Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/106

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

90 Southern Historical Society Papers.

His genius and his inclination were pugnacious. He had it in his blood from that Launcelot who rode by Norman William's side at Hastings, and from the Lionel Lee who smote the infidel in Holy Land, stirrup to stirrup with Richard of the Lion Heart. He had it from that stout dragoon, the dashing Rupert of the Continental army, of whom one of his generals said, "give me one dozen such men and no British soldier will ever have another night of unbroken sleep in America." Yes, he came of fighting stock, and oftimes was tempted to indulge the humor when the well-balanced brain said "nay."

Who that saw Lee at the Wilderness but recognized with a burn- ing thrill in his own veins how hardly the reason of the commander restrained the cavalier's impulse to lead the gallant Texans to the thickest of the fray ?

But uniformly his tactics and his " noble ire of battle" were alike the servants of that cool, clear judgment which seldom erred. Self- discipline with him had been brought to a science.

I have used the term " combative by calculation," meaning by that the conviction of General Lee that the Confederate armies could not afford to conduct a purely defensive warfare if in strategy, not in tactics. His greatest successes were won by aggressive operations. So McClellan's grand army was pushed back upon its gunboats, the siege of Richmond raised, and an hundred thousand of the best troops of the Union paralyzed and neutralized, while the army of Northern Virginia first staggered Banks at Cedar Mountain and then drove Pope's legions in pell mell disorder back into the entrench- ments around Washington. 'Twas so, as has been said, that he compassed that victory at Chancellorsville, which is still the study and wonder of the military schools of the world. 'Twas so that he freed the Valley of Virginia from invasion, sent Hooker back into Pennsylvania to defend his own; and 'twas so that the ark of South- ern independence might have floated on the high tide of Gettys- burg, but for contingencies, which as they are the subject of contro- versy, I shall not bring into formal discussion here.

If he erred in aggression there, the error was born of a noble confidence in that magnificent army which had so often under his leadership accomplished the improbable, that he had come to deem its valor invincible. Success held in its beckoning arms such glo- rious fruit for the cause he represented, that, in the light of all that failure cost us, I still hold from a soldier's point of view that the