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Lee and Scott.

Paper read at the Re-union of Morgan's Men at Lexington, Ky., by Col. Thomas W. Bullitt.
Fellow Soldiers,—In performing the duty assigned to me by your committee, it may perhaps be expected that I should direct attention to something directly or remotely connected with Morgan's command, but about these matters I prefer to talk to you in the camp rather than to write about them.

I feel the more strongly justified in what I am about to state by a belief that in any meeting of Confederate soldiers incidents not hitherto made public in the life of that great leader of armies, General Lee, will be found of interest; and quite recently I have received information from two different and independent sources of certain facts in the life of General Lee which I believe have not been made public, and yet which reflect such honor upon his life and character that I have thought well, in this humble way, to preserve them.

One of the distinguished gentlemen from whom my information is derived has agreed to verify my statement over his own signature for the purpose of laying it before you. To obtain that statement in writing from him, and to give it an historic form by thus laying it before you, has principally determined the form of this address.

The two gentlemen to whom I allude are Colonel Thomas Ludwell Alexander, recently deceased, and Hon. Charles Anderson, exGov-ernor of Ohio, now living near Princeton, Kentucky.

A few weeks ago, sitting in the office of General John Echols, in Louisville, Governor Anderson came in. General Echols held in hand the closing portions of the address by John W. Daniel at the unveiling of the Lee monument at Lexington, Virginia. While General Echols was reading and commenting upon portions of this splendid address, Governor Anderson interrupted him with the remark that no Confederate soldier or officer could entertain a higher or more reverent regard for the character of General Robert E. Lee than he did; that from the days of Miltiades to the present time he believed no character in history had proved so exalted devotion to duty as General Lee had done, at the sacrifice of personal ambition and personal inclinations; which statement he said he could verify by reference to one incident in the life of Lee, which he had in part witnessed and in part received from an unquestionable authority.

I asked him to relate the incident to which he referred, which he [444] did in glowing and earnest terms, which I cannot repeat except in their substance. This, however, was impressed indelibly upon my mind, and I believe I can state it with exactness.

To those of you who are not personally acquainted with Governor Anderson, I will state that he is a son of Colonel Richard C. Anderson, Sr., an old Revolutionary soldier of abilities and reputation, one of the early pioneers of the State of Kentucky, and who settled in Jefferson county in the year 1783. Charles Anderson was also a brother of General Robert Anderson, the hero of Fort Sumter. Long before Robert Anderson's views were known or his position taken on behalf of the Union cause, Charles Anderson, then a resident of Texas, had proclaimed himself an uncompromising Union man, and suffered imprisonment at the hands of the Confederate authorities in Texas for some time and until his escape by flight into and through Mexico. He took up his residence in Ohio, was elected Lieutenant Governor, and became Governor of Ohio by the death of Governor Brough.

Now to my story. Prior to 1860 Governor Anderson had been upon intimate terms both with General Scott and with General (then Colonel) Robert E. Lee. He was a delegate at large from the State of Ohio in the convention which nominated General Scott for the Presidency, and largely contributed to that nomination. In the fall of 1860 General Scott, the commander of the army of the United States, was at Washington city. Colonel Lee, in command of his regiment, was stationed in TexasGovernor Anderson living at San Antonio, Texas. General Twiggs was in command of the military department of Texas.

On November 20th, 1860, Governor Anderson had made a speech at a secession meeting at the Alamo, opposing secession, and announcing his own purpose of adherence to the Union cause to the end. Shortly after that time, General Scott, having learned his position on national affairs, prepared and sent to him a paper, partly military and partly political.1 [445]

These papers General Scott enclosed to Governor Anderson, and, in a private note, requested Governor Anderson to exhibit the paper to General Twiggs and Colonel Lee especially, and to such other officers of the army as he might deem advisable.

The paper was left with Twiggs and with Lee, each retaining it for several days. Some time after General Lee had read and returned these papers to Governor Anderson, the arrangement had been made by which the army of the United States in Texas was surrendered to the Committee of Vigilance, consisting of Messrs. Maverick, Divine and Luckett, all of which, being a part of the general history of the times, is not necessary to be detailed here. After this surrender, General Lee, with the other army officers, being out of service, were leaving the Department of Texas. This committee applied to him to resign his position in the army of the United States and to take command of the Confederate troops in Texas. This he had declined to do, expressing his determination to await the action of Virginia as his sole guide of duty in this tremendous emergency.

