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in earnest, gave him the assurance of reinforcement whenever re-

Lee confronted him with sixty-four thousand men, precious men.

90 Southern Historical Society Papers.

the death or capture of every one of whom was a loss not to be

The grandest compHment ever paid by one soldier to another was
paid by Grant to Lee in the famous "attrition" order of the former.
It openly abandoned competition with him in the fields of strategy
and manoeuvre, and simply proposed to hurl superior against infe-
rior forces, until " by the mere force of attrition' ' the latter should
be annihilated. Whatever else may be said of it, the plan seemed
sure of success, and it succeeded, but at the cost of such enormous
destruction to the superior force as the Federal general could hardly
have contemplated.

The situation was from the first a desperate one for Lee. The
odds against him, and the enemy's unlimited capacity for maintain-
ing and increasing them, left little chance for a decisive victory. He
might not hope that Grant would divide his forces, and give him the
chance, so often profited by in the past, of whipping him in detail.
The policy of retreat, however "masterly," could lead to but one
result — the final submission to a siege within the defenses of Rich
mond, and consequent abandonment of the capital.

The only course which promised the possibility of success was to
fight from the start, to attack, regardless of odds, whenever op-
portunity offered, to dispute every step of the advance, to hold every
position to the last, and to take those chances which, upon the most
unequal fields, genius sometimes finds to snatch victory from the
very jaws of despair.

There is something magnificent in the audacity with which, as
soon as Grant had crossed the Rapidan, and set his vast force on
the advance to Richmond, Lee marched straight for him, and in-
stantly grappled with him in the Wilderness. A terrible wresde
ensued, lasting for two days, in which the advantage was on the Con-
federate side. It was Grant and not Lee who retired from this
struggle, and sought by a rapid flank movement to gain Spotsyl-
vania Courthouse. But Lee anticipated his design, and reaching
that point simultaneously with Grant, again opposed his army to his
advance on Richmond. Here again the two armies closed in des
perate fight, in which, as at the Wilderness, the losses of the enemy
were terrific. After repeated and fierce assaults Grant again retired
from this field, and moved by the flank toward Bowling Green, but
Lee reached Hanover Junction in time to place himself again in his

Declining the gage of battle here offered. Grant began a series of

Ceremonies at Unveiling of Statue of General Lee. 91

flank movements eastward, Lee moving- on parallel lines, and con-
fronting him at every halt, until at last the two armies met on the his-
toric field of Cold Harbor.

Here Grant again closed with his adversary and hurled his col-
umns in repeated assaults upon the impregnable front of Lee, re-
pulsed with such terriblg carnage that, though the intrepid Federal
commander would have desperately continued them, his troops, gal-
lant as they were, unmistakably reminded him that they were weary
of slaughter.

This campaign may be said to have ended with the next move-
ments of Grant, which brought him in front of Petersburg, within
the entrenchments of which, by the mvaluable co-operation of Lou-
isiana's foremost soldier, Beauregard, Lee succeeded in establishing
his army, and the siege of Petersburg was begun.

Take now a brief retrospect of the campaign.

Grant started with over 07ie hundred and forty -one thousand men
against sixty-four thousand men. He received reinforcements swell-
ing his aggregate engaged in the campaign to 07ie hiaidred and
ninety-two thousand men, while Lee had received but fou7'teen
thousand reinforcement. Lee had so managed his inferior force as
to confront his adversary at every halt and to be ready for battle
whenever offered. Such skill had he displayed in the selection of
his positions and the disposition of his troops that he repulsed every
assault, won every battle and forced his adversary to retire from every
field. According to the authority of Swinton, the Federal historian.
Grant had lost sixty thousand men, a number nearly equal to the
entire force of his opponent. And what had the Federal commander
accomplished ? He had reached a point on the James River, the
water route to Richmond always open, where, in much less time and
without the loss of a man, he might have established himself at the
opening of the campaign.

The siege of Petersburg ! How shall I commemorate it ? How
shall I do justice to the heroism displayed in the defence of those
immortal lines ? During nine wearj^ months the great Federal
leader, with all his intrepid daring, with his unquestioned military
talent, with his vastly superior force, with all the expedients of science
and art at his command, and with unlimited supplies of everything
essential for his operations, struggled in vain to surmount them. He
tried to get over them by assault. He tried to get under them by
subterranean mining. He tried to get around them by flanking. He
tried to move them out of his way by explosion. In vain ! The
genius of Lee met and foiled him at every point.

