Hope may be ever bouyant, but real sympathy in disaster showed that General Lee had a generous spirit and understood the situation and was grateful. Sheridan's physical strength was Early's weakness. There is no evidence of military skill or strategy anywhere shown by the former. Of my old brigade I must be permitted to say it was composed of the best material Virginia could produce. For intelligence, moral worth, courage, and physical endurance it could not be surpassed, and it was backed by a patriotic devotion not excelled in the annals of war. It was the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Virginia regiments of cavalry and Brethead's old battery, known as ‘Stuart's Horse Battery.’ Many of its field and company officers were educated soldiers; others were soldiers born, and promoted for distinguished services. (I had seventeen officers in my own regiment who had either graduated or been cadets at the Virginia Military Institute.) No officer could have received a more generous and cordial support than was accorded to myself. Their ready obedience to my orders under any and all circumstances endeared them to me. A mutual confidence bound us by all the ties that steeled our hearts and spurred our best energies to uphold the glorious cause, and forged us into a homogenous, active body, ready for any emergency. Shakespeare says:
He [they] that can endureI will show that this brigade clung to the Confederate standard bearer as long as there was a ray of hope, and only when that last glimmering ray had flickered out was it that they called in the dogs of war and furled their unsurrendered flags, carrying them to their homes. As law-abiding citizens, they began at once, with the same devotion which had animated them as soldiers, to rebuild their broken fortunes but when they laid aside their arms it was their resolve, ‘While I remain above the ground you shall hear from me still, and never of me aught but what is like me formerly.’ Neither privations nor toils, nor the emoluments of office, have tempted the generous and the true from the honest paths of duty. ‘Honest John Letcher,’ our grand old War Governor, told me a few years ago,
To follow with allegiance a fallen lord
Doth conquer him that did his master conquer,
And earns a place in the story.
I do not believe I commissioned half a dozen soldiers in your