This Certifies that
has subscribed to the
Lee Memorial Fund
to be used in the enlargement and
elaboration of the Lee Memorial
Chapel and the perpetuation of
General Lee's work at Washington
and Lee University, Lexington, Va.
C. B. Tate
Custodian and Treasurer
by Lee Memorial Fund
C. B. Tate, Treasurer
Robert E. Lee
WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE
TO HIS LIFE AND SERVICES AT
WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY
Published for the
LEE MEMORIAL FUND
and dedicated to the
DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY
General Lee on “Traveler”
Captain Robert E. Lee, U.S.A.
WASHINGTON AND LEE! What thrilling days, dazzling in splendor, these names revive; what romantic glamour surrounds them; what potent stimulant to youthful ambition; what blessing and benediction to all who cherish liberty, and through it honor purity of motive, and devotion to duty!
Washington and Lee! Spiritual father and son were these most eminent Virginians, Southrons, citizens of the world, and a psychic influence seems to have directed them through almost identical physical mold and
closely paralleling environment. Both of gentle English origin; born in the county of Westmoreland, Virginia; shortly deprived of a father's guiding counsel; reared under a mother's influence; early adopting the profession of arms; quickly attaining first rank among military men of their day; brilliant commanders of the greatest soldiers of all times; retiring into humbler calling with the serenity of bearing that is the emblem of real greatness. Washington, the exquisite refinement of Colonial purity, prototype and forecast of Lee, the perfect flower of a civilization that all America emulates today.
Washington and Lee At the boundary line of the great University of Washington and Lee, Lexington, Virginia, one approaches a shrine of sacred memories that has no counterpart in America. This placid scene, with colorful sunshine filtering through tall trees, penciling with light impressive colonnades, softly revealing stately Colonial architecture, suggests the calm, benevolent Washington, whose endowment of the original academy brought to it the name of Washington College; but the subtle influence that permeates this dignified landscape and kindles a thousand emotions is drawn from the constant recurrence of the fragrant memory of the knightly Lee, who cast about the institution and its environs the luster of his last years and maturest mentality, the honor of his name, and the continued evidence of his entire consecration to duty.
Washington and Lee! Here is ever perceived the intangible form of General Lee's luminous character, towering above his fellows, and still being discovered reaching into greater and greater perspectives as passing time clarifies the vision and purifies the hearts of men. Here, also, is the most beautiful memorial that human hands have wrought from the chastity of marble—the chieftain asleep, his stainless sword beside him, stilled by his restraining hand. And beneath this shrine, Mecca to tens of thousands, rests the dust of this man who commands universal homage more than half a century after a perfected life had been crowned with the most exalted example of self-abnegation and entire consecration to the loftiest ideals.
No one can stand on this sward unmoved, or indulge this communion of nobility without instant elevation and continuing betterment, for here lies and here lives one of the really great of all time; divinely inspirational in love of country: reaching into the supreme heights of military achievement; yet no less eminent as private citizen, counselor of youth, friend of every man.
Δ Δ Δ
September 18, 1865, a solitary horseman rode into Lexington, Virginia, a gracious, regal figure, seated on a handsomely proportioned, muscular, gray horse.
General Lee on “Traveler”!
Instinctively, the community seemed to have sensed the presence of this greatest figure of the South. The narrow streets that the celebrated war-horse traversed were livened with men, women and children in earnest rivalry to offer homage to the world-famous soldier who had come to Lexington to direct the education of Southern youth at Washington College. It was a reverent oblation to the idol of their hearts; and it was a triumphal re-entry into the hearts of hundreds of thousands of others who had followed his banner in stirring feats of arms; or, through heroic sacrifice, had served their stricken land as valorously as if by sword and fire on the field of battle.
Three Historic Homes of General Robert E. Lee
For here again was concrete evidence of the purity and loftiness of General Lee's character.
A powerful corporation of the Great Metropolis had tendered him what was then regarded a fabulous sum to become its president; transatlantic admirers had urged him to accept an estate and honors abroad; other advantageous offers had come to him, each showing the way to a life of ease in agreeable surroundings. But, as ever throughout his life, he saw only the narrow path of duty, and severely putting aside self, he consistently trod the way, sustained by the elevated sense of personal responsibility that had set the stamp of greatness on him in early youth; that had made him the model student at West Point; the instant champion of his native State when internal revolution threatened her authority; the soldier unafraid in the wild mountain passes of Mexico when, almost single-handed, he turned the tide of war, and drew from General Winfield Scott that great brevet of praise: “Captain Lee is the very best soldier I ever saw in the field!”; the kindly, paternal commandant of the United States Military Academy at West Point; the affectionate son, who rather than strike at his mother State, turned from President Lincoln's tender of command of the United States armies and became a subordinate soldier of Virginia; the soul of an immortal army of incredible valor and equal fortitude in constant attrition and final exhaustion; the sustaining influence of an impoverished people in bravely accepting the adverse fortunes of war—and now in declining a life of comfort to become the head of a broken college, for the good of the men of the future.
