on a fool's errand to Old Point Comfort, after Mother Wickham had given you wise advice. You cannot have things in this world all your own way. It is said in Holy Writ: ‘No man liveth unto himself.’ You must learn to be unselfish, to surrender your own will, to what is right. Charlotte Wickham ran away from you when a telegram told her of your coming. You cannot go and steal from any mother such a priceless prize, and her only greatest treasure. Charlotte Wickham might be won by some superior man; but she cannot be stolen.
“I'll drive over there immediately, and apologize,” said the gentlemanly, well-bred scion of southern nobility.
“No, no, no,” exclaimed Mother Lee. “Charlotte is in bed with a fever. You cannot see her now; and I am very sure that neither her mother nor the Judge would want to see you now. As the Bible says again: ‘Repent ye, repent ye.’ ”
Gently and kindly Mother Lee sent her boy away, out under the trees to commune with Nature and with Nature's God. In the evening, after tea, “Rooney” said:
“Mother dear, I've been ‘a truant boy, that thought his home a cage.’ It is time for me to begin to be a man. I could not be a good husband to any good girl, until I am more of a man than I have been. I've been doing a lot of thinking, and some praying, too. My mind has been full of comparisons between Custis and myself. Custis is always doing or trying to do something for you, for Dad, for me, and for the servants; in fact, for everybody. I've been baby'ed, Mother, until I've become merely an overgrown, selfish, big boy. Mother dear, I'm going to be a man, and a man worthy of my mother and father, and I'm beginning yes, I've begun right now. Help me, Mother, help me!”
And “Rooney” kept his word, from that moment to the day of his recall to the courts above.
His mother, wisely, diplomatically, and far-seeingly, then said:
“Rooney, my man, some day you will have to give up your mother; and some day you will have to give up your father. Custis is always giving up his desires for others. Some day you will have to give up all for others. If you have to give up Charlotte, on whom your selfish boy heart has long been centered, then give her up like a man. She is ill. The best you can do for now is to pray for her, and often. I am so glad and happy that my baby boy is now a manly man. You must learn to know, as Custis knows, the Man of Galilee. Good night.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
What Mother Wickham knew, of course, Mother Lee must know; and what Mother Lee knew, of course, Mother Wickham must know. Thus they cordially and wisely co-operated for their children. You must try to comprehend that, no matter how big and how heavy they may become, nor how old they may be, the sons and daughters of normal and sane women are always thought of, and usually spoken of, as “children.”
Mother Lee fully comprehended that Custis was the object of the natural affections of Charlotte Wickham, and fully realized that Charlotte would not, because she could not, transfer those natural affections to any other man. But Mother Lee also knew that Charlotte could be and would be a loyal wife, a credit to her own family and a credit to the Lees; and “Rooney” would never know that Charlotte's heart had belonged, almost from her babyhood, to another. Consequently, Charlotte would be a good wife and a creditable wife to her son.
Mother Wickham fully comprehended that a scar across the face, or over the hand, or anywhere visible, will last forever, or as long as life shall last. Any scar is a disfigurement. A broad and deep wound may heal, but the scar always remains.
Mother Wickham knew that the heart of her bright, brainy and beautiful daughter had been wounded; that the wound was broad and deep, so that it was almost incurable. But “Rooney” could never see the scar, nor ever know that a cicatrix existed. Mother Wickham knew that Charlotte must begin to play a part, and a difficult part, in life; that she must seem and always seem to her husband to look upon him as her first and only love, while always and ever always her natural love would forever be her first love, her love for Custis. But
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
and so Mother Wickham carefully and prudently encouraged Charlotte to believe what she was truly trying tq believe, that she really had loved “Rooney” first, from childhood, and that he would always be more companionable with her than the more dignified and philosophical Custis; and what she knew she told to Mother Lee; and what Mother Lee knew she told to Mother Wickman; and those sincere ladies were playing a double game of hearts. Moreover, every play that was made was for the welfare of their children.
WINNING THE WOMAN
Thus it happened that when Mother Lee called to “Rooney” on the morning after his return, and asked him if he would like to accompany her to the Wickham's, “Rooney” raced away after old “Uncle Tom,” and actually helped him harness the team of big bays. He was dressed, walking the broad portico for half an hour before his mother was ready; and away they went on their mission of love, and of adventure. Mother Lee said:
Now that we are near the close of our little picnic trip, I must remind you of what I told you yesterday. Charlotte may be won, but she cannot be stolen nor abducted. You must ask for her, beg for her, and try to win her mother to your cause. You must apologize to Mother Wickham for disregarding her advice, and for rushing off to Old Point to try to win her daughter, without her consent, and against the advice of a wise as well as an affectionate mother. You've been in the wrong. Like a gentleman, you must try to get in the right. You must act the part of a gentleman by admitting an error. Remember that
Honor and fame from no conditions rise;
Act well your part. There all the honor lies.
And so Mother Lee had trained her son for his part in the next scene of the drama of real life, and trained him well. After she was sure of his readiness to follow her directions, Mother Lee gave him a little stimulant that set his heart into a flutter and tremble, when she said:
“I have talked with Charlotte, just as I promised you five
years ago that I would do when it might do some good. I have observed her well, and I am quite sure that I am doing the right thing or I would not be making this excursion intd the field of match-making—not for the world. But, my son, I am quite sure that Charlotte has always held you in high esteem. During the past four years she has had many opportunities to marry, and she has rejected the proposals of some of the best young men in Virginia.
“Evidently, Charlotte has been waiting for some one. Now, if you do not take it for granted, and try to snatch her away from her home; if you will approach her as I have advised, I am quite sure that she will soon show her affections in such a manner that proposal will be natural to you and easy; or, it might be that Charlotte would make up her mind to do the proposing herself. Yes, that's how sure I am that Charlotte is ready and willing. Surely she has been waiting for some one all of these four years.”
“Glory be,” he exclaimed. “Glory be, mother, Glory be.”
Of course she had been waiting for some one. She'd been waiting for Custis, and Mother Lee knew it well. Even of the best of them it must be said as it is of the worst of them:
Oh, the light that lies in woman's eyes,
That lies there, lies and lies.
As they were coming up the long side road that led from the main highway to the Wickham mansion, Mother Lee and “Rooney” saw the Judge driving from his front gate a tall, slender, sleek-looking man. The Judge was shaking his heavy gold-headed cane, and they heard him say:
“If you show up here again, sir, you will not see a cane, nor feel it. You will have to contend with a shotgun; you damnable inter-meddling Yankee peddler.”
“I beg your pardon, Mrs. Lee,” said the Judge as he turned and observed his visitors for the first time. That he was very much in earnest, you will understand, for the Judge did not hear the hoof-beats of that big team, nor the rattling of the big iron-tired wheels, for all wheels in those days were held together by iron tires.
“That Yankee has been here before,” exclaimed Judge Wickham, in an explanatory manner, as he was helping Mrs. Lee to alight, and as “Rooney” was alighting on the other side. The Judge continued:
“He has been here for the last time, I am sure. He is only one of a thousand or more that ought to be shot down for trespassing, whenever they step foot onto the estate of a southern gentleman. There is an organization of intruding Yankees, and they are going about as this fellow has been doing, reading that book about 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and trying to excite the darkies to discontent. It is an outrageous invasion of our peace. It is criminal trespass. I'll surely shoot if that fellow comes again.”
Before they realized it, Mother Wickham was with them. She took Mother Lee with her, leaving “Rooney” with the Judge who was further explaining his unusual manifestation of anger. As he mentioned the name of the book, the old slave of the Lees, “Uncle Tom,” who was standing at the heads of the horses, ready to take them to the big stone barn, exclaimed:
“Massa Judge, 'scuse me, Sah, but Ah bullieves dat's de same one what was to Ahlingtqn las' week. He was reading 'bout MY CABIN, an' de othah niggahs tole him to git out; an' when Ah heard some things he say-ed bout My Cabin, Ah jess hollahed dat Ah was goin' to th' Mansion an' get Massa Lee's shotgun. How come strange white man to write a book bout Uncle Tom's Cabin when Ah hain't seen him an' he hain't seen me, an' he hain't nevah been in Mah Cabin. Ef Ah was white, Massa Jedge, Ah'd kill dat book man mahself.”
As “Rooney” was accompanying the Judge to the Mansion, he noted that Charlotte was away off by herself at the south end of the veranda. She looked pale, and no wonder, after her recent experiences; and the breaking of her heart of hearts, the loss of her all; for
The night has a thousand eyes,
The day but one;
And the light of the whole life dies
When love is done.
“I've been thinking of you all morning, ‘Rooney’ ” said Charlotte when the handsome big young man came to her, and she added, “I was wondering if you ever think of me. You have been home more than a week, without calling to see me. That's not neighborly, my playmate, ‘Rooney,’ and I've been wondering all morning, if you were never coming again.”
Poor “Rooney,” was amazed, and happy. Then, of course, Charlotte did not know how he had disregarded her mother, and had gone to Old Point after her. Should he tell her, or not; that was the question. He concluded to be frank; and so he told her that he had been trying to come to her ever since he had returned to his home. “Rooney” was acting well his part, and doing just as Charlotte wanted him to do, and just as the two mothers wanted him to do. And, when he had finished the story of his
vain chase after her, Charlotte said:
“And here 1 have been wondering if you ever would come to me; and have been looking for you every day, only to be disappointed, and you have really and honestly been doing your best to come to me. And, ‘Rooney’ what in the world did you want to see me about, any way?”
“Rooney” was backed up against the wall of diplomacy. Even if he wanted to retreat, he couldn't. But he had no idea of retreat. He stood his ground, and replied:
“Why Charlotte, I've been living in a dream for many years; ever since I was a little fellow, barely able to talk and think, and know the differences between right and wrong, the commonplace and the beautiful. I've been in love for years and years. I've been dreaming and dreaming that the most beautiful woman in all the world, the best girl ever created, with eyes so blue and heart to true that she could be as great a queen of my heart as I knew her to be the greatest Queen of the May; I've been dreaming and hoping and believing that she might some day look around her and see me, and notice me, and, maybe, care for me a little bit. Why have you been looking for me, Charlotte?”
“Oh, my dear ‘Rooney’ you've told my story so well, that it will be useless for me to try to tell it. I've been dreaming, too. I've had my mind and my heart on the best young man ever created, a handsome man, too; the son of a great soldier, the descendant of the greatest of American women; and I've been loving him, and loving him, and loving him, until my heart has so hungered for him, that I've been in bed with a fever, all for love; all for love, ‘Rooney,’ all for love.”
“Oh Charlotte, my dream girl, have I been so blind? Do you mean me, that you love me so well. Is my dream coming true?”
“No, silly,” said Charlotte, “it will never come true. It is past now. It is a reality. See?”
Yes, he did see; and what he saw was, the beautiful cherry red lips that were close to his own, and coming closer. And, well, why try to describe the closing scene? You can only understand some things by experience.
Charlotte had been describing her love for Custis, and describing it truthfully; and “Rooney” imagined, as she intended him to imagine, that she had been describing him, but “Rooney” did not know of
The light that lies in woman's eyes,
That lies there, lies and lies.
and so he was happy. And just as might have been expected, the two mothers came around the corner of the veranda, as “Rooney” was lifting the fairy out of her chair, and holding her in his arms and Mother Wickham cried, anxiously,
“Rooney” be careful, don't you drop my baby.
And then “Rooney,” the full grown man at last, proudly answered that Charlotte was no longer anybody's baby, but his own: and that was the first announcement of the engagement.
And, on another morning soon, in San Francisco, Captain G. W. C. Lee, registered at the Palace hotel, and read in the newspaper dispatches of the engagement which attracted nationwide interest.
RINGING OF THE BELLS
Hear the mellow wedding bells, golden bells,
What a world of merriment their melody foretells
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight.
Through the molten golden notes, all in tune
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle dove that listens, while he gloats,
On the moon;
How it dwells on the future,
How it tells of the rapture that impels
To the ringing and the swinging of the bells,
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells.
Before God and the Church and under the laws of mankind, Charlotte Wickham became the pure, loyal, perfect wife of one of nature's noblemen; and, in her heart she was the queen of a royal prince in our republic. That she was a living miracle is true, for she was perfect in each one of two characters of earth life, in that she was loyal always to the love of the happy days of her virgin girlhood, and absolutely as well as unswervingly loyal to the husband to whom she had been given, by the magnificent and masterful man who loved her with divine affection, and whom she loved with idolatrous adulation.
Married in 1859 to one of the best young men in America, but without natural affection for the young man, the life of Charlotte Wickham was so sad, such a tragedy of romance that it might better be told within a few words or a few lines. Married in 1859, Charlotte Wickham passed away from earth four years later during the Civil War in 1863, while her husband “Rooney” Lee, seriously wounded in battle, was confined to a prison in Fortress Monroe and unable to come to her in her illness; and to complete the tragedy of the early life of “Rooney” Lee, it must be added that both of their little girls passed away before he was returned to his magnificent estate by the conclusion of the hostilities of the country. He came to an empty home, with empty arms, and an empty heart. Such a man, with such a life of tragedy, might have been the
LORD OF BURLEIGH
When Alfred Tennyson was in the height of his fame he gave to the world the beautiful poem of the “Lord of Burleigh” and in two of those verses he practically described “Rooney” Lee and his bride. “Rooney” Lee, as a descendant of Daniel Parke Custis, had inherited the White House farm on the Pamunkey River; and it was to that magnificent mansion which had been built originally by American's first merchant prince for Martha Dandridge who became afterwards Martha Washington, “Rooney” Lee brought his bride. It was a magnificent estate and here the story may be told in brief in the words of Alfred Tennyson:
Here he lived in state and bounty,
Lord of Burleigh fair and free;
Not a lord in all the county
Was so great a lord as he;
There she drooped and drooped before him,
Fading slowly from his side;
Two fair children first she bore him,
Then before her time she died.
Majestic sweetness sits enthroned upon the brow of the hero of this story; this o'er true tale of American knighthood; of one whose self-sacrificing purposes and deeds manifest in every instance and in every detail the invisible but palpable inspiration of the spirit of Calvary, making of it a history of incomparable, matchless, marvelous, miraculous character, which approximates well-nigh unattainable perfection; “a light that shines upon the road” that leads unto the mansions of light, where many mansions are, as declared by One who said: “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
The heroine also is haloed with the angelic beauty, purity and devotion that bespeak the reverence and homage which belong only to the sainted in heaven who are named by the church.
Every reader will naturally and voluntarily join with the great, the good, the only Custis Lee, in breathing the prayer:
“God bless angelic little Charlotte.”
ZENITH OF AMERICAN VALOR
IT WAS the year of 1857 that Colonel Robert E. Lee was subduing the Comanche Indians, and it was in that year that his second son, “Rooney,” was marching across the uninhabited plains of this country where countless millions now live and thrive. During the days of the following generation that year was always referred to in casual conversations as
THE YEAR OF THE COMET
You never heard of the wrath of Abraham Lincoln, did you? Well, General Tom Ewing of Indiana told the old-timers on ancient Newspaper Row, in Washington city, an incident which he termed “a narrow escape from the just wrath of President Lincoln.”
To understand it thoroughly the average reader must ask old grand-pa or grand-ma to describe the immense comet which overcast the sky, really overspreading it, for many moons in the year of 1857.
Excepting the few scientists who comprehended the history of the comet, all of the people of the world were frightened; and the plain people of this country were praying and following a sect called “Millerites,” who had been predicting the end of the world at that time. It was during the height of the excitement, apprehension and alarm caused by the comet that General Ewing was in Vincennes, Ind., ready to take a coach for transportation to Indianapolis. He said:
“In front of the hotel there was a four-horse old-fashioned coach with a very venerable driver. On the rear seat I found a rustic farmer, or farmer's son, making himself comfortable. Now, I did not want to ride backward, so I approached him and said:
“ ‘My dear fellow, Governor Willard of Indiana is coming out in a minute and I know that it makes the Governor seasick to ride backward. So, if you don't mind, it would be a nice thing if you would take the front seat and leave the rear seat for the Governor.’
“The farmer picked up his straw hat, put it on his bushy mat of black hair and through his back whiskers came the words, very cheerfully spoken:
“ ‘All right, let the Governor have the back seat. I guess I won't get seasick, as I 1 have never been to sea.’
“Gathering his cheap linen duster around his skeleton and picking up his big carpetbag, the lanky fellow sidled across, took the front seat and left the best seat, the back one, for Governor Willard of Indiana, and also for his diplomatic friend, General Tom Ewing.
THE TALE OF A COMET
“It was a rainy day and we traveled over an awfully muddy road, through a sea of mud. Governor Willard and I talked about the comet, what the newspapers were saying and what the magazines were guessing about it. The lanky one asked several questions, showing some knowledge of current rumor, and we put him off with brief, pert answers. Finally he addressed me by name, although I had not given him my name, and asked:
“ ‘General Ewing, if you know what effect this comet will have on the earth I will be obliged for the information.’
“Afterward I remembered his decent and respectful manner, but at the time I was annoyed, and shut him up for good by saying:
“ ‘I have no doubt that the denied thing will grip up this earth and run away to hell with it.’
“That finished him for the day. He asked no more, but respectfully listened, as we expected him to do. When we got to Indianapolis in the evening the gawky fellow rubbed resentment and reproach into my soul by jumping out into the mud, picking up a plank, placing it where Governor Willard and I could walk to the board sidewalk dry-shod, and he disappeared into the hotel before either one of us could utter an expression of appreciation. Governor Willard said that Sir Walter Raleigh couldn't have done the act any better.
“Half an hour later Governor Willard and I were at one of the big tables in the dining room, which was crowded, when the farmer came in, looked around for a seat and moved toward our table. I asked Governor Willard if I should invite the fellow, and was advised to do so, for there was a vacant seat next to Governor Willard, and I motioned for the tall country fellow to come, and he came.
“He looked a great deal better. He had combed his shock of black hair and had somehow smoothed his whiskers. He wore a black Prince Albert coat, which was some worn, but looked genteel. As he came alongside of us he thanked Governor Willard, and also thanked me, for the honor of a seat at our table.
