This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 ranks of those opposed to him. For years I was face to face with some fragment of the Army of Northern Virginia, and intent to do it harm; and during those years there was not a day when I would not have drawn a deep breath of relief and satisfaction at hearing of the death of Lee, even as I did draw it at hearing of the death of Jackson. But now, looking back through a perspective of nearly forty years, I glory in it, and in them as foes,—they were worthy of the best of steel. I am proud now to say that I was their countryman. Whatever differences of opinion may exist as to the course of Lee when his choice was made, of Lee as a foe and the commander of an army, but one opinion can be entertained. Every inch a soldier, he was an opponent not less generous and humane than formidable, a type of highest martial character; cautious, magnanimous and bold, a very thunderbolt in war, he was self-contained in victory, but greatest in defeat. To that escutcheon attaches no stain. I now come to what I have always regarded—shall ever regard—as the most creditable episode in all American history, —an episode without a blemish,—imposing, dignified, simple, heroic. I refer to Appomattox. Two men met that day, representative of American civilization, the whole world looking on. The two were Grant and Lee,—types each. Both rose, and rose unconsciously, to the full height of the occasion,— and than that occasion there has been none greater. About it, and them, there was no theatrical display, no selfconscious-ness, no effort at effect. A great crisis was to be met; and they met that crisis as great countrymen should. Consider the possibilities; think for a moment of what that day might have been; you will then see cause to thank God for much. That month of April saw the close of exactly four years of persistent strife,—a strife which the whole civilized world had been watching intently. Democracy—the capacity of man in his present stage of development for self-government—was believed to be on trial. The wish the father to the thought, the prophets of evil had been liberal in prediction. It so chances that my attention has been especially drawn to the European utterances of that time; and, read in the clear light of subsequent history, I use words of moderation when I say that they are now both inconceivable and ludicrous. Staid journals, grave public men seemed to take what was little less than
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.