Here, in the little town of Lexington, hushed in its compound of lofty mountains, sweetened by the thought of Washington, his Great Exemplar; consecrated by the last resting place of his famous “right-arm,” Stonewall Jackson—he sat “Traveler,” the same imposing figure that had sounded the whole gamut of military greatness—come to serve rather than to accept ministration.
To those who looked on him there was pictured the eminent commander whose prescience continuously forecast the enemy's design; the uncanny skill that drafted and directed campaigns destined to shape the conduct of war for generations; the audacious, intrepid, irresistible offense and the inexhaustible resources of defense—the sublimity of military genius; the three accidents that swept absolute victory from his grasp through loss in the moment of triumph of Johnston at Seven Pines; peerless Jackson at Chancellorsville; Longstreet in the Wilderness. Then the vision of martial glory gave place to the kindly face of the Christian Gentleman—yet greater, in that he came to give all to the helpless, with no thought of self impairing his vision; that men measuring to the standards he had set for himself were to be reared from the shattered family circles of the Southland and fitted for the greater civilization that was to form a social and commercial fabric even more imposing than had been projected for the Confederate States—but within a newly cemented Union of States, and a blood bond of brotherly affection.
General Lee and faithful “Traveler” had descended from dizzy heights of glory, down through the darkened shades of agonizing disappointment and thwarted purpose, but the soul of the renowned horseman had ascended again into an altitude of distinction that few great men ever attain.
Whatever the reaction of his emotions, his words were few and restrained: “I have led the young men of the South to battle. I have seen many of them die in the field. I shall now devote myself to training men to do their duty in life.”
Δ Δ Δ
Mr. Edward Clifton Gordon, President Lee's proctor, has lately stated that probably the coming of General Lee to Washington College resulted from Col. Bolivar Christian overhearing a remark of General Lee's eldest daughter, who said: “The people of the South are offering my father everything but work, and work is the only thing he will accept at their hands.”
At a later meeting of Washington College trustees, Colonel Christian brought to the board's attention the possibility of inducing General Lee to head the college, and Judge Brockenbrough, then rector of the board, was sent to inform the prospective president of his election.
After deliberate consideration, he accepted the position.
General Lee was inducted into office as president of Washington College on October 2, 1865. Immediately he applied his tireless energies to this new work, and quickly reduced it to perfect method.
This was a task that would have discouraged men unaccustomed to the effect of discipline and system in a large way; for as an educational institution, Washington College was then little more than a name, less than an efficient academy; wnth few students, and buildings pillaged, defaced, and falling into ruins; with a slender faculty, and little endowment.
But his presence gave it instant prestige and vivified it with life that flows as naturally from such a character as electric current traverses the wire. Soon Washington College took on the semblance of a great university, and began to be known as an institution of learning that was to be reckoned among the greater colleges.
It was most natural that his character should become a lodestone to draw the flower of Southern youth to this point and that they should become surcharged with the elevation of his ideals. He was the fellow of every student, yet set apart by the commanding dignity with which he surrounded his office. Always sympathetic, helpful, thoughtful of the interest and future of the individual; constantly aligning the student body with that standard of conduct always his own, he brought to the office of educator an influence for good that well earned for him the encomium: “General Lee as college president has ennobled every college in the land.”
Reproduction of autograph letter of General Lee, replying to tender of presidency of Washington College
His work was carried on with wonderful energy; prompt at the morning hour, lasting well through the day; always available to his developing faculty for counsel and direction; ready to see every caller, and with his innate courtesy, to answer every letter; like a father to his students.
Students came from every part of the South, many of his soldiers whose scholastic training had been interrupted by the war, and sons of other immortal veterans who had stood the shock of battle in the great victories around Richmond; at Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville; in the epic of Gettysburg, and the battles sequent to the Maryland-Pennsylvania campaign: Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor—and through the long-drawn exhaustion of the Confederate forces, down to the hour when 8,000 footsore, ragged and hunger-stricken heroes, peers of Cæsar's Tenth Legion and Napoleon's Old Guard, surrendered to the enveloping forces of Grant and Sherman. Great sacrifices were necessary to send these boys to General Lee's tutelage, but the deprivations gave to the South many of its present leaders of thought and action, and formed the cornerstone of a structure to which the world now owes much in literature, art, jurisprudence and commerce.
The veterans' confidence was surely placed. He was “Marse Robert,” the resourceful, the circumspect, the wise, the kind, translated to college halls from fields that had long bound commander and men in one sympathetic body.
Because of General Lee's presence, money came readily; the grounds were enlarged; additional buildings were erected; the faculty was increased; apparatus and library were extended, and the new president's broad plans of development went forward with the alacrity of a military campaign.
