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[318]

The greater elements of Lee's character must appear in the story of his later life. Let me try now to give some conception of his noble person, his grace, his social charm, his pure life—of that inborn dignity which with a look could check familiarity or convey rebuke, of that manly beauty and commanding presence, fitted alike to win child or maiden and to awaken in the sternest soldier an expectation and assurance of pre-eminence and distinction. It was this which drew from a great master of the art of war, whom a beneficent Providence still spares to be a model of every manly and martial virtue to the sons of the youngest soldiers who followed his unstained banner, it was the recollection of the fascination of Lee's manner and person in the days of their early service that drew from General Joseph E. Johnston these words of vivid and loving description: ‘No other youth or man so united the qualities that win warm friendship and command high respect. For he was full of sympathy and kindness, genial and fond of gay conversation and even of fun * * * while his correctness of demeanor and language and attention to all duties, personal and official, and a dignity as much a part of himself as the elegance of his person, gave him a superiority that every one acknowledged in his heart.’

It was this which made Lord Wolseley say of him as he saw him in later years: ‘I have met many of the great men of my time, but Lee alone impressed me with the feeling that I was in the presence of a man who was cast in a grander mould, and made of different and finer metal than all other men. He is stamped upon my memory as a being apart and superior to all others in every way.’

Thus endowed to command the love and respect of every human being that came into his presence, fully equipped in every military art, temperate, pure, healthful, brave, consciously following duty as his pole star, and all unconsciously burning with ardor to win a soldier's fame, he entered upon that war with Mexico, which was destined to prove a training-ground for the chief leaders in the conflict between the States. There he soon gave proof of great qualities for war.

But I may stay only to mention one incident in which he displayed such rare force of will, such aggressive and untiring enterprise as at once marked him out for high command. It was just before the battle of Contreras. Scott had learned through Lee's reconnoissance that the Mexican position could be attacked in rear by a difficult movement across a pathless and rugged volcanic field called the ‘Pedregal.’ A painful march had brought the turning division at nightfall

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