“Apparently he was a very light eater, although he was a tall fellow and big enough to swing a heavy scythe or rake in a harvest field. He finished while the Governor and I were taking dessert, and as he arose he thanked us again for the honor, and asked Governor Willard if he might tell folks out West that he had sat at the same table at supper with Governor Willard of Indiana, and the Governor graciously gave him that permission.
“The Governor, having dressed in my room for the evening, descended the stairs with me, as he was intending soon to go to the executive mansion. We heard gay laughter and rounds of applause in the parlor, and I asked one of the old hotel employes who the tall man was that stood in the parlor, and whom the people were so lustily cheering, and his reply was:
“ ‘That is a lawyer from out West somewhere, Illinois I believe. He comes here two or three times a year. His name is Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and he is a fine story teller.’
“The ride, the story of the comet, the supper and all were forgotten soon, but in the spring of 1861, less than four years later, I went to Washington city to ask that same gawky fellow to appoint me to the important and desirable office of minister to Mexico. Although I had the hearty indorsement of the leading Republicans of Indiana, I realized that I was facing the pent-up wrath of the man whom I had directly and keenly insulted on that occasion, and needlessly, too, for he had been gentlemanly and courteous, while I had been boorish.
“I told my friends about it, and they were prepared with bushels of excuses for me. But, fortunately, the big man in the White House looked me over very keenly, did not recognize me, grasped my hand very cordially and said:
“ ‘General Ewing, the country needs men of experience; men who are indorsed as you are by big men. Unfortunately for you individually, however, I have promised that place to Tom Corwin of Ohio. I have chosen him for the position of minister to Mexico.’
“I believed, and my friends believed, that he was merely throwing the harpoon of vengeance into me, but he was not. He really did not remember me, and he said: ‘Now I hope that you will look over the list of possibilities, select something substantially as good and come back to me. The country needs veteran soldiers and men of experience who have proved their love of country. Come and see me again, and we will get together somehow.’
“Within a week I called again, properly accompanied, and asked to be made minister to Brazil, and President Lincoln gave me a note to the Secretary of State, ordering that appointment. It was made and promptly confirmed by the Senate.
“Just about one month I spent at the Department of State receiving instructions concerning the duties of the position. Then when I was ready to go to Brazil I was accompanied to the White House by the Secretary of State, William H. Seward, to receive my final instructions from the President and to say good-by to him.
“President Lincoln gave me greater, better, more comprehensive instructions than I had received at the Department of State. He was very earnest, very grave and thoroughly impressed me with the trust which was reposed in me by my country. He made me understand that the diplomatic representatives of some countries of South America, and of all except Russia in the countries of Europe, would be likely to mislead me into quarrels or controversies. My duty was to keep sober and calm under all circumstances. Nothing unexpected should be allowed to unbalance my mental equilibrium. One careless deed or word of mine might prove to be of grave danger, possibly fatal to our country.
“Secretary Seward listened carefully, as I did. At the conclusion of the audience President Lincoln bade me good-by and godspeed, went to the door with the Secretary and me and there he took my hand and heartily squeezed it in his powerful grip and said:
“ ‘Now you do your duty; I will do my duty, and between us,’ here he threw his long left arm around my shoulders and added, “we ought to be able, Tom, to keep that derned old comet from running to hell with this old earth. Good-by.’ ”
LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS DEBATE
DURING the year following “the comet year,” and every day for more than half of that year, 1858, Stephen A. Douglas, the generally accepted oratorical leader of the democratic party of the country, was traversing the fenceless and almost boundless prairies of the State of Illinois, on the defensive, for the first time in his public career.
There had been born at the Twin Oaks of Jackson, Michigan, a new political party; and it was a party with a principle which was fast becoming exceedingly popular, at least in the free States of the country. It was known as the republican party. In the army of the country there was an intrepid engineer officer, General John C. Fremont, who had won for himself the distinction of having been the first leader of men to blaze the way across the “Great American Desert,” for he had led the way across the vast continent which was, previous to the year 1850, practically, an unknown because unexplored empire. General Fremont was popularly known as “The Pathfinder;” and the new political party had wisely chosen that good man to be the leader of their aggregations of unorganized masses. General Fremont was defeated by the democratic candidate, James Buchanan, in the year 1856; but lie had blazed the way, politically, and the new party was presenting an organized front two years later, so that in the year 1858, under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, that new party was making its first great struggle for a standing in the United States Senate.
Abraham Lincoln, born and bred in poverty, self-educated, self-confident, aggressive, fired with ardent and crusading belief in the principles of the new political party, was making a wonderfully successful campaign for the seat in the Senate then held by Douglas, whose term was to expire on March 4, 1859. With presidential ambitions and with superior prospects because of the excellent organization of the democratic party, Senator Douglas was a candidate for re-election; and the new man who had fought his way out of utter obscurity, was a candidate for the senatorial position in which Douglas had become famous.
Douglas, as an oratorical leader, was sui generis, and able to compel applause, on all occasions. But, like all other public speakers seeking political distinction, he was successful in securing hearings by countless assemblies of men, but without producing the necessary votes on election days, in the national arena. In his own State of Illinois, however, Douglas had been matchless, until Lincoln appeared and forced the fighting all of that year. Although the contest was in doubt for many weeks, and the forensic campaign was continuous, exciting, frequently bitter, Douglas was re-elected. Lincoln, however, had accomplished the chief purpose of his entire campaign. He had made himself the national leader of the new political party. Although defeated for that senatorship, as he had really expected to be defeated, he had successfully used his opportunities in public discussion to compel national attention, win unexampled popularity and almost unchallenged leadership. His presidential nomination, in 1860, was the achievement for which he had made the campaign in Illinois, in 1858. The debate had compelled nation-wide attention and interest.
Very few individuals now living heard that debate, without mention of which American history would be inexplicable to all generations of after years. This writer heard Lincoln and Douglas in joint debate at Quincy, Illinois, on the same platform, in a public park.
While Thomas R. Marshall was Vice President of the United States and therefore the presiding officer of the Senate, it was his custom, when the Senate was in session, to traverse the distance from his office in the great marble office building of the Senate, in the diminutive monorail car in the subway. One morning just as the Vice President was giving to the motorman the cheery morning greeting to which he was accustomed, the Vice President was addressed by an elderly newspaper man, who entered the car from the opposite side, his words being:
“Mr. Vice President, maybe you are the very man that I am looking for this morning—”
“Don't let it occur again,” interrupted the genial gentleman from Indiana, as he extended his hand, and added: “If you imagine that I am a repository of any news, you are making a bad beginning for the day, for I don't know anything at all, except that I am able to remember the place where I work and earn my bread and butter, and I am just going there to be on the job on time.”
Thus did the genial, popular, worthy, and lovable gentleman attempt to avoid an interview; for he was one of the very few men in public office who really did avoid and endeavor always to escape interviews and all other attempts to keep him in the limelight. But on that occasion he was actually cornered in the little subway car, and the insistent newspaper man, almost as well along in years as himself, persisted with his inquiries and obtained a bit of American history well worth the recording.
“I am trying to prepare an unusual article concerning Abraham Lincoln, for publication this February anniversary of the birth of that historic character,” said the news writer. “I am trying to find some person or persons of consequence yet living who heard the great debate between Lincoln and Douglas in 1858.”
“If you will leave out the words ‘of consequence,’ ” said the Vice President, “maybe I can help you out, for I know a man who heard a part of that debate, when he was only a little boy, 4 years old. He remembers his impressions very vividly, and I have heard him tell the story several times.
“The little fellow was 4 and almost 5 years old when his democratic daddy took him to Freeport, Ill., and he heard both of those great men in their appeals to the people for election to the Senate; and, by the way, you should tell your audience that the famous debate of that year was a sort of John-Baptist forerunner of our present primary system. I can repeat the story substantially as I have heard the little boy tell it; of course, since he has grown up and mingled with men and affairs. He said:
“ ‘I have no recollection of the points made in the debate, but I remember both of the men and how each one of them appeared before the immense audience. I remember particularly how they appeared to me. The short, stout man, Douglas, had the better of the argument with the people, for the applause was frequent, natural, bursting out into prolonged roars. He moved up and down the platform, talking from each end and from the middle, and also talking as he was walking from end to end. Douglas undoubtedly had the encouragement of applause and popular approval.
“ ‘I was on the platform. My daddy was a democrat, and he must have had some influence to get up there on the occasion of such a great assemblage. The tall man, Lincoln, did not walk about very much. He stood almost in the center of the platform. He talked to everybody, though, for he continually turned his face and his whole body from side to side, addressing all of the people. It was my impression that the people liked him better than they did the shorter man. They did not give him so much applause, but as he told stories to them, maybe to illustrate his points, the people burst out into laughter, and they did so very often. Two or three times they cheered him so long that it made me tired.
“ ‘While Mr. Lincoln was talking I sat on the knees of Senator Douglas, and he never said one word to me; just held me. When it came his turn to talk I was handed to the tall man, and I sat on the knees of Abraham Lincoln while Douglas was speaking. Now, I would like to make you understand what a difference there was between the two men, from a boy's standpoint. Mr. Lincoln asked my name, my age, where I lived, whether I knew my A, B, C's, whether I had a puppy dog or not, and all sorts of questions of a kind to interest a little boy. I surprised and heckled my old democratic daddy by telling him that when I grew up I intended to vote for Mr. Lincoln. He could have had my vote that year, sure, if I could have voted.’ ”
“That is an unusually interesting story, Mr. Vice President,” said the newspaper man, “and I am sure that you will complete it by telling me where I can find the man who told it to you.”
“Well, earlier in the day,” was the reply, “you can generally find him in the office rooms of the Vice President. I heard him tell the story when he was Governor of Indiana and before. His name is Tom Marshall.”
Having added to his reputation as a newspaper man, the distinction of being a reliable writer of history, the narrator then sought the distinguished “Uncle Joe” Cannon, famous as having been the masterful and militant Speaker of the National House of Representatives during one of the most stormy and epoch-making periods of that legislative body; a body in which only the stormy petrels can survive. Dear old “Uncle Joe” was then gracefully and gently approaching his 83d birthday; and he greeted the interviewing visitor with youthful cordiality. Although they were personal friends of more than ordinary intimacy, the narrator is almost twenty years the junior of the statesman, and so you will observe the ever-bubbling spirit of humor in the famous legislator by the fact that he greeted the writer thus:
“I am sorry for you, every time I see you. I have known you now for more than forty years. You do not seem to realize, as your friends do, that you are getting to be an old man.”
And the venerable statesman was swinging along rapidly toward his office room, when his old friend put an arm over his shoulder and said:
“Now, just for that, you must give up ten or fifteen minutes of your time and tell me what you know about the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858.”
“Well, shorthand, then,” said the most lovable of public men. “I happen to remember that you can write chicken tracks with a pen, so take this down. The most exciting debate of all of their meetings was at Charleston, Ill., about the middle of September, 1858, and I was there.
“Senator Douglas made the grave mistake of accusing Lincoln of disloyalty. He referred to a story current almost ten years earlier and thoroughly disproved, charging Lincoln with having voted against appropriations for the soldiers during the war with Mexico, withholding appropriations, to let our soldiers starve or go without ammunition in their campaigns. You know, Abraham Lincoln was a member of Congress when President James K. Polk sent soldiers across the line without Congressional authority, and in so doing he violated the constitution by assuming to declare war. That is a right belonging only to the Congress.
“Abraham Lincoln voted for the Ashmun resolution declaring that the war had been unconstitutionally declared. So did Allen G. Thurman and many other men who became eminent.
“But when war was declared Lincoln and all of the others loyally voted to sustain the army. Senator Douglas must have known the facts and yet he threw out that accusation, and it aroused the wrath, not to say intense anger, of Abraham Lincoln.
“Sitting on the platform as chairman of the Douglas committee was Colonel Orlando B. Ficklin. He had been a member of Congress at the same time as Abraham Lincoln. As soon as it came his turn to speak Mr. Lincoln went to Colonel Ficklin, grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him to the front of the platform, and he shouted to the audience:
“ ‘I am not going to hurt Ficklin, but I am going to make him tell the truth to this audience about that ten-year-old lie which Judge Douglas has brought up again. Ficklin was a member of Congress, he knows the truth, and must tell it.’
“Colonel Ficklin then stated that he was not merely a supporter of Senator Douglas, but a long time personal friend of Mr. Lincoln. He stated that although Mr. Lincoln had voted for the Ashmun resolution he had consistently voted for all army appropriations and that his loyalty was absolutely beyond question.
“That dramatic performance finally ended that lie against Lincoln, and it increased Lincoln's popularity, too. But there were many other lies and many other liars in those days and some of them kept up their vilification of the great man, even until after his body had been laid away forever. The great philosopher who called attention to the fact that 'the poor ye have with you always' might have included the political liars in the same category.”
An interesting item concerning that epoch is offered by another little boy, a couple of years older than Vice President Marshall a little boy of about 8 years who resided in Keokuk, Iowa, where the big dam now masters the mighty Mississippi River. In after years he grew into notice as a newspaper man at Washington, but when he was a play-about-town boy his father took him down the river on the some time famous side-wheel steamboat Sucker State to the ambitious little city of Quincy, Ill., and this is the way he now tells the story:
“Dad was some stumper himself, as I knew, for I had heard him. He took me on to the platform, which was either out in the woods or in a great park. Dad knew the short, stout man, but he was introduced to the tall man. I have always remembered both of them very distinctly, for Dad told me that they were the two greatest men in this country, if not in the world.
“I could not understand what they were talking about, but when the short man finished his speech I got scared. Since I have grown up I have tried to find a record of what happened, but it is not in any printed record. I thought that the tall man was going to kill the other man, for he threatened him. The tall man had been sitting in a corner. He was all humped up, as if he was cold, or as if he was scared. When it came his turn he got up, threw a long linen duster to another man, and shouted out loud:
“ ‘Hold my coat now while I stone Stephen!’
“I looked all round me, but did not see any stones. The tall man did not seem to try to find any stones, and the crowd just roared out laughing. Afterward my daddy made me tell the story as my childish eyes had seen and my little ears had heard, and Dad's friends just laughed, and Dad said:
“ ‘Old Abe surely did stone Stephen, and threw big darnicks at him, too.’
“And that grieved me, too, for I thought that my dear old daddy was lying about it, for Old Abe didn't throw any rocks at all, and I know that I had watched his every movement.
“I remember well how the shorter and stouter man walked up and down the platform and how the people cheered almost every sentence that he uttered. I remember also that the tall man stood almost still in one position, near the center of the platform. But he waved his long arms a great deal, like big flails. Very often he leaned away over the front of the platform, toward the people, as if he wanted to get nearer to the people. I remember also that after the talking on the platform was over the tall man did a lot of handshaking, but the shorter man soon went away in a big stage, drawn by four horses, as though he was in a hurry to either get to some other place or to get away from that particular place, and it seemed to me that he was awfully anxious to simply get away from there. Some folks on the platform talked about ‘the Judge,’ as they called him, going away so fast, and one of the men there said to my father:
“ ‘Abe's in no hurry. Abe don't drink.’
“In later years, I have often wondered if that was harmless sarcasm or whether it was a political lie. Mingling with modern politicians for many years, I have become accustomed to hearing tots of political lies, and maybe that was one concerning Stephen A. Douglas, although in those days there was no ban on the drinking habit not for many years afterward.”
Congressman Benjamin F. Marsh, of Warsaw, Ill., was the son of one of the most ardent, earnest and tireless of the supporters of Abraham Lincoln and, concerning that topic, he once said to the narrator:
“My father told me that Mr. Lincoln liked the poison, liked it so well that he often thanked God that it was so scarce out on the Western prairies. He said that Mr. Lincoln never used it, but admitted that he had indulged in it occasionally, and liked it, but was man enough to reject it entirely. There were no saloons on the prairies and no saloons in the small prairie towns. The few farmers who went to the larger cities carried home with them very little, because it was not any more popular with the women in those days than it is now.”
Having become interested in this subject in later years, the narrator once asked Congressman William M. Springer, of Springfield, Ill., concerning his recollections of Mr. Lincoln, and his reply was, quoting from memory:
“There never lived a better temperance orator than Abraham Lincoln, and he antedated all of them, although he did not make a specialty of speaking publicly upon that topic. Although he never was in the habit of liquor drinking he was heard to say quite often that he liked the poison so well that he hated the sight of a bottle.”
Today there is a magnificent, beautiful, incomparable marble memorial to Abraham Lincoln, in the District of Columbia, which is the seat of government for our republic. With unlimited wealth the national congress made financial provision for that matchless memorial; and it ought to be known of all men that Senator Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois originated, managed and secured the legislation which made provision for that memorial to Lincoln. It was the crowning effort of a long life in the public service. To Senator Cullom the writer also went for a reminiscence of the historic debate. The Senator was growing old, and he was feeble. Probably upon no other topic could he have been persuaded to speak, as he did for this narrator.
“After listening to the great debate,” said Senator Cullom, “I was on the way home with my father when he summed up the discussion in these words: ‘You have heard the greatest of all defendants of a national wrong, and you have listened also to the wisest man since Solomon.’
“As a very young man I did not understand, but now I comprehend. Abraham Lincoln was wiser than all the political leaders of that day. All of them told him that he would be defeated in his contest for the Senatorship unless he gave up his purpose to keep to the front the slavery question. In the company of my father one evening at Springfield I heard Mr. Lincoln say: ‘If I lose, nobody else will have lost anything; I am the chief loser if Douglas defeats me. It is my fight and I'll fight it out in my own way.’
“I can now see that the Senatorship was not the goal of the great Lincoln during that debate in the year 1858. It is clear to my mind now that Lincoln's purpose was to make all of the people of the United States hear him and believe with him that ‘this country cannot endure half slave and half free.’
“If he might be elected to the Senate, well and good; he would have spread broadcast that slogan. If he should be defeated, well and good, he would have spread broadcast that slogan. He did not care a rap for a seat in the Senate, except as a means to the higher end.
“During that summer and fall of the year 1858, in season and out of season, on every occasion and with every opportunity, Abraham Lincoln repeated his phrase: ‘This country cannot continue to exist half slave and half free.’