General Lee was unsparing of himself. The correspondence of the college was from his own hand; he was constantly in his office and always to be seen by callers, faculty, parents and students alike. His time seemed as flexible as the demand made on it, however much it should be. No letter was unanswered; no effort of courtesy was too laborious; no faculty meeting was held without him; no bill was too insignificant to have his own painstaking audit.
Students found inspiration and stimulant in the knowledge of the president's familiarity with their scholastic standing, outside deportment, home life and athletic attainments, and although a request to appear before him was not received with equanimity, nevertheless the student knew that justice always attended the reproof and admonition that came from the head of the institution, and he was prepared to accept the justice of the reproof, couched as it invariably was in terms of courtesy and gentleness, yet so direct that the effect was never lost.
Professor Joynes, of General Lee's faculty, has related that “his sense of personal duty was also expanded into a warm solicitude for all who were associated with him. To the faculty, he was an elder brother, beloved and revered, and full of tender sympathy. To the students, he was a father in carefulness, in encouragement, in reproof. Their welfare and their conduct and character as gentlemen were his chief concern; and this solicitude was not limited to their collegiate years, but followed them abroad in life. He thought it to be the office of the college not merely to educate the intellect, but to make Christian gentlemen. The moral and religious character of the students was more precious in his eyes even than their intellectual progress, and was made the special object of his personal solicitude. In the discipline of the college his moral influence was supreme. A disciplinarian—but no seeker after small offences, or stickler for formal regulations, Youthful indiscretion found in him the most lenient of judges; but falsehood and meanness he did not tolerate.”
General Lee constantly sought to eradicate feelings of bitterness and rancor resulting from the war. He carefully abstained from expressions and acts that may have been misconstrued, and discouraged praise of himself in the public utterances of students and faculty, from an intense desire that the war and its results be left to the past, and that all should resolutely face a future that held promise of peace and material prosperity.
Above every other thought stood his overruling passion for duty.
When he, representing the Southern people at Appomattox, accepted the hard decree of fate and yielded his army, this was to his mind the close of a momentous period; the end of his struggle and his people's designs, and it was also the entrance into a new horizon, along a new line of progression, in which the elements of previous action had no part.
To him, the surrender was an inviolable contract. However, never for a moment did he lose the vision of his people or the justice of their cause, although steadily pursuing the terms of the Appomattox covenant, and always wielding his powerful influence on the veteran soldiery and their sons to join him in steadfast adherence to that agreement.
How difficult this may have been to a soul of lesser measure may be conjectured when thought is taken of the venomous malignity of rabid partisans who lost no opportunity to heap upon his name insult, ignominy, and detraction. But for General Lee there was always the constant star of his serene soul to uphold his eyes so that this turgid stream of vituperation flowed beyond his feet unrecognized.
Let it be said in their honor that those who had fought most bravely against him were ever ready to acknowledge his greatness as antagonist and commander, and his patriotism and purity as man and citizen.
General Lee's freedom from rancor was demonstrated by an indefinite number of significant incidents, but never more clearly than by this incident, related by a Northern visitor to Lexington: “One day last autumn the writer saw General Lee standing at his gate, talking pleasantly to a poorly-clad wayfarer, who seemed very much pleased at the cordial courtesy of this great man, and turned ofif, evidently delighted, as we came up. After exchanging salutations, the general said, pointing to the retreating form, ‘That is one of our old soldiers, who is in necessitous circumstances.’ I took it for granted that it was some veteran Confederate, when the noblehearted chieftain quietly added, ‘He fought on the other side, but we must not think of that.’ I afterward ascertained—not from General Lee, for he never alluded to his charities—that he had not only spoken very kindly to this ‘old soldier’ who had ‘fought on the other side,’ but had sent him on his way rejoicing in a liberal contribution to his necessities.”
Δ Δ Δ
The source of his power over men and his ready detachment from the influence of untoward circumstance flowed from his Christianity. No one came into contact with General Lee without quickly recognizing his entire consecration to the Greater Cause. Although a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, he was free from sectarian feeling. A broad catholic view permeated his every expression and act; doctrinal discussion fell before his quiet remonstrance that it was better to become “a real Christian,” than to yield effort to establishing a dogma. This breadth of feeling was constantly expressed through letters of his own hand to ministers of the various denominations at Lexington inviting them in turn to conduct the appointed divine services at the college chapel. His charities, very large in view of his income, were freely bestowed on all alike, yet so privately distributed that the divine injunction of withholding knowledge of good works was always observed.
His earnest piety found expression everywhere. Before his victorious army at Winchester he uncovered to a passing chaplain, with the exclamation: “I salute the Church of God!” In the privacy of his retirement on the battlefield, when he wrote to his family: “My supplications are constantly ascending for you, my children and my country.” After the war, when threatened with prosecution and death, he said of his traducers: “We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.” Then in his daily work at Washington College, when he said to Rev. Dr. White: “I shall be disappointed, sir; I shall fail in the leading object that brought me here, unless the young men all become Christian. I wish you and others of your sacred profession to do all you can to accomplish this result.”