92 Southern Historical Society Papers.

And what shall be said of that little band of immortal heroes, the
Don Quixote of armies, who, with unfaltering devotion and unflinch-
ing courage, stood by Lee during the long months of this renowned
siege? For four years they had fought, and it might have been
supposed that they were weary of strife. Hunger often gnawed at
their vitals, and famine sometimes stared them in the face. With
tattered garments, and often shoeless feet, they shivered in the freez-
ing winter winds. Disasters everywhere to the Confederate cause
robbed them of the soldier's solace, the hope and confidence of ulti-
mate triumph. Turning from their own cheerless lot to their distant
homes, the tidings they received from wives and children and aged
parents told of burning roof-trees, of flight before invading armies,
of want, desolation and despair.

And yet they fought on; defied ill-omened augury; dared fate to
do her worst; and with a sublime confidence and matchless devotion
such as, I dare to say, no other cause and no other commander ever
inspired, they stood by Lee to the very last.

And when the end came, when Gordon had " fought his corps to a
frazzle," and when in fierce combat every other corps had been torn
into shreds ; when a mere remnant was left surrounded on every side
by foes in such overpowering numbers that further resistance would
have been a wanton sacrifice' of precious lives; and when, at last,
Lee submitted to the inevitable and yielded his sword to the victor,
these grim warriors gathered round him, seeming more affected by
his humiliation than by their own calamity, and with tearful eyes and
kissing the very hem of his garments, gave him their affectionate
adieux, and sadly turned to the new lives which opened before them.

Success is not always the test of soldiership.

Hannibal ended his career as a soldier in the overwhelming defeat
of Zama, and died a fugitive in a foreign land.

Charless XH of Sweden, that meteor of war, defeated at Pultowa,
sought safety in exile, and on returning to his native land, met death
in a vain attempt to restore his fallen fortunes.

Napoleon died, a prisoner and an exile, after his complete over
throw on the field of Waterloo, where he encountered odds less
than those which were opposed to Lee in any battle which he ever

Considering the importance of his operations, the large forces
engaged, the immense superiority of his adversaries in numbers and
resources, the skiflful commanders whom he successfully vanquished,
the number of his victories, the brilliancy and successful audacity of
his strategy and tactical manoeuvres, and the magnificent tenacity

Ceremonies at Unveiling of Statue of General Lee. 93

which yielded, at last, to destruction rather than defeat — I challenge
for Lee an exalted rank amongst the very greatest captains of the

The only obstacle which Lee encounters to the universal recog-
nition of his greatness lies in the perverseness of human nature,
which exacts, as compensation for the admiration accorded to great
qualities, the privilege of criticising the faults, weaknesses, and
excesses with which they are usually accompanied.

His freedom from eccentricities, the absence of merely personal
ambition, and the simple and perfect equipoise of his temper, lead
shallow minds to deny the force of his individuality, forgetting that
these very qualities themselves constitute an ennobling eccentricity,
shared in the same degree by no other military character, or by
Washington alone.

Certainly the impression produced by him upon his contempo-
raries was marvelous. As we have seen, his first commander, Win-
field Scott, pronounced him " the greatest living soldier of America."
His loftiest subordinate, Stonewall Jackson, whose splendid capaci-
ties and achievements lifted him into rivalry with Lee himself, said
of him : " Lee is a phenomenon — the only man I ever knew that I
would be willing to follow blindfold." The estimate of him by his
soldiers is illustrated by the commentary of two " learned Thebans "
among them upon Darwin's theory of evolution, in which one said
to the other : " Well, you and I and the rest of us may be descended
from monkeys, but how are you to account for Marse Robert ? "
Such was their sublime confidence in him that they regarded criti-
cism of him as blasphemous, and were so blind even to his errors
that they were like the disciple of Cato, who, when the philosopher
died by his own hand, declared that " he would rather believe suicide
to be right than that Cato could do anything wrong."