“No wonder that my father regarded him as the wisest man since Solomon. Douglas did not comprehend and nobody else comprehended that masterful man. In their presence and persistently in their hearing he was writing the platform of his party for the Presidential year of 1860. At the same time he was making himself the logical bearer of the party standard on that platform.
“Moreover, that great political prophet was even then engaged in preparing the people for the Emancipation Proclamation which it was manifestly ordained that he should write and fling forth to the world. Abraham Lincoln knew what he was doing, and he was the only man in Illinois, the only man in the country who knew that he was writing the platform for the Republican National Convention of 1860; was gaining the votes which would give him the Presidental nomination; was sowing the seeds which would develop into the votes which would elect him; was aiming even then at the goal of human freedom, knowing himself to be the chosen leader of the people, and realizing that it was to be his mission to demonstrate that ‘this nation could not exist half slave and half free.’ In that debate, at all times and under all circumstances he was singing the anthem of oratory which should compel all of our people to join in the chorus, making this indeed ‘the land of the free.’
“I often have thought that my father's words should be a part of the history of that man, who was ‘the wisest of men since Solomon.’ ”
Thus it would seem that Colonel Bright wonderfully condensed the story of the life and character of Abraham Lincoln in the simple statement that “no sculptor has told the story and no artist has portrayed the mobile features of Abraham Lincoln.”
It might also be said that no writer has ever described that human being with character almost divine; a character too great to be comprehended by the average man, and, therefore, too broad to be mortised into the life theories of the average man, however well he may wield “the pen of a ready writer,” for it is a character which inspires a race, abides in the hearts of tens of millions of people and influences a titanic nation, leading that nation always toward the liberty of mankind.
Abraham Lincoln's incisive phrase, used so often in 1858, he would today write in these words:
“The nations of the world cannot longer exist part of them happy in the liberty of republics and part of them unhappy in the slavery and under the lash of ‘the divine right of kings.’ ”
WHEN LINCOLN AND LEE CAME TOGETHER
From a political viewpoint, indeed from every angle, the campaign year of 1860 was so eventful as to require separate consideration by every student of the history of our country. Each and every political meeting, during the four or five months preceding election day, was a training camp for soldiers. The democrats, followers of course of Andrew Jackson, familiarly known as “Old Hickory,” had well-organized and well-drilled marching clubs, and they were called “Hickory Clubs.” The republicans also had well-organized and well-drilled marching clubs, and they were called “Wide-awakes.”
Political meetings were attended by interested crowds, and usually they were excited crowds too. The marching clubs carried long poles, and on the top of each pole there was a blazing torch a tin can containing coal oil. Nowadays that earth product is not known as coal oil. It is refined and known to the present generation as kerosene.
Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, popular and capable, conducted his well-uniformed and well-drilled company of “Fire Zouaves” all over the country, giving exhibition drills. They incited company formations of school boys. The democratic and the republican marching clubs emulated the example set by the “Fire Zouaves,” and they drilled for the purpose of making, each, a better marching appearance than their political rivals.
Thus it happened that in the beginning of the year of 1861, when a free republic of well nigh forty million people became insane and proceeded to civil war, armies were formed and drilled in quick time, for the political campaign had actually been a preparatory school for soldiers. That Abraham Lincoln was elected and that his journey to Washington was hazardous, is well known. Thus the orbits of the lives of Lincoln and Lee began to approach each other.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT
was one of the greatest, most loyal and praiseworthy of the galaxy of heroic soldiers who have commanded our army, from the beginning.
Realizing the palpable fact that President-elect Lincoln's life was constantly in danger, comprehending his own grave responsibilities, and burdened with the fact that his advancing years had caused physical limitations, General Scott ordered the most trusted and capable of his aides to Washington for the inauguration day. It was in obedience to the order of General Scott that the ablest Colonel of the Army, Colonel Robert E. Lee, left his regiment at Fort Mason, Texas, and arrived at Arlington, March 1, and reported to General Scott at army headquarters on the morning of March 2, 1861. To Colonel Robert E. Lee was committed the responsibilities and the military authority to safeguard Abraham Lincoln, on his first inauguration day. History has not heretofore given ample credit and the well-deserved full meed of
PRAISE TO COLONEL R. E. LEE
to which he is entitled, for his magnificent management of affairs on that historic occasion. It is time for the American people to know and to give credit where credit belongs and honor to whom honor is due. The preservation of his life from all enemies, public, private and secret, was understood by Abraham Lincoln, because General Scott personally told to President Lincoln that Colonel Robert E. Lee had been summoned to Washington specifically for that military duty; and that he had performed that duty of protecting Abraham Lincoln on inauguration day, as he had always performed every duty committed to him, during his quarter of a century of honorable, brave, loyal and superior patriotic services. No crime was committed, for no crime was possible, on account of the absolutely perfect preliminary and precautionary arrangements which had been made under the directions of Colonel Robert E. Lee, for
THE INAUGURATION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
on the 4th day of March, 1861. It is recorded that the weather in Washington on that date, March 4, 1861, was beautiful and invigorating, although the political skies were overcast with gloom, and with many serious premonitions and signs of the great national tragedy which was about to be enacted.
Although he was officially engaged at the Capitol, President Buchanan hastened to the side of the President-elect, although it is known that some false friends of Mr. Buchanan insistently advised him to “Let Lincoln ride alone.” But, fearless concerning his own safety, President Buchanan was too wise, too patriotic, too prudent and too noble a man to heed such counsels. He knew that his presence would compel respect and enhance the safety of the endangered Lincoln.
At the customary hour of 11 o'clock in the morning President Buchanan and Mr. Lincoln came out of the old Willard Hotel, arm in arm, passed between files of regular army soldiers, and entered an open carriage. Double files of infantry and cavalry immediately formed on each side of them. They were preceded by a company of regular infantry, and were closely followed by numerous military and civic organizations. Most noteworthy was a large car symbolizing the Union, each one of the thirty-five States being represented by a little girl dressed in white.
Colonel Lee had been careful to have skillful riflemen stationed upon the roofs of all of the houses in both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue with orders to fire upon any one who might appear at any of the windows on the opposite sides, threatening the life of the President-elect. All of them were picked men, veteran Indian fighters, on whom Colonel Lee could confidently rely. Thus, the last great service of Colonel Robert E. Lee, to his country, protecting the life and guarding the safety of Abraham Lincoln, on inauguration day, was one of his greatest services; but his biographers and panegyrists have not heretofore given him the credit for that splendid service.
For the last time in his life Chief Justice Taney stood upon the inaugural platform and administered the oath of office. For the Dred Scott decision, the lawyer and republican politician, Abraham Lincoln had vigorously, not to say viciously, denounced the venerable Chief Justice. But such differences of opinion never interfere with the public functions and duties of our public officials.
Immediately following the administering of the oath of office to the new President an exceedingly dramatic incident occurred. When Abraham Lincoln came to the front of the platform to begin the delivery of his inaugural address, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, for many years a person friend of Abraham Lincoln and his chief competitor in the presidential campaign of the preceding year, arose from his seat amongst the Senators, stepped to the front and took his stand close beside Lincoln, ostensibly for the purpose of holding his hat. But, as a matter of fact, Douglas took his stand alondside the great man from his home State of Illinois as an emphatic although unspoken warning to all present that any shot fired at Lincoln would certainly endanger the life of Douglas.
During the delivery of the entire address Senator Douglas stood there. It was a quiet, brave, noble, and magnificent deed. All persons present fully comprehended the patriotic purpose of “The Little Giant,” as he thus patriotically offered his own life, if need be, to protect the life of the President of the United States.
At the conclusion of his address President Lincoln stooped down, lifted up and kissed each one of the little girls dressed in white who represented the thirty-five sovereign States of the Union.
Then, escorted as before, President Lincoln and ex-President Buchanan entered the open carriage and participated in the parade to the White House.
In the evening there was an Inaugural Ball in a temporary structure located in Judiciary Square, where the Pension Office is now; but for precautionary reasons President Lincoln did not attend.
Nothing produced by mankind is more flat, stale and unprofitable than the conjectural post mortems of history. Pamphlets, lectures, orations, and some pages of alleged history have set forth all phases of the guess-work possibilities or probabilities of what turn might have been taken by diurnal events, if Colonel Robert E. Lee had been offered or had accepted the command of the army of the United States. Even this early after the epochal chapter of our history many men have questioned whether or not the chief command ever was offered to that masterful soldier.
Senator John Warwick Daniel of Virginia gave to this narrator the most sane suggestion that has been offered by any commentator concerning the springtime of 1861. You must remember that the incoming President was surrounded by political enemies, with friends as scarce as four-leaf clovers in Labrador. Under the direction of the Secretary of War of the preceding administration the army had been so disposed as to be useful only to the South, in the event of a revolution. All of the regimental commanders were in sympathy with the pending revolution; and President Lincoln had only one adviser in military affairs whom he could trust, and he did not follow the advice of General Scott. Senator Daniel said to the writer:
“Now that it is all over, and almost forgotten, speculation is, us you say, valuable to no one, but always interesting. In my judgment President Lincoln made only one fatal mistake and, maybe, I am wrong about that. But it has always been my belief, and it was the belief of General Jubal Early, General Joseph E. Johnston, General James Longstreet and others with whom I served and with whom I have conversed, that there would have been no revolution if President Lincoln had acted upon the advice of General Scott immediately after his inauguration. General Scott could see that the revolution was inevitable unless the State of Virginia should refuse to join with the Confederacy which was then forming. Virginia was reluctant to leave the Union, and General Scott proposed the master stroke which would have kept Virginia away from the Confederacy, and unalterably with the Federal Government.
That statement had been made by others, but never with such positive utterance; and Senator Daniel was asked for his source of information upon that subject. He replied:
“General Lee himself told me at Lexington. General Scott recommended to President Lincoln and urged upon him the designation of Colonel Robert E. Lee to the chief command of the army. General Scott wanted to retire because of his advanced age. General Scott knew that Colonel Lee was the ablest and best officer to succeed him. Personally General Scott went to the White House and urged President Lincoln to issue the order. But as Colonel Lee was Southern born and bred, and as his sympathies were known to be Southern, and as he had been taught State Sovereignty at West Point, and thoroughly believed in that doctrine and unhesitatingly said so, President Lincoln was apprehensive concerning his fidelity and loyalty, and he would not make the needful movement.
“General Scott privately told Colonel Lee what he was doing, and what he was trying to induce President Lincoln to do. Colonel Lee assured his friend, General Scott, that he would accept the command if then tendered, and that it would be safe in his hands. General Scott had no doubt of the man and soldier whom he knew so well and so highly esteemed. President Lincoln did not know Colonel Lee and was not familiar with his magnificent soldierly record, and he did not follow the advice of General Scott, who was undoubtedly his safest counsellor.”
Senator Daniel, in reply to numerous inquiries, proceeded to enlighten his listening friend, saying:
“Virginia would not have joined the Confederacy if Colonel Lee had been placed in chief command of the army. Colonel Lee was a force and a power in Virginia, and he was as utterly opposed to secession as was Alexander Stephens and many other eminent gentlemen. With the army under the command of Colonel Lee all Virginians would have known, and without even a shadow of doubt, that there would be no invasion of Virginia; that no invasion would even be contemplated, and the leading secessionists would have been deprived of their strongest arguments. It is my opinion and it has been the opinion of others who were well informed that Virginia would not have joined the Confederacy if Colonel Lee had been given chief command of the army.”
Senator Daniel was then asked: “Did you ever ask General Lee what he would have done if in supreme command?”
“No, sir,” said Senator Daniel, with some manifestation of displeasure. “No, sir, I did not ask General Lee if, under any circumstances, he would have been or could have been other than a soldier of spotless honor. To know him, as General Scott knew him, was sufficient. Whether General Lee ever said so or not, I do not know, but I am inclined to believe that he must have so expressed himself in the family circle, for his son ‘Rooney’ once said to me: ‘If my father had been placed in chief command immediately after the inauguration of Lincoln, I am quite sure that he would have gone to Richmond wearing his uniform and epaulettes as commander of the Army of the United States, and his presence, bearing, and suggestions would have prevented the secession of Virginia.’ ”
And so, ladies and gentlemen of the United States, you will comphehend. at last, that Robert E. Lee was more sinned against than sinning.
The State of Virginia adopted the ordinance of secession on April 17, 1861. Then, and not until then, on April 18, the very day following the secession of his native State, the supreme command was offered to Colonel Lee. It was taken under advisement for two days and then it was declined. It was too late.
General Scott had been anxious to have that tender of the command made in time. Colonel Lee never sought that command, but he would have accented it. Fortunatelv for reliable history, General Lee has given the inside story of the final tender, although he has given it very brieflv. Some violent partisan utterances in the Senate, in February, 1868, evoked from the retired hero of the southland a letter, of which the following is a copy:
Lexington, Va., February 25, 1868.
Hon. Reverdy Johnson, United States Senate.
My Dear Sir: I never intimated to any one that I desired to command the United States Army; nor did I ever have any conversation, except with one gentleman, Mr. Francis Preston Blair, on the subject, which was at his invitation, and, as I understood, at the instance of President Lincoln.
After listening to his remarks, I declined the offer he made me, to take command of the army that was in the field; stating, as kindly and as courteously as I could that, though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern States.
I went directly from the interview with Mr. Blair to the offices of General Scott, told him the proposition that had been made to me, and my decision. After reflection, on the second morning after that I forwarded my resignation to General Scott.
Inside of the family circle it was known that General Scott very earnestly urged Colonel Lee to accept the command. General Scott believed that, even then, Virginia would retrace her steps politically, and remain in the Union, under such circumstances. But Colonel Lee, after seriously reflecting upon the great problem, concluded that the tender had come to him too late. Consequently, he wrote his resignation and enclosed it in a letter to General Scott, a letter which we can read today only with tears, as we now comprehend how moistened likewise must have been the eyes and the cheeks of that great and good man whose sense of duty impelled him to break the associations of a lifetime, and to do so with a breaking heart. Read carefully, and, if you know how, read these letters prayerfully:
Arlington, Washington City P.O., April 20, 1861.
Honorable Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.
Sir: I have the honor to tender my resignation of my command as Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Colonel, First Cavalry.
That letter was mailed at the post-office of the city of Washington on the afternoon of the date of the letter, April 20, 1861.
At the same time the following personal letter was mailed to Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, Commanding the Army of the United States. Both letters were autographic, and written with a quill pen:
Arlington, Virginia, April 20, 1861.
General: Since my interview with you on the 18th inst., I have felt that I ought not longer to retain my commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle which it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted the best years of my life, and all of the ability that I possessed.
During the whole of that time—more than a quarter of a century—I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors and a most cordial fellowship from my comrades.
To no one, General, have I been as much indebted as to yourself for uniform kindness and consideration, and it has always been my ardent desire to meet your approbation. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, and your name and fame will always be dear to me.
Save in the defense of my native State, I never desire again to draw my sword.
Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity. Believe me, most truly yours,
R. E. LEE.
On the same date, April 20, 1861, Colonel Lee wrote to his brother, S. S. Lee, as follows:
My Dear Brother Smith: War seems to have commenced, and I am liable at any time to be ordered on duty which I could not conscientiously perform. To save me from such a position, and to prevent the necessity of resigning under orders, I have had to go at once, and I am now a private citizen and have no other ambition than to remain at home.
WHEN the Christ was briefly outlining the grandeur of the glory of the Almighty in all things, and using the marvels of vegetation for illustration, He said: “Consider the lilies of the field. Not Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” And you must comprehend that Solomon has never been excelled nor exceeded for power, glory and grandeur by any other ruler.
Whoever would properly describe President Abraham Lincoln must find some such expressively powerful illustration, because not Solomon, Socrates, nor any other individual of intellectual achievement was ever blessed with such boundless intellectual capabilities; and yet, the men and women of his day and generation knew as little of his unpretentious superiority over them, as your neighbor and your friend know of the marvelous beauties of the lilies of the field, as they are revealed today by the microscope.
President Abraham Lincoln undoubtedly absorbed the words and the wisdom of the Man of Gallilee so completely that his daily life reflected that philosophy. Not only did he read, but he believed that “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Moreover, President Lincoln understood, comprehended and lived in obedience to the command: “Take ye therefore no thought for the morrow.”
In those two expressions Mr. Lincoln undoubtedly found condensed the knowledge, wisdom and influence of the philosophies of all the ages; for the meaning, as yet unknown to the millions who have their names enrolled as Christians: the lesson of those two expressions is embraced in two words: “Don't worry!”
It was the divinely given revelation to the mind of President Lincoln that enabled him to meet with cheery expressions the heralds bringing news of disasters and distresses, because he often repeated the inspired words: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
And so, with the light of a God-given superiority. President Lincoln illumined the doings of every day with wise philosophies which were quaint to those around him who “with eyes to see, see not.” And for these reasons it is deemed fitting to invite attention to a few illustrations of his philosophy with some
RARE STORIES OF LINCOLN
Secretary Stanton came to the White House one afternoon to protest against a pardon which President Lincoln had issued for a soldier sentenced to be shot f pr desertion. Stanton said:
“That mother-in-law who came to you this morning was only shedding crocodile tears. She doesn't care for that son-in-law. I'm told that she merely came as a matter of duty, because she had opposed the marriage of her daughter to that man, and to refuse to plead for his life would have been almost unpardonable. But she didn't care for the pardon and didn't expect it.”
“All of that was very clear to, me, Stanton,” was the reply of the wonderful Lincoln.
“I only looked at her once, and then patiently listened to her. I had made up my mind to issue the pardon before that mother-in-law began to talk and weep. I did not look at her a second time, nor pay any heed to what she was saying. The pardon was issued, in my mind, as soon as I looked at that poor, frail, tearless Madonna, the girl who would soon be a widow but for me. I led the poor girl to a seat, then wrote and placed the pardon in her hands. I bade her good-bye, but the tears that fell onto my hand were from the eyes of the child-wife, whose grief had been so deep that she had been tearless until she held that pardon.”
