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[363] His mind led him to analytic, rather than perceptive methods of obtaining results.

From the date of his graduation in 1829 until 1846 he was engaged in various professional duties, and had by regular promotion attained to the grade of captain of engineers. As such he was assigned to duty with the command of Brigadier-General Wool in the campaign to Chihuahua. Thence the command proceeded to make a junction with General Z. Taylor in front of Buena Vista. Here Captain Lee was employed in the construction of the defensive work, when General Scott came, armed with discretionary orders, and took Lee for service in the column which Scott was to command, with much else that General Taylor could ill afford to spare. Subsequent events proved that the loss to General Taylor's army was more than compensated by the gain to the general cause.

Avoiding any encroachment upon the domain of history in entering upon a description of campaigns and battles, I cannot forbear from referring to a particular instance of Lee's gallantry and devotion to duty. Before the battle of Contreras General Scott's troops had become separated by the field of Pedregal, and it was necessary to communicate instructions to those on the other side of this barrier of rocks and lava. General Scott says in his report that he had sent seven officers since about sundown to communicate instructions; they had all returned without getting through, ‘but the gallant and indefatigable Captain Lee, of the engineers, who has been constantly with the operating forces, is just in from Shields, Smith, Cad-wallader,’ etc. Subsequently General Scott, while giving testimony before a court of inquiry, said: ‘Captain Lee, engineers, came to me from a Contreras with a message from Brigadier-General Smith, I think, about the same time (midnight), he having passed over the difficult ground by daylight found it just possible to return to St. Augustine in the dark—the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual, in my knowledge, in the pending campaign.’

This field of Pedregal as described was impassable on horseback, and crossed with much difficulty by infantry in daylight. After consultation with the generals near to Contreras, it being decided that an attack must be made at daylight, Captain Lee, through storm and darkness, undertook—on foot and alone—to recross the Pedregal, so as to give General Scott the notice which would insure the cooperation of his divided forces in the morning's attack. This feat was well entitled to the commendation that General Scott bestowed upon it;


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