Miss Mary Custis and Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, at the time of their marriage
This intense religious fervor begat an extraordinary gentleness and sweetness of demeanor and such immediate susceptibility to the graces of childhood, that perhaps no other man was so beloved by the little men and women. It is said that he knew every child in Lexington and that every child loved him.
Foreign writers had frequently commented on the softness of General Lee's feelings, and it had been said that it was a characteristic ill becoming a soldier; that a rough dictator was wanted by the Confederacy. But little knew these men of the iron will that rested beneath the velvet touch; or the hypnotism of his overmastering mind; or the command that could light in his eyes; nor could they reach the clear heights from which he viewed the cleavage between right and wrong.
Δ Δ Δ
General Lee's physique was superb—to his last hours as vigorous and robust as when in continued exhaustive marches and sleepless nights his endurance seemed to have no end.
In early youth his fine figure and courtly bearing was so remarkable that one who observed him as a boy declared that he looked more like a great man than anvone she had ever seen.
Washington and Lee University, grounds and buildings. Grace Church, of which General Lee was a vestryman, appears at the left. Near the center is the present Lee Memorial Chapel
Insert—Washington College, during General Lee's administration
At West Point, a biographer records that the “solid and lofty qualities of the young cadet were remarked on as bearing a close resemblance to those of Washington.”
Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley, when a young officer in the British army, attached himself to headquarters staff of the Confederate Army as an observer. Of his first meeting with General Lee, in 1862, General Wolseley wrote:
“Every incident in that visit is indelibly stamped on my memory. All he said to me then and during subsequent conversations is still fresh in my recollection. It is natural it should be so; for he was the ablest general, and to me seemed the greatest man I ever conversed with, and yet among others I have had the pleasure of meeting Von Moltke and Prince Bismarck. General Lee was one of the few men who ever seriously impressed and awed me with their inherent greatness. Forty years have come and gone since our meeting and yet the majesty of his manly bearing, the genial, winning grace, the sweetness of his smile, and the impressive dignity of his old-fashioned style of dress, come back to me among my most cherished recollections. His greatness made me humble and I never felt my own insignificance more keenly than I did in his presence. * * * He was, indeed, a beautiful character, and of him it may be truthfully written: ‘In righteousness did he judge and make war.’ ” Afterward, Wolseley's admiration found this expression: “According to my notion of military history, there is as much instruction, both in strategy and in tactics, to be gleaned from General Lee's operations of 1862 as there is to be found in Napoleon's campaigns of 1796.”
Thomas Nelson Page, one of the foremost of America's literati, in early youth a student at Washington College, wrote of him: “Craving due allowance alike for the immaturity of a boy and the mellowing influence of passing years, I will try to picture General Lee as I recall him, and as he must be recalled by thousands who yet remember him. He was, in common phrase, one of the handsomest men I ever knew and easily the most impressive looking. His figure, which in earlier life had been tall and admirably proportioned, was now compact and rounded rather than stout, and was still in fine proportion to his height. His head, well set on his shoulders, and his erect and dignified carriage, made him a distinguished and indeed a noble figure. His soft hair and carefully trimmed beard, silvery white, with his florid complexion and dark eyes, clear and frank, gave him a pleasant and kindly expression, and I remember how, when he smiled, his eyes twinkled and his teeth shone. He always walked slowly, and even pensively. * * * The impression that remains with me chiefly is of his dignity and his gracious courtesy. * * * We honored him beyond measure, and after nearly fifty years, he is still the most imposing figure I ever saw.”
Δ Δ Δ
The last chapter in the moving history that centered around the personality of General Lee was begun at the end of September, 1870.
On the 28th of that month, after a morning of unusual activity, General Lee attended a meeting of the vestry of Grace Church, of which he was a member, and over which he presided at this time. His last recorded act was to contribute a liberal amount of money to complete the sum necessary to some desired church work. After adjournment he walked home, and at the evening meal, standing to invoke the divine blessing, as had been his custom, speech failed him, he sank in his chair, and was taken to his bedroom.
Congestion of the brain was the judgment of the physicians who attended him. He lay in a stupor from which no skill of medicine could fully rouse him. Those who were the more intimately acquainted with the distinguished patient felt that his malady was not so much physical as mental; the cerebral congestion was believed to be but a reflex of the trials of a heart and mind overburdened by the sorrows of his people, the sufferings of his paladins, and the continued untoward conditions of life in the South. Little more than a year before he had experienced a serious impairment of health from a kindred depression, and had only rallied from it through change of scene and other diversion at the Old White Sulphur Springs and points he had visited in adjoining States. Always he lived under this shadow. At last it overcame his noble spirit.
He scarcely spoke during the two weeks of his illness, even when conscious, showing little interest in the things that once were of such particular care to him. The suggestion of “Traveler” waiting to take him over the hills only brought a sorrowful negative from his moving head.
Lapsing into delirium, he again saw his invincible hosts and his beloved lieutenants in titanic struggle, their victorious eagles leading on; again his genius flashed athwart the battlefield; brilliant A. P. Hill* saluted his orders; the great movement went forward—and he slept.
It was on the 12th of October, 1870, that the end came. Tranquilly this great soul left its majestic temple. Then “all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”
Partial view of interior Lee Memorial Chapel, revealing recumbent statue
Born at Stratford, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on the 19th day of January, 1807; died in the president's house of Washington College. Lexington, Virginia, on the 12th day of October, 1870. Sixty-three years, so covered with laurel, so crowded with public service, so honored by men the world over, so revered by those who were near him or knew his exalted service, have not been the pan of another man. Trenchantly has Senator Hill given him space in history: “He was Cæsar without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward.”
Δ Δ Δ
On the morning of October 13th General Lee's body was borne to the college chapel that he had designed, preceded by many Confederate soldiers, followed by the Lexington clergy. “Traveler,” his war-horse, with equipments bound in crape, occupied the fourth position in the cortege. Trustees and faculty of the college, cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, citizens of the town and country, completed the mournful column, moving from the president's house beneath the flag of the State of Virginia. On the chapel platform he lay in state for two days, the casket blanketed in evergreens and flowers, and the face uncovered that all could have a last view of the illustrious soldier.
On October 14, a great funeral procession was formed, with General Lee's staff officers and Confederate soldiers as honor escort; the college faculty and students, executive and legislative dignitaries of the Commonwealth, and a great number of citizens of Virginia and other States. With this imposing attendance the great soldier was laid in the mausoleum of the chapel, while his former artillery commander. Rev. William N. Pendleton, read the burial service of the Episcopal Church.
Here was woven the first chaplet of the great memorial.
Eighteen hundred and seventy-one saw the name of the college become a part of this testimonial—“The Washington and Lee University.”
Later came the recumbent statue that lies just above the mausoleum—the marvelous conception of a Virginia sculptor, Edward Virginius Valentine, in wdiose studio at Richmond this most exquisite of all memorial marbles took form under his inspired chisel.
January 19, 1907, one hundred years after the birth of General Lee and thirty-seven years after his death, a Lee Centennial at Washington and Lee University produced a demonstration of feeling that has rarely attended a like celebration. The “Lee alumni” attended, almost entirely, a great number of men who have deeply etched the evidence of their work and character in the higher attainments of half a world. Leading men of the North came to testify to the softening and warmth of hearts where once only flint of hatred struck fire. By cable, wire and letter the intense interest of men everywhere was manifested. The letter of the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, illustrates the general recognition at this time of General Lee's eminence as man, soldier, and citizen:
General Lee's Office in the Chapel
Furnishings, books and papers remain as he left them on his last visit to this room
“General Lee has left us the memory, not merely of his extraordinary skill as a general, his dauntless courage and high leadership in campaign and battle, but also of that serene greatness of soul characteristic of those who most readily recognize the obligations of civic duty. Once the war was over he instantly undertook the task of healing and binding up the wounds of his countrymen, in the true spirit of those who feel malice toward none and charity toward all; in that spirit which from the throes of the civil war brought forth the real and indissoluble Union of today. It was eminently fitting that this great man, this war-worn veteran of a mighty struggle, who at its close simply and quietly undertook his duty as a plain, everyday citizen, bent only upon helping his people in the paths of peace and tranquillity, should turn his attention to educational work. * * * He declined to go abroad, saying that he sought only ‘a place to earn honest bread while engaged in some useful work.’ This statement brought him the offer of the presidency of Washington College. * * * To the institution which Washington helped to found Lee, in the same spirit, gave his services. * * * He applied himself to his new work with the same singleness of mind which he had shown in leading the Army of Northern Virginia. All the time, by word and deed he was striving for the restoration of real peace, of real harmony, never uttering a word of bitterness nor allowing a word of bitterness uttered in his presence to go unchecked. From the close of the war to the time of his death all his great powers were devoted to two objects: to the reconciliation of all his countrymen with one another, and to fitting the youth of the South for the duties of a lofty and broadminded citizenship. Such is the career that you gather to honor; and I hope that you will take advantage of the one-hundredth anniversary of General Lee's birth by appealing to all our people, in every section of this country, to commemorate his life and deeds by the establishment, at some great representative educational institution of the South, of a permanent memorial that will serve the youth of the coming years as he, in the closing years of his life, served those who so sorely needed what he so freely gave.” And a little later: “As a mere military man Washington himself cannot rank with the wonderful war chief who for four years led the Army of Northern Virginia. He will rank with the greatest of all English-speaking military leaders; and this holds true even when the last and chief of his antagonists, Ulysses S. Grant, may claim to stand as the full equal of Marlborough and Wellington.”
