These incidents unmistakably indicate that General Lee concealed, under the natural reserve of his character, an earnest religious belief and trust in God and our Saviour. Nor was this a new sentiment with him. After his death a well-worn pocket Bible was found in his chamber, in which was written, "R.E. Lee, Lieutenant-Colonel, U.S. Army." It was plain, from this, that, even during the days of his earlier manhood, in Mexico and on the Western prairies, he had read his Bible, and striven to conform his life to its teachings.
With the retirement of the great soldier, however, from the cares of command which necessarily interfered in a large degree with pious exercises and meditations, the religious phase of his character became more clearly defined, assuming far more prominent and striking proportions. The sufferings of the Southern people doubtless had a powerful effect upon him, and, feeling the powerlessness of man, he must have turned to God for comfort. But this inquiry is too profound for the present writer. He shrinks from the attempt to sound the depths of this truly great soul, with the view of discovering the influences which moulded it into an almost ideal perfection. General Lee was, fortunately for the world, surrounded in his latter days by good and intelligent men, fully competent to present a complete exposition of his views and feelings—and to these the arduous undertaking is left. Our easier task is to place upon record such incidents as we have gathered, bearing upon the religious phase of the illustrious soldier's character.
His earnest piety cannot be better displayed than in the anxiety which he felt for the conversion of his students, Conversing with the Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick, of the Presbyterian Church, on the subject of the religious welfare of those intrusted to his charge, "he was so overcome by emotion," says Dr. Kirkpatrick, "that he could not utter the words which were on his tongue." His utterance was choked, but recovering himself, with his eyes overflowing with tears, his lips quivering with emotion, and both hands raised, he exclaimed: "Oh! doctor, if I could only know that all the young men in the college were good Christians, I should have nothing more to desire."
When another minister, the Rev. Mr. Jones, delivered an earnest address at the "Concert of Prayer for Colleges," urging that all Christians should pray for the aid of the Holy Spirit in changing the hearts of the students, General Lee, after the meeting, approached the minister and said with great warmth: "I wish, sir, to thank you for your address. It was just what we needed. Our great want is a revival, which shall bring these young men to Christ."
One morning, while the venerable Dr. White was passing General Lee's house, on his way to chapel, the general joined him, and they entered into conversation upon religious subjects. General Lee said little, but, just as they reached the college, stopped and remarked with great earnestness, his eyes filling with tears as he spoke: "I shall be disappointed, sir, I shall fail in the leading object that brought me here, unless the young men all become real Christians; and I wish you and others of your sacred profession to de all you can to accomplish this result."
When a great revival of religious feeling took place at the Virginia Military Institute, in 1868, General Lee said to the clergyman of his church with deep feeling: "That is the best news I have heard since I have been in Lexington. Would that we could have such a revival in all our colleges!"
Although a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and preferring that communion, General Lee seems to have been completely exempt from sectarian feeling, and to have aimed first and last to be a true Christian, loving God and his neighbor, and not busying himself about theological dogmas. When he was asked once whether he believed in the Apostolic succession, he replied that he had never thought of it, and aimed only to become a "real Christian." His catholic views were shown by the letters of invitation, which he addressed, at the commencement of each session of the college, to ministers of all religious denominations at Lexington, to conduct, in turn, the religious exercises at the college chapel; and his charities, which were large for a person of his limited means, were given to all alike. These charities he seems to have regarded as a binding duty, and were so private that only those receiving them knew any thing of them. It only came to be known accidentally that in 1870 he gave one hundred dollars for the education of the orphans of Southern soldiers, one hundred dollars to the Young Men's Christian Association, and regularly made other donations, amounting in all to considerable sums. Nearly his last act was a liberal contribution to an important object connected with his church.
We shall conclude these anecdotes, illustrating General Lee's religious character, with one for which we are indebted to the kindness of a reverend clergyman, of Lexington, who knew General Lee intimately in his latter years, and enjoyed his confidence. The incident will present in an agreeable light the great soldier's simplicity and love for children, and no less his catholic feelings in reference to sects in the Christian Church:
"I will give you just another incident," writes the reverend gentleman, "illustrating General Lee's love for children, and their freedom with him. When I first came to Lexington, my boy Carter (just four years old then) used to go with me to chapel service when it was my turn to officiate. The general would tell him that he must always sit by him; and it was a scene for a painter, to see the great chieftain reverentially listening to the truths of God's word, and the little boy nestling close to him. One Sunday our Sunday-school superintendent told the children that they must bring in some new scholars, and that they must bring old people as well as the young, since none were too old or too wise to learn God's word. The next Sabbath Carter was with me at the chapel, from which he was to go with me to the Sunday-school. At the close of the service, I noticed that Carter was talking very earnestly with General Lee, who seemed very much amused, and, on calling him to come with me, he said, with childish simplicity: 'Father, I am trying to get General Lee to go to the Sunday-school and be my scholar.' 'But,' said I, 'if the general goes to any school, he will go to his own.' 'Which is his own, father?' 'The Episcopal,' I replied. Heaving a deep sigh, and with a look of disappointment, the little fellow said: 'I am very sorry he is 'Piscopal. I wish he was a Baptist, so he could go to our Sunday-school, and be my scholar.' The general seemed very much amused and interested as he replied, 'Ah! Carter, we must all try and be good Christians—that is the most important thing.' 'He knew all the children in town,' adds Mr. Jones, 'and their grief at his death was very touching.'"
This incident may appear singular to those who have been accustomed to regard General Lee as a cold, reserved, and even stern human being—a statue, beneath whose chill surface no heart ever throbbed. But, instead of a marble heart, there lay, under the gray uniform of the soldier, one of warm flesh and blood—tender, impressible, susceptible to the quick touches of all gentle and sweet emotion, and filling, as it were, with quiet happiness, at the sight of children and the sound of their voices. This impressibility has even been made the subject of criticism. A foreign writer declares that the soldier's character exhibited a "feminine" softness, unfitting him for the conduct of affairs of moment. What the Confederacy wanted, intimates the writer in question, was a rough dictator, with little regard for nice questions of law—one to lay the rough hand of the born master on the helm, and force the crew, from the highest to the lowest, to obey his will. That will probably remain a question. General Lee's will was strong enough to break down all obstacles but those erected by rightful authority; that with this masculine strength he united an exquisite gentleness, is equally beyond question. A noble action flushed his cheek with an emotion that the reader may, if he will, call "feminine." A tale of suffering brought a sudden moisture to his eyes; and a loving message from one of his poor old soldiers was seen one day to melt him to tears.
This poor and incomplete attempt to indicate some of the less-known traits of the illustrious commander-in-chief of the Southern armies will now be brought to a conclusion; we approach the sorrowful moment when, surrounded by his weeping family, he tranquilly passed away.
[Footnote 1: General Lee had three sons and four daughters, all of whom are living except one of the latter, Miss Anne Lee, who died in North Carolina during the war. The sons were General G.W. Custis Lee, aide-de-camp to President Davis—subsequently commander of infantry in the field, and now president of Washington and Lee College, an officer of such ability and of character so eminent that President Davis regarded him as a fit successor of his illustrious father in command of the Army of Northern Virginia—General W.H.F. Lee, a prominent and able commander of cavalry, and Captain Robert E. Lee, an efficient member of the cavalry-staff. These gentlemen bore their full share in the perils and hardships of the war, from its commencement to the surrender at Appomattox.]
On the 28th of September, 1870, after laborious attention to his duties during the early part of the day, General Lee attended, in the afternoon, a meeting of the Vestry of Grace Church, of which he was a member. Over this meeting he presided, and it was afterward remembered that his last public act was to contribute the sum of fifty-five dollars to some good object, the requisite amount to effect which was thus made up. After the meeting, General Lee returned to his home, and, when tea was served, took his place at the table to say grace, as was his habit, as it had been in camp throughout the war. His lips opened, but no sound issued from them, and he sank back in his chair, from which he was carried to bed.
The painful intelligence immediately became known throughout Lexington, and the utmost grief and consternation were visible upon every face. It was hoped, at first, that the attack would not prove serious, and that General Lee would soon be able to resume his duties. But this hope was soon dissipated. The skilful physicians who hastened to his bedside pronounced his malady congestion of the brain, and, from the appearance of the patient, who lay in a species of coma, the attack was evidently of the most alarming character. The most discouraging phase of the case was, that, physically, General Lee was—if we may so say—in perfect health. His superb physique, although not perhaps as vigorous and robust as during the war, exhibited no indication whatever of disease. His health appeared perfect, and twenty years more of life might have been predicted for him from simple reference to his appearance.
