Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/403

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Lee's Birthday. 397

his conduct of our armies he killed and wounded 300,000 of the foe. Victorious in all except two drawn battles, he never was defeated in a pitched battle, but literally wore his own armies out whipping the in- vader. Not one of his campaigns was more brilliant than the six days' retreat from the lines of Richmond. For nine months he had held the great army of the Potomac in check and dread with less than 30,000 troops. He led his foodless and weary men on that re- treat to within thirteen miles of Lynchburg, while pursued by 150,000 fresh troops, holding his foe in check by brilliant engagements at various points. At last he surrendered, not an army, only a skele- ton, about 8,000 men. His surrender at Appomattox Court- house was as creditable to his genius as it was protective to the rem- nant of his noble army and honorable to the Confederacy. Never before in the world's history was it known that accounted rebels were released by the victors on their parole with their side arms and pri- vate property.

Two things are necessary to success, capacity and opportunity. Whatever capacity a man may have he cannot succeed unless an oppor" tunity is given, and whatever floodtide of opportunity may come to float him on to fortune and to fame, he can never sweep the water of the sea without capacity. No one except those intimate with him knew Lee's capacity. The hero of Lundy's Lane and conquerer of Mexico, Winfield Scott, a close observer, had said : " Colonel Lee is the best soldier I ever saw in the field." His reputation as a man, engineer and soldier, though in a smaller circle, had brought him the offer of the leadership of the United States armies, and with boots withdrawn to hush his steps, he walked the floor all night when the choice of flags confronted him. His home-life, his manhood and his patriotism prevailed and he still held that " duty was the sublimest word" of his language. But Colonel Lee's capacity was not gen- erally known because the opportunity had not come. Had it never come he would only have been known as Colonel Lee, a distinguished engineer of the United States army. When it did come, he showed the self command of Washington and Wellington, and will live with them their equals in history. He showed the power of quick combi- nation and dash of Napoleon without his ambition, the steady endu- rance and personal popularity of Caesar without the suspicion of turning ambitious arms against his country and his home. He showed the genius of Alexander without his desire of conquest, for he fought only to defend the right. He showed all the piety of