SENATOR JAMES HARLAN'S NARRATIONS
Senator James Harlan of Iowa, valued and helpful friend of my parentless childhood, walking about Mount Pleasant, Iowa, one evening while the writer was there at the university, narrated several impressive incidents concerning Lincoln, in whose Cabinet he had served as Secretary of the Interior, and all of those stories have lingered vividly in memory.
It was after a defeat of the Federal army in 1863, when all loyal men were agonized and apprehensive, that Senator Harlan voiced his fears, when Abraham Lincoln said:
“Men do not realize the value of the teachings of the Man of Nazareth. Few men know how to say their prayers, and fewer still know how to pray at all. I believe in God, and when I pray I want to have ‘my windows opened toward Jerusalem.’ ”
Senator Harlan then said: “My young friend, you should read and become familiar with your Bible. In that one sentence President Lincoln showed his familiarity with the story of Daniel when in captivity; for when all prayer (except to the king) had been forbidden, Daniel continued to pray, and the conspirators saw that he fearlessly ‘kept his windows opened toward Jerusalem.’ ”
Senator Harlan happened to be at the White House one morning when President Lincoln stated his solution of the Mormon question by narrating one of his piercing parables. One of the callers that day was Governor Cuming of Utah Territory, who had been recalled from that position. President Lincoln listened to the verbal report of Cuming, which concluded with the statement that “no Governor of Utah can be successful, nor even partially successful, unless he becomes a Mormon and a polygamist.”
“I know all about the situation there, Cuming,” replied the President, as he cordially greeted the removed official and raised his voice so that newspaper men and others could hear him as he said:
“Your administration at Salt Lake City has been satisfactory, and I am making a change wholly on account of that Mormon question. To emphasize my confidence in you, I have made out your appointment for another position. This Mormon question reminds me of a farmer friend of mine who was bothered for years by a big black-gum log which encumbered one of his best fields, and it was one of the most fertile fields in Illinois, too.
“You see, Cuming, that log was too big to be moved, and it occupied a splendid plot for corn or wheat. It was toq wet to burn. It was too coarse and obstinate of texture to be chopped or split. That big log bothered my farmer friend every day in all of the years in planting and in growing. During harvesting time it even kept him from sleeping.
“Sometimes, during the many years, his good wife would hear the deacon uttering words which were unbecoming for a deacon; but she did not reprove him. As a matter of fact, that big blackgum log bothered the good wife, too, for it diminished her proper number of sunbonnets, gingham aprons and parlour furniture. In their old age she was made very happy one morning in springtime when Josiah went out to harness the horses for the plowing, as he stood in the door, hat in hand, and said:
“ ‘Mother, I've got that big black-gum log question off of my mind at last. It's all settled. It won't worry us any more.’
“ ‘Lan's sakes, Josiah,’ exclaimed the old deaconess, ‘how on airth have you got it done for?’
“ ‘'Tain't done for, Cynthy,’ he replied. ‘It's jest settled, once and fer all. We must do jest what we been a'doin' all the time; and that's the only thing to do. We've jest got to plow around the derned old thing.”
And now, after all of these years, the long-time troublesome Mormon question has been settled, because the country finally gave up the subject and ‘just plowed around it,’ until it settled itself.
SLANDER MERELY AMUSED LINCOLN
A mischief-maker told President Lincoln that his Secretary of War, Stanton, had spoken of him as a baboon. The President made the mischief-maker happy by seriously asking if he could prove that Stanton had said such a thing. The reply was:
“Stanton said it recently to Judge Holt, and there comes Judge Holt now. You can ask him.”
Still looking very grave, seemingly offended and angry, President Lincoln beckoned to Judge Holt, who, of course, responded immediately. Then, in the presence of the happy mischief-maker, Mr. Lincoln asked if Stanton had made such a remark. Judge Holt tried to evade the question, but to the intense gratification of the mischief-maker, who hated Stanton, the President insisted upon an answer, and finally Judge Holt said:
“Yes, Mr. President, the Secretary of War did speak of you as a big baboon, but it was one of Stanton's cursory remarks. I would not pay any attention to it if I were you.”
“But I must,” said President Lincoln. “If you had said such a thing, or if our friend here had called me a baboon, I might not pay any attention to it. But if Stanton said it, the matter is a very serious one; because, as you know, gentlemen, Stanton is generally right.”
TRIBUTE OF SENATOR FESS.
Addressing the House of Representatives of the American Congress on a special occasion, Representative Fess said:
“Who is this man, that he could thus speak and write? Born in a hut in Kentucky; at the age of 7 he accompanied his parents and sister into Indiana, where they lived one winter in an open camp with but three sides to it; and yet, without having gone to school more than six months all told, according to his own statement, here is a man, thus starting with no conveniences, who reached a plane, an ability to speak and write, the English language not reached by any of the scholars of his day.
“Where is the secret? I think that it might be found in the sort of books he read.
“The one book with which he was quite familiar was King James' version of the Bible. I once heard Parks Cadman, pastor of the greatest Congregational Church in the world, say that Abraham Lincoln's verbal knowledge of the Bible was not equaled by any of the theologians. I would not say that upon my own authority, but cite it upon his authority.
“Lincoln knew Shakespeare, and in the darkest hours of the life of the nation, in the midst of great depression, often when the Cabinet was in session. Mr. Lincoln would quote page after page of Shakespeare, until the scholarly Seward would turn to him and say:
“ ‘Mr. President, our understanding has been that you have never gone to school, and yet you quote Shakespeare as I do not, and I am regarded somewhat as a Shakespearian scholar.’
“ ‘Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress’ was another book that he read. Feed a growing mind upon the English of these texts and you will have a choice of English.”
The scholarly Congressman also said: “I think that the highwater mark of Lincoln's mastery of expression was reached when, looking back over four years of awful war, he said:
“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”
Go to the British Museum, where can be found books enough, if put on a single shelf, to reach forty miles. Ask there for the finest short speech in the English language and you will be handed at once the splendid piece of rhetoric, high mark of literary appreciation and statesmanlike delivery, uttered by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863, beginning:
“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ ”
From the cradle to the grave Abraham Lincoln was blessed with adversity and misfortune sufficient to constantly compel his best efforts at all times.
LINCOLN LIKED JOHN MORGAN
Congressman Samuel S. Cox, long time famous in the halls of Congress, told the narrator of a visit which he hurriedly paid at the White House one morning when the Confederate raider, John Morgan, was careering over Ohio, doing great damage and seemingly incapable of defeat or capture. Congressman Cox went to the White House for information, saying substantially:
“Mr. President, I have been to the War Department, but can get no information concerning John Morgan. Can you tell me anything about him? Where is he? Will he capture Columbus? Will he—”
“He has not told me yet,” replied Mr. Lincoln, “but I would be willing to make a bet that he will capture Columbus if he can, and carry off your live stock and fancy chickens, Mr. Cox, if he can get them. No, we don't know this morning just where he is, but you may be pretty sure that our boys will catch him soon. When they do get him, I want to see him.”
ONE OF MORGAN'S TRICKS
“I like that rascal, Mr. Cox, like him very much,” continued Mr. Lincoln. “John has a sense of humor which thoroughly humanizes him. He captures mail trains, examines all of the letter mail, lets ordinary correspondence go right along, but the big envelopes with the War Department imprint he takes possession of, examines, and uses for his own military purposes. Only this morning I heard of one of his tricks, and what do you suppose it was?
“In one of the big envelopes there was a commission promoting a second lieutenant to be major of his regiment; the promotion was made for merit and courage. Down in one corner of the commission John read the words, ‘Approved, A. Lincoln.’
“ ‘Approved by me, also, John Morgan,’ the raiding rebel wrote, and he forwarded that commission to the worthy officer. I tell you, friend Cox, I like John and hope to see him one of these days, and very soon.”
AMERICA'S GREATEST DIPLOMAT
Even so strong and patriotic a man as Horace Greeley published an open letter to Lincoln, in 1863, calling the President an opportunist and denouncing his policies. In his reply Mr. Lincoln plainly stated that he did not want to be known in history as “The Emancipator,” but that his chief purpose was to “save the Union.” Here are his words:
“My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it. If I could save it by freeing all of the slaves, I would do it.
“I am ready to accept any new views as soon as they are proved to be true views.”
Well, by the course which he pursued the Union was saved, and today it is the Gibraltar of the democracy of the world. Great as was the cause of emancipation for the enslaved people, greater was the cause of saving this Union and making it the great nation that it is today, “one and inseparable.”
Judah P. Benjamin, subsequently one of the greatest lawyers known in Great Britain, formerly Senator from Louisiana, in 1863, was one of the greatest constitutional and international lawyers in America. He was Secretary of State of the Confederacy and one of the greatest diplomats in the world. Under his direction, consular agents had secured from Great Britain and France assurances of the recognition of the Confederacy, while they had also secured encouragement from Italy and Germany. Senator James Harlan of Iowa, intimate friend of President Lincoln, and of his son, Robert Todd Lincoln, who married Mary Harlan, daughter of Senator Harlan, had his home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and the very learned Senator became interested in a hard-working, bread-winning student of a college located there and helped him in many ways. On one occasion Senator Harlan gave the young man this item of wonderful interest which seems not to have been known to history heretofore. Senator Harlan said:
“President Lincoln did not tell his Secretary of State nor anyone else his purpose when he issued the proclamation of September; and it was not a Proclamation of Emancipation. It was a proclamation of warning, and threatening emancipation unless the Government at Richmond should cease its revolution.
“President Lincoln hoped and very earnestly hoped that Secretary Benjamin or some other astute Confederate would understand the situation and act accordingly. But nobody seemed to comprehend President Lincoln, the war continued, and on the first of the following January, President Lincoln was obliged to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, as a fulfillment of the threatening warning which he had issued three months before that New Year day.
“That Emancipation Proclamation was a stroke of diplomacy rather than an abolition movement. That proclamation demonstrated Abraham Lincoln to be a greater diplomat than Judah P. Benjamin; indeed, one of the greatest diplomats in the whole world.
“That Proclamation of Emancipation put the people and the Government of the Southern Confederacy in the attitude of fighting, primarily and almost exclusively, for human slavery. Thus Lincoln, the great diplomat, made it impossible for any of the courts of the crowned heads of Europe to give recognition to the Southern Confederacy.”
With this information from such an authoritative source, the writer has stated and repeats with emphasis that Abraham Lincoln was not primarily an emancipator, but the greatest diplomat in the world when he issued that proclamation.
LINCOLN APPEARS LIKE THE MAN OF GALILEE
After the second battle of Bull Run, sick and wounded soldier boys from Confederate as well as Federal lines were conveyed to Washington and placed in the general hospitals there. On the last Saturday in September of that year, President Lincoln started out from the White House in the morning with the determination that he would visit, if possible, all of the hospitals; and the entire day was spent inspecting conditions and encouraging the unfortunates with the kind words of the famous President of the United States. In the evening, near sundown, after leaving the Navy Yard Hospital, the tired and weary President was about entering the carriage to return to the White House, after an unusually strenuous day, when a nurse came running after him and asking if he would return and see again a Confederate soldier boy, less than sixteen years of age, who was dying. The tired President promptly responded to the call, re-entered the hospital, went to the bedside of the badly-wounded boy, gently caressed him and asked:
“What can I do for you, my boy? Anything?”
“Yes, Mr. President,” replied the boy in feeble tones, “I hope that you can tell me what my mother would want me to do or to say before I pass away.”
“I am glad you sent for me, my boy,” said President Lincoln as he knelt beside the cot, took the boy's head and shoulders in his arms and said: “I am very sure your mother would want you to repeat these words after me,” and the boy did repeat the prayer of his childhood as Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, knelt there holding the boy in his arms and saying:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
That is the greatest picture ever painted of Abraham Lincoln, for it shows him in the character of the Man of Galilee. The dying Confederate soldier boy lived long enough to repeat the last line, and, leaving his body in the arms of the President of the United States, his spirit “ran up with joy the shining way to see and praise the Lord.”
RESTRAINING RESTLESS, RECKLESS “ROONIE”
On the 17th of April, 1861. the ordinance of secession was passed by the Legislature oi Virginia. On the following day, the 18th of April, the command of the United States Army was offered to Colonel Robert E. Lee, and the proposition was laid before General Winfield Scott, the veteran military hero, who was Colonel Lee's best friend, and the great soldier urgently advised Colonel Lee to accept the offer.
While Colonel Lee was trying to induce himself to view this offer favorably, the Sixth Massachusetts infantry came to Baltimore on April 19, and was obliged to right its way through mobs in order to continue its journey to the defense of the National Capital. On the morning of the 20th of April Colonel Lee, in his home at Arlington mansion, read an account of the battle in Baltimore, turned to his faithful wife and said:
“Mary Ann, the war is on. Nothing can now prevent the invasion of Virginia. I must write and send in my resignation at once.”
As explained in preceding pages, the resignation was forwarded to General Scott and on the 22nd otf April Colonel Lee, accompanied by his family, turned their backs upon the great estate and with their faces towards Richmond, the Capital of the newly created Confederacy, they left their home forever.
Two large wagons were filled with household goods and mementoes, all of the Lares and Penates and heirlooms of the Lees were loaded on those wagons, and yet many thousand dollars worth of silverware and gold were left in the colonial mansion in care of the slaves who were never again to see their masters nor their mistress.
As the evening sun was silvering the tree tops and tinting with gold the eastern horizon, Mary Ann Randolph Lee walked towards the graves of her father and mother, one hundred yards south of the mansion, and knelt between those graves in silent prayer. While kneeling there she was joined quietly by her husband and her sons Custis, “Rooney” and Robert.
Upon their return to the mansion, the young gentlemen mounted horses while Colonel Lee entered the large carriage, but his wife turned away and went to the front of the mansion where she discovered “Rooney” Lee upon the portico which he had climbed, hauling down the Stars and Stripes.
“Stop, Rooney, stop where you are,” exclaimed his mother, “but leave the flag where it is at half mast. That properly expresses the funereal feeling of my heart.”
So it happened that “Rooney” was restrained from his rebellious purpose and when the Lee family left Arlington mansion the Stars and Stripes, although at half mast, were still afloat.
SAD LAST SCENE AT ARLINGTON
Before entering the carriage with her husband the unhappy great grand-daughter of Martha Washington turned towards the mansion and exclaimed:
“Virginia, oh, Virginia, my native State, for thee all that I have I now resign. Good-bye, playground of my childhood, good-bye play-ground of my children, good-bye home of my father and mother, good-bye home of my husband. All this and all that I have and all that I ever have had, I resign for my native State, Virginia. Good-bye, Arlington. God save Virginia!”
DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT JOHN TYLER
When Letitia C. Tyler, daughter of former President John Tyler, was in the sixtieth year of her age, in the year 1908, she said to the writer of this historic story:
“I was visiting a school chum in Alabama and thus happened to be in Montgomery on March 4, 1861, when the Government of the Confederacy was inaugurated. I was only fourteen years old and only looked upon it as an unusual lark when the honor was given to me to haul aloft the first flag of the Confederacy. I stood alongside of the cupola of the State House in Montgomery, pulled the rope and hauled up the flag; but my hands were too small, and my muscles too weak; so a well-clad and well-bred Irish gentleman laid down on the roof alongside of me and hauled the flag in place, so that nobody in making a report of the affair knew anything of the presence of my assistant. His name was not known to me and it never will be known in history, although it should be. I, alone, have been honored with the place in history as having been the one who hauled up to the breezes the first flag of the Confederacy.”
ORIGIN OF “THE SOUTHERN CROSS”
One of the greatest battle flags ever known, one under which tens of thousands of brave American soldiers fought for the Confederacy, and under which many thousands of them were killed and wounded, was generally known as “The Southern Cross.” That wonderful flag was originated in the brain of Hamilton Dudley Coleman, a 16-year-old boy who admired, followed, and afterwards became a member of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, La. In that organization he served as a private soldier after the year 1863.
During the first great battle of the war, on July 21, 1861, it was discovered that the likeness of the Stars and Bars to the Stars and Stripes rendered it unfit for use in battle. Just at that time the Washington Arlillery arrived and floated “The Southern Cross” over the tent of their commanding officer. General Joseph E. Johnston immediately recognized its value as a battle flag, adopted it, raised it over his own headquarters, and that was the beginning of the famous “Southern Cross” of the Confederacy. The original design was made by young Coleman.
In the Library of Congress there is a history of the Washington Artillery, and one of the illustrations shows “The Southern Cross” floating over the headquarters of the battery at New Orleans, before the organization went to, the battle fronts.
BATTLE OF BRANDY STATION
Unconsciously to themselves, Lincoln and Lee came together in a dramatic and tragic manner as the result of a battle on June 10, 1863; a contest, which, in those days of great struggles, was practically inconsequential. It is known as the Battle of Brandy Station. During the battle, which was an onslought by the Confederate cavalry, Brigadier General W. H. F. Lee was wounded in the groin; an injury similar to that which had caused the death of the great Confederate tactician and brave leader, General Albert Sidney Johnston at the preceding great battle of Pittsburgh Landing, a battle in which the sun of fame and fortune would have set forever on General Ulysses S. Grant, but for the death of the Confederate General Johnston.
When “Rooney” was wounded in that battle and was falling from his horse, another Lee, with military intuition and courage marching in the direction of a sound of conflict, came galloping upon the field, and that other Lee was the great Confederate Commander, General Robert E. Lee, who saw his beloved son as he was lifted from the charger and laid upon a stretcher. Under direction of the father, the wounded son was taken to the home of General Wickham, uncle of his wife, and cared for there while General Robert E. Lee returned to the battle field.
Within a very few hours, the wife of “Rooney” was by his bedside and he was receiving every attention that was required and that could be given. But a troop of Federal cavalry surrounded the residence of General Wickham, captured the wounded General, took him away from his weeping wife and screaming children, and conveyed him to Fortress Monroe, where he was placed on a cot in the Federal Hospital.
“GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN”
Couriers and messengers conveyed the sad news to the mother of “Rooney” and also to his marvelous and miraculously incomparable brother, General George Washington Custis Lee, who was on the staff of the President of the Confederate States at his headquarters in Richmond. Without delay, Custis Lee obtained permission from President Davis and immediately hastened to the side of the wife of his younger brother.
Charlotte ran to Custis, embraced him, remained in his arms with her head upon his shoulder, as she had stood beside him several years previously in the War Department at Washington. On the former occasion, her beautiful face was wreathed in bewitching smiles; but on this occasion the Confederate uniform of General Custis Lee was dampened with a torrent of tears. Custis Lee, without reserve, held the wife of his brother in his arms and stroked her golden curly locks with sympathetic and parental affection. When the sobs ceased to pervade the room, Custis said:
“Charlotte, you must go to the mountains and care for your health and the health of the little girls. I am going under a flag of truce to see your wounded husband and tell him that, so long as I live, my younger brother shall receive my affection and protection.”
“I am glad you are going, Custis,” said Charlotte, “because I know your great heart so well that I would not be surprised if you would give up your life for your brother or even for me.”
Charlotte did not know, and she never did know, that the life of her husband was in grave danger at that time. Custis, however, did know that the Federal Secretary of War, Stanton, in Washington, had issued an order that “Rooney” should be held as a hostage for Federal officers in Richmond, who were threatened with hanging, and a further order that “Rooney” Lee should be hanged, if those Federal officers should be required to suffer that fate.
“If it were necessary to save the life of ‘Rooney,’” said Custis, “I would gladly offer my life in place of his. And I want to assure you, Charlotte, that if we never meet again, and the necessity should arise, I will offer my life for my brother on his own account, but even more, my dear Charlotte, because of his wife, the girl whom I have loved from her babyhood, the girl whom I gave up and for whom I have remained a bachelor because my brother loved her so much.”
Charlotte glided from his arms and fell on the floor in a faint. Her mother in the next room hastened to her side. When Charlotte recovered and seated, with heart-breaking sobs which words cannot describe, she said:
“Mother, at last I have learned the truth. It is as I told you. My life-long love for Custis has been fulfilled by the life-long love of Custis for me. He is going now to the side of his wounded brother, not only for ‘Rooney's’ sake, but for my sake.”
Charlotte went again to Custis and said:
“You do not realize, Custis, how near the end of life I am. I have been an honest and faithful wife to ‘Rooney,’ but all of the love of my heart has been yours, and if I should live, which I do not believe is possible, we must not meet again in this life. And so, Custis, we must part and I must say gocd-bye; but my heart is happier for this meeting. So good-bye, Custis. Go to my husband, care for your brother, and ‘God be with you 'till we meet again.’ ”
CUSTIS UNDER FLAG OF TRUCE
“After leaving Charlotte with her wonderful good-bye words ringing in his ears and stamped forever on his brain, Custis Lee went to the headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia and obtained from his father a pass through the lines with a flag of truce, and under that flag of truce he proceeded to Fortress Monroe. Upon his arrival there, he said to the Commander of that fort:
“I have come, sir, to see my wounded brother, General W. H. F. Lee, and to offer myself as a hostage in his place. Let there be an order issued to retain me and send my brother back to his wife and children. If you want to break the heart of General Robert E. Lee, you can accomplish that purpose by hanging his oldest son instead of the younger son. I am a bachelor. You need not crush and mangle an innocent woman and children even in time of war. Take your vengeance out on me.”
Startled, astounded and unable to comprehend this marvelous development of the doctrine of Jesus of Nazareth, the Federal commander quoted the words:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he will lay down his life for another.”
Inasmuch as it was far beyond his authority to accomplish such a purpose, the Federal Commander telegraphed the Secretary of War at Washington for permission to accept the offer of General Custis Lee to become an hostage for his brother, and to die for his brother. The implacable Secretary of War, Stanton, at Washington, replied:
“Hold both of the sons of Robert E. Lee until further orders.”
The excuse fcv that order was that two Federal Captains were under sentence in Richmond. They were to be hanged in reprisal for the hanging of two Confederate spies in Tennessee, by order of the Federal General Burnside, some weeks previously. Secretary Stanton was relentless and implacable against the Confederacy and against every individual participant in the Confederate cause.
LEE AND JEFFERSON DAVIS
Information concerning this horrible and frightful war condition was conveyed to> Robert E. Lee and he hastened to Richmond for the aid of President Jefferson Davis. After the case had been stated to him, President Davis said:
“You needn't worry, General Lee, because A. Lincoln will not permit such an outrage.”
“Lincoln will not know anything about this condition,” replied General Lee. Stanton will carry out this diabolical purpose and Lincoln will know nothing of it until it has been accomplished and both of my sons are dead.”
President Jefferson Davis then pulled the big bell rope to summon his military aide. He then took a pen and wrote a telegram to President Lincoln requesting his interference to save the lives of the sons of General Lee, and when the aide arrived, President Davis read the telegram to General Lee, then handed it to the aide and said:
“Send that through the military lines. Request the Federal Commander to see that that goes directly to Abraham Lincoln in the White House.”
General Lee grasped the hand of his Chieftain and the gray-haired soldier, with his beard ^grown gray in the service of the United States Army, grasped the hand of the President and said:
“That will cause delay, Mr. President, undoubtedly, and at least one of my sons can be saved and I cannot express my gratitude and thanks in words.”
“It will not only cause delay,” replied President Davis, “but it will save the lives of both of your sons; for, you must know, General Lee, that I have great admiration for that rail-splitter President in Washington. Abe Lincoln is neither a Goth nor a Vandal. When Lincoln knows this case, he will save your splendid boys. I believe that he will give Stanton a tanning, too.”
LINCOLN AND STANTON
It was nearing midnight when the Secretary of War entered the White House in response to an unusually mandatory message from President Lincoln and when he stood before that marvelous man, President Lincoln handed him the telegram and said:
“What does this mean? Tell me the entire story and omit nothing.”
Secretary Stanton stated the case with his habitual earnestness and mandatory manner. He wound up his statement by saying:
“Mr. President, the lives of those two Federal Captains are as precious to their families as are the lives of those Lee boys to their family. If our men are hanged in Richmond, both of the sons of Robert E. Lee should be hanged.”
President Lincoln walked about the room stroking his forehead with his left hand, as was his custom upon occasions requiring all of his judicial and executive ability, and finally he said:
“Stanton, the doctrine of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ was superseded long ago by a sacrifice upon the Cross at Mount Calvary. The One that was hanged upon that Cross had said: ‘A new commandment I give unto you. that you love one another.’ Stanton, if a crime is committed in Richmond, I cannot prevent it. Rut a crime like that committed under my jurisdiction would stamp upon my heart by command of my conscience the word ‘murderer.’ Stanton, it can't be done. It shan't be done!”
Stanton undertook to argue the case further, but President Lincoln interrupted him by saying:
“Stanton, we are not savages. Let us see what the book says.”
President Lincoln opened wide a large edition of the Bible, which was always upon his desk. Turning to the New Testament, he laid aside leaf after leaf until finally he came to the page which he knew so well and said:
“Stanton, here is a command from Almighty God in His book. Read these words yourself: ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, sayeth the Lord.’ ”
Turning his back upon Secretary Stanton, President Lincoln walked to the desk of an ever-present telegraph operator, wrote a couple of lines with a lead pencil, and directed the sending of the telegram to the officer in command at Fortress Monroe, ordering:
“Immediately release both of the sons of Robert E. Lee and send them back to their father. A. Lincoln.”
SEQUEL FOR THE PERMANENT HISTORY
STORY OF THE TRAGEDY-DRAMA TOLD IN THE
HERETOFORE it has not been known that the spirit of that boundless Love which is “wider, deeper than the sea;” that the world-wide, humanity-absorbing spirit of the Man of Galilee had come into the campaigns and pervaded “a hundred circling camps,” by night and by day, when “the morning light is breaking,” as well as “in the evening dews and damps.”
That spirit came, mellowed the hearts of men in the midst of civil war; came when Hatred and Slaughter inflamed the minds of men, when Rapine and Murder stalked our prairies and traversed our mountains, and crimsoned our streams; came when this wonderful country where all “are created equal,” was devastated by Thor, the God of Battles and of Plunder.
It is wonderful, startling because miraculous, that the spirit of divine unselfishness should have come to leaven the lives of men In the land which was seething with civil strife. Because of facts stranger than fiction and grander than even the imagination of Milton or Goethe could depict, we do not need to doff our caps to propaganda-ed gallantry nor to heralded chivalry; for we do rot need to retrace our steps to the “days of old when knights were bold, and barons held their sway.”
Our American heroes do not clank about in weighty armor, bearing silvered nor golden shields. The chivalric natures of the Round Table whose knightly deeds have haloed and aureoled story and romance could not compare with the almost indescribable knight errantry, the heart-to-heart majesty of our American Damon and Pythias.
The soldier boys of America, tens of thousands of them clad in garments of butternut or gray, and hundreds of thousands of them clad in uniforms of blue, followed Grant and Lee almost two generations ago. It was during that frightful nightmare of American history that the spirit of the Nazarene appeared.
For the glory of American manhood and for the honor of the womanhood of our country, this story should be known in every home.
When Pythias returned in time to save the life of his faithful, trusting, self-sacrificing friend, the Tyrant of Syracuse was startled with the manifestation of friendship; the story before his eyes of unselfish devotion.
That Tyrant knew as all men know the fact of today, yesterday and all of the ages, that man builds his world on self alone, from turrent to foundation stone. Unselfishness, genuine brotherly love, might be cultivated in flights of imagination, by poets and romancers, but real unselfishness, involving life or death, startled the Tyrant, so that he desired a partnership in that little cosmos of unselfishness.
Likewise was the world startled, when there came One out of Nazareth, from the Manger of Bethlehem, teaching that larger lesson of self-sacrifice: “All that a man hath will he give for his life,” and the corollary: “Greater love than this, hath no man;” the Son of Man, who
Took the Harp of Life, and struck on all the chords with might,
Struck the Chord of SELF, that, trembling, passed in music out of sight.
That the spirit of Damon and Pythias, that the wider, deeper, world-wide, humanity-absorbing spirit of the Nazarene had mellowed the hearts of Americans, has not been known heretofore. The fact is the more wonderful, yes seemingly miraculous, because this Republic in which “all men are created equal” was seething with internecine strife and almost destroyed by a war, when this history was made.
Modesty, in the form of a sublime manifestation of family pride, impelled the brother and induced the immediate descendants to reticence. Thus it occurred that this history, so long submerged, might have been lost to the world, but for an unexpected circumstance. The divine facts were modestly mingling with the Lares and Penates of the family. Known they were, it is true, to a small circle of friends and worshipful neighbors.
Thrilling as the story is, it is soul-inspiring because it is true. It is ennobling for mankind. Disposed as we are to doff our caps to gallantry and to chivalry, we do not need to go back to “the days of old when knights were bold, and barons held their sway.” The knight errantry of our own time and of our own people challenges admiration and devoted recognition.
In days long past that now seem almost as a dream, while reading the dry but valuable pages of the so-called Rebellion Record, an investigating individual in the Library of Congress at Washington was surprised to find therein the words “held as a hostage;” and to observe those words to have been used concerning one of the soldiers prominent in that vast conflict.
Subsequently, the tendency to inquiry by the investigator led him to the individuals chiefly concerned in the incident, and from them information of incalculable historic value was obtained. But in order that the startling facts belonging to history might be given their proper places, it became necessary to dig out from their submerged places the evidentiary facts. The ultimate result has been the historically valuable incidents which compel recognition as the long sought, everlasting Great American Story.
Those words “held as a hostage” aroused lawyer-like interest, a desire to know for whom and for what any soldier had been thus held in this country of ours. Diligent search next disclosed the following statement made by Congressman Elisha E. Meredith of Virginia, who said:
“In the terrible fight at Brandy Station, June 10, 1863, Rooney Lee was most severely wounded, and was taken to the residence of General W. C. Wickham, a relative of his wife, where he was made prisoner by a raiding party (sent for the purpose) and carried off, at great suffering, to Fortress Monroe. From the latter place he was conveyed to Fort Lafayette, where he was treated with great severity, being held, with Captain R. H. Taylor, UNDER SENTENCE OF DEATH, as hostages for two Federal officers who were prisoners in Richmond, whom it was thought would be executed for some retaliatory measure. Yet, almost his first act, on reaching Richmond, was to go to Libby Prison and visit the two Federal officers for whom he had been held as hostage.”
Nothing in the history of warfare amongst men of modern times could have been more brutal. General Burnside (as extensive reading reveals) had executed two alleged Confederate spies in East Tennessee. In retaliation the authorities at Richmond had selected, by lot, two Federal officers for similar execution. Then the authorities at Washington had selected General W. H. F. Lee (“Rooney”) and a Confederate Captain Taylor for hanging, in further retaliation.
Nothing could have been more heart-breaking to General Robert E. Lee than to have had death impending thus over his second son, and at a time when the young man was desperately wounded and suffering from that wound. Moreover, those tragedies of the war were being enacted in the mind and heart of General Robert E. Lee while he was planning and directing the Gettysburg campaign. Surely no persons then living could have had a better comprehension and appreciation of General Sherman's definition of war than the father of the wounded man, General Robert E. Lee; than the brother, George W. Custis Lee, the Damon of the tragedy, who offered his life for the life of his wounded brother; nor than the suffering prisoner, “Rooney” Lee, wounded and under sentence of death while his loved ones were ill, nigh unto death, and dying.
That this submerged history might be authentically written, and made a matter of accessible record now and for all time, the official Record was searched carefully. It was there found that the long-time famous orator and statesman, Senator John Warwick Daniel of Virginia, himself crippled for life in battle for the Confederacy, had said, on the floor of the United States Senate:
“W. H. F. Lee raised a company of cavalry at the beginning of the war, and he surrendered as a Major General at Appomatox. He fought his way to that rank. He suffered all of war's vicissitudes save death. He was wounded. He was twice a prisoner. He was held as a hostage, in solitary confinement, with death impending. Amongst his first acts, when he emerged from prison, was to visit and shake hands with and congratulate the Federal officers for whom he had been held as a hostage.”
But how did he escape death? Why was he not executed? These pertinent and all-important questions naturally arose, demanded and required an answer, explanatory and complete.
In a public address delivered by Congressman Joseph E. Washington of Tennessee we see the first glimmer of light. Mr. Washington said:
“The saddest chapter in his life was when—a prisoner of war at Fort Monroe, lying dangerously wounded, and with a retaliatory death sentence suspended over his head, and in the hourly expectation of execution—he heard of the fatal illness of his wife and two children, but a few miles away. Earnestly his friends begged that he might be allowed to go and say a last farewell to them.
“A devoted brother came, like Damon of old, and OFFERED HIMSELF, TO DIE IN ROONEY'S PLACE.”
“War, inexorable war, always stern and cruel, could not accept the substituted sacrifice; and, while the sick and wounded soldier. under sentence of death, and himself almost dying, lay in the dungeon of the fort, his wife and children passed over ‘to rest under the trees,’ and wait for his coming.”
Physical torture and mental torment, weeks of apprehension and months of anguish, left their scars on heart and brain. They wore away the strength and virility of the giant stature. Those indescribable horrors of war ultimately caused the premature death of the well loved and greatly esteemed “Rooney” Lee.
His son, answering an inquiry, has written to the historian of that epoch, saying:
As to how General W. H. F. Lee got the nickname of “Rooney” presents another difficulty. There is nothing harder to get than the truth. I can't recall my father ever telling me how he came by the name. But, it is a tradition of my childhood, from my earliest recollection, that there was an Irish servant employed by General R. E. Lee—possibly as a groom or in some other capacity—by the name of Patrick O'Rooney, whom, as a small boy, General W. H. F. Lee resembled. And, as General R. E. Lee was very fond of nicknames, having one for every child, and to distinguish W. H. Fitzhugh, from his cousin, Fitzhugh Lee, who was a few years his senior, my grand-father called him “Rooney,” which name stuck to him to the day he died.
I related practically the above to my uncle, General G. W. C. Lee, in the sick room where he was flat on his back for fourteen months. He was then quite nervous from his long illness, from which he never recovered. He said, with a good deal of impatience, that that was not true; that the name was gotten from the hero of some book, popular at the time. He named the character and the book, a novel, I think, but unfortunately I have forgotten both. This much is to be said: General G. W. C. Lee never took any stock in accepted legends of history. He generally had a contrary version. So, realizing that fact, I am very much at sea in the matter. Either derivation is possible. Yours very sincerely.
R. E. LEE.
Diligently and carefully seeking further information concerning this remarkable family history—submerged history of a family whose individuals belong to America and to Americans—discovery was made of an address delivered in the House of Representatives at Washington, under the dome of the Capitol, by the some time famous Congressman George D. Wise of Virginia, who said:
“In this engagement the brave Georgian, General Pierce M. B. Young, formerly a Member of this House, by a splendid charge with sabers, without pistol or carbine, repulsed a dangerous and gallant assault on the rear, while General W. H. F. Lee, with equal courage and dash, protected the left of the Confederate position.
“In this encounter General Lee received a severe wound which necessitated his retirement from the field. He was carried to Hickory Hill, in Hanover County, to the home of General Wickham, a near relative of his wife, and here he was captured and placed in solitary confinement at Fortress Monroe, as a hostage far certain officers of the United States, being held under sentence of death in Libby Prison, in retaliation for the execution of certain Confederate officers in the West.
General Custis Lee, being then a young, unmarried man, and on the staff of the Conferedate President, met, under a special flag of truce, representatives of the Government at Washington, and begged to be permitted to take the place of General W. H. F. Lee, giving as his reason for the proposed exchange his desire to save from punishment the innocent wife and children of his wounded brother. The offer was declined, and he was told that the burdens of war must fall where chance or fortune placed them.
“In this incident we have a beautiful and touching illustration of the strength and warmth of brotherly love, and of the knightly bearing of the Lees of Virginia.
“While thus detained as a prisoner of war, racked with physical sufferings, and those mental tortures which a sensitive man must feel, under such circumstances, there came tidings of the death of his loved wife, and two children.”
