previous next

Chapter 2: influence of Christian officers.

No army, with whose history I am acquainted, at least, was ever blessed with so large a proportion of high officers who were earnest Christian men, as the Army of Northern Virginia.

We had at first such specimens of the Christian soldier as R. E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, D. H. Hill, T. R. Cobb, A. H. Colquitt, Kirby Smith, J. E. B. Stuart, W. N. Pendleton, John B. Gordon, C. A. Evans, A. M. Scales, ‘Willie’ Pegram, Lewis Minor Coleman, Thos. H. Carter, Carter Braxton, Charles S. Venable, and a host of others too numerous to mention. And during the war Generals Ewell, Pender, Hood, R. H. Anderson, Rodes, Paxton, W. H. S. Baylor, Colonel Lamar, and a number of others of our best officers professed faith in Christ.

Nor was the example of these noble men merely negative— many of them were active workers for the Master, and did not hesitate, upon all proper occasions, to ‘stand up for Jesus.’

Our Christian President, Jefferson Davis, was always outspoken on the side of evangelical religion, and manifested the deepest interest in all efforts for the spiritual good of the soldiers. His fast-day and thanksgiving-day proclamations were not only beautiful specimens of the chaste style and classic English for which this great man is remarkable, but they also breathed a spirit of humble, devout piety, which did not fail to have its influence on the armies of the Confederacy.

He said to Rev. A. E. Dickinson, who was then superintendent of the Virginia Baptist Colportage Board, which resolved in June, 1861, to send to labor in the army its band of nearly one hundred trained colporters: ‘I most cordially sympathize with this movement. We have but little to hope for, if we do not realize our dependence upon heaven's blessing and seek the guidance of God's truth.’

In his message under date of April 29, 1861, President Davis [43] used this language, as expressive of his sentiments and his feelings:

We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we ask no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms. This we must resist to the direst extremity. The moment that this pretension is abandoned the sword will drop from our grasp, and we shall be ready to enter into treaties of amity and commerce that cannot but be mutually beneficial. So long as this pretension is maintained, with a firm reliance on that Power which covers with its protection the just cause, we will continue to struggle for our inherent right to freedom, independence and self-government.

From his proclamations, which always had the right ring, I select the following, which may be taken as specimens of the whole:

To the People of the Confederate States: The termination of the Provisional Government offers a fitting occasion again to present ourselves in humiliation, prayer and thanksgiving before that God who has safely conducted us through our first year of national existence. We have been enabled to lay anew the foundations of free government, and to repel the efforts of enemies to destroy us. Law has everywhere reigned supreme, and throughout our wide-spread limits personal liberty and private right have been duly honored. A tone of earnest piety has pervaded our people, and the victories which we have obtained over our enemies have been justly ascribed to Him who ruleth the universe. We had hoped that the year would have closed upon a scene of continued prosperity, but it has pleased the Supreme Disposer of events to order it otherwise. We are not permitted to furnish an exception to the rule of Divine government, which has prescribed affliction as the discipline of nations as well as of individuals. Our faith and perseverance must be tested, and the chastening, which seemeth grievous, will, [44] if rightly received, bring forth its appropriate fruit. It is meet and right, therefore, that we should repair to the only Giver of all victory and, humbling ourselves before Him, should pray that He may strengthen our confidence in His mighty power and righteous judgments. Then may we surely trust in Him that He will perform His promise and encompass us as with a shield. In this trust and to this end, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, do hereby set apart Friday, the 28th day of February instant, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer; and I do hereby invite the reverend clergy and the people of the Confederate States to repair to their respective places of public worship, to humble themselves before Almighty God, and pray for His protection and favor for our beloved country, and that we may be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.

To the People of the Confederate States. Once more upon the plains of Manassas have our armies been blessed by the Lord of Hosts with a triumph over our enemies. It is my privilege to invite you once more to His footstool; not now in the garb of fasting and sorrow, but with joy and gladness, to render thanks for the great mercies received at His hands. A few months since and our enemies poured forth their invading legions upon our soil. They laid waste our fields, polluted our altars and violated the sanctity of our homes. Around our capital they gathered their forces, and, with boasting threats, claimed it as already their prize. The brave troops which rallied to its defence have extinguished these vain hopes, and under the guidance of the same Almighty hand, have scattered our enemies and driven them back in dismay. Uniting these defeated forces and the various armies which had been ravaging our coasts with the army of invasion in Northern Virginia, our enemies have renewed their attempts to subjugate us at the very place where their first effort was defeated, and the vengeance of retributive justice has overtaken the entire host in a second and complete overthrow. To this signal success accorded to our arms in the East has been graciously added another equally brilliant in the West. On the very day on which our forces were led to victory on the plains of Manassas, in Virginia, the same Almighty arm assisted us to overcome our enemies at Richmond, in Kentucky. Thus, at one and the same time, have the two great hostile armies been [45] stricken down and the wicked designs of our enemies set at naught. In such circumstances it is meet and right that as a people we should bow down in adoring thankfulness to that gracious God who has been our bulwark and defence, and offer unto Him the tribute of thanksgiving and praise. In His hand is the issue of all events, and to Him should we in an especial manner ascribe the honor of this great deliverance: Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Thursday, the 18th of September instant, as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the great mercies vouchsafed to our people, and more especially for the triumph of our arms at Richmond and Manassas, in Virginia, and at Richmond, in Kentucky; and I do hereby invite the people of the Confederate States to meet on that day at their respective places of public worship, and to unite in rendering thanks and praise to God for these great mercies, and to implore Him to conduct our country safely through the perils which surround us to the final attainment of the blessings of peace and security.

