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 to the decisive point, and Lee was called into council by the division commander. The council sat long. At last, about nine at night, it resolved on Lee's advice upon an attack at dawn. But it was essential that communication should be established with Scott's headquarters. Lee declared his purpose to effect this communication, and through the stormy night, alone and on foot, with enemies on either hand, he pushed his way across that volcanic waste, comparable only in the difficulties it presented to some Alpine glacier rent with yawning chasms. He won his way to Scott by midnight. At daybreak as engineer he guided the front attack led by Twiggs. The turning column heard their comrades' guns. They fell on the Mexican rear. A brief and bloody resistance served only to heighten the triumph of American skill and valor. The position was won, and Contreras, to the eye of history, prefigures Chancellorsville. General Scott described this exploit of Lee's as ‘the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual, in his knowledge, pending the campaign.’ History will record, as Scott himself nobly admitted, that Lee was Scott's right arm in Mexico. I may not dwell on the round of engineering duties which Lee discharged with exactness and fidelity during the years following the Mexican war. Of more interest is his first actual command of troops, on his appointment as lieutenant-colonel of the famous Second cavalry serving in Texas. This frontier service of three or four years was important in developing his military character, though it may seem an inadequate preparation in the details of command, when compared, for instance, with Wellington's long apprenticeship in India. But genius has many schools, and an earnest observant mind quickly grasps the lessons of practice. A dark cloud of war was now threatening to burst over a hitherto peaceful country. The routine of frontier administration and Indian police must have seemed but idle child's play amid the fierce passions of that rising tempest of civil strife. No man who could think could think of anything but the impending danger. And Lee, the son of a leader of the Revolution, closely linked by descent and association with the men who won American independence and made the American Constitution, Lee, inheriting along with the most ardent love of the Union a paramount loyalty to his native State, now saw himself obliged to make his choice and take his side in an irrepressible conflict. No more painful struggle ever tore the heart of a patriot. He had served the whole country in a gallant army, which commanded
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