They were dying of grief and apprehension. They were victims of the merciless madness of war. It was to save the life of his brother, and also to prolong the lives of his loved one, that George Washington Custis Lee, as Congressman Washington stated the case, “a devoted brother, came like Damon of old, and OFFERED HIMSELF TO DIE IN ROONEY'S PLACE.”
Interested—yes, thrilled with admiration, and with racial pride in such American valor and soldierly glory—the historian sought further evidence. That other Americans might know this wonderful story of the greater than Damon and Pythias in America, the investigator sought and examined all means of information available in the limitless Library of Congress; reading and copying letters written at the time, and orders officially issued concerning the case. This has been deemed of unusual importance, so that there may be no doubt in the future concerning this tragedy of civil war, this true story of human interest: this evidentiary fact of the truth that “Greater love hath no, man, than this!”
The battle of Brandy Station was fought on June 10, 1863. On the following day, under date of June 11, 1863, General Robert E. Lee, in his tent at Confederate headquarters, wrote to his wife as follows:
“When I last wrote I did not suppose that Fitzhugh would so soon be sent to the rear, disabled. Yet. I hope that it will be but for a short time. I saw him on the night after the battle. Indeed, I met him on the field as they were bringing him from the front. He is young and healthy, and I trust will soon be up again. He seemed to be more concerned about his brave men and officers who had fallen in the battle than about himself.”
Under the same date, in his tent, General Robert E. Lee wrote to the wife of his wounded son, saying: “I am so grieved, my dear daughter, at sending Fitzhugh to you, wounded. But I am so grateful that his wound is of a character to give us full hope of his recovery. With his youth and strength to aid him, and your tender care to nurse him, I trust that he will soon be well again. I shall look to you to cure him very soon and send him back to me.”
Under date of June 13, 1863, General J. E. B. Stuart, Commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, officially reported: “Brigadier General W. H. F. Lee's brigade was handled in a handsome and satisfactory manner by that gallant officer, who received a severe wound through the leg in one of the last brilliant charges of his command, on the heights.”
Major H. B. McClellan, Chief of Staff to General Stuart, under the same date, reports: “When the Ninth Virginia first charged up the hill, General W. H. F. Lee was on its left flank, encouraging the men of his old regiment. Just before he reached the crest of the hill he was severely wounded and carried from the field.”
Colonel John R. Chambless reported to General Stuart: “About 4:30 p.m., General W. H. F. Lee was wounded, and I assumed command.”
Headquarters, 7th Army Corps, White House,
June 28, 1863.
General Halleck, Washington: General W. H. F. Lee was found at his house, not recovered from his wound, but he was placed in an easy carriage and brought in. I had him examined by my Medical Director, and on his report have directed him to be sent to Chesapeake Hospital. Colonel Spear (11th Pennsylvania Cavalry) was satisfied that he could be brought in without danger or inconvenience to him, and my Medical Director thinks that he will not be injured by the movement. He had a flesh wound in the thigh, the ball having gone entirely through it.
JOHN A. DIX.
Under date of Fortress Monroe, July 1, 1863, Lieutenant-Colonel Wm. H. Ludlow reported: “Brigadier General W. H. F. Lee is wounded and in hospital here, on the certificate of the medical director that he required hospital treatment. General Lee has given his parole to confine himself to the hospital and to make no attempt to escape. As soon as he can be moved, he will be sent to Fort Delaware, as we have no place of confinement here. His retention settles the question of hanging our officers.”
Writing from “Headquarters, Department of Virginia, July 12, 1863,” Lieutenant-Colonel Ludlow addressed Colonel J. C. Kelton, A.A.G., as follows: “I am informed that Captain H. W. Sawyer, First New Jersey Cavalry, and Captain John M. Flinn, Fifty-first Regiment, Indiana Volunteers, have been selected by lot for execution, in retaliation for the execution of Captains Corbin and McGraw, as spies, by order of General Burnside. I respectfully and earnestly recommend that two Confederate officers, now in our hands, be immediately selected for execution, in retaliation for the threatened execution of Sawyer and Flynn.”
The reply to the above recommendation was a telegram, following:
Washington, July 15, 1863.
Col. Ludlow: The President directs that you IMMEDIATELY PLACE GENERAL W. H. F. LEE, and another officer selected by you, not under the rank of Captain, prisoners of war, IN CLOSE CONFINEMENT, and that you notify the Confederate agent for exchange of prisoners of war that if Captain H. W. Sawyer, First New Jersey Cavalry, and Captain John M. Flinn, Fifty-first Indiana Volunteers, or any other officers or men in the service of the United States, not guilty of any crime punishable with death by the laws of war, shall be executed by the enemy, the afore-mentioned prisoners SHALL BE IMMEDIATELY HUNG, in retaliation.
It is also directed that immediately upon receiving official or other authentic information of the execution of Captain Sawyer and Captain Flinn, YOU WILL PROCEED TO HANG GENERAL LEE, and the other rebel officer designated.
H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff.
Under date of December 15, 1863, Major General John A. Dix reported to General Halleck, at Washington: “General Fitzhugh Lee (W.H.F.), son of the rebel general-in-chief, is now in confinement, at Fort Lafayette, as hostage.
After the conclusion of the Gettysburg campaign, when he knew that the life of his son was in constant danger, General Robert E. Lee wrote a kindly and encouraging letter to the wife of his son, under date of July 26, 1863, thus:
“I am glad, my darling daughter, that you accompanied your mother. I hope that the water and the mountain air will invigorate you, and make you well. You must not be sick while Fitzhugh is away, or he will be the more restless in his separation. Get strong and healthy by his return, that he may the more rejoice at sight of you. I can appreciate your distress at Fitzhugh's situation. I deeply sympathize with it. In the lone hours of the night I GROAN IN SORROW at his captivity and separation from you. His wound, I understand, has not been injured by his removal, but is doing well. Nothing could do him more harm than to learn that you are sick and sad.”
Thus, the endangered captive was kept in ignorance of the failing health of his wife, and the invalid wife was taken to the mountains of Virginia, not alone for the benefit of her health, but that she might be far removed from all sources of news or information concerning the war; for the death of her husband, by hanging, was almost a certainty to be.
Nevertheless, the news of his transfer to the New York Narrows, and solitary confinement at Fort Lafayette, did reach her, and it hastened her death. The failure of her vitality, and the loss of her maternal care resulted also in the death of her two little ones. In the following March of 1864, when “Rooney” was finally exchanged and able to return to his home in Virginia, that home was empty, desolate, the historic residence destroyed, his acres devasted, his wife and children gone, forever.
To the returned soldier son, hopeless and in dire distress, General Robert E. Lee, sitting on a camp stool in his tent at night, wrote: “Camp, Orange County, April 24, 1864. I received last night, my dear son, your letter of the 22nd. God knows how I loved your dear, dear wife, how sweet her memory is to me, and how I mourn her loss. My grief could not be greater if you had been taken from me. You were both equally dear to me. May God. in His mercy, enable us to join her in eternal praise of our Lord and Saviour. My whole trust is in God; and I am ready for whatever He may ordain.”
In letters written at the time, and lost in the final upheaval, the Confederate military chieftain often expressed his thanks to God for having spared the life of his son; so that his grief over the loss of his dearly beloved daughter-in-law and the grand-children was partly assuaged by his gratitude to Heaven, that, in the midst of war, and out of the jaws of death, his son “Rooney” had been spared to him.
George Washington Custis Lee, even in childhood, was imbued with an affectionate, careful, self-constituted guardianship for his “little brother.” That sense of affectionate supervision developed with the passing of the days and the years. Thus, when the life of “Rooney” was in danger, and at a time when their venerated father was overshadowed with years and grave responsibilities, the elder brother did not hesitate, but went forward courageously in the performance of that which seemed to him to be his plain duty: to offer his life that his brother might live.
Nowhere has there ever been demonstrated better evidence of the truth of the saying that “the bravest are the tenderest; the loving are the daring.”
Son of a soldier, scion of soldiers and statesmen, the boyhood of Custis Lee was shaded, if not shadowed, by the premature manhood which dawned upon his mind as soon as he was sufficiently mature to realize that he bore the name of a family of distinction; that southern chivalry confidently expected him to bear well and with honor the name of Lee; and to that responsibility had been added, at his christening, the duty and distinction of bearing in purity the name of that great American whom another Lee had declared to be “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
This man of mighty will and courtly courage quite naturally sought the life of “the tented field.” He became a student of military affairs. Born at the military post of Fortress Monroe, September 16, 1832, he lived in the army until he was 18 years of age, and then entered the Academy. When he was graduated in 1854, he was at the head of his class, and was nearing his twenty-second birthday.
The young lieutenant was immediately given charge of the most important engineering work of the War Department—first in Florida, and then in California. Because of his superior abilities and acquirements he was ordered to duty in Washington, and he was well on the way to the position of Chief of Engineers, when the long lowering clouds burst and broke over this Republic, in that whirlwind, hurricane-storm of civil war.
The doctrine of “State sovereignty” (too commonly and carelessly spoken of as “States rights”) was taught at West Point. There, as a Cadet, Robert E. Lee learned the doctrine of the superior individual sovereignty of each State in the Confederacy known as the United States. And there the hero son, Custis Lee, also learned and believed in that doctrine. Quite naturally, following the line of those undisputed instructions, and also following the example of his soldier-father, for whom he entertained an almost idolatrous affection, George Washington Custis Lee fulfilled his plain duty by following the sovereign State of Virginia into that confederacy of sovereignties, which was established in the year 1861.
His younger brother had always aspired to enter upon a career as a soldier. But the necessary political influence to secure his designation to West Point was not within the reach of his father; and so the younger son, “Rooney,” was sent to Harvard College in 1854; the year of the graduation of Custis from West Point.
His standing there was creditable, and he took front rank in his classes. His name and lineage carried him into the best of Bostonian society. Physically favored by nature, he was soon one of the leaders in collegiate athletic affairs. But, with all of the allurements and environments which should produce contentment and happiness, the military bias of his mind predominated. He longed for life in the army, in the field where his father had achieved distinction and where his brother was forging to the front of leadership. And Custis secured a commission for him.
But in one particular matter Custis so loved his brother that “Rooney” never knew, nor even suspected that the very heart of Custis was made to bleed for his happiness.
“Greater love than this hath no man,” that he will alter the whole course of his life for another; and Custis did that for his so well-beloved younger brother. Therein, indeed, lies concealed a part of his devotion in the war-time episode.
Custis Lee, the true hero born and bred, the Damon of this narration of real life, this epitome of facts of human interest, remained a bachelor during the remainder of his long life of more than eighty years. Finally, George Washington Custis Lee, overpowered by the weight of years, laid down to rest at Ravensworth, Virginia, and for more than a year and a half was a helpless invalid, tenderly cared for by the children of his beloved little brother, “Rooney,” for whom “like Damon of old, HE OFFERED HIMSELF, TO DIE IN ROONEY'S PLACE.”
And there, full of years and of honor, comprehended, appreciated and venerated by all of the people of the great State which he had so well served; and almost worshipped by the children of the deceased brother, “Rooney,” he was gathered unto his fathers on February 18, 1913; and his monument has not been erected. It should not be, until all of the people of this great nation shall have learned the story of his Christ-like life.
When Custis Lee resigned from the old army, he proceeded to Richmond and there tendered his services to the President of the Confederacy. And he, Jefferson Davis, being a West Point man, a veteran of the War with Mexico, and well acquainted with military men and military affairs, immediately designated Custis Lee for the supervision of the most important work then in hand; the defense of Richmond.
It was he who located, designed, and superintended the construction of the fortifications of all of the approaches to Richmond. So well was that work done that those defenses were absolutely impregnable.
President Davis required Custis Lee to remain in Richmond as Aide-de-camp to the President, and in that capacity he was the principal military adviser of the President, notably of daily service invaluable at the time. So highly was he esteemed that, during the year 1864, when the Confederacy was gradually crumbling, it was suggested that the loss of the services of General Robert E. Lee, by wounding, disease, or death might complete the accumulating disasters, and President Davis replied in substantially these words:
“Great as would be our loss, it would not be wholly irreparable, for I should immediately designate Custis Lee for the chief command. He is thoroughly competent.”
When the curtain of time had fallen upon the last scene of the last act of the tremendous tragedy of Civil War in this country, Custis Lee became Professor of Civil and Military Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute; and he made of it what it is today, a Military Academy, in discipline and curriculum, the equal of the Academy at West Point.
In the year 1871 he succeeded his famous father, then recently deceased, as President of Washington and Lee University; and he was President Emeritus of that educational institution when he reached the end of the journey of life and passed through the pearly gates of that beautiful city of many mansions, concerning which “the half has never been told.”
Concerning the public utterances of statesmen which have been quoted, it must be comprehended that Custis Lee was living at the time. He uttered no word of protest when the story was told that “a devoted brother came, like Damon of old, voluntarily to offer his life for his brother.”
He was then actively performing the duties of President of Washington and Lee University; and was one of the foremost men of Virginia. But while he could deprecate the narration of the story, he could not forbid it. No eulogy could ever be pronounced over his bier, without the telling of the story of the sentence, of death, that in a certain contingency “YOU SHALL IMMEDIATELY HANG GENERAL LEE.”
It is known to the writer, that his long time personal friend Senator Daniel of Virginia, his hearty friend Congressman Joseph E. Washington of Tennessee, and his acquaintance Congressman George D. Wise of Virginia, the gentlemen who narrated the story of these events in the Senate and in the House of Representatives of the American Congress, were valued friends of and welcome visitors to George Washington Custis Lee, at his home.
In narrating his deed of matchless human devotion to his beloved brother, those eminent gentlemen knew whereof they spoke. Not one of them would have told the story without the consent of Custis Lee, however reluctantly it might have been given.
That the story should not have newspaper exploitation was another matter. It has been held as a sacred part of the history of a family of southern gentlemen and southern gentle women. Custis Lee, the born soldier, reticent and dignified, forbade publicity. Consequently, so long as he lived and continued to forbid, it was impossible to tell to our people the true story of his incomparable career.
His life was spared full fifty years after that wonderful event; and during all of those years Custis Lee dwelt in comparative obscurity, deprecating every allusion to his deed of marvelous self-sacrifice. It was in deference to his wishes, most emphatically expressed, that the sons of his brother, and all other near relatives, refrained from seeking or aiding publicity of his wonderfully affectionate deed of nature's noblest nobility. Therefore, now, for the first time, without offense to any one and without repression from any direction, it is possible to publish this story of a life of marvelous merit, matchless self-effacement, dignified heroism, and brotherly devotion, unexampled.
George Washington Custis Lee, in the fulness of time, sleeps the dreamless sleep of divine rest, in the windowless Palace of Peace; for “God giveth his beloved sleep.”
George Washington Custis Lee has joined with “Rooney” and all of that “cloud of witnesses” of human affairs; has entered upon that condition which levels all distinctions, and lays the shepherd's crook beside the sceptre. And thus, “after many days,” we may all know the inspirational story of this matchless flower of Knighthood in America.
ALL ABOUT ARLINGTON
AND THE LEES
On Fame's Eternal Camping Ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
ARLINGTON'S STORY, DRAMA, TRAGEDY, AND HISTORY
Well nigh a quarter of a million Americans of all ages, from infants in arms to the trembling and dying veterans of the Civil War, visit the national cemetery at Arlington every year on Memorial Day; that one day of every year when throughout this entire republic the thoughts of the people are directed to the sacrifices which have been made by the youth of the land in order that “this government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not fade from the earth.”
One of the grandest and most glorious truths set forth in the Book of Books, and one of the many which are not known to every one as well as they should be known, is in these words: “It is better to go into the house of mourning than into the house of mirth, for the heart is made better thereby.” And so, on every Memorial Day the hearts of all of our people are made better by this national association in paying universal tribute to the loved and the lost.
Every newspaper in the land publishes an account of the proceedings at Arlington; and the larger papers print the addresses of the President, and of the others who speak on that occasion in the amphitheatre on the spot which was historic long before the fatal misunderstandings which separated our people into warring factions for a time; the famous home of the grand-son of Martha Washington, the wonderful man who was worthy of his grand-mother, and also worthy of the guardian who adopted him, who loved him and directed his life into lines of patriotic endeavor always. To we must know that these magnificent hills bordering the Potomac river and overlooking the national capital city, were originally the most valued and favorite hunting grounds of the Powtowmack tribes of the South, and also of the Susquehannas of the North. Upon old Observatory Hill in Washington where the Naval Observatory was located for well nigh a century, early settlers dug out of the ground the bones of the Indians of those tribes, their weapons of war alongside of them; mute but unquestionable evidences of a tremendous battle between the North and the South in the remote past. And so, when Arlington was selected as the site of the National Cemetery the white men were making their “bivouac of the dead” on what had been to the Indians “fame's eternal camping ground.”
Hitherto nobody seems to have taken the time, and the time-consuming trouble, to give to our people the history of this long-time famous locality, and so we may as well begin with the
TITLE OF ARLINGTON
including the realty title and the titular name which is nationally associated with the place. The deep laid plans and ultimate purposes of the white men were not revealed for well nigh three hundred years after John Smith and the other adventurers and free booters established their settlements on Jamestown Island and along the eastern coasts of the new world. Not only in Mexico but at every point the surprised and startled natives looked upon every white man as “a fair god,” worthy of respectful kindness and even of worship. That the original inhabitants were to be deprived of their lands, driven towards the setting sun, and practically annihilated could not have been foretold nor even imagined by the most intelligent of those copper colored people. It was not until the Jamestown Exposition, in 1907, that the open and plain declaration was made by the distinguished and able Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama: “This is the white man's continent, and our government is a white man's government.”
In the books of Eternal Justice the realty title to Arlington Heights, as well as to every acre, every foot, every inch and every blade of grass, all and in all belonged and belongs to the original inhabitants, their heirs and assigns, absolutely in fee simple. Their titles to their homes were given to them lavishly and lovingly by the same Manitou that gave to them their copper color and, although they did not have castles, nor palaces, nor fences, nor surveyors to mark their metes and bounds, like the first followers of the Man of Galilee, “they had all things in common.”
In that sense they were the children and the disciples of the Nazarene, and the white-skinned marauders and murderers were heathen; more benighted than the so-called heathen by “India's coral strand.”