The malady was more deeply seated, however, than any bodily disease; the cerebral congestion was but a symptom of the mental malady which was killing its victim. From the testimony of the able physicians who watched the great soldier, day and night, throughout his illness, and are thus best competent to speak upon the subject, there seems no doubt that General Lee's condition was the result of mental depression produced by the sufferings of the Southern people. Every mail, it is said, had brought him the most piteous appeals for assistance, from old soldiers whose families were in want of bread; and the woes of these poor people had a prostrating effect upon him. A year or two before, his health had been seriously impaired by this brooding depression, and he had visited North Carolina, the White Sulphur Springs, and other places, to divert his mind. In this he failed. The shadow went with him, and the result was, at last, the alarming attack from which he never rallied. During the two weeks of his illness he scarcely spoke, and evidently regarded his condition as hopeless. When one of his physicians said to him, "General, you must make haste and get well; Traveller has been standing so long in his stable that he needs exercise." General Lee shook his head slowly, to indicate that he would never again mount his favorite horse.
He remained in this state, with few alterations in his condition, until Wednesday; October 12th, when, about nine in the morning, in the midst of his family, the great soldier tranquilly expired.
Of the universal grief of the Southern people when the intelligence was transmitted by telegraph to all parts of the country, it is not necessary that we should speak. The death of Lee seemed to make all hearts stand still; and the tolling of bells, flags at half-mast, and public meetings of citizens, wearing mourning, marked, in every portion of the South, the sense of a great public calamity. It is not an exaggeration to say that, in ten thousand Southern homes, tears came to the eyes not only of women, but of bearded men, and that the words, "Lee is dead!" fell like a funeral-knell upon every heart.
When the intelligence reached Richmond, the Legislature passed resolutions expressive of the general sorrow, and requesting that the remains of General Lee might be interred in Holywood Cemetery—Mr. Walker, the Governor, expressing in a special message his participation in the grief of the people of Virginia and the South. The family of General Lee, however, preferred that his remains should rest at the scene of his last labors, and beneath the chapel of Washington College they were accordingly interred. The ceremony was imposing, and will long be remembered.
On the morning of the 13th, the body was borne to the college chapel. In front moved a guard of honor, composed of old Confederate soldiers; behind these came the clergy; then the hearse; in rear of which was led the dead soldier's favorite war-horse "Traveller," his equipments wreathed with crape. The trustees and faculty of the college, the cadets of the Military Institute, and a large number of citizens followed—and the procession moved slowly from the northeastern gate of the president's house to the college chapel, above which, draped in mourning, and at half-mast, floated the flag of Virginia—the only one displayed during this or any other portion of the funeral ceremonies.
On the platform of the chapel the body lay in state throughout this and the succeeding day. The coffin was covered with evergreens and flowers, and the face of the dead was uncovered that all might look for the last time on the pale features of the illustrious soldier. The body was dressed in a simple suit of black, and the appearance of the face was perfectly natural. Great crowds visited the chapel, passing solemnly in front of the coffin—the silence interrupted only by sobs.
Throughout the 14th the body continued to be in state, and to be visited by thousands. On the 15th a great funeral procession preceded the commission of it to its last resting place. At an early hour the crowd began to assemble in the vicinity of the college, which was draped in mourning. This great concourse was composed of men, women, and children, all wearing crape, and the little children seemed as much penetrated by the general distress as the elders. The bells of the churches began to toll; and at ten o'clock the students of the college, and officers and soldiers of the Confederate army—numbering together nearly one thousand persons—formed in front of the chapel. Between the two bodies stood the hearse, and the gray horse of the soldier, both draped in mourning.
The procession then began to move, to the strains of martial music. The military escort, together with the staff-officers of General Lee, moved in front; the faculty and students followed behind the hearse; and in rear came a committee of the Legislative dignitaries of the Commonwealth, and a great multitude of citizens from all portions of the State. The procession continued its way toward the Institute, where the cadets made the military salute as the hearse passed in front of them, and the sudden thunder of artillery awoke the echoes from the hills. The cadets then joined the procession, which was more than a mile in length; and, heralded by the fire of artillery every few minutes, it moved back to the college chapel, where the last services were performed.
General Lee had requested, it is said, that no funeral oration should be pronounced above his remains, and the Rev. William N. Pendleton simply read the beautiful burial-service of the Episcopal Church. The coffin, still covered with evergreens and flowers, was then lowered to its resting-place beneath the chapel, amid the sobs and tears of the great assembly; and all that was mortal of the illustrious soldier disappeared from the world's eyes.
What thus disappeared was little. What remained was much—the memory of the virtues and the glory of the greatest of Virginians.
We here present to the reader a more detailed account of the ceremonies attending the burial of General Lee, and a selection from the countless addresses delivered in various portions of the country when his death was announced. To notice the honors paid to his memory in every city, town, and village of the South, would fill a volume, and be wholly unnecessary. It is equally unnecessary to speak of the great meetings at Richmond, Baltimore, and elsewhere, resulting in the formation of the "Lee Memorial Association" for the erection of a monument to the dead commander.
The addresses here presented are placed on record rather for their biographical interest, than to do honor to the dead. Of him it may justly be said that he needs no record of his virtues and his glory. His illustrious memory is fresh to-day, and will be fresh throughout all coming generations, in every heart.
THE FUNERAL OF GENERAL LEE.
The morning of the obsequies of General Lee broke bright and cheerful over the sorrowful town of Lexington. Toward noon the sun poured down with all the genial warmth of Indian summer, and after mid-day it was hot, though not uncomfortably so. The same solemnity of yesterday reigned supreme, with the difference, that people came thronging into town, making a mournful scene of bustle. The gloomy faces, the comparative silence, the badges and emblems of mourning that everywhere met the eye, and the noiseless, strict decorum which was observed, told how universal and deep were the love and veneration of the people for the illustrious dead. Every one uniformly and religiously wore the emblematic crape, even to the women and children, who were crowding to the college chapel with wreaths of flowers fringed with mourning. All sorrowfully and religiously paid their last tributes of respect and affection to the great dead, and none there were who did not feel a just pride in the sad offices.
AT THE COLLEGE GROUNDS.
Immediately in front of the chapel the scene was peculiarly sad. All around the buildings were gloomily draped in mourning, and the students strolled listlessly over the grounds, awaiting the formation of the funeral procession. Ladies thronged about the chapel with tearful eyes, children wept outright, every face wore a saddened expression, while the solemn tolling of the church-bells rendered the scene still more one of grandeur and gloom. The bells of the churches joined in the mournful requiem.
THE FUNERAL PROCESSION.
At ten o'clock precisely, in accordance with the programme agreed upon, the students, numbering four hundred, formed in front and to the right of the chapel. To the left an escort of honor, numbering some three hundred ex-officers and soldiers, was formed, at the head of which, near the southwestern entrance to the grounds, was the Institute band. Between these two bodies—the soldiers and students—stood the hearse and the gray war-steed of the dead hero, both draped in mourning. The marshals of the procession, twenty-one in number, wore spotless white sashes, tied at the waist and shoulders with crape, and carrying batons also enveloped in the same emblematic material.
Shortly after ten, at a signal from the chief marshal, the solemn cortege moved off to the music of a mournful dirge. General Bradley Johnson headed the escort of officers and soldiers, with Colonel Charles T. Venable and Colonel Walters H. Taylor, both former assistant adjutant-generals on the staff of the lamented dead. The physicians of General Lee and the Faculty of the college fell in immediately behind the hearse, the students following. Slowly and solemnly the procession moved from the college grounds down Washington Street to Jefferson, up Jefferson Street to Franklin Hall, thence to Main Street, where they were joined by a committee of the Legislature, dignitaries of the State, and the citizens generally. Moving still onward, this grand funeral pageant, which had now assumed gigantic proportions, extending nearly a mile in length, soon reached the northeastern extremity of the town, when it took the road to the Virginia Military Institute.
AT THE MILITARY INSTITUTE.
Here the scene was highly impressive and imposing. In front of the Institute the battalion of cadets, three hundred in number, were drawn up in line, wearing their full gray uniform, with badges of mourning, and having on all their equipments and side-arms, but without their muskets. Spectators thronged the entire line of the procession, gazing sadly as it wended its way, and the sites around the Institute were crowded. As the cortege entered the Institute grounds a salute of artillery thundered its arrival, and reverberated it far across the distant hills and valleys of Virginia, awakening echoes which have been hushed since Lee manfully gave up the struggle of the "lost cause" at Appomattox. Winding along the indicated route toward the grounds of Washington College, the procession slowly moved past the Institute, and when the war-horse and hearse of the dead chieftain came in front of the battalion of cadets, they uncovered their heads as a salute of reverence and respect, which was promptly followed by the spectators. When this was concluded, the visitors and Faculty of the Institute joined the procession, and the battalion of cadets filed into the line in order, and with the greatest precision.
ORDER OF THE PROCESSION.
The following was the order of the procession when it was completed:
Escort of Honor, consisting of Officers and Soldiers of the Confederate Army.
Chaplain and other Clergy.
Hearse and Pall-bearers.
General Lee's Horse.
The Attending Physicians.
Trustees and Faculty of Washington College.
Dignitaries of the State of Virginia.
Visitors and Faculty of the Virginia Military Institute.
Other Representative Bodies and Distinguished Visitors.
Alumni of Washington College.
Cadets Virginia Military Institute.
Students of Washington College as Guard of Honor
AT THE CHAPEL.
After the first salute, a gun was fired every three minutes. Moving still to the sound of martial music, in honor of the dead, the procession reentered the grounds of Washington College by the northeastern gate, and was halted in front of the chapel. Then followed an imposing ceremony. The cadets of the Institute were detached from the line, and marched in double file into the chapel up one of the aisles, past the remains of the illustrious dead, which lay in state on the rostrum, and down the other aisle out of the church. The students of Washington College followed next, passing with bowed heads before the mortal remains of him they revered and loved so much and well as their president and friend. The side-aisles and galleries were crowded with ladies, Emblems of mourning met the eye on all sides, and feminine affection had hung funeral garlands of flowers upon all the pillars and walls. The central pews were filled with the escort of honor, composed of former Confederate soldiers from this and adjoining counties, while the spacious platform was crowded with the trustees, faculties, clergy, Legislative Committee, and distinguished visitors. Within and without the consecrated hall the scene was alike imposing. The blue mountains of Virginia, towering in the near horizon; the lovely village of Lexington, sleeping in the calm, unruffled air, and the softened autumn sunlight; the vast assemblage, mute and sorrowful; the tolling bells, and pealing cannon, and solemn words of funeral service, combined to render the scene one never to be forgotten.
The sons of General Lee—W.H.F. Lee, G.W.C. Lee, and Robert E. Lee—with their sisters, Misses Agnes and Mildred Lee, and the nephews of the dead, Fitzhugh, Henry C., and Robert C. Lee, entered the church with bowed heads, and silently took seats in front of the rostrum.
THE FUNERAL SERVICES AND INTERMENT.
Then followed the impressive funeral services of the Episcopal Church for the dead, amid a silence and solemnity that were imposing and sublimely grand. There was no funeral oration, in compliance with the expressed wish of the distinguished dead; and at the conclusion of the services in the chapel the vast congregation went out and mingled with the crowd without, who were unable to gain admission. The coffin was then carried by the pall-bearers to the library-room, in the basement of the chapel, where it was lowered into the vault prepared for its reception. The funeral services were concluded in the open air by prayer, and the singing of General Lee's favorite hymn, commencing with the well-known line—
"How firm a foundation, ye saint of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!"
and thus closed the funeral obsequies of Robert Edward Lee, to whom may be fitly applied the grand poetic epitaph:
"Ne'er to the mansions where the mighty rest, Since their foundations, came a nobler guest; Nor e'er was to the bowers of bliss conveyed A purer saint or a more welcome shade."
TRIBUTES TO GENERAL LEE.
In the deep emotion with which the death of General Lee has filled all classes of our people—says the Southern Magazine, from whose pages this interesting summary is taken—we have thought that a selection of the most eloquent or otherwise interesting addresses delivered at the various memorial meetings may not be unacceptable.
On October 15th nearly the whole city was draped in mourning, and business was suspended. A funeral service was held at St. Paul's Church. In the evening an immense meeting assembled at Weissiger Hall, and, after an opening address by Mayor Baxter, the following resolutions were adopted:
"Resolved, That, in the death of Robert E. Lee, the American people, without regard to States or sections, or antecedents, or opinions, lose a great and good man, a distinguished and useful citizen, renowned not less in arms than in the arts of peace; and that the cause of public instruction and popular culture is deprived of a representative whose influence and example will be felt by the youth of our country for long ages after the passions in the midst of which he was engaged, but which he did not share, have passed into history, and the peace and fraternity of the American Republic are cemented and restored by the broadest and purest American sentiment."
"Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the family of General Lee, to the Trustees of Washington College, and to the Governor and General Assembly of Virginia."
ADDRESS OF GENERAL BRECKINRIDGE.
"Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen: In the humble part which it falls to me to take in these interesting ceremonies, if for any cause it has been supposed that I am to deliver a lengthy address, I am not responsible for the origination of that supposition. I came here to-night simply to mingle my grief with yours at the loss of one of our most distinguished citizens, and, indeed, I feel more like silence than like words. I am awe-stricken in the presence of this vast assemblage, and my mind goes back to the past. It is preoccupied by memories coming in prominent review of the frequent and ever-varying vicissitudes which have characterized the last ten years. I find myself in the presence of a vast assemblage of the people of this great and growing city, who meet together, without distinction of party, and presided over by your chief officer, for the purpose of expressing respect to the memory of the man who was the leader of the Confederate armies in the late war between the States. It is in itself the omen of reunion. I am not surprised at the spectacle presented here. Throughout the entire South one universal cry of grief has broken forth at the death of General Lee, and in a very large portion of the North manly and noble tributes have been paid to his memory.
"My words shall be brief but plain. Why is it that at the South we see this universal, spontaneous demonstration? First, because most of the people mourn the loss of a leader and a friend, but beyond that I must say they seem to enter an unconscious protest against the ascription either to him or them of treason or personal dishonor. It may be an unconscious protest against the employment by a portion of the public press of those epithets which have ceased to be used in social intercourse. It is an invitation on their part to the people of the North and South, East and West, if there be any remaining rancor in their bosoms, to bury it in the grave forever. I will not recall the past. I will not enter upon any considerations of the cause of that great struggle. This demonstration we see around us gives the plainest evidence that there is no disposition to indulge in useless repinings at the results of that great struggle. It is for the pen of the historian to declare the cause, progress, and probable consequences of it. In regard to those who followed General Lee, who gloried in his successes and shared his misfortunes, I have but this to say: the world watched the contest in which they were engaged, and yet gives testimony to their gallantry,
"The magnanimity with which they accepted the results of their defeat, the obedience they have yielded to the laws of the Federal Government, give an exhibition so rare that they are ennobled by their calm yet noble submission. For the rest their escutcheon is unstained. The conquerors themselves, for their own glory, must confess that they were brave. Neither, my friends, do I come here to-night to speak of the military career of General Lee. I need not speak of it this evening. I believe that this is universally recognized, not only in the United States, but in Europe; it has made the circuit of the world. I come but to utter my tribute to him as a man and as a citizen. As a man he will be remembered in history as a man of the epoch. How little need I to speak of his character after listening to the thrilling delineation of it which we had this morning! We all know that he was great, noble, and self-poised. He was just and moderate, but was, perhaps, misunderstood by those who were not personally acquainted with him. He was supposed to be just, but cold. Far from it. He had a warm, affectionate heart. During the last year of that unfortunate struggle it was my good fortune to spend a great deal of time with him. I was almost constantly by his side, and it was during the two months immediately preceding the fall of Richmond that I came to know and fully understand the true nobility of his character. In all those long vigils he was considerate and kind, gentle, firm, and self-poised. I can give no better idea of the impression it made upon me than to say it inspired me with an ardent love of the man and a profound veneration of his character. It was so massive and noble, so grand in its proportions, that all men must admire its heroism and gallantry, yet so gentle and tender that a woman might adopt and claim it as her own. If the spirit which animates the assembly before me to-night shall become general and permeate the whole country, then may we say the wounds of the late war are truly healed. We ask for him only what we give to others. Among the more eminent of the departed Federal generals who were distinguished for their gallantry, their nobility of character, and their patriotism, may be mentioned Thomas and McPherson. What Confederate is there who would refuse to raise his cap as their funeral-train went by or hesitate to drop a flower upon their graves? Why? Because they were men of courage, honor, and nobility; because they were true to their convictions of right, and soldiers whose hands were unstained by cruelty or pillage.
"Those of us who were so fortunate as to know him, and who have appeared before this assemblage, composed of all shades of opinion, claim for him your veneration, because he was pure and noble, and it is because of this that we see the cities and towns of the South in mourning. This has been the expression throughout the whole South, without distinction of party, and also of a large portion of the North. Is not this why these tributes have been paid to his memory? Is it not because his piety was humble and sincere? Because he accorded in victory; because he filled his position with admirable dignity; because he taught his prostrate comrades how to suffer and be strong? In a word, because he was one of the noblest products of this hemisphere, a fit object to sit in the niche which he created in the Temple of Fame.
"But he failed. The result is in the future. It may be for better or for worse. We hope for the better. But this is not the test for his greatness and goodness. Success often gilds the shallow man, but it is disaster alone that reveals the qualities of true greatness. Was his life a failure? Is only that man successful who erects a material monument of greatness by the enforcement of his ideas? Is not that man successful also, who, by his valor, moderation, and courage, with all their associate virtues, presents to the world such a specimen of true manhood as his children and children's children will be proud to imitate? In this sense he was not a failure.
"Pardon me for having detained you so long. I know there are here and there those who will reach out and attempt to pluck from his name the glory which surrounds it, and strike with malignant fury at the honors awarded to him; yet history will declare that the remains which repose in the vault beneath the little chapel in the lovely Virginia Valley are not only those of a valorous soldier, but those of a great and good American."
General John W. Finnell next addressed the audience briefly, and was followed by.
GENERAL WILLIAM PRESTON.
"Mr. Chairman, Ladies, and Gentlemen: I feel that it would be very difficult for me to add any eulogy to those which are contained in the resolutions of the committee, or a more merited tribute of praise than those which have already fallen from the lips of the gentlemen who have preceded me. Yet, on an occasion like this, I am willing to come forward and add a word to testify my appreciation of the great virtues and admirable character of one that commands, not only our admiration, but that of the entire country. Not alone of the entire country, but his character has excited more admiration in Europe than among ourselves. In coming ages his name will be marked with lustre, and will be one of the richest treasures of the future. I speak of one just gone down to death; ripe in all the noble attributes of manhood, and illustrious by deeds the most remarkable in character that have occurred in the history of America since its discovery. It is now some two-and-twenty years since I first made the acquaintance of General Lee. He was then in the prime of manhood, in Mexico, and I first saw him as the chief-engineer of General Scott in the Valley of Mexico. I see around me two old comrades who then saw General Lee. He was a man of remarkable personal beauty and great grace of body. He had a finished form, delicate hands, graceful in person, while here and there a gray hair streaked with silver the dark locks with which Nature had clothed his noble brow. There were discerning minds that appreciated his genius, and saw in him the coming Captain of America. His commander and his comrades appreciated his ability. To a club which was then organized he belonged, together with General McClellan, General Albert Sydney Johnston, General Beauregard, and a host of others. They recognized in Lee a master-spirit..
"He was never violent; he never wrangled. He was averse to quarrelling, and not a single difficulty marked his career; but all acknowledged his justness and wonderful evenness of mind. Rare intelligence, combined with these qualities, served to make him a fit representative of his great prototype, General Washington. He had been accomplished by every finish that a military education could bestow.
"I remember when General Lee was appointed lieutenant-colonel, at the same time that Sydney Johnston was appointed colonel, and General Scott thought that Lee should have been colonel. I was talking with General Scott on the subject long before the late struggle between the North and South took place, and he then said that Lee was the greatest living soldier in America. He did not object to the other commission, but he thought Lee should have been first promoted. Finally, he said to me with emphasis, which you will pardon me for relating, 'I tell you that, if I were on my death-bed to-morrow, and the President of the United States should tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and asked my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, let it be Robert E. Lee.' Ah! great soldier that he was, princely general that he was, he has fulfilled his mission, and borne it so that no invidious tongue can level the shafts of calumny at the great character which he has left behind him.
"But, ladies and gentlemen, it was not in this that the matchless attributes of his character were found. You have assembled here, not so much to do honor to General Lee, but to testify your appreciation of the worth of the principles governing his character; and if the minds of this assemblage were explored, you would find there was a gentleness and a grace in his character which had won your love and brought forth testimonials of universal admiration. Take but a single instance. At the battle of Gettysburg, after the attack on the cemetery, when his troops were repulsed and beaten, the men threw up their muskets and said, 'General, we have failed, and it is our fault.' 'No, my men,' said he, knowing the style of fighting of General Stonewall Jackson, 'you have done well; 'tis my fault; I am to blame, and no one but me.' What man is there that would not have gone to renewed death for such a leader? So, when we examine his whole character, it is in his private life that you find his true greatness—the Christian simplicity of his character and his great veneration for truth and nobility, the grand elements of his greatness. What man could have laid down his sword at the feet of a victorious general with greater dignity than did he at Appomattox Court-House? He laid down his sword with grace and dignity, and secured for his soldiers the best terms that fortune would permit. In that he shows marked greatness seldom shown by great captains.
"After the battle of Sedan, the wild cries of the citizens of Paris went out for the blood of the emperor; but at Appomattox, veneration and love only met the eyes of the troops who looked upon their commander. I will not trespass upon your time much farther. When I last saw him the raven hair had turned white. In a small village church his reverent head was bowed in prayer. The humblest step was that of Robert E. Lee, as he entered the portals of the temple erected to God. In broken responses he answered to the services of the Church. Noble, sincere, and humble in his religion, he showed forth his true character in laying aside his sword to educate the youth of his country. Never did he appear more noble than at that time. He is now gone, and rests in peace, and has crossed that mysterious stream that Stonewall Jackson saw with inspired eyes when he asked that he might be permitted to take his troops across the river and forever rest beneath the shadows of the trees."
After a few remarks from Hon. D.Y. Lyttle, the meeting adjourned.
A meeting was held at Augusta, on October 18th, at the City Hall. The preamble and resolutions adopted were as follows:
"Whereas, This day, throughout all this Southern land, sorrow, many-tongued, is ascending to heaven for the death of Robert E. Lee, and communities everywhere are honoring themselves in striving to do honor to that great name; and we, the people of Augusta, who were not laggards in upholding his glorious banner while it floated to the breeze, would swell the general lamentation of his departure:
therefore be it
"Resolved, That no people in the tide of time has been bereaved as we are bereaved; for no other people has had such a man to lose. Greece, rich in heroes; Rome, prolific mother of great citizens, so that the name of Roman is the synonyme of all that is noblest in citizenship—had no man coming up to the full measure of this great departed. On scores of battle-fields, consummate commander; everywhere, bravest soldier; in failure, sublimest hero; in disbanding his army, most pathetic of writers; in persecution, most patient of power's victims; in private life, purest of men—he was such that all Christendom, with one consent, named him GREAT. We, recalling that so also mankind have styled Alexander, Caesar, Frederick, and Napoleon, and beholding in the Confederate leader qualities higher and better than theirs, find that language poor indeed which only enables us to call him 'great'—him standing among the great of all ages preeminent.
"Resolved, That our admiration of the man is not the partial judgment of his adherents only; but so clear stand his greatness and his goodness, that even the bitterest of foes has not ventured to asperse him. While the air has been filled with calumnies and revilings of his cause, none have been aimed at him. If there are spirits so base that they cannot discover and reverence his greatness and his goodness, they have at least shrunk from encountering the certain indignation of mankind. This day—disfranchised by stupid power as he was; branded, as he was, in the perverted vocabulary of usurpers as rebel and traitor—his death has even in distant lands moved more tongues and stirred more hearts than the siege of a mighty city and the triumphs of a great king.
"Resolved, That, while he died far too soon for his country, he had lived long enough for his fame. This was complete, and the future could unfold nothing to add to it. In this age of startling changes, imagination might have pictured him, even in the years which he yet lacked of the allotted period of human life, once more at the head of devoted armies and the conqueror of glorious fields; but none could have been more glorious than those he had already won. Wrong, too, might again have triumphed over Right, and he have borne defeat with sublimest resignation; but this he had already done at Appomattox. Unrelenting hate to his lost cause might have again consigned him to the walks of private life, and he have become an exemplar of all the virtues of a private station; but this he had already been in the shades of Lexington. The contingencies of the future could only have revealed him greatest soldier, sublimest hero, best of men; and he was already all of these. The years to come were barren of any thing which could add to his perfect name and fame. He had nothing to lose; but, alas! we, his people, every thing by his departure from this world, which was unworthy of him, to that other where the good and the pure of all ages will welcome him. Thither follow him the undying love of every true Southern man and woman, and the admiration of all the world."
ADDRESS OF GENERAL A.R. WRIGHT.
