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LEE THE AMERICAN



LEE THE AMERICAN



BY



GAMALIEL BRADFORD, JR,




BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

(3Tbe ftitetffte |&re Cambridge

MDCCCCXII



COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY GAMALIEL BRADFORD, JR.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published March tqi2



TO
THE YOUNG MEN

BOTH OF THE NORTH AND OF THE SOUTH

WHO CAN MAKE OR UNMAKE

THE FUTURE OF THE

AMERICA
OF WASHINGTON, OF LINCOLN, AND OF LEE



241175



PREF



THE formal and final biography of Lee should be writ
ten by a competent military specialist, like Henderson.
This book, although it aims to give an intelligible bio
graphical narrative, aims much more to give a clear,
consistent, sympathetic portrait of a great soul. In short,
its purpose is not so much biography as psychography.
Those to whom the latter term is new will find a full
discussion of it, both in general and in relation to Lee,
in the Appendix.

For material I have relied mainly upon the " Official
Records of the Union and Confederate Armies" and the
lives of Lee by Long, Jones, Fitzhugh Lee, and Captain
R. E. Lee. But a complete bibliography of sources
would be practically a bibliography of the war literature
both Northern and Southern. I have endeavored to
give in the Notes my authority for every verbal quota
tion and for all important or disputable statements of
fact.

My thanks are due chiefly to the "Atlantic Monthly,"
also to the " South Atlantic Quarterly," and the "Sewa-
nee Review," for their hospitality. This has enabled me
to submit all my chapters to public criticism before giv
ing them the final revision which has certainly not elim
inated all errors, but has, I hope, diminished the number.



viii PREFACE

I wish to thank also the numerous correspondents who
have sent me corrections and suggestions. Some have
been severe. Most have been kindly. All have been
helpful. I trust they will appreciate the result of their
helpfulness as much as I do.



CONTENTS

I. LEE BEFORE THE WAR . 3

Lee s descent and indifference to it his father his mother
his childhood education West Point marriage and
Virginia surroundings life until the Mexican War service
in Mexico Scott and others praise him domestic corre
spondence professional life during the fifties superintend
ent at West Point service on the plains political and per
sonal details in letters arrest of John Brown Lee s per
sonal appearance.

II. THE GREAT DECISION 25

Growth of a Lee legend to be deplored his strong sense of
duty his views before the war approach of the struggle
offered command of U. S. Army interview with Scott
resigns his commission discussion of his course Rawle on
West Point general excuse of secession does not apply to
Lee his state loyalty a natural sentiment has also a
deeper political significance Lee thus felt he was fighting for
liberty but also fighting for slavery, the real cause of the
war Lee did not believe in slavery and this makes tragedy
of his position absolute constancy to decision once made
no thought of personal advantage.

III. LEE AND DAVIS 48

Material for study of Davis his character an orator
practical qualities a nervous sensitive his general rela
tions with military subordinates Lee s tact and deference to
Davis instance of this in offer to resign after Gettysburg
yet Lee does not hesitate to assert himself, when necessary
and, in spite of all his tact, finds Davis difficult Da vis s
estimate of Lee Lee s estimate of Davis their relations
grow more critical towards the close Davis s unpopularity



x CONTENTS

how far he himself was responsible for this public disposi
tion to set up Lee as dictator he refuses friendly relations
between him and Davis consequently preserved to the end.

IV. LEE AND THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT . . 74

Lee takes command of Virginia forces then enters service of
Confederacy his subordination to civil power limits of
this subordination and assertion of authority in various direc
tions as to retaliation as to negro military service his
great influence shown in this and in the desire to make him dic
tator could he as such have saved the Confederacy? Mo
tives of his refusal not preference of state to national alle
giance rather, modesty and unwillingness to assume respons
ibility that did not belong to him also a consciousness of the
uncertain political future of the Confederacy leaves this
future to God his attitude towards peace negotiations
believes to the end that success is possible, if the people will
make sacrifices loyal and lofty acceptance of the result
dies a true American.

V. LEE AND His ARMY 100

Lee s relations to his army as showing his character his or
ganizing ability his discipline, lenient, but productive of
good results discipline of officers tact and sympathetic
suggestion difficulties as to promotion disputes of the
officers with each other largely as to share of blame for
failure Lee s example and influence in this regard personal
relation with officers no familiarity, but always kindliness

his accessibility his relations with the common soldiers

memory for names and faces simplicity of his habits
his army s love for him cause of this his love for them
illustrative anecdote.

