Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 40.djvu/112

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

is impressive. This editor had believed the letter genuine; but when he learned the source of its repudiation, he submits at once, as De Bracy, in Ivanhoe, surrenders, "rescue or no rescue," when the name of Richard Coeur de Lion is whispered in his ear. And the editor does not imagine, as some now do, that there is hope of escape from the forgery of The Duty Letter. Like De Bracy, he surrenders, "rescue or no rescue."


We have now seen that The Duty Letter was, on its first appearance in Richmond, repudiated, virtually at least, by the alleged writer. But how as to the person to whom it purported to be written, G. W. Custis Lee? Did he accept it as genuine? Fortunately, he can speak for himself. When, nearly four years ago, I decided to inquire into the authenticity of The Duty Letter, I wrote to General Custis Lee, at Ravensworth, and received this reply, dated October 23, 1910:

"General Lee was a member of the Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, until the spring or summer of 1855, when he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Second Cavalry. The First and Second Regiments of Cavalry were authorized by Act of Congress passed during the winter of 1854-'55, and had no previous existence. The first part of the letter enclosed was not, therefore, written by General Lee.[1]

"As to the rest of the letter as a whole, I have no recollection of it, although the sentiments expressed may have been contained in one or more letters received by me before April, 1852. I was then in my 20th year of age, and had a respectable standing at the U. S. Military Academy. It is probable that the letter in question was compiled from several letters from my father, with such additions and variations as suited the compiler's fancy. The general tenor of the letter is very much in my

  1. The Duty Letter bears date April 5, 1852, more than three years before General Lee became Lieut. Colonel of the Second Cavalry. The first part of The Duty Letter referred to is as follows: "I am just in the act of leaving home for New Mexico. My fine old regiment has been ordered to that distant region, and I must hasten to see that they are properly cared for."