"Mr. Chairman: I rise simply to move the adoption of the resolutions which have just been read to the meeting by Major Cumming. You have heard, and the people here assembled have heard, these resolutions. They are truthful, eloquent, and expressive. Although announced as a speaker on this sad occasion, I had determined to forego any such attempt; but an allusion, a passing reference to one of the sublime virtues of the illustrious dead, made in the resolutions which have just been read in your hearing, has induced me to add a word or two. Your resolutions speak of General Lee's patience under the persecutions of power. It was this virtue which ennobled the character, as it was one of the most prominent traits in the life, of him for whose death a whole nation, grief-stricken, mourns, and to pay a tribute to the memory of whom this multitude has assembled here this morning. While General Lee was all, and more than has been said of him—the great general, the true Christian, and the valiant soldier—there was another character in which he appeared more conspicuously than in any of the rest—the quiet dignity with which he encountered defeat, and the patience with which he met the persecution of malignant power. We may search the pages of all history, both sacred and profane, and there seems to be but one character who possessed in so large a degree this remarkable trait. Take General Lee's whole life and examine it; observe his skill and courage as a soldier, his patriotism and his fidelity to principle, the purity of his private life, and then remember the disasters which he faced and the persecutions to which he was subjected, and it would seem that no one ever endured so much—not even David, the sweet singer of Israel. Job has been handed down to posterity by the pages of sacred history as the embodiment of patience, as the man who, overwhelmed with the most numerous and bitter afflictions, never lost his fortitude, and who endured every fresh trial with uncomplaining resignation; but it seems to me that even Job displayed not the patience of our own loved hero; for, while Job suffered much, he endured less than General Lee. Job was compelled to lose his children, his friends, and his property, but he was never required to give up country; General Lee was, and, with more than the persecutions of Job, he stands revealed to the world the truest and the most sublime hero whom the ages have produced. To a patriot like Lee the loss of country was the greatest evil which could be experienced, and it was this last blow which has caused us to assemble here to-day to mourn his departure. He lost friends and kindred and property in the struggle, and yet, according to the news which the telegraph brought us this morning, it was the loss of his cause which finally sundered the heart-strings of the hero, and drew him from earth to heaven. Yes, the weight of this great sorrow which first fell upon him under the fatal apple-tree at Appomattox, has dwelt with him, growing heavier and more unendurable with each succeeding year, from that time until last Wednesday morn when the soul of Lee passed away.
"As I said before, Mr. Chairman, I only rose to move the adoption of the resolutions; and if I have said more than I ought to have said, it is because I knew the illustrious dead, because I loved him, and because I mourn his loss."
ADDRESS OF JUDGE HILLIARD.
"It is proper that the people should pay a public tribute to the memory of a great man when he dies. Not a ruler, not one who merely holds a great public position, but a great man, one who has served his day and generation. It cannot benefit the dead, but it is eminently profitable to the living. The consciousness than when we cease to live our memory will be cherished, is a noble incentive to live well. This great popular demonstration is due to General Lee's life and character. It is not ordered by the Government—the Government ignored him; but is rendered as a spontaneous tribute to the memory of an illustrious man—good, true, and great. He held no place in the Government, and since the war has had no military rank; but he was a true man. After all, that is the noblest tribute you can pay to any man, to say of him he was a true man.
"General Lee's character was eminently American. In Europe they have their ideas, their standards of merit, their rewards for great exploits. They cover one with decorations; they give him a great place in the government; they make him a marshal. Wellington began his career with humble rank. He was young Wellesley; he rose to be the Duke of Wellington. In our country we have no such rewards for great deeds. One must enjoy the patronage of the Government, or he must take the fortunes of private life.
"General Lee was educated at the great Military Academy, West Point. He entered the army; was promoted from time to time for brilliant services; in Mexico fought gallantly under the flag of the United States; and was still advancing in his military career in 1861, when Virginia became involved in the great contest that then grew up between the States. Virginia was his mother; she called him to her side to defend her, and, resigning his commission in the Army of the United States, not for a moment looking for advancement there, not counting the cost, not offering his sword to the service of power, nor yet laying it down at the feet of the Government—he unsheathed it and took his stand in defence of the great principles asserted by Virginia in the Revolution, when she contended with Great Britain the right of every people to choose their own form of government. Lost or won, to him the cause was always the same—it was the cause of constitutional liberty. He stood by it to the last. What must have been the convictions of a man like General Lee, when, mounted on the same horse that had borne him in battle, upon which he was seated when the lines of battle formed by his own heroic men wavered, and he seized the standard to lead the charge; but his soldiers rushed to him, and laying their hands on his bridle, said, 'General, we cannot fire a gun unless you retire?' What must have been his emotions as he rode, through his own lines at Appomattox, to the commander of the opposing army, and tendered his sword? Search the annals of history, ancient and modern; consult the lives of heroes; study the examples of greatness recorded in Greece leading the way on the triumphs of popular liberty, or in Rome in the best days of her imperial rule; take statesmen, generals, or men of patient thought who outwatched the stars in exploring knowledge, and I declare to you that I do not find anywhere a sublimer sentiment than General Lee uttered when he said, 'Human virtue ought to be equal to human calamity.' It will live forever.
"General Lee died at the right time. His sun did not go down in the strife of battle, in the midst of the thunder of cannon, dimmed by the lurid smoke of war. He survived all this: lived with so much dignity; silent, yet thoughtful; unseduced by the offers of gain or of advancement however tempting; disdaining to enter into contests for small objects, until the broad disk went down behind the Virginia hills, shedding its departing lustre not only upon this country but upon the whole world. His memory is as much respected in England as it is here; and at the North as well as at the South true hearts honor it.
"There is one thing I wish to say before I take my seat. General Lee's fame ought to rest on the true base. He did not draw his sword to perpetuate human slavery, whatever may have been his opinions in regard to it; he did not seek to overthrow the Government of the United States. He drew it in defence of constitutional liberty. That cause is not dead, but will live forever. The result of the war established the authority of the United States; the Union will stand—let it stand forever. The flag floats over the whole country from the Atlantic to the Pacific; let it increase in lustre, and let the power of the Government grow; still the cause for which General Lee struck is not a lost cause. It is conceded that these States must continue united under a common government. We do not wish to sunder it, nor to disturb it. But the great principle that underlies the Government of the United States—the principle that the people have a right to choose their own form of government, and to have their liberties protected by the provisions of the Constitution—is an indestructible principle. You cannot destroy it. Like Milton's angels, it is immortal; you may wound, but you cannot kill it. It is like the volcanic fires that flame in the depths of the earth; it will yet upheave the ocean and the land, and flame up to heaven.
"Young Emmett said, 'Let no man write my epitaph until my country is free, and takes her place among the nations of the earth.' But you may write General Lee's epitaph now. The principle for which he fought will survive him. His evening was in perfect harmony with his life. He had time to think, to recall the past, to prepare for the future. An offer, originating in Georgia, and I believe in this very city, was made to him to place an immense sum of money at his disposal if he would consent to reside in the city of New York and represent Southern commerce. Millions would have flowed to him. But he declined. He said: 'No; I am grateful, but I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish. I have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many of them fall under my standard. I shall devote my life now to training young men to do their duty in life.' And he did. It was beautiful to see him in that glorious valley where Lexington stands, the lofty mountains throwing their protecting shadows over its quiet home. General Lee's fame is not bounded by the limits of the South, nor by the continent. I rejoice that the South gave him birth; I rejoice that the South will hold his ashes. But his fame belongs to the human race. Washington, too, was born in the South and sleeps in the South. But his great fame is not to be appropriated by this country; it is the inheritance of mankind. We place the name of Lee by that of Washington. They both belong to the world."
A meeting was held in the St. Charles Theatre, as the largest building in the city. The Hon. W.M. Burwell delivered an eloquent address, of which we regret that we have been able to obtain no report. The meeting was then addressed by the
HON. THOMAS J. SEMMES.
"Robert E. Lee is dead. The Potomac, overlooked by the home of the hero, once dividing contending peoples, but now no longer a boundary, conveys to the ocean a nation's tears. South of the Potomac is mourning; profound grief pervades every heart, lamentation is heard from every hearth, for Lee sleeps among the slain whose memory is so dear to us. In the language of Moina:
'They were slain for us, And their blood flowed out in a rain for us, Red, rich, and pure, on the plain for us; And years may go, But our tears shall flow O'er the dead who have died in vain for us.'
"North of the Potomac not only sympathizes with its widowed sister, but, with respectful homage, the brave and generous, clustering around the corpse of the great Virginian, with one accord exclaim:
'This earth that bears thee dead, Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.'
