previous next


Gen. Henry Lee.

Our readers are aware that there is a preposition before the Legislature to remove the remains of General Lee from Cumberland Island, in Georgia, to his native State, Virginia. We are not aware of the shape which the proposition has assumed; but we take it for granted an act will be passed and a sum of money appropriated.

General Lee died in the year 1818, at the house of Mrs. Shaw, the grand-daughter of General Nathaniel, Green, on Cumberland Island. He had been to the West Indies to recover his health, which had been in a low condition for many years. We believe he never entirely recovered from the injuries which he received from the Baltimore mob in 1814. He was on his way back, when his illness became so serious that he stopped at Cumberland Island. He was most hospitably received and entertained by the grand-daughter of his great commander, and his last moments were soothed by the attentions of devoted friends. Hither to, little has been known with regard to the circumstances of his burial. Accidentally, his surviving friends, and the gentlemen who have most interested themselves in the matter, discovered that Col. M. M. Payne, United States Army, was at his funeral. We conversed with Col. P. on the subject, who told us all he knew. There was not, indeed, much to tell; but every thing connected with the death of a man so well known is of interest.

Col. Payne, then a Captain in the army, commanded the troops stationed on Amelia Island, opposite to Cumberland, from which it is separated, we believe, by St. Mary's Sound. The officers — he among the rest — frequently visited in the neighborhood — at Mrs. Shaw's, among other houses. He had never heard that Gen. Lee had been lying ill at Mrs. Shaw's, until one morning he received an invitation to attend his funeral that day. As the distance was ten miles, all the way by water, and as Capt. Payne had but a single small boat at his command, he could not, of course, carry over his company, which he otherwise would have done. At the time, however, Capt. Henley, of the corvette John Adams, was lying in the sound. He turned out, with his whole crew, and thus the veteran was buried in the way, no doubt, that would have been most pleasing to him, had he been consulted, although by another arm of the service than that to which he belonged. Col. Payne is under the impression that he and Capt. Henley bore the pall; but of this he is not entirely certain. At any rate, he was present, and saw the last of "Light-Horse Harry Lee," so far as this mortal frame is concerned. He was very little over sixty when he died.

We hope, since Virginia has begun to make up her jewels, the Legislature will not let this proposition fall through. This man was among the most remarkable of her sons. He was not only the most brilliant cavalry officer of his day, but he did what no Virginian had done before his day, and what, we are very much afraid, few Virginians have done since his day. He wrote a book which a man can read through. This was a prodigious achievement, as we may learn from the infinite number of attempts, and the multitude of failures. Gen. Lee's book will continue to be read as long as a taste for fresh and animated narrative continues to exist. It has all the interest of romance about it. It may be put in the same catalogue with Xeno phon's Anabasis, and Napier's history of the Peninsular War. It possesses the inestimable superiority attributed by Horace to seeing over hearing. It abounds in vivid description and animated episodes. Its great fault is the somewhat too turgid character of the style. This, however, was a fault of the age more than of the man.-- He wrote at a time when the declamatory style of Johnson had not ceased to exercise its influence upon English writers, or, we should rather say, his style was formed during that period. Had it been formed at a later day, it might have been simpler, but it would have lost much of its animation, and, consequently, much of its attractiveness. --We are contented to take it as it is, forming, as it does, the most readable book ever yet written by a Virginian, or by any Southern man, so far as we know. It will always be classed with these narratives of great events which have been written by persons who participated in them, and which as far transcend in interest the more labored stories of writers at second hand, as the tragedy of Richard III. upon the stage surpasses the life of the crooked-back tyrant read in the closet. When we bring back the bones of old Harry Lee, therefore, let it be remembered that we bring back the bones, not only of the great cavalry officer, but of the most agreeable and most enduring of all our writers, and while we pay a fitting tribute to the claims of war, let us not forget the higher, though less obtrusive, claims of literature.

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.
Cumberland Island (Georgia, United States) (3)
West Indies (1)
Amelia Island (Florida, 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.
Payne (4)
Henry Lee (4)
Shaw (3)
Harry Lee (3)
Henley (2)
Virginians (1)
Nathaniel (1)
Napier (1)
B. J. Johnson (1)
B. W. Green (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.
1818 AD (1)
1814 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: