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[343]

Years of his professional life he had spent in Northern communities, and, always a close observer of men and things, he well understood the vast resources of that section, and the hardy, industrious, and resolute character of its people; and he justly weighed their strength as a military power. When men spoke of how easily the South would repel invasion he said: ‘You forget that we are all Americans.’ And when they prophesied a battle and a peace, he predicted that it would take at least four years to fight out the impending conflict. None was more conscious than he that each side undervalued and misunderstood the other. He was, moreover, deeply imbued with the philosophy of history, and the course of its evolutions, and well knew that in an upheaval of government deplorable results would follow, which were not thought of in the beginning, or, if thought of, would be disavowed, belittled and depreciated. And eminently conservative in his cast of mind and character, every bias of his judgment, as every tendency of his history, filled him with yearning and aspiration for the peace of his country and the perpetuity of the Union. Is it a wonder, then, as the storm of revolution lowered, Colonel Lee, then with his regiment, the Second Cavalry, in Texas, wrote thus to his son in January, 1861:

‘The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the acts of the North as you say. I feel the aggression, and am willing to take any proper steps for redress. It is the principle I contend for, not individual or private benefit. As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and institutions, and would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. * * Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved, and the government is disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defence, will draw my sword on none.’

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