Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/103

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


I jiff ami ( '/i<ii'<-/<>r of /tobert E. Lee. 87

any who read the calm yet mournful letters in which at this juncture he announced his decision to his sister. He severed the ties and re- linquished the aspirations of a lifetime to enter upon a contest which promised nothing but loss and danger to him and his. He relin- quished high opportunity to embark fame and fortune upon a more than doubtful struggle. That his reluctance and regret were sincere none who knew the stern integrity of the man can doubt. He says that his heart bled within him at the prospect, and this is the delib- erate statement of one to whom falsehood was impossible. Of this General Grant bears emphatic witness in his dictated memoirs, where, discussing the reasons which impelled him to a certain course of military action, he declares: " For I knew that nothing could in- duce General Lee to deviate from the truth."

Entering the service of Virginia as Commander-in-Chief of her forces, for nearly a year he held no important command in the field, and this is another illustration of the entire freedom of the man from self-seeking. He was content to be of use; and while engaged in the essential work of organizing the troops as they arrived from the South, with headquarters at Richmond, he saw without regret and with no effort to assert his claim, the conduct of operations in the field entrusted to others.

It was not until the spring of 1862 that General Johnson, having been wounded at Seven Pines, the opportunity was born which gave to Lee an adequate field for the exercise of his abilities. Thence- forward until the closing scene at Appomattox he was never absent from that army with whose achievements his name is inseparably linked.

His face and figure were soon familiar to every man in the com- mand. He was constantly on the lines, rarely attended by any es- cort save a single staff-officer. An active and perfect horseman, of distinguished and handsome countenance, he looked every inch the gallant soldier and gentleman he was.

His was all the Norman's polish And sobriety of grace; All the Goth's majestic figure; All the Roman's noble face; And he stood the tall examplar Of a grand historic race.

From the very first he inspired officers and men with a trusting