March 5, 1863.
It is meet that, as a people who acknowledge the supremacy of the living God, we should be ever mindful of our dependence on Him; should remember that to Him alone can we trust for our deliverance; that to Him is due devout thankfulness for the signal mercies bestowed on us, and that by prayer alone can we hope to secure the continued manifestation of that protecting care which has hitherto shielded us in the midst of trials and dangers. In obedience to His precepts, we have from time to time been gathered together with prayers and thanksgiving, and He has been graciously pleased to hear our supplications, and to grant abundant exhibitions of His favor to our armies and our people. Through many conflicts we have now attained a place among the nations which commands their respect, and to the enemies who encompass us around about and seek our destruction the Lord of Hosts has again taught the lesson of his inspired word: “That the battle is not to the strong, but to whomsoever He willeth to exalt.” Again our enemy, with loud boasting of the power of their armed men and mailed ships, threaten us with subjugation, and with evil machinations seek, even in our own homes and at our own firesides, to pervert our men-servants and [46] our maid-servants into accomplices of their wicked designs. Under these circumstances it is my privilege to invite you once more to meet together, and to prostrate yourselves in humble supplication to Him who has been our constant and never-failing support in the past, and to whose protection and guidance we trust for the future.

To this end I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Friday, the 27th day of March, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer; and I do invite the people of the said States to repair on that day to their usual places of worship, and to join in prayer to Almighty God, that He will graciously restore to our beloved country the blessings of peace and security.

In faith whereof I have hereunto set my hand at the city of Richmond on the twenty-seventh day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three.

Again do I call the people of the Confederacy—a people who believe that the Lord reigneth, and that His overruling Providence ordereth all things—to unite in prayer and humble submission under His chastening hand, and to beseech His favor on our suffering country. It is meet that when trials and reverses befall us, we should seek to take home to our hearts and consciences the lessons which they teach, and profit by the selfexamination for which they prepare us. Had not our successes on land and sea made us self-confident and forgetful of our reliance on Him? Had not the love of lucre eaten like a gangrene into the very heart of the land, converting too many among us into worshippers of gain and rendering them unmindful of their duty to their country, to their fellow-men, and to their God? Who, then, will presume to complain that we have been chastened or to despair of our just cause and the protection of our Heavenly Father? Let us rather receive in humble thankfulness the lesson which He has taught in our recent reverses, devoutly acknowledging that to Him, and not to our feeble arms, are due the honor and the glory of victory; that from Him, in His paternal providence, comes the anguish of defeat, and that, whether in victory or defeat, our humble supplications are due at His footstool. Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of these Confederate States, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Friday, the [47] 21st day of August ensuing, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer; and I do hereby invite the people of the Confederate States to repair on that day to their respective places of public worship, and to unite in supplication for the favor and protection of that God who has hitherto conducted us safely through all the dangers that environed us.

The Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States of America have signified their desire that a day may be set apart and observed as a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, in the following language, to wit:
Reverently recognizing the Providence of God in the affairs of man, and gratefully remembering the guidance, support and deliverance granted to our patriot fathers in the memorable war which resulted in the independence of the American Colonies, and now reposing in Him our supreme confidence and hope in the present struggle for civil and religious freedom, and for the right to live under a government of our own choice, and deeply impressed with the conviction that without Him nothing is strong, nothing wise and nothing enduring; in order that the people of this Confederacy may have the opportunity, at the same time, of offering their adoration to the great Sovereign of the Universe, of penitently confessing their sins and strengthening their vows and purposes of amendment in humble reliance upon His gracious and almighty power: The Congress of the Confederate States of America do resolve, That Friday, the 8th day of April next, be set apart and observed as a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, that Almighty God would so preside over our public counsels and authorities; that He would inspire our armies and their leaders with wisdom, courage and perseverance; and so manifest Himself in the greatness of His goodness and majesty of His power, that we may be safely and successfully led, through the chastening to which we are being subjected, to the attainment of an honorable peace; so that while we enjoy the blessings of a free and happy government we may ascribe to Him the honor and the glory of our independence and prosperity.

A recommendation so congenial to the feelings of the people will receive their hearty concurrence; and it is a grateful duty to the Executive to unite with their representatives in inviting them to meet in the courts of the Most High. Recent events awaken fresh gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of nations. Our enemies have suffered [48] repeated defeats, and their nefarious scheme to burn and plunder our capital, and to destroy our civil government by putting to death the chosen servants of the people, has been baffled and set at naught. Our armies have been strengthened; our finances promise rapid progress to a satisfactory condition, and our whole country is animated with a hopeful spirit and a fixed determination to achieve independence. In these circumstances it becomes us, with thankful hearts, to bow ourselves before the throne of the Most High, and while gratefully acknowledging so many mercies, confess that our sins as a people have justly exposed us to His chastisement. Let us recognize the sufferings which we have been called upon to endure as administered by a Fatherly hand for our improvement, and, with resolute courage and patient endurance, let us wait on Him for our deliverance. In furtherance of these objects, now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, do issue this, my proclamation, calling upon the people of the said States, in conformity with the desire expressed by their representatives, to set apart Friday, the 8th day of April, as a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, and I do hereby invite them on that day to repair to their several places of public worship, and beseech Almighty God “to preside over our public counsels, and so inspire our armies and leaders with wisdom, courage and perseverance; and so to manifest Himself in the greatness of His goodness, and in the majesty of His power, that we may secure the blessings of an honorable peace, and of free government; and that we, as a people, may ascribe all to the honor and glory of His name.”

