100 Years Ago
Robert E. Lee Centennial Celebration, 1907
Note: The following eulogy is taken from The Spirit of the South: Orations, Essays and Lectures, by Colonel William Henry Stewart (New York and Washington, 1908), pp. 208–9.
[A eulogy delivered before Stonewall Camp, Confederate Veterans, May 2, 1905.]
It is a struggle, a continuous battle, to live. It is hard to live. I tremble from dread as I walk the highway of life. I fear more to live than I do to die. God help me to live, and I do not fear death.
A great man, Fitzhugh Lee, is dead—unburied to-night. He nobly fought the battles of life; trouble stood in his way like milestones on a turnpike, but he reached the goal with greater achievements than he reckoned, and his name is burned into our hearts as a hero whom we love.
We remember that after he sheathed his sword he pursued with his whole soul the teachings of Robert E. Lee, the great leader of the South, and had accomplished more to make lasting friendship between the North and the South than any other man who has lived to see the twentieth century, except John B. Gordon, of Georgia. He was one of the strongest arches in the bridge of peace across the bloody chasm of the intersectional war. He changed millions of enemies into friends, and chained their hearts in bonds of affection. He accepted the arbitrament of war and made peace the glory of a splendid career.
As a diplomat in Cuba he gave an enduring name for American history, and as the leader of the international celebration of the settlement of Jamestown he has awakened the enthusiasm of the nation, and died in its harness, with the armor of love over his heart and the whisper of pleasantness on his lips.
The last time I saw him we spoke from the same rostrum to the veterans and people of Princess Anne for a monument to the hero dead of that county. His eloquent words had the ring of pure metal, and his polished sentences lifted the souls of his audience to do honor to the proud people who had gone before, and to-day a monument to the Confederate soldiers of Princess Anne stands upon the court green of that noble county.
Fitz. Lee was our comrade in the war for Southern independence. He was one of our brightest lights in the darkness of defeat and reconstruction. He was Virginia's most brilliant Governor. He was one of our greatest fellow-citizens in the reunited United States. He was in the saddle to unfold to the world the proudest sentiment of the English speaking people—the sentiment which planted and cultivated the seed at Jamestown of the greatest republic of the world—when he fell dead like a soldier on the battlefield. His name needs no encomiums from us, but we need to speak of him for the good to us and to others. We point to him as an exemplar for our lives and the lives of our children. His conduct says: “Fight with cheerfulness the battles of life, having faith in the Redeemer, and all will be well.—
My poor words are but feeble expressions of our feelings on this solemn occasion.
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