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General Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee
First annual Convention, United Confederate Veterans, Chattanooga, Tenn.
1890

This greatest of all the great generals of the late civil war was the son of the celebrated Revolutionary officer, "Light-horse Harry" Lee. and was born January 19th, 1806, in Westmoreland county, Virginia. He was graduated from West Point in 1829, standing second in a class of 46, and was therefore commissioned as Second Lieutenant of Engineers He was possessed of remarkable talents in that department.

When war against Mexico was declared Captain Lee was assigned to duty under General Wool, as Chief Engineer, and General Scott reported that to his engineering skill, and qualities as a soldier, was the army indebted for the speedy fall of Vera Cruz During that war he was thrice brevetted, the last for his gallantry at the storming of Chapultepec. He was then Brevet-Colonel.

Colonel Lee inherited the great military qualities of his brilliant father. Like him he was a strict disciplinarian, as well as a thorough organizer, and his skill, zeal and vigilance secured him the respect and confidence of the commanding officers of the entire army. In 1852 Colonel Lee was appointed Commandant at West Point, and remained there during three years He enlarged the course of studies, adding extended instruction in engineering, the construction of fortifications and of roads and bridges. He also added the study of constitutional and international law. He recommended the extension of the course to five years, which was adopted in 1858.

Three days after Virginia withdrew from the Union, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the United States Army, announcing that he conscientiously felt bound by the action of his State. He said in a private letter:

"With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home."

Such was the character of the man whom Mr. Davis placed at the head of the Confederate Armies when Johnston was wounded, and charged him with "the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Confederacy," on May 31st, 1862. He had been commanding the armies at Richmond "under the direction of the President" since March 13th, of that same year.

The military genius illustrated in Lee's handling of the "Army of Northern Virginia" is not excelled by that developed in Marlborough, Bonaparte or Wellington. Lord Wolsely, who visited him in 1862, wrote as follows: "Lee is stamped on my memory as a being apart, and superior to all others in his way." He was respected and honored by his corps commanders, and was almost worshiped by the rank and file, while by the country at large he was adored. He was respected by the enemy from the private to the commander-in-chief, and to-day not a breath of bitterness is breathed against General Lee's memory from Labrador to the Rio de la Bravo. As the biographers of Lincoln beautifully say, "Lee's handsome presence and cordial manner endeared him to his associates, and made friends of strangers at first sight." It need scarcely be said, then, that such a man could readily sink self in an inflexible devotion to duty, or that his mind was pure and his character upright.

As a compliment to his purity of heart and exaltation of soul, the famous college at Lexington, Va., added his name to its designation, and has since been known as the "Washington-Lee University. "How exquisitely appropriate is the combination—the names of the two greatest Americans joined in an institution of learning.

Just beyond the rostrum of the chapel of the Washington-Lee University is the pure white marble Mausolem of the great soldier, visible to the students through the bronze grating that encloses the
apartment. And from that reclining statue, sleeping peacefully with the military cloak thrown partially over the body, there comes to the youth of the South inspirations to patriotic conduct, promptings to every duty, and encouragement to faithfulness under all circumstances. Even in marble this wonderful man appears to be "a being apart, and superior to all others." One involuntarily lifts his hat when he approaches that bronze grating.

First annual Convention, United Confederate Veterans, Chattanooga, Tenn., July 3d, 4th, 5th, 1890 (Chattanooga, Tenn.: United Confederate Veterans, Tennessee Division, N. B. Forrest Camp No. 3, Chattanooga), pp. 2-3.

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