Let nothing I have said be construed as disparaging the valor of
the Union troops, the skill of their leaders or the splendor of their
achievements. On the contrary, the tribute I have paid to the
genius of Lee and the heroism of his soldiers, only emblazons their
triumph and lends to it a glory which, otherwise, it would not pos-
sess. And equally is it the surest foundation of Lee's fame that his
victories were won from " foemen worthy of his steel."

Away with such comparisons ! Returning from our voyage over
historic seas, in quest of the golden fleece of noble deeds and heroic
lives, we bring on shore " the riches of the ship," and cast them into
the treasury of our common country. Sail forth, adventurers, on
whatever sea, find such jewels where ye may, and whether their tint

94 Southern Historical Society Papers.

be gray or blue, the Republic will bear them as her proudest orna-

My task is done. The fruitfulness of the theme has led me to tax
your patience far beyond excuse. I may not follow Lee in that gra-
cious and beautiful life to which he retired as college president at the
close of the war, and in which he labored to the moment of his death
in repairing the neglected education of the Southern youth, and in
teaching his people by precept and example the lesson that " human
fortitude should be equal to human calamity," the duty of adapting
themselves to the situation in which Providence had placed them, of
building up their ruined fortunes, and by a faithful discharge of the
duties of citizenship of re-establishing themselves as members of
that Union from which fate did not permit them to depart.

I may not pause to epitomize the various qualities which mark Lee
as a great captain. His deeds speak for themselves, and exhibit the
characteristics of that military genius which enabled him to achieve

I may not stop to delineate the peculiar nobility and sublimity of
his character, nor the "daily beauty in his life," which, from the
cradle to the grave, knew no diminution of its pure and steady lustre,
which captivated the admiration of the good, and subdued by its
subtle influence even the malice of the bad.

I may not enumerate those historic examples of heroic courage, by
which, in desperate crises of battle, when the fate of the struggle
trembled in the balance, he took his life in his hands, and would
have rushed into the jaws of destruction had not his faithful soldiers
forced him to the rear, and, reanimated by his daring, restored by
superhuman valor the fortunes of the day. Whenever, in all future
time, the leader in some great cause finding his followers about to
yield shall be inspired to reanimate them by imperilling his own life,
let him who first feels the shame of such exposure, but raise the cry
of " Lee to the rear !" and if they be made of manly stuff the re-
membrance of the grand example thrice set upon Virginia fields will
avert that leader's danger and win the day without it!

Proudly, then, we unveil this monument, fearless of any denial
that it perpetuates the memory of a man justly entitled to rank as
one of the princes of his race, and worthy of the veneration of the

The Christian may point to it as commemorative of one who faith-
fully wore the armor of Christ, and who fashioned his life as nearly
after that of the God-Man as human imperfection would permit.

The moralist may recognize in it a tribute to a friend of humanity

Ceremonies at Unveiling of Statue of General Lee. 95

to whom pride and self-seeking were unknown, and whose uncon-
scious nobiHty of conduct answers to the description of a virtuous
man given by the imperial philosopher, Marcus Antoninus: "He
does good acts as if not even knowing what he has done, and is like
a vine which has produced grapes and seeks for nothing more after
it has produced its proper fruit. Such a man, when he has done a
good act, does not call for others to come and see, but goes on to
another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in

The social philosopher will see in it a tribute to the highest type
of gentleman, in birth, in manners, in accomplishments, in appear-
ance, in feeling, in habit.

The lover of the heroic will find here honor paid to a chivalry and
courage which place Lee by the side of Bayard and of Sidney, " from
spur to plume a star of tournament."

It is fitting that monuments should be erected to such a man.

The imagination might, alas ! too easily, picture a crisis in the fu-
ture of the Republic, when virtue might have lost her seat in the
hearts of the people, when the degrading greed of money-getting
might have undermined the nobler aspirations of their souls, when
luxury and effeminacy might have emasculated the rugged courage
and endurance upon which the safety of States depends, when cor-
ruption might thrive and liberty might languish, when pelf might
stand above patriotism, self above country. Mammon before God,
and when the patriot might read on every hand the sure passage:

'' 111 fares the land, to hastening^ ills a prey.
Where wealth accumulates and men decay! "

In such an hour — quarn Dii avertite — let some inspired orator,
alive to the peril of his country, summon the people to gather round
this monument, and, pointing to that noble figure, let him recount
his story, and if aught can arouse a noble shame and awaken dor-
mant virtue, that may do it.