Avariciously grasping the proprietorship the white-skinned savages from some unknown lands came and took possession of every parcel of land which they desired and parceled it out among themselves, without even saying inquiringly or courteously “by your leave.”
Thus it was that Governor William Berkeley of Virginia gave an estate of six thousand acres (6,000) to Robert Howsen on October 21, 1669; this splendid domain being thus presented as a reward for some public service, the nature of which is not a matter of permanent record. According to the archives of that date the gift estate was located “along the Potomack River; south of the lower rapids, and westward, as may be surveyed.”
And so by the ipse dixit and the autocratic wave of the white man's hand Robert Howsen, according to the white man's laws, became the proprietor of all that is now Arlington National Cemetery, the City of Alexandria, and the Mount Vernon sacred shrine where lie the bodies of George Washington and Martha, his wife, near the mansion which was their home; for they were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and “in their deaths they were not divided.”
Robert Howsen regarded that regal estate as of little immediate value, as you must realize when we find the record showing that the entire estate was sold to John Alexander for six hogsheads of tobacco. Maybe that was a good price too, because in those days the people of Europe were learning to smoke tobacco. The craze for the enjoyable weed of the New World continued to spread, and the demand for tobacco soon made that product the equal to and the equivalent of legal tender coin in all business transactions throughout the colonies and all of the Western Hemisphere.
On Christmas Day, 1678, at the conclusion of a holiday celebration, which had been a long-continued session of feasting and drinking, Gerald Alexander conveyed eleven hundred (1,100) acres of that original Howsen estate to John Parke Custis, the most opulent merchant prince in America, a man whose cheque for eleven hundred pounds of the currency of Virginia was worth its face value, and eleven hundred (1,100) pounds of the colonial currency was fully equal to eleven hundred pounds sterling.
Only a man of great wealth could do business on so large a scale in those days. And, you will note how the value of the property had increased in a very few years. It was on a Christmas Day that the title of one white man was transferred to another white man, and made a matter of record, so that John Parke Custis became the owner of the tract since known as Arlington, and it was continued in the property wealth of the Custis family for another hundred years, the last male heir having been George Washington Parke Custis, the grand-son that George Washington loved and tutored; and to his daughter, Mary Ann Randolph Custis the great and grand estate was bequeathed. She was the last Custis to own the estate; and when it was recorded in her name she was the wife of Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, of the United States Army, an officer destined to achieve distinction in the tented field.
EARL OF ARLINGTON
An ancestor, four times removed, John Custis, possessed an estate in Northampton County, Virginia, which he named “Arlington,” in honor of Henry, then Earl of Arlington, to whom, with Lord Culpeper, King Charles II made a grant of all of old Virginia. Over the grave of John Custis there is a large marble sarcophagus on which is inscribed this statement: “He kept a bachelor's home at Arlington, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.”
That sarcophagus would convey the impression that John Custis had always been a bachelor; but he had not. The truth was that he had kept “a widower's home,” instead of a bachelor's home, because he had separated from his wife. Details of their marital joys and sorrows are unavailing. John Custis was an exceedingly wealthy tobacco merchant in that day and generation, and also an extensive dealer in real estate; and his descendant, Daniel Parke Custis was wealthy and prosperous largely because of the wealth which he inherited. But he was a good business man also, carefully multiplying all of the wealth that had been his father's, and that he was keen enough to peer far into the decades is manifested by his acquisition of that Howsen estate for cash.
Williamsburg was the capital city of the Colony of Virginia, because Governor William Gooch made that little village his dwelling place and home, and there, from time to time, were assembled all of the wealth and beauty of that part of the New World, particularly in the winter times when the snow and ice halted agriculture and all of the business that depended upon the tilling of the soil.
Martha Danclridge was the belle of belles, practically Queen of the May all the year 'round; and of lovers there were manv who sought her heart and hand. But, woman-like, she looked with favor on the handsome and care-free young roysterer; and so. in June, 1749, Martha Dandridge became the wife of Daniel Parke Custis.
Wedding presents were numerous and from every point of the compass, but the most notable wedding present was the since famous “White House Farm,” on the Pamunkey River, given to young Custis by his rich and proud father. And there they dwelt in prosperity and happiness for a few years only, for in 1757 Daniel Parke Custis died, leaving to his widow an estate exceeding in value one hundred thousand dollars; and after only eight years of married life Martha Dandridge had become a wealthy widow, a very wealthy widow, for that was an immense fortune in those days.
Martha Dandridge had been a popular belle in Williamsburg, but Martha Custis, with an abundance of lucre, was the most popular belle in America, and lovers came a-courting almost in phalanxes. But the Widow Custis was wise and prudent, and patient, awaiting the Prince Charming, because she could be the arbiter of her own fate now, the captain of her soul. She had two children, and wisely she considered the future of those little ones as well as her own future. And within two years her' Prince Charming came, a young soldier, caparisoned and mounted for conquests; and he conquested the heart of Martha Dandridge completely. They were married on January 6, 1759, and Martha Dandridge Custis was proud of her handsome husband, for he was brilliant, capable and popular as well as handsome, and he had acquired fame too, for they called him “the hero of Braddock's field.” He is better known today by his baptismal name of George Washington.
No mistake had been made by the mother of little John Parke Custis and tiny Martha Parke Custis, for their step-father made the 6-year-old boy his companion and he tenderly cared for the little girl baby of only 3 years; so that it was a very happy family that went to live at Mount Vernon, the home on the Potomac River, where until this day lie the bodies of Washington and his wife. But the first sorrow of the life of Martha Washington came in 1773, when her daughter, Martha Parke Custis, was taken to another world, when she was 16 years of age, her mother's companion and confidante, a beautiful and glorious creature; and Washington mourned with the mother when the summons came.
When John Parke Custis had passed his twelfth year he became unmanageable. He was neither a loving son nor a dutiful son to the mother who had been bereaved; a wild, careless boy who slipped away from the care of his guardian. He was, in truth, a bad boy.
When 18 years of age he was sent to Columbia College, in New York, an institution then known as King's College. Unwisely supplied with ample means the young fellow devoted his time and his talents to society, fine raiment, dogs, steeds, sports, and paid little attention to books or to college rules.
Only three months of college life was enough for John Parke Custis, and his collegiate education was finished. He wrote to his mother that on February 4, 1774, he had been married to Eleanor Calvert, aged 16 years, at Mount Airy, Maryland. The young lady was a descendant of Lord Baltimore.
Establishing a home at Four-Mile-Run the bridal couple became the first resident occupants of the estate which had been acquired by John Parke Custis (the lad's father); and that site is now just halfway between Washington City and Alexandria, Virginia, and only eight miles from Mount Vernon; so Martha Washington had opportunity often to see her wayward son and the child wife who dwelt in loyalty and unhappiness with that unworthy young man.
OCCUPIED AND NAMED, 1776
When the mansion was completed, and three children were born there, the place was named and became known as “Arlington,” for John Parke Custis knew of the estate on the eastern shore which John Custis had named for the Earl of Arlington.
But when the time came for the birth of a fourth child, Eleanor Custis visited the home of her birth and childhood, at Mount Airy, Maryland, and there was born the boy, George Washington Parke Custis; the boy George Washington loved and nurtured, and prepared for honorable manhood. And be it said in letters both bold and bright so that they may sink into the memories of mankind, the paternal work of George Washington was wonderful and has not been comprehended nor appreciated heretofore. For George Washington Parke Custis carried with him until the end of his long and noble life the lessons that he had learned from Washington. There has been no more clean, honorable, and noble citizen of this republic than the man whose boyhood was ennobled by the directing hand and mind of George Washington.
The father of George Washington Parke Custis redeemed his reckless life of earlier years. He developed into manhood in time to participate in the Revolution and died a hero's death as the result of exposure in the last campaign of the struggle for Independence and Liberty. It would be an incomplete and an unfair history that failed to give credit and a meed of praise to John Parke Custic, the soldier who gave his life for his country.
Immediately after the death of John Parke Custis. his baby boy was adopted by the grand and masterful man whom we know as “The Father of His Country;” just as he had adopted the wayward boy who had finally given his life for Liberty and Independence. Beyond criticism of mature minds, concerning his public works, that same man was above criticism as a guardian and educator of the children of his wonderful wife; and this grand-son of Martha Washington became so attached to “grand-pa” that Martha Washington almost worshiped her marvelous husband.
What marvelous memories of masterful manhood must have been the delight of George Washington Parke Custis in his later years; for during the formative years of character, until he was 18 years of age, the youth, the young man was the constant companion and helpful aide to the famous soldier-statesman, the foremost man of all the world; memories that exerted an unconscious influence on all of the after years of his noble life. He gave filial fidelity, and his mental promise lightened, livened and increased the contentment and home happiness of Washington; and the little fellow was the idol of his grand-mother until the close of her life in this sphere of intelligence.
When his grand-mother died George Washington Parke Custis mournfully turned away from the home of his babyhood, childhood, youth and young manhood, and carefully traversed the Arlington estate, which was his unincumbered inheritance, and of which he was the sole heir. From every viewpoint the young man examined his estate; not only from the topographical conditions and architectural considerations, but always as the only living representative of George Washington and as the only human being bearing that honored name.
Intending to erect for his home a mansion near the national capital city, a residence to which Americans and visitors from abroad might come (as they did), he chose the crest of the forest-clad “Arlington Heights,” and there he made a clearing so that from the portico of the Mansion there should be a complete view of the city which would be built on the Maryland side of the Potomac, and a site on which the Mansion would always be easily observed by residents of and visitors to the Federal City.
Personally he selected the site, personally he supervised the clearing away of the enshrouding trees, and personally he made the choice of architecture. Then he personally superintended the work of building, from the breaking of the ground and digging the foundations, and laying the foundation stones, to the roofing and decorations; even to the selection and laying of the flagging stones of the magnificent portico. Every brick in the Arlington Mansion was moulded and burned on the estate.
This famous old Mansion has a frontage of 140 feet, including the main building and the lower wing on either side. The great Greek portico was modeled after the style of the Temple of Theseus at Athens.
The portico is 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep.
The graceful entablature is uplifted by eight massively impressive Doric columns.
The view of the Potomac River for many miles is glorified by the hills of Maryland which green-wall the entire District of Columbia; hills which seem to be the frames formed and placed by Nature for a picture no artist can paint.
Then, when he was 23 years of age, a wonderfully mature and dignified man for his years, George Washington Parke Custis was married to Mary Lee Fitzhugh, aged 16 years; and she became the first mistress of the grandest colonial mansion in this new world.
From the portico of the Arlington Mansion, George Washington Parke Custis and his wife witnessed the growth of the Federal City, as it was then known. In that mansion they lived and loved until the year 1853, when the gentle spirit of the wife was called hence, leaving to the bereaved husband an only child, a daughter, Mary Ann Randolph Lee, the wife of Colonel Robert E. Lee, U.S.A. And so, George Washington Parke Custis was the last male owner of the Arlington estate; the last to have and to hold possession of that magnificent property. Very soon after the departure of the builder of the mansion the tocsins of war sounded over Arlington, and the valley resounded with the echoes of the trumpets which called to arms from that broad portico on the Virginia eminence.
Today and for all time from that portico can be witnessed the development of the wonderful Capital City of the Republic; the city now rapidly assuming proportions and lines of beauty which are making it the Capital of Peace, a Capital city leading the world of intelligence and the divine uplifting of humanity “for the healing of the nations.”
Anticipating the hands of avarice which have made of Mount Vernon a show-place with a price of admission, cash in hand, the affectionate grand-son of Martha Washington managed secretly to carry away from the home of his happy boyhood many mementoes of the life of his highly esteemed, deeply loved and famous guardian.
TENT OF WASHINGTON
Particularly proud he was of one relic, and he valued it most highly, and that was the old, weather-beaten and war-worn “Tent of Washington;” the tent which had been used constantly and continually by General George Washington from July, 1775, when it was first pitched at Cambridge, until many weeks after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. That canvas “Tent of Washington” had been the silent witness of all of the greatest events of the War of the Revolution.
And so, at the Arlington Mansion, whenever George Washington Parke Custis desired to manifest particular regard or to especially honor any guests the famous old “Tent of Washington” was pitched out upon the lawn for their reception.
VISIT OF LA FAYETTE
On October 12, 1824, when General Lafayette was entertained by the Federal Government in Washington City, and ceremonies in his honor were splendored in the Capitol Building, George Washington Parke Custis was there and the “Tent of Washington” was pitched where now the Rotunda is located under the Dome and its Brumidi canopy. And there in that tent General Lafayette said to Mr. Custis: “I first saw you at Mount Vernon in 1784, thirty years ago, and you were a very little gentleman with a feather in his hat, holding fast to one finger of the masterful hand of the good George Washington.”
During the last two years of the life of George Washington, while the young gentleman was coming into manhood, the home at Mount Vernon was the Mecca of America to which all men of distinction came, as Lafayette had come in the manner described by him. The greatest entertainer on this continent was the distinguished master of Mount Vernon; and it was this fact, comprehended by George Washington Parke Custis that largely influenced the young man in the location, the preparation and the building of the Arlington Mansion, because he knew that the direct heirs of his great guardian could not and therefore would not entertain becomingly. Therefore Arlington Mansion became the Mecca for those who remembered and revered George Washington; and so he kept open house as long as he lived.
During his life time, which was the first half of the nineteenth century, the favorite picnicing grounds for Alexandria, Uniontown, Washington, Rockville, and all of the surrounding country, were around the famous “Arlington Springs.” There the children of the churches, schools, Sunday Schools, and the grown folks of the various lodges and civil societies wended their ways.
“Welcome” was signaled by the beds of flowers, over the various gates, and on the genial kindly faces of the gentle man and the gentle woman who cheerily greeted all visitors; and everybody knew that the welcome was hearty, heart-felt, and sincere.
Although the population of the city and of the country was very small as compared with modern conditions, yet upwards of 20,000 people visited Arlington during the season of 1856; and the picnicing parties continued to increase in numbers annually until 1861, when the clouds of civil strife began to obscure and efface all pleasures, and the funeral processions began to take the places of the parades, picnics and fraternal celebrations of the prosperous people.
Previous to the year 1857 thousands of little children were entertained by a distinguished-looking elderly gentleman who came down the pathway from the mansion, dressed as in colonial days, and carried with him a violin on which he played the popular tunes for the little ones; and that cheerful entertainer was the adopted son of George Washington the master of Arlington; and he manifestly enjoyed extending even to the children the same spirit of Virginia hospitality which had been displayed so freely, in his way, by the great man Washington, whose name was so worthily borne by that gentle Virginia gentleman of the olden style; and at a time when Virginia hospitality was proverbial almost all around the world.
Fortunately for that noble man, George Washington Parke Custis, he did not live to see the division of his country; did not live to see his daughter fleeing from her home; did not live to see his estate confiscated by the Federal Government; did not live to see Arlington Heights gleaming under the sun, nor by the moonlight, nor by torchlights, nor by the camp fires “of the hundred circling camps” of the vast armies of soldier boys who assembled there to march and counter march over the soil of old Virginia, to drench its hills and valleys with fratracidal blood. His coming to earth was a blessing to his mother and to his grand-mother; and his life was a spring of happiness to Washington also. But in the year 1857, at Arlington, there were
ANGELS HOVERING AROUND,
to carry home the gentle spirit of the noble man whose life had been without reproach, whose character had been clean, whose name was honored during the days of his life, and whose name should always be honored by all who revere the memory of George Washington, in the shadow of whose life and character George Washington Parke Custis lived, served and died. Nobody but himself knew the intensity of his bereavement when his good wife passed away. His daughter was with him, it is true, but her attentions were absorbed and her affections were diluted because of the presence of her husband and the two boys; Custis and “Rooney” Lee. And the master of the place was lonely; but not desolate nor repining.
On the morning of October 6, 1857, the venerable gentleman reluctantly admitted that the severe cold had become an illness, and late that Sunday afternoon he retired to his room and to bed, saying that a long night's rest would be sufficient to restore him to his normal condition of health. But on Monday he remained in his room, although not remaining in bed. On Tuesday morning he sent for a physician because his symptoms indicated that pneumonia was the ailment, and the physician informed him that the case was serious. On Wednesday evening he sent for his pastor, who arrived on the morning of Thursday; and the mind of the gentleman, the noble man, was so clear, that when his pastor entered the room, George Washington Parke Custis asked him to offer prayer for the dying.
With the deeply mourning family and the sobbing servants gathered around him, while the prayer was being offered, the spirit of the magnificent specimen of American manhood left the time-worn body and “ran up, with joy, the shining way,” leaving upon the face of the earthly tenement a smile of contentment and perfect peace. Thus, with the close of the day of Thursday, October 10, 1857, was closed the life of the boy and man whom George Washington loved, the owner and the builder of Arlington Mansion, George Washington Parke Custis.
From Washington City and from all of the surrounding communities and country homes sincere mourners came to attend the funeral services; hundreds of elderly ladies and gentlemen being conspicuous as sincere mourners because of their tears and sobs. From Washington City to Arlington Mansion and then to the grave, the President's Mounted Troop marched, becoming a guard of honor; and there came also the Mount Vernon Guards, of Alexandria, Virginia, the Associated Survivors of the War of 1812, the Washington Light Infantry, and the very many civil organizations. Members of the Cabinet of President Buchanan and many other high officials were there to pay their respects to the memory of the gentleman whom all had esteemed and respected, and whom George Washington had loved as his own.
About three hundred feet south of the main driveway through the Cemetery Grounds there are two graves; the last resting places of the owner and builder of the Arlington Mansion and his wife, the first mistress of the manse, who came to it as a bride when only sixteen years of age. It is as true of them as though the words of Holy Writ had been intended solely for them, that “they were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided.”
Between these graves and the Mansion are rows of the graves of the soldiers of the Republic. The soldier's grave nearest to them bears this inscription: “John Kattnor, N.Y., 5274.”
Very brief and plain and clear was the will of George Washington Parke Custis, in which he gave “to my dearly beloved and only child, Mary Ann Randolph Lee, my Arlington Estate in the County of Alexandria, containing 1,100 acres, during the term of her natural life.”