He was thereupon informed by the committee that he could not make use of the wagons and mules under his command for transportation to the sea coast. At this time Governor Anderson again met Colonel Lee. Colonel Lee informed him of what had occurred, and expressed deep indignation at the treatment he had received, regarding it as a most insulting indignity; but no indignities nor the anger or the grief produced by them, whether received from friends or others, seemed capable of moving the firmness of his conscientious purpose.

In that interview he stated to Governor Anderson that it was his purpose to go to Washington, and that he should there await the action of his native State of Virginia, saying that his action would be governed solely by hers. If Virginia should stand by the Union and the old flag, he would stand with her. If Virginia should secede, he would go with her, for weal or woe.

Leaving all his chattle property in charge of Governor Anderson, to be forwarded to him in Washington, they parted—not to meet again. The war moved on with that rapidity that astonished even those who participated in it. Governor Anderson was subsequently confined in prison in Texas. The paper of General Scott was taken [446] from him and forwarded to Richmond. Governor Anderson reached Washington in December, 1861, or January, 1862. Upon his arrival, General Scott sent for him, wishing to talk with him about the National condition and prospects, as well as about other matters and people in that department. After extended and various conversation, in which General Scott seemed with his usual delicacy to have avoided reference to any military comment or criticism of our campaigns or movements, Governor Anderson said to him:

General Scott, what about Colonel Lee?’

General Scott replied, ‘Sir, Robert E. Lee is, of his grade, the first soldier in Christendom.’

Governor Anderson then said, ‘General Scott, is it your habit at a distance of six or eight or ten years apart, in expressing the same thought, to use identically the same language?’

General Scott—‘If the same language should best express the same idea, why should I not? But what do you mean?’

Governor Anderson—‘I will swear, that when in 1854 I asked you about the qualifications of Major Robert E. Lee for Superintendent of West Point you used identically the same words that you have now used—viz., that of his grade, Lee was the first soldier in Christendom.’

‘Well,’ said General Scott, ‘I believed it then as I do now, and think it very likely that I did use the same language.’

He then proceeded to say that in the march from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico there was not an encampment nor a battle-field which had not been previously selected by Lee, then a Captain, and chief of engineers on the staff of General Scott; that not a battle in that campaign, had been fought, the day and place of which had not been previously announced by despatches to the Government at Washington, and that in every instance the announcement had been justified by the result in their due order; and this he attributed chiefly to the fact of having such a captain of Engineers.

General Scott then proceeded to detail an interview between Colonel Lee and himself, held a short time before the secession of Virginia, while the Convention of that State was in session. Colonel Lee, having called upon General Scott, opened the interview by saying:

General Scott, I have called upon you to say, what I deem it my duty to say to you as my superior officer and as my best friend’——

At this point, General Scott divining his purpose, and not wishing him to commit himself, said: [447]

Colonel Lee, before you proceed, I have something to say to you. Permit me to speak first. I am authorized by the President of the United States to say to you that, if you remain by the old flag and the Union, you will be placed in supreme command of the armies of the United States, subject only to a nominal command in myself; which command, you know, at my age must be nominal only.’

Colonel Lee paused for a moment, and but for a moment, and replied, ‘General Scott, I will conclude what I came to say. I am awaiting the action of the State of Virginia. If Virginia stands by the old flag and the Union, I shall stand by them with my sword and my life. If Virginia shall secede, I shall go with her. I hold my loyalty as due to Virginia.’

Governor Anderson then proceeded to say that this fact rested not only upon the statement of General Scott, but that he has since seen in the report of a Congressional committee that Francis P. Blair, Sr., had made the statement; that on the next day—General Scott meanwhile having reported to Mr. Lincoln this interview with Colonel LeeMr. Blair went from Mr. Lincoln to Colonel Lee, and repeated in the same words the same offer, and received the same answer.2 [448]

I said to Governor Anderson that I was gratified to be able to confirm his statement by that of another gentleman of the highest character, who had made to me substantially the same statement a short time before his death—Colonel Thomas L. Alexander. Colonel Alexander was a native of Virginia—an officer of the old army of the United States, who had seen many years of service. By reason of age and ill-health he was retired from active service in the army in the year 18—. He was with General Scott on the march to the city of Mexico, and took much pleasure in his declining years in relating the incidents of that campaign.

