Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/195

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Reunion of Virginia Division, A.N. V. Association. 189

Mount Vernon south to the mouth of the Rappahannock, with head- quarters at Fredericksburg.* Brigadier-General Philip St. George Cocke had his headquarters temporarily at Alexandria, where he re- mained until the 27th, when he retired to Culpeper until ordered to Manassas Junction.!

As we shall see as we go on, on the points thus taken by the Vir- ginia troops were afterwards formed the divisions and corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, and it will be interesting to trace the history of each body to its nucleus on one or the other of these positions.

On the 23d April, General Robert E. Lee, having been appointed by the Convention of the State of Virginia Major-General, assumed command of the mihtary and naval forces of the State. |

It was a grand and solemn occasion when General Lee entered the Convention under the escort of the committee appointed to conduct him to the Hall. As he was presented to the Convention, the Presi- dent, addressing him, said:§

"Major-General Lee — In the name of the people of your native State here represented, I bid you a cordial and heartfelt welcome to this Hall, in which we may almost yet hear the echo of the voices of the statesmen, the soldiers and sages of bygone days, who have borne your name and whose blood now flows in your veins."

And after a most eloquent and touching address, in which he told General Lee of the unanimity with which the Convention had com- mitted the defence of Virginia to his care, he concluded with these words:

"When the father of his country made his last will and testament, he gave his swords to his favorite nephew with an injunction that they should never be drawn from their scabbards except in self-defence or in the defence of the rights and liberties of their country, and that if drawn for the latter pur- pose, they should fall with them in their hands rather than relinquish them.

Yesterday your mother, Virginia, placed her sword in your hand upon the implied condition that we know you will keep to the letter and in spirit that you will draw it only in her defence, and that you will fall with it in your hand, rather than the objects for which it was placed there should fail."

And, doubtless, could General Lee have directed and controlled the fate of war, he would have fallen with it. But duty — to him "the sublimest word in the language" — duty bid him live — to live in de-

  • Records War of Rebellion, Vol. 11, p. 775. f Ibid, p. 823.

X /did, p. 775. I Scrap Book, Charleston Library.