Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 03.djvu/42

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32
Southern Historical Society Papers.

or such as these, arisen when he strove through days and bitter nights to find his duty.

He, we must remember, was wedded to no theory; his mind grasped concrete truth rather than abstractions. His horizon was bounded by no lines of neighborhood or of States. He knew the men of the North, as well as of the South; he had maturely weighed the wealth of the one and the poverty of the other. Few knew so well as he, none better, the devotion we could offer to any cause, but he knew, likewise, the stubborn, deep-resting strength of the Northern will that we took for a passing whim. He had all his life obeyed and respected the organized, concentrated form of the Union, and he, the pupil of Scott, the follower of Washington, the son of Light Horse Harry, might and should and did pause long. Paused long, to decide forever—to decide with never a look backward, with never a regret, even when the end had come, darker than his fears had pictured.

Cast away all, to obey the voice of Virginia, his country; to defend Virginia, his mother. Scarcely twice since the world began has mortal man been called to make such choice.

Will not history consent, will not mankind applaud when we still uphold our principles as right, our cause as just, our country to be honored, when those principles had for disciple, that cause for defender, that country for son, Robert Lee?

The day has by no means come to fix with absolute precision the rank of Lee among the world's great soldiers. But the day will come, and it is ours to gather and preserve and certify the facts to be the record before the dread tribunal of time.

Turning, then, to the soldiership of Lee; from first to last, we see his labor and exactness, giving always the power to gain from every means its utmost result. Thus, he so pursued the sciences which underlie the soldier's art, that he entered the army fully equipped with all that theory could teach, and whilst yet a subaltern was more than once entrusted with tasks of the engineers' bureau which had baffled the skill of men far older and more experienced. The same qualities were shown when he first saw actual war. To us who look back across the field of a gigantic strife, of a struggle where not brigades nor divisions but great armies were the units, where States were fortified camps and a continent the battle-ground; to us that march on Mexico seems as small as it is, in fact, far off in time and space. But small and great are relative, and the little army of Scott which gathered on the sands of Vera