He told me that a day or two after the occupation of the city of Mexico the officers of the United States army gave to General Scott a grand banquet. In the course of the banquet and at its close, General Scott, who was sitting at the head of the table, arose. As he lifted his magnificent form to its full height, the action attracted the attention of all. He rapped lightly upon the table and asked attention, which was given amidst profound silence. There were present the Generals, Colonels, Majors—all the officers of the army.

General Scott said, ‘Gentlemen, before we part, I desire that you shall fill your glasses, and, standing, drink with me a toast which I have to propose.’ You can imagine that that toast was looked for with interest and expectation.

While all were standing with their glasses filled, General Scott, raising his own, said, ‘I ask you, gentlemen, to pledge me in the health of Captain Robert E. Lee, without whose aid we should not now be here.’

To Colonel Alexander, who admired and loved General Lee, this incident seemed to give peculiar pleasure. In the same conversation in which Colonel Alexander made to me this statement, he gave me also this one, which I regard as in one sense even of greater value than that of Governor Anderson, because of the immediate proximity of the information given by General Scott to the event related.

Colonel Alexander, by reason of old association, was intimate with General Scott, and loved and admired him. He was then in command of the Soldier's Home, near Washington. He told me that he called upon General Scott in his office at Washington a short time before the secession of the State of Virginia. I believe he was not able to fix the precise day; if he did, it has escaped me. When he met General Scott, he observed that he was in a state of unusual excitement—laboring under some very deep feeling. General Scott [449] told him that he had just concluded a protracted and painful interview with Colonel Lee; that he had said to Colonel Lee that he was authorized by the President of the United States to tender to him the supreme command of the armies of the United States, and that he received from Colonel Lee the reply, that his first duty was to the State of Virginia. If Virginia remained by the Union, he should stand with her. If Virginia should secede, he would go with her. In relating the interview General Scott's feelings overcame him, and he sobbed aloud.

I do not remember in Colonel Alexander's statement that the qualification of the nominal superiority in command of General Scott was mentioned; that, however, I supposed to be implied. My conversation with Colonel Alexander was several years ago, and I would not undertake to repeat its details with the same accuracy that I do that of Governor Anderson; but as to the substance of Colonel Alexander's statement there can be no doubt.

I have believed, my comrades, that these incidents would be of interest to you, as they were to me. I have especially desired to preserve, in some permanent historical form, the statement of Governor Anderson, who is still living, and who will verify the correctness of my statements so far as they refer to him.

If in any one thing more than another injustice has been done by the Northern people to the South, it is in the intimation, sometimes uttered in the highest places—uttered even in the Senate of the United States—that the Southern leaders were actuated by a false and unholy ambition.

If the fact here stated shall be accepted historically as true, it refutes the charge at once and forever as it relates to the great leader of the Southern armies.

Letter from Joshua F. Bullitt.

I have read what you propose to say at the meeting of Morgan's command, about to take place in Lexington, Ky., concerning the statements of Colonel Thomas L. Alexander, as to the interview between General Scott and the then Colonel Robert E. Lee. Colonel Alexander was one of my most intimate friends, and as reliable a man as I ever knew. In 1862—the exact time I do not remember, but it was before the advance of McClellan's army from Washington [450] towards Richmond by the way of YorktownColonel Alexander made statements to me substantially the same as those which you represent him as having made to you at a subsequent time. During the same conversation, or about that time, Colonel Alexander gave me an account of the toast offered by General Scott to the then Captain Lee, at the banquet in the city of Mexico, of which I believe you have given an exactly correct statement.

Letter from Governor Anderson.