Not simply in his official station, but in his private life and influence as well, Mr. Davis was pronounced in his Christian character, and no one who has seen him, as it has been my privilege to do, in the freedom of his beautiful home at Beauvoir, and heard him talk of the struggles of the past, the trials of the present, and the hopes of the future, can doubt for a moment that his faith is built on ‘the rock Christ Jesus,’ and that he has for years taken Jesus as ‘the man of his counsel’ and the guide of his life.

General R. E. Lee, the great commander of the Army of Northern Virginia from June, 1862, to the surrender at Appomattox Court House, was one of the noblest specimens of the Christian soldier that the world ever saw. [49]

In this age of hero-worship there is a tendency to exalt unduly the virtues of great men, to magnify the religious character of one professing to be a Christian, and even to manufacture ‘Christians’ out of those of notoriously irreligious lives. This is so well understood that there may be with those who never came in contact with this great man a lingering doubt as to the genuineness of his piety—a fear that with him, as with so many others, his profession of religion was merely nominal. A few incidents, culled from the many that might be given, will serve to dissipate any such impression, and to show beyond all cavil that with General Lee vital godliness was a precious reality.

I can never forget my first interview and conversation with General Lee on religious matters. It was in February, 1864, while our army was resting along the Rapidan, Rev. B. T. Lacy and myself went, as a committee of our Chaplains' Association, to consult him in reference to the better observance of the Sabbath in the army, and especially to urge that something be done to prevent irreligious officers from converting Sunday into a grand gala day for inspections, reviews, etc. It was a delicate mission. We did not wish to appear as either informers or officious intermeddlers, and yet we were very anxious to do something to further the wishes of those who sent us, and to put a stop to what was then a growing evil and, in some commands, a serious obstacle to the efficient work of the chaplain. The cordial greeting which he gave us, the marked courtesy and respect with which he listened to what we had to say and expressed his warm sympathy with the object of our mission, soon put us at our ease. But as we presently began to answer his questions concerning the spiritual interests of the army, and to tell of that great revival which was then extending through the camps, and bringing thousands of our noble men to Christ, we saw his eye brighten and his whole countenance glow with pleasure; and as, in his simple, feeling words, he expressed his delight, we forgot the great warrior, and only remembered that we were communing with an humble, earnest Christian.

In July, 1862, he had issued a general order to the army in which he said: ‘Habitually all duties except those of inspection will be suspended during Sunday, to afford the troops rest and to enable them to attend religious services.’

The day after our interview he issued the following: [50]

General order no. 15.

Headquarters, army of Northern Virginia, February 7, 1864.
I. The attention of the army has already been called to the obligation of a proper observance of the Sabbath; but the sense of its importance, not only as a moral and religious duty, but as contributing to the personal health and well-being of the troops, induces the commanding general to repeat the orders on that subject. He has learned with great pleasure that in many brigades convenient houses of worship have been erected, and earnestly desires that every facility consistent with the requirements of discipline shall be afforded the men to assemble themselves together for the purpose of devotion.

II. To this end he directs that none but duties strictly necessary shall be required to be performed on Sunday, and that the labor, both of men and animals, which it is practicable to anticipate or postpone, or the immediate performance of which is not essential to the safety, health or comfort of the army, shall be suspended on that day.

III. Commanding officers will require the usual inspections on Sunday to be held at such time as not to interfere with the attendance of the men on divine service at the customary hour in the morning.

They will also give their attention to the maintenance of order and quiet around the place of worship, and prohibit anything that may tend to disturb or interrupt religious exercises.

R. E. Lee, General.

As we were about to leave his tent, Mr. Lacy said: ‘I think it right that I should say to you, general, that the chaplains of this army have a deep interest in your welfare, and that some of the most fervent prayers we offer are in your behalf.’ The old hero's face flushed, tears started in his eyes, and he replied, with choked utterance and deep emotion: ‘Please thank them for that, sir—I warmly appreciate it. And I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and need all of the prayers they can offer for me.’

He never failed to attend preaching when his duties did not absolutely preclude his doing so. Nor was he a mere listless attendant. The simple truths of the Gospel had no more attentive listener than General Lee; and his eye would kindle and [51] his face glow under the more tender doctrines of grace. He used frequently to attend preaching at Jackson's Headquarters; and it was a scene which a master-hand might have delighted to paint—those two great warriors, surrounded by hundreds of their officers and men, bowed in humble worship before the God and Saviour in whom they trusted.

General Lee always took the deepest interest in the work of his chaplains and the spiritual welfare of his men. He was a frequent visitor at the chaplains' meetings, and a deeply interested observer of their proceedings; and the faithful chaplain, who stuck to his post and did his duty, could be always assured of a warm friend at Headquarters.

While the Army of Northern Virginia confronted General Meade at Mine Run, near the end of November, 1863, and a battle was momentarily expected, General Lee, with a number of general and staff officers, was riding down his line of battle, when, just in rear of General A. P. Hill's position, the cavalcade suddenly came upon a party of soldiers engaged in one of those prayer-meetings which they so often held on the eve of battle. An attack from the enemy seemed imminent—already the sharpshooting along the skirmish-line had begun—the artillery was belching forth its hoarse thunder, and the mind and heart of the great chieftain were full of the expected combat. Yet, as he saw those ragged veterans bowed in prayer, he instantly dismounted, uncovered his head and devoutly joined in the simple worship. The rest of the party at once followed his example, and those humble privates found themselves leading the devotions of their loved and honored chieftain.

It is related that as his army was crossing the James, in 1864, and hurrying on to the defence of Petersburg, General Lee turned aside from the road and, kneeling in the dust, devoutly joined a minister present in earnest prayer that God would give him wisdom and grace in the new stage of the campaign upon which he was then entering.

Rev. Dr. T. V. Moore gave the following in his memorial sermon:

About the middle of the war, when the horizon looked very dark, I spent an evening with him, at the house of a friend, and he was evidently, in spite of his habitual self-command, deeply depressed. Happening to be alone with him, as we parted for the night, I endeavored to cheer him with the fact that so many [52] Christian people were praying for him. I shall never forget the emphasis with which he grasped my hand as, with a voice and eye that betrayed deep emotion, he assured me that it was not only his comfort, but his only comfort, and declared the simple and absolute trust that he had in God, and God alone, as his helper in that terrible struggle. Another incident impressed me still more, because it brought out a most beautiful trait in his character. No one ever rendered him a service, however humble, that was not instantly and gratefully acknowledged, however lowly the person might be. During the summer of 1864, after he had been holding at bay the tremendous forces of General Grant for long weeks, retreating step by step, as he was outflanked by overwhelming numbers, until he reached the neighborhood of Cold Harbor, I had occasion to render him a slight service, so slight that, knowing at the time that he was sick, and overburdened with the great responsibilities of his arduous and continually menaced position, I never expected it to be acknowledged at all; but, to my surprise, I received a letter thanking me for this trivial service, and adding: “I thank you especially that I have a place in your prayers. No human power can avail us without the blessing of God, and I rejoice to know that, in this crisis of our affairs, good men everywhere are supplicating Him for His favor and protection.” He then added a postscript, which most touchingly exhibited his thoughtful and tender recollection of the troubles of others, even in that hour when all his thoughts might be supposed to be absorbed by his vast responsibilities as the leader of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Not long before the evacuation of Petersburg, I was one day on the lines not far above Hatcher's Run, busily engaged in distributing tracts and religious newspapers, which the soldiers were eagerly crowding around to get, when I saw a large cavalcade approaching. As they drew near I recognized Generals Lee, A. P. Hill, Gordon, Heth and several other generals, who, accompanied by a large staff, were inspecting the lines. I stepped aside to let the cavalcade pass, but the keen eye of Gordon recognized and his cordial grasp detained me while he eagerly inquired about my work. General Lee reined in his noble steed (‘Traveller,’ whom we all remember so well) and joined in the conversation, the rest all gathered around, and the humble tract distributer found himself the centre of a group [53] whose names and deeds shine on the brightest pages of the history they contributed so much to make.

My old colonel, now Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill, and one of the most accomplished soldiers, as well as one of the most high-toned gentlemen whom the war produced, pleasantly asked of me, as he gave me a hearty greeting, ‘John’ (as he always familiarly called me), ‘don't you think the boys would prefer “hard-tack” to tracts just now?’

‘I have no doubt that many of them would,’ I replied; ‘but they crowd around and take the tracts as eagerly as they surround the commissary, when he has anything to “issue,” and, besides other advantages, the tracts certainly help them to bear the lack of “hard-tack.” ’

‘I have no doubt of it,’ he said, ‘and I am glad you are able to supply the tracts more abundantly than we can the rations.’

General Lee asked me if I ever had calls for prayer-books among the soldiers. I told him that I frequently had, and he replied: ‘Well, you would greatly oblige me if you would call at my quarters and get and distribute a few which I have. I bought a new one when in Richmond the other day, and upon my saying that I would give my old one, which I had carried through the Mexican war and had kept ever since, to some soldier, the bookseller offered to give me a dozen new prayer-books for the old one. I, of course, accepted so good an offer; and now I have a dozen to give away instead of one.’

I called at the appointed hour; the general had been called away from his quarters on some important matter, but he had (even amid his pressing cares and responsibilities) left the prayerbooks with a member of his staff, with directions concerning them. In each one he had written, in his own well-known handwriting, ‘Presented to——by R. E. Lee.’ Had I been disposed to speculate, I am quite sure that I could easily have traded each one of these books containing the autograph of our great chieftain for a dozen others, and I know that the soldiers to whom I gave them have treasured them as precious mementos, or handed them down as priceless heirlooms. (I saw one of these books several years ago in the hands of a son whose father was killed on the retreat. It was not for sale. Indeed, money could not buy it.)

General Lee's orders and reports always gratefully recognized [54] the ‘Lord of Hosts’ as the ‘Giver of victory,’ and expressed an humble dependence upon and trust in Him.

He thus began his dispatch to the President the evening of his great victory at Cold Harbor and Gaines's Mill.

Headquarters, June 27, 1862.
His Excellency, President Davis:
Mr. President: Profoundly grateful to Almighty God for the signal victory granted to us, it is my pleasing task to announce to you the success achieved by this army to-day.’

His beautiful general order of congratulation to the troops on their series of splendid victories during the seven days battles opened with these memorable words:

General order no. 75.

Headquarters in the field, July 7, 1862.
The commanding general, profoundly grateful to the Giver of all victory for the signal success with which He has blessed our arms, tenders his warmest thanks and congratulations to the army, by whose valor such splendid results have been achieved.

His dispatch announcing his great victory at Fredericksburg contains the brief, but significant sentence—‘Thanks be to God.’

The following extracts from an order which he issued to the troops not long after the battle of Fredericksburg show the same spirit:

General order no. 132.

Headquarters, A. N. Va., December 31, 1862.

The general commanding takes this occasion to express to the officers and soldiers of the army his high appreciation of the fortitude, valor and devotion displayed by them, which, under the blessing of Almighty God, have added the victory of Fredericksburg to the long list of their triumphs.

That this great result was achieved with a loss small in point of numbers only augments the admiration with which the commanding general regards the prowess of the troops, and increases his gratitude to Him who hath given us the victory. [55]

The signal manifestations of Divine mercy that have distinguished the eventful and glorious campaign of the year just closing give assurance of hope that under the guidance of the same Almighty hand the coming year will be no less fruitful of events that will insure the safety, peace and happiness of our beloved country, and add new lustre to the already imperishable name of the Army of Northern Virginia.

R. E. Lee, General.

In his dispatch to President Davis, after Chancellorsville, he said: ‘We have again to thank Almighty God for a great victory.’

And in his general orders to his troops he holds this significant language:

. . . . While this glorious victory entitles you to the praise and gratitude of the nation, we are especially called upon to return our grateful thanks to the only Giver of victory, for the signal deliverance He has wrought.

It is, therefore, earnestly recommended that the troops unite, on Sunday next, in ascribing unto the Lord of hosts the glory due unto His name.

In closing his general order for the observance of the fast-day appointed by President Davis in the spring of 1863, he makes the following earnest appeal: ‘Soldiers! No portion of our people have greater cause to be thankful to Almighty God than yourselves. He has preserved your lives amidst countless dangers. He has been with you in all your trials. He has given you fortitude under hardships, and courage in the shock of battle. He has cheered you by the example and by the deeds of your martyred comrades. He has enabled you to defend your country successfully against the assaults of a powerful oppressor. Devoutly thankful for signal mercies, let us bow before the Lord of hosts, and join our hearts with millions in our land in prayer that He will continue His merciful protection over our cause; that He will scatter our enemies and set at naught their evil designs, and that He will graciously restore to our country the blessings of peace and security.’

He announced the victory at Winchester in the following dispatch:

To His Excellency, Jefferson Davis:
June 15, 1863.—God has again crowned the valor of our [56] troops with success. Early's Division stormed the enemy's intrenchments at Winchester, capturing their artillery, etc.

His order requiring the observance of the fast-day appointed by President Davis in August, 1863, was as follows:

General order no. 83.

Headquarters, A. N. Va., August 13, 1863.
The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people, appointed the 21st day of August as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. The commanding officers of brigades and regiments are requested to cause divine service, suitable to the occasion, to be performed in their respective commands. Soldiers! we have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause should be pure in His eyes; that “our times are in His hands;” and we have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism and more determined will; that He will convert the hearts of our enemies; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place among the nations of the earth.

R. E. Lee, General.

I can never forget the effect produced by the reading of this order at the solemn services of that memorable fast-day. A precious revival was already in progress in many of the commands—the day was almost universally observed—the attendance upon preaching and other services was very large—the solemn attention and starting tear attested the deep interest felt—and the work of grace among the troops widened and deepened and went gloriously on until there had been thousands of professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour. How far these grand results were due to this fast-day, or to the quiet influence [57] and fervent prayers of the commanding general, eternity along shall reveal.

When General Meade crossed the Rapidan in November, 1863, the troops were stirred by the following address:

General order no. 102.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, November 26, 1863.
The enemy is again advancing upon our capital, and the country once more looks to this army for protection. Under the blessings of God your valor has repelled every previous attempt, and invoking the continuance of His favor we cheerfully commit to Him the issue of the coming conflict.

A cruel enemy seeks to reduce our fathers and our mothers, our wives and our children to abject slavery; to strip them of their property and drive them from their homes. Upon you these helpless ones rely to avert these terrible calamities, and secure them the blessings of liberty and safety. Your past history gives them the assurance that their trust will not be in vain. Let every man remember that all he holds dear depends upon the faithful discharge of his duty, and resolve to fight and, if need be, to die in defence of a cause so sacred, and worthy the name won by this army on so many bloody fields.

(Signed) R. E. Lee, General.

I give the following as illustrating not only his trust in God, but also his tender solicitude for his soldiers:

General order no. 7.

Headquarters, A. N. Va., January 22, 1864.
The commanding general considers it due to the army to state that the temporary reduction of rations has been caused by circumstances beyond the control of those charged with its support. Its welfare and comfort are the objects of his constant and earnest solicitude; and no effort has been spared to provide for its wants. It is hoped that the exertions now being made will render the necessity of short duration: but the history of the army has shown that the country can require no sacrifice too great for its patriotic devotion.

Soldiers! you tread with no unequal steps the road by which your fathers marched through suffering, privation and blood to independence! [58]

Continue to emulate in the future, as you have in the past, their valor in arms, their patient endurance of hardships, their high resolve to be free, which no trial could shake, no bribe seduce, no danger appall: and be assured that the just God, who crowned their efforts with success, will, in His own good time, send down His blessing upon yours.

(Signed) R. E. Lee, General.

The following was his order for the observance of the fast-day appointed for April, 1864:

General order no. 23.

Headquarters, A. N. Va., March 30, 1864.
In compliance with the recommendation of the Senate and House of Representatives, His Excellency the President has issued his proclamation calling upon the people to set apart Friday, the 8th of April, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. The commanding general invites the army to join in the observance of the day. He directs due preparation to be made in all departments to anticipate the wants of the several commands, so that it may be strictly observed. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. The chaplains are desired to hold services in their regiments and brigades. The officers and men are requested to attend.

Soldiers! let us humble ourselves before the Lord our God, asking through Christ the forgiveness of our sins, beseeching the aid of the God of our forefathers in the defence of our homes and our liberties, thanking Him for His past blessings, and imploring their continuance upon our cause and our people.

R. E. Lee, General.

In his dispatch announcing the result of the first day's battle in the Wilderness he says: . . . . ‘By the blessing of God we maintained our position against every effort until night, when the contest closed.’ . . . . And in his dispatch concerning the advance of the enemy on the next day he says: . . . . ‘Every advance on his part, thanks to a merciful God, has been repulsed.’ . . . .

He closed his dispatch concerning the first day at Spottsylvania by saying: ‘I am most thankful to the Giver of all victory that our loss is small.’ And that concerning the action of June [59] 3, 1864, with: ‘Our loss to-day has been small, and our success under the blessing of God all that we could expect.’ . . . .

He closed his announcement of A. P. Hill's brilliant victory at Reams's Station, in August, 1864, by saying: . . . ‘Our profound gratitude is due the Giver of all victory, and our thanks to the brave men and officers engaged.’

In his order assuming the chief command of all of the Confederate forces he said: . . . . ‘Deeply impressed with the difficulties and responsibility of the position, and humbly invoking the guidance of Almighty God, I rely for success upon the courage and fortitude of the army, sustained by the patriotism and firmness of the people, confident that their united efforts under the blessing of Heaven will secure peace and independence.’ . . . .

I give the above only as specimens of his dispatches and general orders, which all recognized in the most emphatic manner his sense of dependence upon and trust in God.

With the close of the war and the afflictions which came upon his loved land, the piety of this great man seems to have mellowed and deepened, and I could fill pages concerning his life at Lexington and the bright evidences he gave of vital, active godliness.

He was a most regular attendant upon all of the services of his own church, his seat in the college chapel was never vacant unless he was kept away by sickness, and if there was a union prayer-meeting, or a service of general interest in any of the churches of Lexington, General Lee was sure to be among the most devout attendants.

His pew in his own church was immediately in front of the chancel, his seat in the chapel was the second from the pulpit, and he seemed always to prefer a seat near the preacher's stand. He always devoutly knelt during prayer, and his attitude during the entire service was that of an interested listener or a reverential participant.

He was not accustomed to indulge in carping criticisms of sermons, but was a most intelligent judge of what a sermon ought to be, and always expressed his preference for those sermons which presented most simply and earnestly the soulsaving truths of the Gospel. I heard him remark in reference to the Baccalaureate sermon preached at the college by Rev. Dr. J. A. Broadus: ‘It was a noble sermon—one of the very [60] best I ever heard—and the beauty of it was that the preacher gave our young men the very marrow of the Gospel, and with a simple earnestness that must have reached their hearts and done them good.’

Upon another occasion a distinguished minister had addressed the Young Men's Christian Association of the college, and on the next night delivered a popular lecture. Speaking of the last, General Lee said: ‘It was a very fine lecture and I enjoyed it. But I did not like it as much as I did the one before our Christian Association. That touched our hearts, and did us all good.’

He had also a most intelligent appreciation of the adaptation of religious services to particular occasions, and of the appropriateness of prayers to the time and place in which they were offered.

He once said to one of the faculty: I want you to go with me to call upon Mr.——, the new minister who has just come to town. I want to pay my respects to him, and to invite him to take his turn in the conduct of our chapel exercises, and to do what he can for the spiritual interests of our young men.

‘And do you think that it would be any harm for me to delicately hint to Mr.——that we would be glad if he would make his morning prayers a little short? You know our friend —— ——is accustomed to make his prayers too long. He prays for the Jews, the Turks, the heathen, the Chinese and everybody else, and makes his prayers run into the regular hour for our college recitations. Would it be wrong for me to suggest to Mr.——that he confine his morning prayers to us poor sinners at the college, and pray for the Turks, the Jews, the Chinese and the other heathen some other time?’

The suggestion is one which those who lead in public prayer would do well to ponder.

General Lee was emphatically a man of prayer. He was accustomed to pray in his family and to have his seasons of secret prayer which he allowed nothing else—however pressing—to interrupt. He was also a constant reader and a diligent student of the Bible, and had his regular seasons for this delightful exercise. Even amid his most active campaigns he found time to read every day some portion of God's word.

As I watched alone by his body the day after his death, I picked up from the table a well-used pocket Bible, in which was [61] written, in his characteristic chirography, ‘R. E. Lee, Lieutenant-Colonel United States Army.’ How he took this blessed book as the man of his counsel and the light of his pathway— how its precious promises cheered him amid the afflictions and trials of his eventful life—how its glorious hopes illumined for him ‘the dark valley and shadow of death,’ eternity alone will fully reveal.

And he always manifested the liveliest interest in giving to others the precious Bible. During the war he was an active promoter of Bible distribution among his soldiers, and soon after coming to Lexington he accepted the presidency of the Rockbridge Bible Society, and continued to discharge its duties up to the time of his death. I give his letter accepting this office:

Gentlemen: I have delayed replying to your letter informing me of having been elected President of the “Rockbridge Bible Society,” not for want of interest in the subject, but from an apprehension that I should not be able to perform the duties of the position in such manner as to advance the high object proposed. Having, however, been encouraged by your kind assurances, and being desirous of co-operating, in any way I can, in extending the inestimable knowledge of the priceless truths of the Bible, I accept the position assigned me.

With many thanks to the society for the high compliment paid me by their selection as their president, I am, with great respect,

Your obedient servant,

The following paper may be appropriately introduced here:

At the meeting of the Board of Managers of the Rockbridge County Bible Society, on the 12th inst., for the purpose of imparting to the organization greater efficiency—in addition to other important measures adopted and in substance since published— the undersigned were appointed a committee to prepare and publish a minute, expressing the deep sense which the managers and members of this Society have of the exalted worth of their last president, the illustrious General R. E. Lee; of the blessed [62] influence which he exerted as a Christian man and in his official relation to this cause, and of the grievous loss to us in his removal, even to celestial joy.

The duty is to us most grateful. World-wide and enduring as must be the renown of our honored friend for great abilities, grandeur of character and achievements, perhaps, in proportion to appliances, never surpassed—his crowning glory was, in our view, the sublime simplicity of his Christian faith and life. To the inviolable dignity of a soul among the noblest of all history was in him thoroughly united that guileless, unpretending, gentle and yet earnest spirit of a little child, so emphatically designated by our Lord as the essential characteristic of his chosen ones. These were the traits which, while they justly endeared him to children, and friends, and all the people, rendered him prompt to every, even the humblest duty, and caused him, although burdened with weighty cares, to accept the quietly useful task of presiding over so inconspicuous a good work as that of the Rockbridge County Bible Society. Of the judicious zeal with which he undertook this service, evidence conclusive was at once given in the wisely simple yet stirring appeal, which he penned and sent forth to the several ministers and congregations of the county, urging them to renewed energy in remedying Bible destitution throughout our borders. Well may the friends of this cause mourn the loss of such a leader, and record on the tablets of their hearts an example so good, as an incentive to their own efficiency for the future!

In connection with this testimonial of the society's loving estimate of their last president, the undersigned were instructed to cause to be published the Appeal above referred to, written by General Lee's own hand, of which copies were at the time sent to all the ministers and congregations of the county. The original remains, a precious memento, in the archives of the society. To it, as hereunto subjoined in print, we ask the attentive consideration due alike to its great author and to the important cause for which he pleads. Facts and principles bearing on the question are to-day very much as they were five years ago, when the mind of this great and good man was moved so impressively to put them forth in the following circular.

Although now resting from his labors, his works do follow him! Shall they not, in this and in other forms, effectually plead [63] with all to be alive to Christian privilege in this matter, and faithful to duty therein and in all things?

Lexington, Va., January 14, 1869.
The Rockbridge County Bible Society, whose operations were interrupted and records lost during the war, was reorganized on the 5th of last October by representatives of different churches of the county, in pursuance of a notice given through the Lexington Gazette. A new constitution was adopted which provides for the reorganization of a Board of Managers, composed of the ministers of each church and one representative from each congregation, appointed by them, to meet at least once a year, on the first Saturday in October; and that the officers of the society shall be a President, a Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, and Librarian, who shall constitute the Executive Committee of the society.

At the meeting mentioned, the officers elected were:

R. E. Lee, President.

J. T. L. Preston, Vice-President.

Wm. G. White, Secretary and Treasurer.

John S. White, Librarian.

In compliance with a resolution of the meeting requesting the Executive Committee to take measures to procure a supply of Bibles, and to obtain from the congregations of the county funds for the purpose, it is respectfully requested that you will make, at the earliest and most suitable occasion, a collection in your congregation for this object, and cause the amount to be transmitted to the treasurer, Mr. Wm. G. White, at Lexington, and inform him at the same time, as far as practicable, how many copies of the Bible will be required to meet the wants of the congregation, as the constitution provides that each congregation shall mainly conduct the work of their distribution within their respective spheres.

The revival of the time-honored organization of the Rockbridge Bible Society, it is believed, will fill with pleasure the hearts of all good citizens in the county, and the Executive Committee earnestly appeal to the churches, their members, and all persons interested in the great work of the society, to unite cordially [64] and promptly with them for its accomplishment. The first object is to supply every family with a copy of the Bible that is without it, and as many years have elapsed since there has been a distribution of the Holy Scriptures among us, it is feared, for reasons that are apparent, that there is at this time a great destitution among the people. The united and zealous efforts of all the denominations in the county are therefore earnestly solicited in aid of this good work.

Respectfully submitted,

R. E. Lee, President Rockbridge Bible Society. To the Ministers and Churches of the County of Rockbridge, Virginia.

General Lee was also deeply interested in the Virginia Bible Society and their noble work of giving the word of God to the people.

He wrote as follows to the president of that society:

Lexington, Virginia, April 5, 1869.
Rev. and Dear Sir: Your letter of first instant was only received this morning.

To reach Richmond by to-morrow evening, the anniversary of the Bible Society, I should have to ride all to-night to take the cars at Staunton to-morrow morning. I am suffering with a cold now, and fear the journey would lay me up.

I would, however, make the trial, did I think I could be of any service to the great object of the society. If the managers could suggest any plan, in addition to the abundant distribution of the Holy Scriptures, to cause the mass of the people to meditate on their simple truths, and, in the language of Wilberforce, “to read the Bible—read the Bible,” so as to become acquainted with the experience and realities of religion, the greatest good would be accomplished. Wishing the society all success and continued advancement in its work,

I am, with great respect, most truly yours,

The following graceful acknowledgment of a copy of the Scriptures sent him by some English ladies may be appropriately introduced at this point: [65]

Sir: I have received within a few days your letter of the 14th of November, 1864, and had hoped that by this time it would have been followed by the copy of the Holy Scriptures to which you refer, that I might have known the generous donors, whose names you state are inscribed upon its pages.