VI. LEE AND JACKSON . . . . .127

Character of Jackson a fighter, sensitive and kindly, but
full of devouring energy and able to inspire others with the
same was he ambitious? his religion did it destroy his
ambition? what he might have accomplished his devotion



CONTENTS xi

to Lee his opinion of Lee Lee s opinion of Jackson
their military relations Jackson s subordination to Lee
his insubordination to others his relations to his own in
feriors his soldiers love him with his officers some friction
which Lee has to remove their relations as to generalship
which deserves the glory? especially at Chancellorsville
Lee s superiority in luminousness.

VII. LEE IN BATTLE 153

Amount of Lee s direction in actual conflict how much had he
of the soldier s passion for fighting? quality of his courage
exposure to danger was he unbalanced in great crises?
his heroic combativeness at Antietam his bearing and man
ner in battle picture of him after defeat Lee and his sol
diers in battle triumph failure, the surrender Lee and -
Grant.

VIII. LEE AS A GENERAL 170

Difficulty of estimating greatness especially military great
ness brief outline of Lee s military career partial judg
ments in his favor Southern enthusiasm partial judg
ments against him Badeau, Grant impartial Northern
judgment recognition of Lee s difficulties discussion of
mistakes but enthusiastic praise foreign judgment
mistakes again but high and discriminating commendation
verdict of expert member of U. S. general staff summary
of Lee s great qualities organizing ability boldness or
rashness? energy and rapidity independence know
ledge of adversaries his character even more important than
his generalship.

IX. LEE S SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC LIFE . . . 196

Lee s manner in general society his fondness for the society
of women his jesting and quiet fun his courtesy and
kindness in business intercourse had he intimate friend
ships? a letter of Johnston s illustrative anecdotes
domestic relations with his servants with his children
advice and guidance affection generosity playful en-



xii CONTENTS

joyment Lee and his wife always isolated three so
cial motives with Lee only kindness, human fellowship
love of children of animals still always isolated one
friend only, God.

X. LEE S SPIRITUAL LIFE 221

Lee s education his style as a writer shows little love for
intellectual pursuits little taste for aesthetic pleasures
mild enjoyment of nature eminently practical not cold,
however, quick temper, well-controlled his purity and gen
eral self-control order and system New England con
science reserve of speech sometimes misinterpreted
thoroughly democratic had he ambition? domesticity and
religion his religion not sectarian not dogmatic essen
tially humble and largely practical public worship
forgiveness and Christian spirit missionary tendencies
prayer Lee s indifference to its inconsistencies personal
relation to God God the cardinal fact in his life. .

XI. LEE AFTER THE WAR . . . . . . 247

Withdraws immediately into private life attitude towards
U. S. government refuses to take part in politics avoids
war topics, but loves and is loved by old soldiers his few
recorded opinions on the war avoids all publicity affec
tionate relations with neighbors and family refuses lucra
tive positions and accepts presidency of Washington College
his labors and aims as an educator management of his
faculty discipline of students as to conduct as to
scholarship influence in college and through whole South
greatness in failure value of this for all times and especially
for twentieth century America.

APPENDIX . . 267

Psychography and its difficulties partiality from general
prejudices from the desire for rhetorical effect from per
sonal sympathy from laziness objective difficulties dif
ficulty of accuracy as to fact actions words written and



CONTENTS xiii

reported greater difficulty of deducing motive from action .
still greater difficulty of generalizing motives into qualities
of character in spite of these difficulties character-study to
be pursued for its fascination also for its practical value
choice of great men as subjects their common humanity
danger of psychography degenerating into gossip remedy
for this, love Lee lovable his influence and desirability of
extending it.

NOTES 285

INDEX 313



ILLUSTRATIONS

GENERAL ROBERT EDWARD LEE. (Photogravure).

Frontispiece

From a painting by Theodore Pine (1904), in the possession of
Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va. Now repro
duced for the first time.

ROBERT E. LEE 10

From a painting, about 1831, by West (son or nephew of
Benjamin West), in the possession of Washington and Lee
University. The uniform is that of a Second Lieutenant,
Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. It is the first painting of Lee,
and is said to have been painted shortly after his marriage.