The recumbent statue of General Lee, by Valentine
Detail of recumbent statue of General Lee
Only a few years previous to this centenary a suggestion of the possibility of such universal recognition of General Lee's transcendent genius would have been received in some quarters with incredulity, if not definite hostility. But now, ill feeling and bitterness seemed to have been almost dissipated by clearer knowledge of the real issues of the war and the broad principles that prompted General Lee's adherence to the Confederate cause. Misunderstandings that clouded the reason of many old opponents, fostering animosities and heartburnings, had been swept away. Love, the supreme manifestation of The Infinite, had united the hearts of men who a while before had fiercely contested with sword and gun on the fields of Virginia. A notable comment upon this marvelous transformation in sectional feeling has designated it “a moral miracle.”
The Southerner, to wdiom the mind and soul of the Great Lee appears an open book, recognizes in him the touchstone. In him is seen a nature and spirit of quality so inspiring as to be irresistible: absence of passion in a mind of reason; crystalline fairness; refinement, with elemental strength; dignity and poise in a setting of utter simplicity.
Now, it is proposed to broaden the physical memorial at Lexington, through enlargement of the Lee Memorial Chapel, that it may become not only an artistic testimony in enduring materials, but as General Lee would have wished it to be, an ample housing for the students of his university in the study of the Word of God and the search for the Christian constancy that he felt must underlie every truly successful life; the focal point for the conclusion of the work of the various colleges of this comprehensive institution—university assemblies, commencement exercises, and the other formal gatherings that are an important part of its courses and the center of its inspirational life.
The mausoleum beneath the recumbent statue
Lee Memorial Chapel
To this end a Lee Memorial Fund is being established: to effect the reconstruction of this building and for its continuous custodianship, that the impress of General Lee's personality may be constantly exerted as a living force for the uplift of men everywhere, and that the tradition of his loyalty, grace and purity may be ever renewed, to continue a most precious legacy to State, Section, and Nation.
Δ Δ Δ
Paris holds one. New York one, Virginia two of the world's greatest shrines of military glory. Napoleon, Washington, Lee, and Grant.
Napoleon, the Corsican, lies in a tomb of porphyry, beneath the towering golden dome of the Church of the Invalides in Paris. In the center of a circular crypt of nearly forty feet diameter, twenty feet below the church floor, stands the massive sarcophagus, surrounded by twelve colossal figures commemorating the greater Napoleonic victories. At each sunset the throbbing of a military drum rises, and, as if with hundreds of harmonics, fills the structure with its martial sound, acclaiming First Consul and Emperor, and declaring the close of the day.
Washington's tomb, at Mount Vernon, is in the extreme of contrast. In the peaceful Virginia estate, whence he retired after unparalleled public service, is reflected the First President's quiet restraint, imposing dignity, transparent integrity, indomitable firmness, and freedom from ambition, caprice, or passion. No imposing shaft, or cast of metal, or mass of stone, could be so appropriate to his memory as the sweet soil of his native land, largely his gift to more than a hundred millions who now participate through him in safety, peace, and freedom.
On Riverside Drive, New York City, rests Grant, of Ohio, that last of the many antagonists whose successive blows attenuated the ranks of Lee's army and brought its resistance near the vanishing point at Appomattox. Grant, strong but retiring; magnanimous and gentle; always averse to publicity, is entombed with little less splendor than the great soldier at Paris, although with a worthiness that is completely recognized.
Lee, again like Washington, lies in the bosom of his Mother State, Virginia, whose proud history and rich traditions gave form to his early life and shaped his destiny. His simple tomb is housed in the little chapel so significant of the designer's sacrifices that it assumes an austere beauty strongly moving the ever-increasing thousands who approach it year by year. But General Lee's greater memorial is in his enshrinement in the hearts of his countrymen and the present general recognition of his lofty purpose and exalted character, his inestimable patriotic services, and his final noble sacrifice—the free gift of life itself to the youth of the land. The world has learned, as did Lexington, first to admire, then to venerate, and finally to reverence this most eminent Soldier, Patriot, Educator.
THE LEES OF VIRGINIA
Genealogical tracings carry the Lee family line back to Lanncelot Lee, of Loudon, France, who invaded England with William the Conqueror, and after the Battle of Hastings, was rewarded by a grant of land in Essex. More than a hundred years after there is mention of Lionel Lee, who at the head of a company of gentlemen accompanied Richard Cœur de Lion to the Holy Land in the third Crusade. His soldierly qualities, especially his daring gallantry at the siege of Acre, so excited the admiration of his sovereign that the king created for him the Earldom of Litchfield, and bestowed upon him the estate of Ditchley, a name finally attached to the early Virginia estate of the Lees. After his death, the armor of Lionel Lee was preserved in London Tower.