Nuttawa, Ky., July 20, 1883.
Thomas W. Bullitt, Esq., Louisville, Ky.:
my Dear Sir,—I have carefully read your notes of my gush about General Lee's place in history, and I must say that in so far as my statements of my reminiscences of the incident about General Lee's feelings and course in the great rebellion is concerned, your memory of it proves itself to be singularly accurate. In several minor and associated incidents (especially as to the order of time in the swift moving events) I see a few errors, which I have ventured to suggest to you by pencil-marks on the margins. But in the essential matter of General Lee's singular persistence in his duty (as he thought and felt, not as I did, be it remembered), under most extraordinary, wonderful (?) provocations toward the contrary at San Antonio, and equally extraordinary and unprecedented seductions and temptations at Washington, your report is perfect. Now, my construction of our constitutional duty in that stupendous emergency is not at all in question. Nevertheless, my dissent, toto coelo, from that of General Lee (for I was and am only an old-fashioned disciple of Washington's ‘Farewell Address’ and Jackson's ‘Proclamation’) does seem to me to affect the value of my testimony in his behalf. Don't you think so?

I sometimes fear that others may suspect my encomiums of General Lee as the outflow of merely personal friendship and its admirations, or else of that zeal, or affected zeal, of an exaggerated advocacy, which is so fashionable in America, and which seems to be a tendency in all forms of ‘hero worship.’ But I assure you neither is true. For I have or had several personal friends on each side of that wretched war whom I admired and loved just as much as Robert E. Lee—notably A. Sidney Johnston, George H. Thomas, [451] W. T. Sherman, and General McDowell and others. But my naked, solid judgment is this: that 1 can neither find, within my own observation and experience, nor yet in modern nor ancient history, one single case of any hero or patriot or philosopher of them all who turned his back upon a more than ‘imperial crown,’ and his face and steps towards doubts and fears, uncertainties, failures and subjugation, save one alone—Robert E. Lee! These, my friend, are my

‘reasons’ for having said that I was below no enthusiast-rebel of you all in my estimate of your General Lee. And they are my justifications for placing him, in these regards, above all historic characters known to me. Observe, I do not name him as the greatest man or General of our country. I do not forget George Washington or Winfield Scott. Indeed without knowing or affecting to know very much of such matters or characters, I strongly suspect that each service in this great war had several generals quite the equals of General Lee. But did either of them choose his side in the dread conflict under mere duress of duty, after having deliberately twice pushed aside higher powers and honors than he could by possibility have expected in his chosen side, and then quietly, modestly and cheerfully walked into an office of engineer, whose faded laurels he had gathered and worn in and out of Mexico a score of years before? I find no such record nor the least probability of the existence in these cases of this bottom fact for that record—an ever present sense of conscientious duty consciously prevailing over the highest and brightest temptations, and guiding him into a path as uncertain and dark as it was strange and new to all his experiences and characteristics.

But I will not bore you by my possibly undue admiration of this rare specimen of a greatly pure public character.

I am, very sincerely, your friend,

Letter from General John Echols.

my Dear Sir,—You request me to repeat what I said to you a few days ago in a conversation in regard to the exalted character of our great chieftain, Robert E. Lee. I believe it is particularly what I saw and heard from General Lee at the commencement of the late war, in the city of Richmond, as illustrating his [452] moderation and elevation of sentiment under the most trying circumstances.

As soon as it was made public that Virginia had passed the ordinance of secession, of course there was the greatest excitement in the public mind in Virginia. The Virginia Convention was still in session when General Lee came from Washington, and it was announced to him that he had been elected Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia troops, which were then being called into service as rapidly as possible. Of course, among people who knew nothing from actual experience of what war was, many extreme ideas prevailed, and many extreme measures were proposed. The military committee of the convention held daily sessions. General Lee was frequently invited to appear before that committee for advice and counsel, as to what was best to be done in regard to the various measures suggested. He always seemed from the first to have a thorough appreciation of the gravity, and even solemnity of the situation, and I remember upon one occasion especially, when it was proposed to seize the coasting vessels which were in Virginia waters as being the property of aliens and enemies, he was consulted, and I never shall forget the earnest and solemn manner with which he warned those around him that they were just on the threshold of a long and bloody war, and advised them if they had any idea that the contest in which they were about to engage was to be a slight one, to dismiss all such thoughts from their minds, saying that he knew the Northern people well, and knew that they never would yield in that contest except at the conclusion of a long and desperate struggle. He urged the committee that it was of the last importance that the South should so conduct herself in the struggle as to attract to herself the respect and sympathy of the civilized nations of the earth. Going on to apply the same thought to the matter then in hand, he said that there was no amount of mere individual suffering which could be inflicted that could add to the public good; that if we should seize these coasting vessels without warning, it would be a matter of doubtful propriety, and inflict ruin upon the owners, without adding strength to our own cause or making friends with the outside world. His whole influence throughout all the eventful scenes of the war was in the direction of moderation and humanity, and highest principles of modern civilized warfare.