JEFFERSON DAVIS 48

From a photograph by W. W. Foster, Richmond, Va.

GENERAL LEE ON TRAVELER 100

From a photograph by Miley & Son, Lexington, Va.

STONEWALL JACKSON 128

Drawn from life, in 1861, near Ball s Bluff, by Dr. Adelbert

Volck of Baltimore.
Reproduced by the courtesy of Mrs. S. B. Herrick.

MRS. ROBERT E. LEE 196

From a photograph by Miley & Son, Lexington, Va.

ROBERT E. LEE 248

From the painting by Pioto in the possession of the Virginia
Military Institute. Now reproduced for the first time.



xvi ILLUSTRATIONS

FACSIMILE OF LEE S LETTER ACCEPTING THE PRESI
DENCY OF WASHINGTON COLLEGE .... 256

Reproduced by the courtesy of the University.

ROBERT E. LEE 258

When president of Washington College. From a photograph
by W. W. Foster, Richmond, Va.

HEAD FROM RECUMBENT STATUE OF LEE . . . 264

By Edward V. Valentine.

In Lee Memorial Chapel, Washington and Lee University.

From a photograph by Miley & Son, Lexington, Va.



LEE THE AMERICAN



Au reste, dans toutes ces citations je ne pretends pas
endosser les passages que j emprunte ; je m attache,
comme toujours, afaire valoiret a faireconnaitre 1 au-
teurque j analyse, par ses meilleurs cotes, laissant au
lecteur la balance de tout et 1 arbitrage. Sainte-Beuve.



LEE THE AMERICAN



LEE BEFORE THE WAR

THE Lees of Virginia are descended from Richard Lee,
who came to this country toward the middle of the
seventeenth century. Richard s English affiliations have
been the subject of much dispute. Early Virginia gene
alogists derived him from the ancient and honorable
family of Shropshire Lees and thought they had identi
fied him exactly. Grave difficulties were discovered in
this connection and at one time the emigrant seemed
likely to be transferred to the delightful kinship of Sir
Harry Lee of Ditchley and Woodstock. But the au
thorities were still dissatisfied, and have now apparently
returned to the Shropshire origin, though Richard s
precise position in that family is not easily determined. 1

On his mother s side Robert Lee, doubtless in com
mon with some hundreds of thousands of others, is said
to have been descended from King Robert Bruce. 2

Like many people who have ancestors, Lee displayed
a considerable indifference to them. "General Lee had
never the time or inclination to study genealogy, and
always said he knew nothing beyond his first ancestor,
Colonel Richard Lee, who migrated to America in the



4 LEE THE AMERICAN

reign of Charles I." 3 On having a seal cut he does in
deed, with apology, show some interest about the arms,
" which I have thought, perhaps foolishly enough, might
as well be right as wrong." 4 But when an enterprising
genealogist undertakes a Lee book, the general s com
ment is : "I am very much obliged to Mr. - - for the
trouble he has taken in relation to the Lee genealogy.
I have no desire to have it published, and do not think
it would afford sufficient interest beyond the immediate
family to pay for the expense. I think the money had
better be appropriated to relieve the poor." 5

Which does not mean that he was not daily and
hourly conscious with pride that he belonged to the
Virginia Lees, a name writ as large as any in the history
of the country and transmitted to him with an honor
which it was his constant care never to tarnish. From
the first Richard down, the Lees had always been doing
something useful and often something great, and they
were distinguished by the friendship as well as by the
admiration of Washington.

Robert Lee s father, Light Horse Harry, fought the
Revolutionary War beside Washington and Greene.
He was a fiery soldier and a more impetuous spirit than
his son. He took a hot and eager part in politics and
had warm friends and bitter enemies. In his last lin
gering illness his colored nurse did something he did
not like. He flung his boot at her. She flung it back
and won his heart. It is a trivial incident, but it is worth



LEE BEFORE THE WAR 5

a chapter in differentiating the father from the son, who
flung no boots and had none flung at him.