"Sympathetic nations, to whom our lamentations have been transmitted on the wings of lightning, will with pious jealousy envy our grief, because Robert E. Lee was an American. Seven cities claimed the honor of having given birth to the great pagan poet; but all Christian nations, while revering America as the mother of Robert E. Lee, will claim for the nineteenth century the honor of his birth. There was but one Lee, the great Christian captain, and his fame justly belongs to Christendom. The nineteenth century has attacked every thing—it has attacked God, the soul, reason, morals, society, the distinction between good and evil. Christianity is vindicated by the virtues of Lee. He is the most brilliant and cogent argument in favor of a system illustrated by such a man; he is the type of the reign of law in the moral order—that reign of law which the philosophic Duke of Argyll has so recently and so ably discussed as pervading the natural as well as the supernatural world. One of the chief characteristics of the Christian is duty. Throughout a checkered life the conscientious performance of duty seems to have been the mainspring of the actions of General Lee. In his relations of father, son, husband, soldier, citizen, duty shines conspicuous in all his acts. His agency as he advanced to more elevated stations attracts more attention, and surrounds him with a brighter halo of glory; but he is unchanged; from first to last it is Robert E. Lee.
"The most momentous act of his life was the selection of sides at the commencement of the political troubles which immediately preceded the recent conflict. High in military rank, caressed by General Scott, courted by those possessed of influence and authority, no politician, happy in his domestic relations, and in the enjoyment of competent fortune, consisting in the main of property situated on the borders of Virginia—nevertheless impelled by a sense of duty, as he himself testified before a Congressional committee since the war, General Lee determined to risk all and unite his fortunes with those of his native State, whose ordinances as one of her citizens he considered himself bound to obey.
"Having joined the Confederate army, he complained not that he was assigned to the obscure duty of constructing coast-defences for South Carolina and Georgia, nor that he was subsequently relegated to unambitious commands in Western Virginia. The accidental circumstance that General Joseph E. Johnston was wounded at the battle of Seven Pines in May, 1862, placed Lee in command of the Army of Northern Virginia. As commander of that army he achieved world-wide reputation, without giving occasion during a period of three years to any complaint on the part of officers, men, or citizens, or enemies, that he had been guilty of any act, illegal, oppressive, unjust, or inhuman in its character. This is the highest tribute possible to the wisdom and virtue of General Lee; for, as a general rule, law was degraded; officers, whether justly or unjustly, were constantly the subject of complaint and discord, and jealousy prevailed in camp and in the Senate-chamber. There was a fraction of our people represented by an unavailing minority in Congress, who either felt, or professed to feel, a jealousy whose theory was just, but whose application, at such a time, was unsound. They wished to give as little power as possible because they dreaded a military despotism, and thus desired to send our armies forth with half a shield and broken swords to protect the government from its enemies, lest, if the bucklers were entire and the swords perfect, they might be tempted, in the heyday of victory, to smite their employers. But this want of confidence never manifested itself toward General Lee, whose conduct satisfied the most suspicious that his ambition was not of glory but of the performance of duty. The army always felt this: the fact that he sacrificed no masses of human beings in desperate charges that he might gather laurels from the spot enriched by their gore. A year or more before he was appointed commander-in-chief of all the Confederate forces, a bill passed Congress creating that office. It failed to become a law, the President having withheld his approval. Lee made no complaints; his friends solicited no votes to counteract the veto. When a bill for the same purpose was passed at a subsequent period, it was whispered about that he could not accept the position. To a committee of Virginians who had called on him to ascertain the truth, his reply was, that he felt bound to accept any post the duties of which his country believed him competent to perform. After the battle of Gettysburg he tendered his resignation to President Davis, because he was apprehensive his failure, the responsibility for which he did not pretend to throw on his troops or officers, would produce distrust of his abilities and destroy his usefulness. I am informed the President, in a beautiful and touching letter, declined to listen to such a proposition. During the whole period of the war he steadily declined all presents, and when, on one occasion, a gentleman sent him several dozen of wine, he turned it over to the hospitals in Richmond, saying the wounded and sick needed it more than he. He was extremely simple and unostentatious in his habits, and shared with his soldiers their privations as well as their dangers. Toward the close of the war, meat was very scarce within the Confederate lines in the neighborhood of the contending armies. An aide of the President, having occasion to visit General Lee en official business in the field, was invited to dinner. The meal spread on the table consisted of corn-bread and a small piece of bacon buried in a large dish of greens. The quick-eyed aide discovered that none of the company, which was composed of the general's personal staff, partook of the meat, though requested to do so in the most urbane manner by the general, who presided; he, therefore, also declined, and noticed that the meat was carried off untouched. After the meal was over, he inquired of one of the officers present what was the reason for this extraordinary conduct. His reply was, 'We had borrowed the meat for the occasion, and promised to return it.'
"Duty alone induced this great soldier to submit to such privation, for the slightest intimation given to friends in Richmond would have filled his tent with all the luxuries that blockade-runners and speculators had introduced for the favored few able to purchase.
"This performance of duty was accompanied by no harsh manner or cynical expressions; for the man whose soul is ennobled by true heroism, possesses a heart as tender as it is firm. His calmness under the most trying circumstances, and his uniform sweetness of manner, were almost poetical. They manifested 'the most sustained tenderness of soul that ever caressed the chords of a lyre.' In council he was temperate and patient, and his words fell softly and evenly as snow-flakes, like the sentences that fell from the lips of Ulysses.
"On the termination of the war, his conduct until his death has challenged the admiration of friends and foes; he honestly acquiesced in the inevitable result of the struggle; no discontent, sourness, or complaint, has marred his tranquil life at Washington College, where death found him at his post of duty, engaged in fitting the young men of his country, by proper discipline and education, for the performance of the varied duties of life. It is somewhat singular that both Lee and his great lieutenant, Jackson, should in their last moments have referred to Hill. It is reported that General Lee said, 'Let my tent be struck; send for Hill;' while the lamented Jackson in his delirium cried out, 'Let A.P. Hill prepare for action; march the infantry rapidly to the front. Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.' Both heroes died with commands for military movements on their lips; both the noblest specimens of the Christian soldier produced by any country or any age; both now rest under the shade of the trees of heaven."
REV. DR. PALMER
Then spoke as follows:
"Ladies and Gentlemen: I should have been better pleased had I been permitted to sit a simple listener to the eloquent tribute paid to the immortal chieftain who now reposes in death, by the speaker who has just taken his seat. The nature of my calling so far separates me from public life that I am scarcely competent for the office of alluding to the elements which naturally gather around his career. When informed that other artists would draw the picture of the warrior and the hero, I yielded a cheerful compliance, in the belief that nothing was left but to describe the Christian and the man. You are entirely familiar with the early life of him over whose grave you this night shed tears; with his grave and sedate boyhood giving promise of the reserved force of mature manhood; with his academic career at West Point, where he received the highest honors of a class brilliant with such names as General Joseph E. Johnston; his seizure of the highest honors of a long apprenticeship in that institution, and his abrupt ascension in the Mexican War from obscurity to fame—all are too firmly stamped in the minds of his admirers to require even an allusion. You are too familiar to need a repetition from my lips of that great mental and spiritual struggle passed, not one night, but many, when, abandoning the service in which he had gathered so much of honor and reputation, he determined to lay his heart upon the altar of his native State, and swear to live or die in her defence.
"It would be a somewhat singular subject of speculation to discover how it is that national character so often remarkably expresses itself in single individuals who are born as representatives of a class. It is wonderful, for it has been the remark of ages, how the great are born in clusters; sometimes, indeed, one star shining with solitary splendor in the firmament above, but generally gathered in grand constellations, filling the sky with glory. What is that combination of influences, partly physical, partly intellectual, but somewhat more moral, which should make a particular country productive of men great over all others on earth and to all ages of time? Ancient Greece, with her indented coast, inviting to maritime adventures, from her earliest period was the mother of heroes in war, of poets in song, of sculptors and artists, and stands up after the lapse of centuries the educator of mankind, living in the grandeur of her works and in the immortal productions of minds which modern civilization with all its cultivation and refinement and science never surpassed and scarcely equalled. And why in the three hundred years of American history it should be given to the Old Dominion to be the grand mother, not only of States, but of the men by whom States and empires are formed, it might be curious were it possible for us to inquire. Unquestionably, Mr. President, there is in this problem the element of race; for he is blind to all the truths of history, to all the revelations of the past, who does not recognize a select race as we recognize a select individual of a race, to make all history; but pretermitting all speculation of that sort, when Virginia unfolds the scroll of her immortal sons—not because illustrious men did not precede him gathering in constellations and clusters, but because the name shines out through those constellations and clusters in all its peerless grandeur—we read the name of George Washington. And then, Mr. President, after the interval of three-quarters of a century, when your jealous eye has ranged down the record and traced the names that history will never let die, you come to the name—the only name in all the annals of history that can be named in the perilous connection—of Robert E. Lee, the second Washington. Well may old Virginia be proud of her twin sons! born almost a century apart, but shining like those binary stars which open their glory and shed their splendor on the darkness of the world.
"Sir, it is not an artifice of rhetoric which suggests this parallel between two great names in American history; for the suggestion springs spontaneously to every mind, and men scarcely speak of Lee without thinking of a mysterious connection that binds the two together. They were alike in the presage of their early history—the history of their boyhood. Both earnest, grave, studious; both alike in that peculiar purity which belongs only to a noble boy, and which makes him a brave and noble man, filling the page of a history spotless until closed in death; alike in that commanding presence which seems to be the signature of Heaven sometimes placed on a great soul when to that soul is given a fit dwelling-place; alike in that noble carriage and commanding dignity, exercising a mesmeric influence and a hidden power which could not be repressed, upon all who came within its charm; alike in the remarkable combination and symmetry of their intellectual attributes, all brought up to the same equal level, no faculty of the mind overlapping any other—all so equal, so well developed, the judgment, the reason, the memory, the fancy, that you are almost disposed to deny them greatness, because no single attribute of the mind was projected upon itself, just as objects appear sometimes smaller to the eye from the exact symmetry and beauty of their proportions; alike, above all, in that soul-greatness, that Christian virtue to which so beautiful a tribute has been rendered by my friend whose high privilege it was to be a compeer and comrade with the immortal dead, although in another department and sphere; and yet alike, Mr. President, in their external fortune, so strangely dissimilar—the one the representative and the agent of a stupendous revolution which it pleased Heaven to bless and give birth to one of the mightiest nations on the globe; the other the representative and agent of a similar revolution, upon which it pleased high Heaven to throw the darkness of its frown; so that, bearing upon his generous heart the weight of this crushed cause, he was at length overwhelmed; and the nation whom he led in battle gathers with spontaneity of grief over all this land which is ploughed with graves and reddened with blood, and the tears of a widowed nation in her bereavement are shed over his honored grave.
"But these crude suggestions, which fall almost impromptu from my lips, suggest that which I desire to offer before this audience to-night. I accept Robert E. Lee as the true type of the American man and the Southern gentleman. A brilliant English writer has well remarked, with a touch of sound philosophy, that when a nation has rushed upon its fate, the whole force of the national life will sometimes shoot up in one grand character, like the aloe which blooms at the end of a hundred years, shooting up in one single spike of glory, and then expires. And wherever philosophy, refinement, and culture, have gone upon the globe, it is possible to place the finger upon individual men who are the exemplars of a nation's character, those typical forms under which others less noble, less expanded, have manifested themselves. That gentle, that perfect moderation, that self-command which enabled him to be so self-possessed amid the most trying difficulties of his public career, a refinement almost such as that which marks the character of the purest woman, were blended in him with that massive strength, that mighty endurance, that consistency and power which gave him and the people whom he led such momentum under the disadvantages of the struggle through which he passed. Born from the general level of American society, blood of a noble ancestry flowed in his veins, and he was a type of the race from which he sprang. Such was the grandeur and urbaneness of his manner, the dignity and majesty of his carriage, that his only peer in social life could be found in courts and among those educated amid the refinements of courts and thrones. In that regard there was something beautiful and appropriate that he should become, in the later years of his life, the educator of the young. Sir, it is a cause for mourning before high Heaven to-night that he was not spared thirty years to educate a generation for the time that is to come; for, as in the days when the red banner streamed over the land, the South sent her sons to fight under his flag and beneath the wave of his sword, these sons have been sent again to sit at his feet when he was the disciple of the Muses and the teacher of philosophy. Oh, that he might have brought his more than regal character, his majestic fame, all his intellectual and moral endowments, to the task of fitting those that should come in the crisis of the future to take the mantle that had fallen from his shoulders and bear it to the generations that are unborn!
"General Lee I accept as the representative of his people, and of the temper with which this whole Southland entered into that gigantic, that prolonged, and that disastrous struggle which has closed, but closed as to us in grief. Sir, they wrong us who say that the South was ever impatient to rupture the bonds of the American Union. The war of 1776, which, sir, has no more yet a written history than has the war of 1861 to 1865, tells us that it was this Southland that wrought the Revolution of 1776. We were the heirs of all the glory of that immortal struggle. It was purchased with our blood, with the blood of our fathers which yet flows in these veins, and which we desire to transmit, pure and consecrated, to the sons that are born to our loins. The traditions of the past sixty years were a portion of our heritage, and it never was easy for any great heart and reflective mind even to seem to part with that heritage to enter upon the perilous effort of establishing a new nationality.
"Mr. President, it was my privilege once to be thrilled in a short speech, uttered by one of the noblest names clustering upon the roll of South Carolina; for, sir, South Carolina was Virginia's sister, and South Carolina stood by Virginia in the old struggle, as Virginia stood by South Carolina in the new, and the little State, small as Greece, barren in resources but great only in the grandeur of the men, in their gigantic proportions, whom she, like Virginia, was permitted to produce—I heard, sir, one of South Carolina's noblest sons speak once thus: 'I walked through the Tower of London, that grand repository where are gathered the memorials of England's martial prowess; and when the guide, in the pride of his English heart, pointed to the spoils of war collected through centuries of the past,' said this speaker, lifting himself upon tiptoe that he might reach to his greatest height, 'I said, "You cannot point to one single trophy from my people, or my country, though England engaged in two disastrous wars with her."' Sir, this was the sentiment. We loved every inch of American soil, and loved every part of that canvas [pointing to the Stars and Stripes above him], which, as a symbol of power and authority, floated from the spires and from the mast-head of our vessels; and it was after the anguish of a woman in birth that this land, that now lies in her sorrow and ruin, took upon herself that great peril; but it is all emblematized in the regret experienced by him whose praises are upon our lips, and who, like the English Nelson, recognized duty engraved in letters of light as the only ensign he could follow, and who, tearing away from all the associations of his early life, and, abandoning the reputation gained in the old service, made up his mind to embark in the new, and, with that modesty and that firmness belonging only to the truly great, expressed his willingness to live and die in the position assigned to him.
"And I accept this noble chieftain equally as the representative of this Southland in the spirit of his retirement from struggle. It could not escape any speaker upon this platform to allude to the dignity of that retirement; how, from the moment he surrendered he withdrew from observation, holding aloof from all political complications, and devoting his entire energies to the great work he had undertaken to discharge. In this he represents—an the true attitude of the South since the close of the war attitude of quiet submission to the conquering power and of obedience to all exactions; but without resiling from those great principles which were embalmed in the struggle, and which, as the convictions of a lifetime, no honest mind could release.
"All over this land of ours there are men like Lee—not as great, not as symmetrical in the development of character, not as grand in the proportions which they have reached, but who, like him, are sleeping upon memories that are holy as death, and who, amid all reproach, appeal to the future, and to the tribunal of History, when she shall render her final verdict in reference to the struggle closed, for the vindication of the people embarked in that struggle. We are silent, resigned, obedient, and thoughtful, sleeping upon solemn memories, Mr. President; but, as said by the poet-preacher in the Good Book, 'I sleep, but my heart waketh,' looking upon the future that is to come, and powerless in every thing except to pray to Almighty God, who rules the destinies of nations, that those who have the power may at least have the grace given them to preserve the constitutional principles which we have endeavored to maintain. And, sir, were it my privilege to speak in the hearing of the entire nation, I would utter with the profoundest emphasis this pregnant truth: that no people ever traversed those moral ideas which underlie its character, its constitution, its institutions, and its laws, that did not in the end perish in disaster, in shame, and in dishonor. Whatever be the glory, the material civilization, of which such a nation may boast, it still holds true that the truth is immortal, and that ideas rule the world.