I saw him again upon another occasion, which will be of lifelong interest to me, when his purity and singular unselfishness of character were strikingly exhibited. In the winter of 1863-4, if my [453] memory serves me, when General Lee's headquarters were near Orange Courthouse, Virginia, I was directed by President Davis to go to the General and to urge upon him to recommend his distinguished son, General Custis Lee, to an important command, for which President Davis thought him admirably fitted, but to which he could not assign him without the recommendation of his father, who was in chief command of the army. I went to him and spent several hours in his tent at night talking over the importance of the command to which it was desired that General Custis Lee should be assigned, and delivered to him messages which had been sent by President Davis upon the subject, and urged him by every consideration which I could think of to comply with the President's wishes as to the recommendation. General Custis Lee was recognized as one of the most distinguished graduates sent out from West Point, and a man of high attainments, great ability, and with a character very much resembling that of his distinguished father. But I could make no impression upon the General, and the only answer which I could get from him, and which he reiterated at different times in the conversation, when I would urge the President's wishes, was ‘General Custis Lee is my son, and whilst I think very well of his abilities, yet, in my opinion, he has not been sufficiently tried in the field, and because he is my son, and because of his want of sufficient experience in the field, I cannot and I will not recommend him for the place. You may return and say to the President that I recognize the importance of the position to which he refers, and that I am willing to send to that command any other officer here with my army whom he may designate, however valuable that officer is, or may be, to to me in my present position.’

Of course I may not, after this lapse of time, give you his exact language, but I think that I have very nearly done so, for I remember how deep an impression the interview made upon me. So it was throughout his whole career, with a purity of life, elevation of sentiment, and dignity of manner which seemed to raise him high above the plain of common humanity. Of his great abilities as a chieftain, of course, it is the province of history to speak. You only ask me to give you my personal reminiscences of the man upon the two occasions to which I have referred. It was my singular good fortune to have seen much of him during the war, and afterwards, when he devoted his great talents to the training of Southern youth as a president of Washington College. When looking back now at him, as I knew him, after the lapse of all these years, I say [454] that he was the greatest and the purest and the most elevated man, in all that goes to make up true humanity, whom I have ever seen or ever expect to see.


1 It was a copy of a monograph against secession, to be addressed to his fellow-citizens of the Southern States, and especially to those of his dear native State of Virginia. Accompanying this memoir was an official letter addressed to the President of the United States, through the Secretary of War, dated a day or two before the election, and admonishing him of the certainty of Lincoln's success, of the equal certainty of the secession of the Southern States, and the almost equal certainty of their swift seizure of the following forts, in this order, viz.: Fortress Monroe, Fort Moultrie and Fort Pickens. General Scott, therefore, as an official duty, advised the President whence such reinforcements could be drawn from Northern forts as would make a coup de main impossible and a capture by sieges very improbable.

2 Upon these facts Governor Anderson specified the following justifications of that high estimate of General Lee's rare virtue, which might seem at first thought to be a mere extravagance in personal or partisan admiration: First. Neither the overwhelming military arguments of the greatest American General against the success of secession; nor, second, the insolent conduct of superviceable and almost self-appointed officials, so common in revolutionary times; nor, third, the temptation of the highest military office in the world, with highest and assured pay, could, either or all, prevent him from determining in Texas, and of doing in Washington, what he felt it his duty to decide and do! Accordingly, the Governor said, Greek, Roman, English, and possibly here and there American patriots and heroes, may have actually been as pure and exalted in principles as Robert E. Lee; but it is very certain that no one of them all was so rarely fortunate as to show such clear proofs of his temptations and of his steadfast virtue in them.

[Don't you remember General Echols's story of Lee's first official act and his opinion of the dangers and uncertainties of that cause which he had just then espoused? Remember, too, that the Confederate high places were all notoriously filled or engaged (Sidney Johnston for first command, &c). Remember, also, Lee's ‘Virginia soil conditions’ of acceptance! His is a wondrous record of consistent purity!Gov. Anderson.]

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