Harry Lee was a scholar and loved literature. He
read Sophocles and Racine and the Greek philosophers
and commented on them in letters far more spirited and
delightful than any of Robert s. The father also wrote
memoirs which the son edited. Partial admirers rate
them with Caesar s. Jefferson, who hated Harry Lee
politically, says of them : "I am glad to see the romance
of Lee removed from the shelf of history to that of fable.
Some small portions of the transactions he relates were
within my own knowledge; and of these I can say he
has given more falsehood than fact." 6

Harry Lee was forty-nine years old in 1807, when
Robert was born. The son was only eleven when his
father died and during much of that time they had not
been together. Therefore the paternal influence is not
likely to have been very great. Nevertheless, Lee cher
ished his father s memory with deep reverence. When
he was in South Carolina in 1861, he wrote, " I had the
gratification at length of visiting my father s grave." 7
And Colonel Long describes the incident simply but
impressively: "He went alone to the tomb, and after a
few moments of silence, plucked a flower and slowly
retraced his steps." 8

Lee s relations with his mother were much more
intimate and prolonged. She appears to have been
a woman of high character and to have taught her son



6 LEE THE AMERICAN

practical as well as moral excellences. She was for
many years an invalid and Robert took much of the care
both of her and of the household, which may have been
useful training in self-sacrifice, but must have cut him
off somewhat from the natural outflow, the fresh spon-
taneousness of boyish spirits. I think he showed the
effect of this all his life.

Of his childish years we know little. He came so late
to greatness that the usual crop of reminiscences does
not seem to have been gathered. Perhaps he did not
furnish good material for reminiscences. Who were his
companions? Did he love them and they him? What
were his hopes and ambitions? Was it to be said of
him, as was said of his father, that " he seems to have
come out of his mother s womb a soldier " ? 9 We get a
rare glimpse of love for sports : " In later days General
Lee has been heard to relate with enthusiasm how as a
boy he had followed the hunt (not infrequently on foot)
for hours over hill and valley without fatigue." 10 Horses
all his life were a delight to him. He himself wrote : " I
know the pleasure of training a handsome horse. I en
joy it as much as any one." n A good observer wrcce of
him : " He loved horses, and had good ones, and rode
carefully and safely, but I never liked his seat." 12

On exceptional occasions some touch of boyish mem
ory breaks through habitual reserve. " Twas seldom
that he allowed his mind to wander to the days of his
childhood and talk of his father and his early associates,



LEE BEFORE THE WAR 7

but when he did he was far more charming than he
thought," says Longstreet, 13 with unusually delicate dis
crimination. Thus Lee writes, after the war, to a lady
who had sent him photographs of Stratford, the fine old
Virginia manor house where he was born: "Your pic
ture vividly recalls scenes of my earliest recollections and
happiest days. Though unseen for years, every feature
of the house is familiar to me." And Miss Mason tells
us that shortly before his death he visited Alexandria
and "one of the old neighbors found him gazing wist
fully over the palings of the garden in which he used to
play. * I am looking/ said he, to see if the old snowball
trees are still here. I should have been sorry to miss
them. " 14

We know hardly more of Lee s education than of his
childish adventures and amusements. When he was
thirteen years old, Jefferson wrote of Virginia generally :
"What is her education now? Where is it? The little
we have we import, like beggars, from other states ; or
import their begg ars to bestow on us their miserable
crumbs." 15 But Jefferson was especially deploring the
lack of educational institutions. His democratic instincts
could not tolerate the traditions of a country where down
to the time of the Revolution " newspapers and literature
at large were a prescribed commodity," 16 and whose gov
ernor, Sir William Berkeley, said : " I thank God there
are no free schools nor printing and I hope we shall not
have them these hundred years." 17 Young men in Lee s



8 LEE THE AMERICAN

station doubtless received more or less solid instruction
of the classical order. In 1811 the Lees removed to Alex
andria with the special purpose of educating the child
ren. Robert s first teacher was a Mr. Leary, who lived
until after the war, and to whom his pupil wrote in 1866,
with kindly remembrance : "I beg to express the grati
tude I have felt all my life for the affectionate fidelity
which characterized your teaching and conduct towards
me." 18 Later, in preparation for West Point, Lee, still at
Alexandria, attended the school of Mr. Benjamin Hallo-
well, where his time was chiefly devoted to mathemat
ics. Hallowell writes that "he was a most exemplary
student in every respect/ 19 with other laudatory re
miniscences which had probably lost nothing by the
lapse of time and the growing celebrity of the subject
of them.