Then came Richard Lee, attached to the Earl of Surrey, and other Lees, Knights Companions of the Garter, whose banners with the Lee Arms were hung in the chapel at Windsor Castle, soldiers and gentlemen who left strong impress of their personality and attainments on the records of their time. Richard Lee came to Westmoreland County, Virginia, acquired large tracts of land, and built Stratford House, which was destroyed by fire. Later this structure was rebuilt by Thomas Lee, of the third generation, whose sons Richard Henry, Thomas Ludwell, Francis Lightfoot and Arthur Lee, rendered the most distinguished service to their country. Two of these sons, Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot, were signers of the Declaration of Independence. The first named, as a Congressman, moved the adoption of the Declaration.
Henry, a brother of Thomas Lee, the sixth son of the second Richard, established an estate in Westmoreland County, adjoining the homestead, and there built Lee Hall. To his third son he gave his name, and from the marriage of this Plenry Lee and Lucy Grymes, came another Henry, afterward the famous, “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, father of the more famous General Robert E. Lee. In this latter, greatest, Lee, were discovered the characteristics of Richard Lee of the Seventh Century, distinguished for masterly grasp of the controlling elements of great afifairs, intense energy, leonine courage, and absolute coolness in the face of imminent danger.
Marked reverence for Washington was observed by the Colonial Lees. It was “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, who, as a Congressman, at the death of his great friend, pronounced the fervid eulogy closing with the words: “First in war. first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen!”
Lee bibliography is large—especially in reference to General Robert E. Lee—but its entire study will be richly rewarded. In nearly every public library will be found the titles given below. On the bookshelves of every Southern home, and, of every reader everywhere who would become familiar with the facts that bear upon the history of the momentous days of our country, should be the greater number of these books. Especially should they be placed within the reach of the youth of the land, that in forming character the elevating influence of this leader of men should find place.
“Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee,” Captain R. E. Lee [his son]. Doubleday, Page & Co., New York.
“Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy. 1807–1870,” Henry Alexander White, M.A., Ph.D., D.D. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York.
“Robert E. Lee. the Southerner,” Thomas Nelson Page. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
“Robert E. Lee, Man and Soldier,” Thomas Nelson Page. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
“Robert E. Lee,” Philip Alexander Bruce. Geo. W. Jacobs & Co., Philadelphia.
“Life of General Robert Edward Lee,” C. S. Errickson. Barclay & Co., Philadelpliia.
“General Robert Edward Lee,” Fitzhugh Lee [his nephew and cavalry commander]. D. Appleton & Co., New York.
“Memoirs of Robert E. Lee,” A. L. Long [military secretary]. J. M. Stoddart & Co., New York.
“Lee the American,” Gamaliel Bradford, Jr. Houghton, Mifflin Co., Boston.
“A Life of General Robert E. Lee,” John Esten Cooke. D. Appleton & Co., New York.
“Lee and His Lieutenants,” E. A. Pollard. E. B. Treat & Co.. New York.
“Four Years Under Marse Robert,” Robert Stiles. Neale Publishing Co., New York.
“Lee's Centennial: An Address by Charles Francis Adams.” Houghton, Mifflin Co., Boston.
“Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee, Soldier and Man,” Rev. J. William Jones, D.D. Neale Publishing Co., New York.
“Personal Reminiscences. Anecdotes and Letters of Robert E. Lee.” Rev. J. William Jones, D.D. D. Appleton & Co., New York.
“The Soul of Lee; by one of his soldiers.” Randolph H. McKim. Longmans. Green & Co., New York.
Biography, letters, etc., of the earlier Lees are generally out of print, but may be found in the larger libraries.
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At the close of the Revolutionary War, “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, father of General Robert E. Lee, took up residence at Stratford House, Westmoreland County, Virginia. The original Stratford House was built by Richard Lee, the first of the family in the Colonies. In the time of Thomas Lee, of King's Council, it was destroyed by fire, and restored at a cost of $80,000, through a fund provided by admirers, including the Governor, merchants of the colony, and Queen Anne. The laborious part of the work was undertaken by servants of the manor, so that since no cash was paid for this, probably the $80,000 was spent for brick, furnishings, decorations, etc., imported from England. It was built in the form of H, with walls several feet thick; a thirty-foot salon in the center; in each wing a pavilion, with balustrades, and chimneys rising from the center of the roofs. This was an immense house; built for all time; intended to serve as a resort and retreat for future branches of the family. The location of Stratford House is a promontory on the south side of the Potomac. As originally designed, great lawns surrounded the house, with immense Lombardy poplars and other ornamental trees gracing the grounds.
In the year 1811 General Henry Lee left Stratford and located in Alexandria, Va., in order to secure for his children better education facilities. He died in Georgia, 1818; but Mrs. Lee continued to reside in Alexandria. From the Alexandria home, on the recommendation of President (“Old Hickory”) Jackson, Robert E. Lee went to West Point as cadet of the State of Virginia.
