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[52]

General Lee has been the only great man with whom I have been thrown who has not dwindled upon a near approach.’ This is the significant remark of one of his personal friends, Major A. R. H. Ranson of the Confederate artillery. The present writer, who never had the privilege of seeing General Lee, finds himself, in a sense, completely in accord with the veteran staff-officer, since he, too, can say that of all the great figures in history and literature whom he has had occasion to study through books, no one has stood out freer from human imperfections, of whatever sort, than the man and soldier upon whom were centered the affections, the admiration, and the hopes of the Southern people during the great crisis of their history. General Lee is the hero of his surviving veterans, of his fellow Virginians and Southerners, of many of those Americans of the North and West against whom he fought, and of his biographers. He is the Hector of a still-unwritten Iliad—a fact which the sketch that follows cannot prove, any more than it can set forth his claims to military fame in an adequately expert fashion, but to the truth of which it may perhaps bring a small bit of not valueless testimony—the testimony of personal conviction.1

Robert Edward Lee, the third son of the cavalry leader ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee by his second wife, Anne Hill Carter, was born at the family mansion, ‘Stratford,’ in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on January 19, 1807. On

1 For a fuller, though necessarily limited treatment of Lee's character and career reference may be made to the writer's volume in the Beacon biographies, which has guided him in the present sketch.

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