On June 30, 1831, in the drawing room of the Arlington Mansion that dearly beloved and only child, Mary Ann Randolph Custis, in the presence of her parents and with their approval, was married to Colonel Robert E. Lee, by the Reverend William Meade, who afterwards became a Bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church.
In his will, the late George Washington Parke Custis also made the following provision:
“On the death of my daughter, Mary Ann Randolph Lee, all of the property left to her during the term of her natural life, I give and bequeath to my eldest grand-son George Washington Custis Lee, to him and to his heirs forever, he, my eldest grand-son, taking my name and arms.”
On August 5, 1861, a new revenue, law became operative, a war measure to provide ftmds for the Federal Government which was then engaged in raising and equiping armies for the national defense; and by that Act of Congress, with its amendments, a Federal tax of $92.07 was imposed upon the Arlington estate.
Moreover, under the provisions of that law, nobody could pay taxes upon property assessed, except the person against whom and in whose name the taxes were entered and charged.
And furthermore, the taxes were assessed against the sole owner of the property, Mary Ann Randolph Lee; a lady who then resided in Richmond, Virginia, and whose husband was a major general commanding Virginia soldiers then marshaled under another flag than the flag of the United States. Under such circumstances the sole owner, Mary Ann Randolph Lee, could not, and of course did not, appear in person to pay the tax of $92.07.
Consequently, on January 11, 1864, the owner having disregarded the tax during a period of more than two years, the entire estate was sold at a public auction, after extensive advertising. It was struck off to the United States Government for the meagre sum of $26,800, and military as well as civil possession immediately followed.
Eleven hundred acres of land, worth today not less than two thousand dollars per acre (more than $2,000,000) thus passed into the possession of the Government for the paltry sum of $26,800; and there has been no change in the title from that date to this, a period of fifty-eight years.
WHITHER THOU GOEST
Imagine, if you can, the tragedy of the Civil War, as to its bearing upon only one individual; although we know that it struck deep into all of the homes of this country, north and south as well. Imagine if you can the heart-throbs and the brain storm of Mary Ann Randolph Custis Lee, when the time came for her to decide whether she should remain with the estate of her noble
father, or turn back upon that grand and magnificent heritage and cast her lot with her husband; and, remember, against the flag of Washington, the flag of her father. To go with her husband meant the abandonment of the Arlington Mansion, her birthplace, her childhod home, the home of her mother, and of her father.
Today, we may realize that her abandonment of the property was unwise; but our viewpoint is vastly different. She was the wife of Robert E. Lee; and, to the marriage vows which she decided to keep, she added the other wonder words of Scripture: “Whither thou goest, I will go. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.” And so she went with Robert E. Lee, and dwelt with his people. We know, but she did not know, that if she had remained there in possession of her own individual estate, no matter what course her husband might have pursued, the property would not and could not have been taken from her.
Does the extreme critic say that she should have remained and held the property for her son? The answer is this: the eldest son, the heir to follow her, George Washington Custis Lee, was with her, and he gave up his title voluntarily, when his mother gave up her title. He went with his father, as she went with her husband.
At the Military Academy of the United States, at West Point, the Constitution of the United States was taught; and in the teaching the doctrine of “State sovereignty” was emphatically inculcated.
While a student there Robert E. Lee was taught that doctrine, and he believed it thoroughly. Moreover, the son, George Washington Custis Lee, was taught the same doctrine at West Point; and Custis Lee, the heir presumptive, believed in that interpretation of the Constitution as it was officially taught at West Point; and thus both father and son, graduates of West Point Military Academy, were merely doing as they had been officially taught to do, when they followed the fortunes of the sovereign State of Virginia and entered the army of the Confederate States of America, when Virginia entered that confederacy.
After the four years of civil war the State of Virginia was not represented in the Congress of the United States until January, 1870; and then, Senator John W. Johnston of Virginia introduced in the Senate at Washington on January 22, 1870, a petition of one of the citizens of Virginia, Mary Ann Randolph Lee, stating that “it cannot be doubted that a serious cloud rests upon the title of the Government to the Arlington Estate,” and adding:
“To remove that cloud and quiet the title, the petitioner and her son, G. W. C. Lee (he owner of the revision) will execute and deliver such necessary releases and conveyances as may be adjudged sufficient to sanction and quiet any claim which the Government may now have, by making legal and valid title to the property, for three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000.00).
No action was taken by the Congress concerning that petition, and it was not allowed to go onto the calendar for consideration.
Mary Ann Randolph Lee died in November, 1873, and the claim to the Arlington Estate at once vested in her eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, by revision of the will.
On April 6, 1874, Senator Johnston presented to the Senate a memorial from the claimant, G. W. C. Lee, offering to convey to the Government his fee simple title “upon the payment of a just compensation.”
That proposal also was ignored, and nothing was done to clarify the title to the estate until March 31, 1883, when the Congress appropriated the sum of $150,000 “for the purchase of the Arlington Estate.”
Thereupon George Washington Custis Lee executed a deed-covering title to all of his rights to the property, thereby removing the last cloud to the title of the Government to that magnificent estate; an estate which was worth, at that time, not less than half a million dollars.
On April 22, 1861, Col. Robert E. Lee and all of the members of his family, departed from Arlington; and, until May 24 of that year, nobody dwelt at Arlington but a few of the faithful slaves.
On May 3, 1861, Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, commanding the armies of the United States, ordered General J. K. F. Mansfield to “Seize and fortify Arlington Heights, for the defenses of Washington City.”
At two o'clock on the morning of May 24, 1861, troops began the invasion of Virginia, crossing the Long Bridge and the Aqueduct Bridge, and those troops occupied the Arlington Estate, pitching their tents on those heights all the way from Four-Mile-run to and including the grounds surrounding the Arlington Mansion, and overlooking the Capital City opposite Georgetown College.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, one of the great men of the United States Army who rendered distinguished service during a long and honorable life, without seeking and of course without acquiring fame, was the first official who “dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,” and realized the value of the Arlington Estate to the Nation as the location for a National cemetery. It was he who presented the idea to Secretary Stanton, and it was because of his tireless insistence that the auction sale was ordered, at which sale the Government acquired a tax-sale title to the estate on January 11, 1864.
Four months thereafter, on May 13, 1864, Quartermaster General Meigs ordered the burial at Arlington of about a score of Federal soldiers who had died of wounds received in the battles of the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania Court House, Virginia. They were buried in the terrace which then bordered the garden, in the rear of the mansion; and that was the beginning of Arlington National Cemetery.
On June 15, 1864, Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, issued an order setting apart two hundred acres of the estate, including the mansion, “for a Military Cemetery, to be laid out and enclosed for the burial of soldiers dying in the hospitals, in and about Washington City.”
FIRST DECORATION DAY
May 30, 1868, General John A. Logan, the first Commander-in-Chief of the newly organized Grand Army of the Republic, promulgated an order setting apart that day as Memorial Day throughout the entire country, and exhorting the veterans and all of the bereaved ones of the land to “decorate the graves of the fallen citizen soldiery.” And so, May 30 was named both Memorial Day and Decoration Day; the official name of Memorial Day having been given at a later date, when that day was made a national holiday.
Major General James A. Garfield, of Ohio, then a Member of the House of Representatives, delivered the first Memorial Day address at Arlington on May 30, 1868, from a platform, with an awning, which was erected on the lawn in front of the Arlington Mansion on the very spot where George Washington Parke Custis had often pitched the “Tent of Washington,” to honor his guests. And there, every year afterwards, the exercises of Memorial Day were held, until the year 1897, when the Sylvan Temple was prepared, and from the forum there President McKinley addressed a large concourse.
To describe and make mention of all of the monuments and improvements since that day would require a volume; a treatise more elaborate than this condensation of history.
More than 40,000 soldiers of the Civil War are buried on the Arlington Estate; and, until this day, every aged veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic who dies in Washington City, is there interred with military honors, although the few surviving veterans go to the Cemetery now in automobiles; whereas, until ten years ago they were accustomed to march the entire distance from almost any point in Washington City.
Twenty years ago, when it was proposed to have buried in Arlington National Cemetery a veteran of the War with Spain, the old soldiers protested vigorously, because that place had been set apart exclusively for them. But the old boys were finally convinced that there is room enough for all; and so it is customary now for the bodies of the Spanish War veterans to be carried there also for the last sounding of “taps.”
And today, as the years have gone rolling by, there has been buried there with national honors the body of “The Unknown Soldier” who died in France and was found on the battlefield; and there are so many others of the American Legion buried there, that it is not prophecy to state that the many other unused acres will be occupied in the same way, as the corroding canker and the gnawing tooth of time increases the number of those soldiers who will be obliged to join “the bivouac of the dead.”
Half a century elapsed before the Nation practically and officially followed the sage and far-seeing counsel of General Grant, who said at the conclusion of the war of 1861–1865, “Let us have Peace.” Half a century of time had mellowed the hearts and obliterated the hatreds in the memories of the soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic, and a place was set apart for the brave American soldier boys who followed Robert E. Lee beneath the famous battle flag known as “The Southern Cross.”
When there was erected, unveiled and dedicated there a monument for those soldier boys of “Dixie” this writer was there and saw the fulfilment not only of the counsel of General Grant but of another brave Union soldier, Major William McKinley, who had said while in Georgia, that “it is time that we honor the memory of the dead soldiers of the South.”
Inasmuch as this country has captured the body, the army, the name and the fame of Robert E. Lee; concerning whom Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott wrote “he is the very best soldier I have ever seen in the field;” and inasmuch as this country has honored that hero of the War with Mexico with a statue in the Capitol; and inasmuch as his fame as a soldier is a part of the history of the Nation; the reader will not object to the prediction of a Virginian by birth, that some day the National Cemetery at Arlington will be made the more completely “National,” by the interment there of the bodies of Robert Edward Lee; his wife, the sole inheritance owner of the estate when she died; and the last Custis-owner, George Washington Custis Lee; whose deed of conveyance gave to the Government a clear title to the property.
Upon the Lee Monument it should be inscribed that George Washington Custis Lee, a born soldier, was a first honor man all of the time when he was a cadet at West Point; that he received not one demerit mark; that he was graduated at the head of his class; and that, in 1864, when General Robert E. Lee was seriously ill, President Jefferson Davis, himself a trained soldier of West Point and of the Mexican War, said: “In the event of the death of General Robert E. Lee, I shall at once appoint his equal as a soldier, his son, George Washington Custis Lee, as the commander of all of the armies of the Confederacy now in the field.”
Then, “after these many days” will be completely fulfiled the nope of the heart of General Grant who said so fervently:
“Let us have Peace!”
OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM
“An Ode to Anacreon,” is of European origin. The words and the air were devoted to jollifications and orgies. The “Ode to Anacreon” is a drinking song, for drunkards; human beings of a past age.
Unfortunately, Francis Scott Key wrote his poetic words to suit that tune. Hence, the Star Spangled Banner cannot be the national anthem of a sane and sober people.
“Dixie” is the most inspiringly popular air known to our people.
“Dixie” was written in America.
“Dixie” was produced by the brain of an American citizen; and a native-born citizen, too.
“Dixie” was written in the State of Ohio.
“Dixie” was first produced in public in the city of Cincinnati.
“Dixie,” although sent forth on the northern side of the officially known border line, “Mason and Dixon's Line” (the line between the long-time unfriendly sections); was captured by the Confederates, adopted and held by them.
“Dixie” has become sacred to the South-land, although it belongs to all of our now, forever, UNITED States.
When my esteemed friend General Fitzhugh Lee returned from the position of Consul-General to Cuba in 1898, he said to me: “After the battleship Maine had been destroyed, every day from that date until my departure from Havana, I was pointed out as ‘The Yankee Consul General.’ Just think of that! And you know that I was an active Confederate anti-Yankee soldier for four years. But we are known now as ‘Yankees’ all over the world, and this is now ‘Yankee Land.’ ”
That's how the writer came to entitle his poetic story of our patriotic history, “Yankee Land.”
Whistle it! Sing it! It's YOUR tune. It's OUR “Dixie.”
OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM
By SMITH D. FRY
Our Anthem tells of Lexington,
The Revolutionary War brave Yankees won.
'Twas a thrill from Bunker Hill
Till the foemen hence were hurled.
George Washington, in fearless manner,
On Cambridge raised the Star Spangled banner.
Now it gleams o'er the streams
And the ramparts of the world.
Our battle flags are flying, hooray! hooray!
Revere, Ward, Greene, Gates, Patrick Henry,
O'er ocean wave, Freedom to save,
While Tyranny is dying.
Hooray, hooray, the Stars and Stripes forever!
Hooray, hooray, our Yankee Land forever!
John Hancock, Jefferson, our heroes were many;
Soldiers brave, statesmen grave,
Risked their lives for Yankee Land.
Our bold Continentals, in their ragged regimentals,
Left their wives, homes, sweethearts and dearest sentimentals
Gallant band, heart in hand
To create this Yankee Land.
CHORUS: Our battle flags, etc.
At Valley Forge in hunger and in cold.
They did shiver.
Then followed noble George across Delaware River;
And they smote the Red Coat,
To preserve this Yankee Land.
First in war, first in peace, earth's greatest of men,
Was first in the hearts of his countrymen
A leader brave, God gave,
To enfranchise Yankee Land.
CHORUS: Our battle flags, etc.
From Tennessee mountains and deep foggy bottoms,
With Jackson, they fought behind bales of cotton.
Every shot hit the spot,
And they saved their Yankee Land.
Davy Crockett died in glory at the white Alamo,
To avenge him, Yankees then conquered Mexico
Fighting hot, they followed Scott,
And expanded Yankee Land.
CHORUS: Our battle flags, etc.
Our Yankee boys' daddies followed Grant and Lee,
While Sherman raised “war” on his march to the sea.
Strife raged, battles waged
In divided Yankee Land.
Then “Let us have peace,” said Grant to Lee.
“United we are, and ever shall be.
Keep your sword.” Praise the Lord
For united Yankee Land.
CHORUS: Our battle flags, etc.
Spanish ships were shattered with each cannon's throb.
“After breakfast,” said Dewey, “we'll finish this job.”
And he did Dewey did,
With his fleet from Yankee Land.
At Santiago, “sailor boys behind the great guns;”
In Porto Rico soldier boys victories won.
Sailor boys, soldier boys,
Conquered peace for Yankee Land.
CHORUS: Our battle flags, etc.
Then Congress declared to the land of the brave
“No nation on earth shall the Kaiser enslave;
Make them free, free as we.
All are free in Yankee Land.”
Then victory came both on land and sea
To the boys whose daddies followed Grant and Lee.
Soldier boys, sailor boys,
Over there for Yankee Land.
CHORUS: Our battle flags, etc.
(Copyright, 1917, by Smith D. Fry.)
Every American Citizen, particularly every boy and every girl in this land should read
FRY'S PATRIOTIC STORY OF THE CAPITOL
This work disseminates
THE AMERICAN'S CREED
By HON. WM. TYLER PAGE
I BELIEVE in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable, established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies.
THIS LITTLE BOOK IS REALLY
THE ONLY WORTH WHILE CAPITOL SOUVENIR
In addition to the wonderful complete Story, this condensed marvel of literary power contains fine copper-plate engravings showing everything of importance. They are:
1. The Capitol Dome.
2. East Front of the Capitol.
3. Library of Congress.
4. Famous Bronze Doors, costing $28,500.
5. Capitol Rotunda.
6. The Four Priceless Trumbull Paintings; Declaration of Independence; Victory at Saratoga; Victory at Yorktown; Washington Resigning His Commission at Close of the War.
10. Four History Paintings, by different artists.
14. Brumidi's Romanesque Canopy.
15. Brumidi's World-Famous Fresco, Around the Rotunda.
16. The West Front.
17. The Supreme Court Room.
18. The President's Room.
19. The Marble Room.
20. Senate Reception Room.
21. The Senate Chamber.
22. The Battle of Lake Erie.
23. The Flag of Washington.
24. Statuary Hall.
25. The Original Hall of the House.
26. The Hall of the House of Representatives.
27. The Willard Statue.
28. The Speaker's Lobby.
29. The Gold Room.
30. The Proclamation of Emancipation; showing Lincoln and His Cabinet when Proclamation was issued. Painted in the White House.
31. Westward Ho; the Incomparable Mural Painting of the March of Civilization.
32. Face of the Goddess of Freedom, Photographed Specially, on the very Tiptop of the Capitol.
These expensive engravings are worth many times the small price of the story; and they go, without extra charge, with the condensed and incomparable Patriotic Story, by a distinguished American Journalist.
Price Twenty-five Cents By Mail Thirty Cents
FRY'S PATRIOTIC SCHOOL HISTORY
OF THE CAPITOL
Every educator, in every school, academy, college or university should have “Fry's Complete School History of the Capitol.”
In an interesting and entertaining manner, the author uses his story of the Capitol as a vehicle for teaching the Constitution of the United States; a Book on Civics, of great value.
CONSTITUTION IN A NUTSHELL
“Smith D. Fry, veteran newspaper writer, has written a brochure on Constitutional law, and it is a remarkable condensation of the supreme law of the land, and will be of the greatest value to boys and girls, who Smith says should have indelibly impressed on their minds the legend—‘all men and women are created equal.’
“Never exploiting himself in the slightest degree, but allowing his work to speak for itself, Mr. Fry has never heretofore spoken of the fact nor intimated that he was a student of law; and yet, he was graduated by the National University Law School of this city forty years ago, in the class of 1879.
“That he has been a profound student of constitutional law ever since that time, in some degree accounts for the fact that he has enjoyed the confidence and intimate friendship of such scholars in public life as Senator Hill of New York, Senator Hoar of Massachusetts, Senator Davis of Minnesota, Senator Quay of Pennsylvania, Senator Spooner of Wisconsin, Speaker Reed of Maine, Speaker Cannon, Speaker Clark and all others in that intellectual class.”—From The Washington Herald.
Price Fifty Cents
By Mail Thirty Cents
SMITH D. FRY, Author
P.O. Box 1714, Washington, D.C.