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In 1832, three years after General Lee had been graduated from West Point Military Academy, he married Mary Custis, daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, of Arlington, the adopted son of General Washington, and through this marriage came into possession of Arlington, and the “White House,” so constantly under discussion during the war and in the arbitrament of its issues. Many of the happiest days of General Lee's life were spent in Arlington, constantly cheered by an ideal home life in these stately surroundings and the confidence and afifection of his brother officers at Washington. Here also his tortured soul was rent between love of Virginia and desire to remain under the flag he had so conspicuously honored for nearly a quarter century—and here, finally resisting all efforts to dissuade him from casting his lot with his native State, the decision was made, as in duty bound, yet certainly aware that the cause could not prevail.
That this lovely setting of the romance of his life, the ornament of his official position, the evidence of his private fortune, the storehouse of Washingtonian memory and memento and the Lee family heirlooms, was to go on the altar of sacrifice, did not shade the color of his resolution.
Future prospect and present reputation alike were cast into the scale.
Soon this property was confiscated and later became a military cemetery, where now peacefully sleep forty thousand of the brave men who yielded their lives under the Stars and Stripes.
Years after the close of hostilities, the Supreme Court of the United States, by a five to four decision, awarded General G. W. Custis Lee, General Lee's eldest son, judgment for a portion of the value of Arlington, and absolute title was vested in The United States of America.
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How fortunate that the full vigor of Valentine's genius flowered along with the robust age of General Lee, and gave art such emblematic beauty, and posterity such enduring record of the lineaments of this lordly figure! That Valentine is a Virginian, and that sympathetic Southern hands were to mold the lines of portraiture for all future generations, may have swayed General Lee from his aversion to “sittings.”
The scene of the primary work was the sculptor's atelier in Richmond; the time, May 25, 1870. There accurate measurements of facial features were made, and the work on a bust begun. The next month of the same year—June 3—the artist took up his task at Lexington, where he rented a storehouse in a hotel and received his august visitor day to day, concluding his modeling and observations with minutest care.
Valentine noted in General Lee's bearing while under this close scrutiny, “a complete absence of the melodramatic in all that he said and did,” contrary to the experience of other great artists in touch with other famous men. So unaffected was General Lee that one morning he strode into the improvised studio at Lexington with a pair of used cavalry boots under his arm, responding to Valentine's wish for them to use as models.
Quiet did not always prevail, for the General's relation of experiences in Mexico, on the Virginia battlefields, and also his early life on the plantation, thrilled the auditor.
Valentine's mention of his own changed fortunes as a result of the war brought from General Lee the playful and sound comment: “An artist should not have too much money!” as if wealth induced sloth—but in a moment, quoting Marcus Aurelius, he healed the little wound with the consoling words: “Misfortune nobly borne is good fortune.”
At Lexington the sittings were rarely interrupted, although the artist and General Lee were closeted for days, the admonition having gone forth: “Let no one come in except Professor White, or my son Custis.” When the modeling was completed, Mrs. Lee became the critic, while her famous husband posed for comparison and comment that more certainly assured accuracy.
GENERAL LEE TO HIS SON
“You must study to be frank with the world. Frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted that you mean to do right. * * * * Never do a wrong thing to make a friend, or to keep one. * * * * Above all, do not appear to others what you are not. * * * * We should live, act, and say nothing to the injury of anyone.”
To another he said: “The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others, is the test of a true gentleman. The power that the strong have over the weak, the magistrate over the citizen, the employer over the employed, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the stupid—the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power, or authority, or a total absence of its use, when the case admits, will show the gentleman in his true light. The gentleman does not needlessly or unnecessarily remind an offender of wrong done him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget. The true gentleman of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.”
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GENERAL LEE AND SLAVERY
General Lee's aversion to slavery was well defined. He released the slaves held in his own right long before the declaration of war, giving his view of the evils of the system in words as unmistakable as some of the extremists above the Mason and Dixon Line. After the “emancipation proclamation,” he released all the negroes received from the Custis estate, the inheritance of Mrs. Lee.
Two years before the John Brown raid, General Lee wrote ; * * * * “In this enlightened age, there are few, I believe, but will acknowledge that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any country. It is useless to expatiate upon its disadvantages. I think it, however, a greater evil to the white race than to the black race. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, physically. The painful discipline they are enduring is necessary for their instruction as a race, and I hope will prepare them for better things. * * * * Their emancipation will sooner result from a mild and melting influence than from the storms and contests of fiery controversy.”
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Nearly every soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia knew General Lee's famous warhorse, “Traveler,” and one of the general's most familiar portraits is that of his mount on the “iron-gray” that carried him throughout the war, and brought him into Lexington when he became president of the great university now bearing his name. General Lee bought “Traveler” for his West Virginia campaign. He was a spirited horse, but was always subject to the control of the general's voice and hand. One who frequently saw General Lee on his favorite horse said the animal “always stepped as if conscious that he bore a king on his back.” General Lee wrote of him: “He is a Confederate gray. He has carried me through long night marches; the Seven Days' Battles around Richmond; the Second Manassas Battle; Sharpsburg, and many others.” “Traveler” survived his master several years, and his mounted skeleton is now one of the most interesting objects in the university museum.