The day is not distant when all citizens of this great Republic will
unite in claiming Lee as their own, and rising from the study of his
heroic life and deeds, will cast away the prejudices of forgotten strife
and exclaim :

"We know him now ; all narrow jealousies
Are silent, and we see him as he moved —
How modest, kindly, all-accomplished, wise.
With what sublime repression of himself —
Wearing: the white flower of a blameless life."


Southern Historical Society Paioers.

But, proudest, tenderest thought of all, the people of this bright
Southland say, through this monument, to all the world :

" Such was he ; his work is done.
But while the races of mankind endure,
Let his great example stand,
Colossal, seen of every land.
And keep the soldier firm, the statesman pure.
Till in all lands and through all human story,
The path of Duty be the way to glory ! "


The R. E. Lee Monumental Association of New Orleans had
its origin in that grand outburst of tributary grief at the death of
Lee, which, while it covered his tomb with the votive offerings of the
good and wise of all civilized nations, prostrated the people of the
Southern States of this Union in peculiar and unutterable woe.

The Association was organized November i6th, 1870, with the fol-
lowing officers and directors :

Wm. M. Perkins,
G. T. Beauregard,
a. w. bosworth,
Wm. S. Pike, -
Thos. J. Beck,
James Strawbridge,


First Vice- Presiden t.

Sec on d Vice - President.


Recording Secretary.

Corresponding Secretary.


Hugh McCloskey,
A. M. Fortier,
Chas. E. Fenner,
Wm. B. Schmidt,
Wm. H. Dameron,
W. N. Mercer,
M. O. H. Norton,

Henry Renshaw,
Edward Barnett,
George Jonas,
Abram Thomas,
Lloyd R. Coleman,
Ed.' A. Palfrey,
Arch. Mitchell,

R. S. Morse,
Samuel Boyd,
S. H. Kennedy,
Newton Richards,
Jas. Jackson,
E. A. Tyler,
Ed. Bigney.

It is unnecessary to say why the enterprise languished. It was
in those dark days when poverty sat by every honest hearthstone in
New Orleans, and when the scanty remnant left by the greedy tax-

Ceremonies at Unveiling of Statue of General Lee. 9T

gatherer was too sorely needed for the necessities of the living to
be spared for building monuments, even to the most illustrious

In the course of years, it came to be remembered that the small
fund v^fhich had been accumulated by the first efforts of the founders
of the association was lying idle in bank, and a meeting of the di-
rectors was called on February i8th, 1876, for the purpose of deter-
mining whether the association should not be dissolved, and its funds
returned to the donors, or distributed to charitable associations.

A call of the roll at that meeting revealed the fact that, in the years
which had passed, the president, the treasurer, the secretary, and
eleven (11) of the original directors had died.

A reorganization was then effected, constituting the following offi-
cers and directors : Charles E. Fenner, President; G. T. Beauregard,
first Vice-President; M. Musson, second Vice-President; S. H. Ken-
nedy, Treasurer; W. I. Hodgson, Recording Secretary; W. M.
Owen, Corresponding Secretary. Directors : W. B. Schmidt, Geo.
Jonas, Lloyd R. Coleman, R. S. Morse, E. A. Tyler, Jas. Buckner,
Thos. A. Adams, Saml. Choppin, S. H. Snowden, W. T. Vaudry,
Henry Renshaw, E. A. Palfrey, Saml. Boyd, Arch. Mitchell, W. C.
Black, B. A. Pope, Jas. I. Day, I. L. Lyons, J. J. Mellon, E. D.

The times were scarcely more propitious than they had been
before, but when the directors stood face to face with the proposition
to abandon the work, their patriotic impulses refused to accept it,
and inspired them with the determination at all hazards to complete it.

It was then resolved, with the means which could be immediately
commanded, to begin the monument, as the best means of assuring
its completion.

Of the numerous designs submitted, that of our distinguished
home-architect, Mr. John Roy, was selected, not only because of its
artistic merit and beauty, but also because its plan was such that its
construction could proceed just as far and as fast as our means would

And so was built the monument which exists to-day.

The difficult and expensive foundation, the massive mound of
earth, the granite pyramid and the shapely marble column were all
constructed under a contract with Mr. Roy, which provided that his
work should progress just as fast as our means would allow, stopping
when the treasury was empty, and proceeding when it was replenished.

Slow and tedious was its progress, often halting, while fresh ap-


Southern Historical Society Papers.

peals could be made to the liberality of the people of New Orleans.
They were always answered, and, surely though slowly, stone was
piled upon stone, until, when the cap stone was set upon the lofty
pillar, the whole was paid for.

Then came the task of providing the means for the colossal
bronze statue which now crowns the work.

The means of the Association did not allow the privilege of call-
ing to its aid the reigning kings of the artist world.

Fortune threw in our way a young sculptor, Alexander C. Doyle,
of New York, who had already given some evidence of the mettle
that was in him, and who had such confidence in his own capacity,
that he was willing to execute a plaster model of the exact size of
the proposed statue, and from which the latter was to be directly
moulded, subject absolutely to the acceptance of the association and
without cost unless satisfactory.

That work was done by him in the St. Louis Hotel building of
this city — how well, let the statue, now standing in Lee Place, tell to
admiring thousands. In purity of conception, spirit and grace of
pose and expressive resemblance, it is not unworthy of the subject.

After various changes, the officers and directors of the association
consisted of the following:

Charles E. Fenner,
G. T. Beauregard, -
M. MussoN,
S. H. Kennedy,
W. L Hodgson, -
W. M. Owen, -


First Vice-President.

Second Vice-President.


Recording Secretary.

Corresponding Secretary.

W. B. Schmidt,
Alfred Moulton,
James Jackson,
Samuel Boyd,
J. C. Morris,
J. J. Mellon,
Ad. Meyer,


W. T. Vaudry,
A. H. May,
W. J. Behan,
J. L. Harris,
E. A. Burke,
L L. Lyons,
C. H. Allen,

R. M. Walmsley,
Lloyd R. Coleman,
Cartwright Eustis,
Ed. A. Palfrey,
Arch. Mitchell,
James McConnell,
E. Borland.

The statue having been completed, the board selected the anniver-
sary of the birth of Washington, the 22d of February, 1884, as an
appropriate occasion for the ceremonies of unveiling.

Ceremonies at Unveiling of Statue of General Lee. 99

Great preparations had been made for the event. An immense
platform had been erected for the accommodation of subscribers to
the Association and other invited guests, and upon which the cere-
monies were to take place, while in front and upon the sloping sides
of the mound at the base of the monument seats were provided for

The day broke threatening and cloudy, but notwithstanding its
stormy aspect, there was such an assemblage of the people as has
never been seen in the Southern States. The seats were filled with
ladies, while the circle and even the streets approaching it were
crowded by the multitude eager to do honor to the memory of

Amongst the many distinguished persons in attendance were the
President of the Confederate States, Jeiferson Davis, his daughters,
and Misses Mary and Mildred Lee, daughters of the great soldier
and patriot, in whose honor the monument was erected. The asso-
ciations of the armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee, the
militia of the State, and a large delegation from the Grand Army of
the Republic honored the occasion by their presence. Just as the
ceremonies were about to begin, the storm, which had been gather-
ing, burst in torrents of rain which lasted for hours, dispersing the
immense audience and rendering it impossible to proceed. In the
midst of it, however, and while the salvos of Heaven's Artillery
almost drowned the salute with which, in despite of the storm, the
event was greeted by the fafhous Washington Artillery, the monu-
ment was unveiled by a private soldier of Lee's army, who, at the
suggestion of Miss Lee, in herself declining the honor, had been
selected to perform this duty.

Immediately a meeting of the Directors was held at the Washing-
ton artillery armory, of the proceedings of which the following
official minute gives a full account and forms the appropriate close
of this sketch :


R. E. Lee Monumental Association, February 22, 1884.

Immediately after the dispersion by the storm of the immense
audience gathered to participate in the ceremonies attending the
unveiling of the statue of Lee, the Directors of this Association met
at the Washington Artillery Hall to determine what course should
be pursued with reference to the ceremonies.

100 Southern Historical Society Papers.

After consideration and discussion, the following resolutions were
proposed and unanimously adopted :

Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 10 of 61)