previous next

[346] the spirit of some had had full swing the passions of the civil war would have been not only perpetuated but increased, and have gone down as an inheritance of bitterness from generation to generation. This stormy sea of passion but one man could control. He had no official position, civil or military. But he was the representative of the Lost Cause. He had led the Southern armies to battle, and he still had the unbounded confidence of millions, and it was his attitude and his words of conciliation that did more than anything else to still the angry tempest that the war had left behind. It was the sight of their great chieftain—so calm in defeat, so ready to bear the burden of his people—that soothed their anger and their pride, and made the old soldiers of the Confederacy feel that they could accept what had been accepted by their leader, and that as he had set the example it was no unworthy sacrifice for them to become loyal supporters of the restored American Union. It is therefore not too much to say that it is owing in great measure to General Lee that the civil war has not left a lasting division between the North and the South and that they form to day one united country.

These are grateful memories to be recalled now that he who was so mighty in war and so gentle in peace has passed beyond the reach of praise or blame. Do you tell me he was ‘an enemy,’ and that by as much as we love our country we ought to hate its ‘enemies?’ But there are no enemies among the dead. When the grave closes over those with whom we have been at strife we can drop our hatreds and judge of them without passion, and even kindly, as we wish those who come after us to judge of us. In a few years all of the contempararies of General Lee will be dead and gone; the great soldiers that fought with him and that fought against him will alike have passed to the grave, and then, perhaps, there will be a nearer approach of feeling between friend and foe.1

‘Ah, yes,’ say some who admit his greatness as a soldier and leader, ‘if it were not for his ambition that stopped not at the ruin of his country!’ Such is the fatal accusation:

1 How the feeling at the North has softened is indicated by many utterances like this in the New York Tribune of last week (August 23d):

‘The virtues of Lee have always found as frank and hearty recognition in the North as in the South. The men of the South can say nothing of the beauty of his personal character, his courage, his devotion to his idea of duty, that will not find a ready echo among those he fought against and by whom he was conquered.’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William H. F. Lee (3)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
August 23rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: