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My Brothers,—It is generally believed that the cruel and unusual punishment known as ‘hazing,’ has been abolished from all respectable military schools and organizations.

I regret to feel that I am a victim to a process quite as heartless at the hands of your committee this evening, who have literally, at the eleventh hour, and at the last minute thereof, bound me hand and foot, bucked and gagged, placed upon me the well remembered barrel-shirt and paraded me before the Camp under the disguise of a speaker, duly labelled and set up in type as responding to a toast.

I never witnessed even the ordinary culprit undergoing his well merited punishment in winter-quarters, doing double duty or toting wood, without a feeling of sympathy, nor did I ever see a deserter shot to death in the presence of the brigade, without a pang of regret.

May I then beg of you a little tenderness of heart as I tell you that I had rather be shot as a deserter than afflict you with my crude, hasty and undigested thoughts upon the noble theme to which I have been summoned. Because, of all the subjects which can engage our minds this day, the greatest and best must be the ‘Life, Character and Memory of General Lee.’

As to his life and character it would be scarcely less presumptuous for me to speak to you, his faithful followers and friends, than if I undertook to narrate your several family histories or tell you your own fathers' virtues. The prominent and ever-memorable facts of General Lee's life are stamped indelibly upon your minds, and his military glories are so fixed in the memories of every veteran, that when the last trumpet shall have been sounded, and the dead-the unforgotten dead who sank to death at his commanding, shall have all been quickened, in the twinkling of an eye, they will arise from beneath the shade of Jackson's beloved trees, on the far side of the cold river, and take their old places in the solid ranks where steel once glistened, ready to move at ‘early dawn’ to meet the judgment then to be passed upon him who had so often ridden old ‘Traveler’ through their midst.

I dare not, therefore, repeat the story of his fame to you who shared it in some part on every field of glory or in the tented camp, or on the long march or in the cheerless bivouac.

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R. E. Lee (2)
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