"And now I have but a single word to say, and that is, that the grave of this noble hero is bedewed with the most tender and sacred tears ever shed upon a human tomb. I was thinking in my study this afternoon, striving to strike out something I might utter on this platform, and this parallel between the first Washington and the second occurred to me. I asked my own heart the question, 'Would you not accept the fame and the glory and the career of Robert E. Lee just as soon as accept the glory and career of the immortal man who was his predecessor?' Sir, there is a pathos in fallen fortunes which stirs the sensibilities, and touches the very fountain of human feeling. I am not sure that at this moment Napoleon, the enforced guest of the Prussian king, is not grander than when he ascended the throne of France. There is a grandeur in misfortune when that misfortune is borne by a noble heart, with the strength of will to endure, and endure without complaining or breaking. Perhaps I slip easily into this train of remarks, for it is my peculiar office to speak of that chastening with which a gracious Providence visits men on this earth, and by which He prepares them for heaven hereafter; and what is true of individuals in a state of adversity, is true of nations when clothed in sorrow. Sir, the men in these galleries that once wore the gray are here to-night that they may bend the knee in reverence at the grave of him whose voice and hand they obeyed amid the storms of battle: the young widow, who but as yesterday leaned upon the arm of her soldier-husband, but now clasps wildly to her breast the young child that never beheld its father's face, comes here to shed her tears over this grave to-night; and the aged matron, with the tears streaming from her eyes as she recalls her unforgotten dead, lying on the plains of Gettysburg, or on the heights of Fredericksburg, now, to-night, joins in our dirge over him who was that son's chieftain and counsellor and friend. A whole nation has risen up in the spontaneity of its grief to render the tribute of its love. Sir, there is a unity in the grapes when they grow together in the clusters upon the vine, and holding the bunch in your hand you speak of it as one; but there is another unity when you throw these grapes into the wine-press, and the feet of those that bruise these grapes trample them almost profanely beneath their feet together in the communion of pure wine; and such is the union and communion of hearts that have been fused by tribulation and sorrow, and that meet together in the true feeling of an honest grief to express the homage of their affection, as well as to render a tribute of praise to him upon whose face we shall never look until on that immortal day when we shall behold it transfigured before the throne of God."
The meeting then adopted the following preamble and resolutions:
"Whereas, Like orphans at the grave of a parent untimely snatched away, our hearts have lingered and brooded, with a grief that no cunning of speech could interpret, over the thought that Robert Edward Lee exists no more, in bodily life, in sensible form, in visible presence, for our love and veneration, for our edification and guidance, for our comfort and solace; and—
"Whereas, We have invoked all mute funeral emblems to aid us with their utmost eloquence of woe, and we cannot content ourselves with contemplating, from the depth and the gloom of our bereavement, the exalted and radiant virtues of the dead:
"Resolved, That we, the people of New Orleans, have come together under one common impulse to render united homage to the memory which holds mastery in our minds, whether we turn with bitter regard to the past, or with prayerful and chastened aspirations to the future.
"Resolved, That as Louisianians, as Southerners, as Americans, we proudly claim our share in the fame of Lee as an inheritance rightfully belonging to us, and endowed with which we shall piously cherish, though all calamities should rain upon us, true poverty—the poverty indeed that abases and starves the spirit can never approach us with its noisome breath and withering look.
"Resolved, That it is infinitely more bitter to have to mourn the loss of our Lee, than not to have learned to prize him as the noblest gift which could have been allotted to a people and an epoch; a grand man, rounded to the symmetry of equal moral and intellectual powers, graces, and accomplishments; a man whose masterly and heroic energy left nothing undone in defending a just cause while there was a possibility of striking for it a rational and hopeful blow, and whose sublime resignation when the last blow was struck in vain, and when human virtue was challenged to match itself with the consummation of human adversity, taught wiser, more convincing, more reassuring, more soul-sustaining lessons than were to be found in all the philosophies of all books.
"Resolved, That worthily to show our veneration for this majestic and beautiful character, we must revolve it habitually in our thoughts, and try to appropriate it to the purification and elevation of our lives, and so educate our children that they shall, if possible, grow up into its likeness.
"Resolved, That while it is honorable for a people to deeply lament the death of such a man, it would be glorious for a generation to mould itself after his model; for it would be a generation fraught with all high manly qualities, tempered with all gentle and Christian virtues; for truth, love, goodness, health, strength, would be with it, and consequently victory, liberty, majesty, and beauty.
"Resolved, That we would hail the erection of the proposed monument as well adapted to the purpose of preserving this admirable and most precious memory as a vital and beneficent influence for all time to come, and we will therefore cordially aid in promoting the Lee Monument which has just been inaugurated."
A crowded meeting assembled in this city on October 15th. After an impressive prayer from the Rev. Dr. Brantly, the meeting was addressed by
GENERAL JOHN B. GORDON.
"My Friends: We have met to weep, to mingle our tears, and give vent to our bursting hearts. The sorrowing South, already clad in mourners' weeds, bows her head afresh to-day in a heart-stricken orphanage; and if I could have been permitted to indulge the sensibilities of my heart, I would have fled this most honorable task, and in solitude and silence have wept the loss of the great and good man whose death we so deplore. I loved General Lee; for it was my proud privilege to know him well. I loved him with a profound and all-filial love, with a sincere and unfaded affection. I say I would have retired from this flattering task which your kindness has imposed, but remembering that his words, his deeds, his great example, has taught us that duty was the most commanding obligation, I yield this morning to your wishes.
"We have met to honor General Lee, to honor him dead whom we loved while living. Honor General Lee! How utterly vain, what a mockery of language do these words seem! Honor Lee! Why, my countrymen, his deeds have honored him! The very trump of Fame itself is proud to honor him! Europe and the civilized world have united to honor him supremely, and History itself has caught the echo and made it immortal. Honor Lee! Why, sir, as the sad news of his death is with the speed of thought communicated to the world, it will carry a pang even to the hearts of marshals and of monarchs; and I can easily fancy that, amid the din and clash and carnage of war, the cannon itself, in mute pause at the whispering news, will briefly cease its roar around the walls of Paris. The task is not without pain, while yet his manly frame lies stretched upon his bier, to attempt to analyze the elements that made him truly great. It has been my fortune in life from circumstances to have come in contact with some whom the world pronounced great—some of the earth's celebrated and distinguished; but I declare it here to-day that, of any mortal man whom it has ever been my privilege to approach, he was the greatest; and I assert here that, grand as might be your conceptions of the man before, he arose in incomparable majesty on more familiar acquaintance. This can be affirmed of few men who have ever lived or died, and of no other man whom it has ever been my fortune to approach. Like Niagara, the more you gazed the more his grandeur grew upon you, the more his majesty expanded and filled your spirit with a full satisfaction that left a perfect delight without the slightest feeling of oppression. Grandly majestic and dignified in all his deportment, he was genial as the sunlight of this beautiful day, and not a ray of that cordial, social intercourse but brought warmth to the heart as it did light to the understanding.
"But as one of the great captains will General Lee first pass review and inspection before the criticism of history. We will not compare him with Washington. The mind will halt instinctively at the comparison of two such men, so equally and gloriously great. But with modest, yet calm and unflinching confidence we place him by the side of the Marlboroughs and Wellingtons who take high niches in the pantheon of immortality. Let us dwell for a moment, my friends, on this thought. Marlborough never met defeat, it is true. Victory marked every step of his triumphant march; but when, where, and whom did Marlborough fight? The ambitious and vain but able Louis XIV. But he had already exhausted the resources of his kingdom before Marlborough stepped upon the stage. The great marshals Turenne and Conde were no more, and Luxembourg the beloved had vanished from the scene. Marlborough, preeminently great as he certainly was, nevertheless led the combined forces of England and of Holland, in the freshness of their strength and the fulness of their financial ability, against prostrate France, with a treasury depleted, a people worn out, discouraged, and dejected. But let us turn to another comparison. The great Von Moltke, who now rides upon the whirlwind and commands the storm of Prussian invasion, has recently declared that General Lee, in all respects, was fully the equal of Wellington, and you may the better appreciate this admission when you remember that Wellington was the benefactor of Prussia, and probably Von Moltke's special idol. But let us examine the arguments ourselves. France was already prostrate when Wellington met Napoleon. That great emperor had seemed to make war upon the very elements themselves, to have contended with Nature, and to have almost defeated Providence itself. The enemies of the North, more savage than Goth or Vandal, mounting the swift gales of a Russian winter, had carried death, desolation, and ruin, to the very gates of Paris. Wellington fought at Waterloo a bleeding and broken nation—a nation electrified, it is true, to almost superhuman energy by the genius of Napoleon, but a nation prostrate and bleeding nevertheless. Compare this, my friends, the condition of France and the condition of the United States, in the freshness of her strength, in the luxuriance of her resources, in the lustihood of her gigantic youth. Tell me whether to place the chaplet of military superiority with him, or with Marlborough, or Wellington? Even the greatest of captains, in his Italian campaigns, flashing fame in lightning splendor over the world, even Bonaparte met and crushed in battle but three or four (I think) Austrian armies; while our Lee, with one army badly equipped, in time incredibly short, met and hurled back in broken and shattered fragments five of the greatest prepared and most magnificently appointed invasions. Yea, more! He discrowned, in rapid succession, one after another of the United States' most, accomplished and admirable commanders.