In 1825, when he was eighteen years old, Lee entered
West Point. There seems to be general, if rather indefin
ite, testimony to his excellent conduct and standing in
the Academy. He was a good scholar and graduated
high in his class ; but I do not find many anecdotes from
contemporaries that will help us to humanize his life
there. His unquestioned temperance and self-control in
moral matters appear doubly creditable, when we read
the statements made by Colonel Thayer, superintendent
of West Point at that time, to President Adams, as to
the drunkenness and dissipation generally prevalent
among the young men. 20



LEE BEFORE THE WAR 9

Lee graduated duly in 1829, immediately received an
appointment in the Engineer Corps, and was stationed
for some years at Old Point Comfort. During this time
he married, at Arlington, in June, 1831, Miss Custis,
Mrs. Washington s great-granddaughter, and through
her he later came into control of an extensive property,
with farms, and mansions, and a considerable number of
slaves. Although we get little account of it, his early
married life must have brought him largely into contact
with all the opulence and gayety and grace of that old
Virginia aristocracy whose faults and virtues Mr. Page
has painted so winningly that the faults seem almost as
attractive as the virtues. Brave, handsome, courtly men,
pure, dainty, loving, high-minded women, danced and
laughed away the time, as they did in the golden world.
" For all its faults, it was, I believe, the purest, sweetest
life ever lived," 21 says Mr. Page. Then the Northern
reader turns to the cold, judicial narrative of Olmsted
and reads of these same chivalrous gentlemen that,
though "honorable, hospitable, and at the bottom of
their hearts kind and charitable, they yet nursed a high,
overweening sense of their importance and dignity." 22
He reads other facts in Olmsted, of a much darker and
grimmer order, and cannot avoid the momentary reflec
tion that the most graceful and charming society in the
world danced and laughed in France also before the
Revolution. It may be, there are some ugly things that
light hearts are dancing over to-day.



io LEE THE AMERICAN

By temperament Lee had none of the vices of that
vanishing world and perhaps not all its good qualities.
I doubt if it ever impressed him very deeply, and his
wandering military life soon withdrew him altogether
from its influence. One reminiscence of this period
though only a reminiscence, and no doubt colored by the
event, as such usually are has marked interest in its
anticipation of what was to come. It is given by a re
lative. " I have often said since he entered on his bril
liant career that, although we all admired him for his
remarkable beauty and attractive manners, I did not see
anything in him that prepared me for his so far outstrip
ping all his compeers. The first time this idea presented
itself to me was during one of my visits to Arlington
after my marriage. We were all seated around the table
at night, Robert reading. I looked up and my eye fell
upon his face in perfect repose, and the thought at once
passed through my mind : You certainly look more like
a great man than any one I have ever seen. " 23 If all
those who look like great men to their female relatives
attained Lee s greatness, what a great world it would be.
Yet this glimpse has a crisp definiteness which makes
one unwilling to pass it over.

During the years preceding the Mexican War, Lee
followed his profession of military engineer in different
parts of the country. Now he was in Washington, in
cidentally messing with Joe Johnston and others after
wards more or less notable. Now he was in Ohio ad-




ROBERT E. LEE



LEE BEFORE THE WAR n

justing the boundary between that state and Michigan ;
or in New York Harbor, supervising the defenses.

Perhaps the most important of his engineering labors
were those at St. Louis, connected with governing and
controlling the course of the Mississippi River. The in
teresting thing here is that at first he met with a good
deal of opposition and abuse. He bore this with entire
equanimity, quietly going on with his work, until his
final success won the approval and admiration of those
who had been most ready to find fault. 24 It was the
same indomitable perseverance, without regard to critic
ism, which he showed again and again during the war
and which is most concretely illustrated in the humorous
anecdote told of him in Mexico. He had been ordered
to take some sailors and construct a battery to be
manned by them afterwards. The sailors did not like to
dig dirt, and swore. Even their captain remonstrated.
His men were fighters, not moles. Lee simply showed
his orders and persisted. When the firing began, the
eager mariners found their earthworks exceedingly com
fortable. Their commander went so far as to apologize
to Lee. " Captain, I suppose, after all, your works helped
the boys a good deal. But the fact is, I never did like
this land fighting it ain t clean." 25

The value of Lee s services during the Mexican War
has perhaps been exaggerated ; but the direct evidence
shows that they were signal and important. He began as
captain, serving with General Wool at the battle of Buena


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