previous next

[369] doubt, so far as the particular task was concerned; but this seedling is to be judged by the fruit the tree bore. That little drawing on the slate was the prototype of the exact investigations which crowned with success his labors as a civil and military engineer as well as a commander of armies. May it not have been, not only by endowment but also from these early efforts that his mind became so rounded, systematic, and complete that his notes written on the battle-field and in the saddle had the precision of form and lucidity of expression found in those written in the quiet of his tent? These incidents are related, not because of their intrinsic importance, but as presenting an example for the emulation of youths whose admiration of Lee may induce them to follow the toilsome methods by which he attained to true greatness and enduring fame.

In the early days of June, 1862, General McClellan threatened the capital, Richmond, with an army numerically much superior to that to the command of which Lee had been assigned. A day or two after he had joined the Army I was riding to the front, and saw a number of horses hitched in front of a house, and among them recognized General Lee's. Upon dismounting and going in, I found some general officers engaged in consultation with him as to how McClellan's advance could be checked, and one of them commenced to explain the disparity of force and with pencil and paper to show how the enemy could throw out his boyaus and by successive parallels make his approach irresistible. ‘Stop, stop,’ said Lee, ‘if you go to ciphering we are whipped beforehand.’ He ordered the construction of earthworks, put guns in a position for a defensive line on the south side of the Chickahominy, and then commenced the strategic movement which was the inception of the seven days battles, ending in uncovering the capital and driving the enemy to the cover of his gunboats in the James river.

There was never a greater mistake than that which was attributed to General Lee what General Charles Lee, in his reply to General Washington, called the ‘rascally virtue.’ I have had occasion to remonstrate with General Lee for exposing himself, as I thought, unnecessarily in reconnoissance, but he justified himself by saying he ‘could not understand things so well unless he saw them.’ In the excitement of battle his natural combativeness would sometimes overcome his habitual self-control; thus it twice occurred in the campaign against Grant that the men seized his bridle to restrain him from his purpose to lead them in a charge.

He was always careful not to wound the sensibilities of any one, and

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.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (1)

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.
R. E. Lee (5)
George B. McClellan (2)
Charles Lee (2)
George Washington (1)
B. S. Grant (1)
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.
June, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: