Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/107

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Life and ( '//<//-,/</</ of R<>ln-rt h\ Lee. 91

effort was justified by the prospect. Our commander had reason to believe, which afterwards turned out to be true, that he had out- manceuvered Meade, and that his full concentration was confronted by only a portion of the latter's army. This was a situation which offensive operations alone could utilize. Whether the subsequent engagement was fought as he designed, it is a question which I be- lieve will be answered by history in an emphatic negative. At least, the assaults in detail by fragments of corps, when whole divisions lay idle in our lines, bore no resemblance to any other attack deliv- ered by Lee before or afterwards for Malvern Hill, where Jackson was misled by his guides, and where D. H. Hill precipitated the ac- tion by misinterpretation of a signal, does not offer a proper basis of comparison. Generally the instinct of an army may be trusted to adjudge responsibility for its reverses, after the event. In the case in hand there was no diminution in the affection or confidence of the army of Northern Virginia in its commander. Even the rem- nants of the brave divisions which gained the heights in vain, found voice when reeling back in bloody disarray, to give him greeting, and though he then and there avowed the blame with generous dis- regard of self, 'twas only as if he had said, " YOU were not at fault, you that came back from the heroic effort, or those whose bodies dot that deadly slope; you did all that human bravery could do." The army took his grave, kind words as meaning that no more nor less; nor do I think at this late dav the survivors will accept a version that would stamp their beloved leader as self-convicted of the blun- ders, or worse, of that ill-starred 3d of July.

Illustrating Lee's offensive strategy is the movement by which, in the autumn of 1863, he flanked Meade out of his position at Cul- peper, and forced him back into the lines at Centreville, and this, too, though his army had been depleted one-third by the- dispatch of Longstreet to the west. And when in December Meade crossed the Rapidan and established himself across the roads leading from Or- range Courthouse to Fredericksburg, not a step in retrograde did the Southern General take, He accepted the challenge from a superior force, marched promptly out with the corps of Ewell and Hill, planted himself on the ridges over Mine Run, and offered battle for two whole days. On the night of the third he massed two divi- sions on his right to assault the left flank of the enemy, but in the morning an advance in the gray light found only empty trenches.

The same movement essentially was repeated in the following