Its failure to reach me will, I fear, deprive me of that pleasure! and I must ask the favor of you to thank them most heartily for their kindness in providing me with a book, in comparison with which all others in my eyes are of minor importance; and which in all my perplexities and distresses has never failed to give me light and strength. Your assurance of the esteem in which I am held by a large portion of the British nation, as well as by those for whom you speak, is most grateful to my feelings; though I am aware that I am indebted to their generous natures, and not to my own merit, for their good opinion.

I beg, sir, that you will accept my sincere thanks for the kind sentiments which you have expressed towards me, and my unfeigned admiration of your exalted character.

I am, with great respect, your most obedient servant,

(Signed) R. E. Lee.

General Lee was a most active promoter of the interests of his church, and of the cause of Christ in the community; and all of the pastors felt that they had in him a warm friend.

He was a most liberal contributer to his church and to other objects of benevolence. At the vestry meeting, which he attended and over which he presided the evening he was taken with his fatal illness, an effort was being made to raise a certain sum for an important object. General Lee had already made an exceedingly liberal contribution, but when it was ascertained that $55 were still lacking, he quietly said, ‘I will give the balance.’ These were the last words he spoke in the meeting— his contribution, his last public act. I happen to know that, within the last twelve months of his life he gave $100 to the education of soldiers' orphans, $100 to the Young Men's Christian Association of the college and smaller sums to a number of similar objects—making, in the aggregate, a most liberal contribution. [66] And then, his manner of giving was so modest and unostentatious. In giving me a very handsome contribution to the Lexington Baptist Church, he quietly said: ‘Will you do me the kindness to hand this to your treasurer, and save me the trouble of hunting him up? I am getting old now, and you young men must help me.’ And his whole manner was that of one receiving instead of bestowing a favor.

General Lee was not accustomed to talk of anything that concerned himself, and did not often speak freely of his inner religious feelings. Yet he would, when occasion offered, speak most decidedly of his reliance for salvation upon the merits of his personal Redeemer, and none who heard him thus talk could doubt for a moment that his faith was built on the ‘Rock of Ages.’

He one day said to a friend in speaking of the duty of laboring for the good of others: ‘Ah! Mrs. P——, I find it so hard to keep one poor sinner's heart in the right way, that it seems presumptuous to try to help others.’ And yet he did, quietly and unostentatiously, speak ‘a word in season’ and exert influences potent for good in directing others in the path to heaven. He was a ‘son of consolation’ to the afflicted, and his letterbook contains some touching illustrations of this. We give the following extract from a letter written to an afflicted mother on the death, by drowning, of her son (then a student at the college):

Lexington, Virginia, April 6, 1868.
My Dear Madam: It grieves me to address you on a subject which has already been announced to you in all of its woe, and which has brought to your heart such heavy affliction.

‘But I beg to be permitted to sympathize in your great sorrow, and to express to you on the part of the faculty of the college their deep grief at the calamity which has befallen you. It may be some consolation in your bereavement to know that your son was highly esteemed by the officers and students of the college, and that this whole community unite in sorrow at his untimely death. May God in His mercy support you under this grievous trial, and give you that peace which, as it passeth all understanding, so nothing in this world can diminish or destroy it.’

On the death of Bishop Elliott, of Georgia, he wrote the following letter to his wife: [67]

Lexington, Virginia, February 21, 1867.
My Dear Mrs. Elliott: It would be in vain for me to attempt to express my grief at your great affliction. In common with the whole country, I mourn the death of him whom for more than a quarter of a century I have admired, loved and venerated, and whose loss to the church and society, where his good offices were so important, I can never expect to see supplied.

You have my deepest sympathy, and my earnest prayers are offered to Almighty God that He may be graciously pleased to comfort you in your great sorrow, and to bring you in His own good time to rejoice with Him whom in His all-wise Providence He has called before you to heaven.

With great respect, most truly yours,

The following, to the widow of his cherished friend, General Geo. W. Randolph (for a time Confederate Secretary of War), will be read with mournful pleasure by the large circle of admirers and friends of this gifted and widely lamented Virginian:

Lexington, Virginia, April 11, 1867.
My Dear Mrs. Randolph: The letter I received this morning from your niece offers me an opportunity of writing to you on a subject over which I deeply mourn. But it is the survivors of the sad event whom I commiserate, and not him whom a gracious God has called to Himself; and whose tender heart and domestic virtues make the pang of parting the more bitter to those who are left behind. I deferred writing, for I knew the hopelessness of offering you consolation; and yet for what other purpose can a righteous man be summoned into the presence of a merciful God than to receive his reward? However, then, we lament, we ought not to deplore him or wish him back from his peaceful, happy home. I had hoped to have seen him once more in this world, and had been pleasing myself with the prospect of paying him a special visit this summer. But God in mercy to him has ordered otherwise, and I submit.

The recollection of his esteem and friendship will always be dear to me, and his kind remembrance in his long and painful illness will be gratefully cherished. His worth and truth, his unselfish devotion to right, and his exalted patriotism, will cause all men to mourn the country's loss in his death, while his gentle, [68] manly courtesy, dignified conduct, and Christian charity, must intensely endear him to those who knew him.

Mrs. Lee and my daughters, while they join in unfeigned sorrow for your bereavement, unite with me in sincere regards and fervent prayers to Him, who can alone afford relief, for His gracious support and continued protection to you. May His abundant mercies be showered upon you, and may His almighty arm guide and uphold you.

Please thank Miss Randolph for writing to me.

With great respect and true affection, your obedient servant,

(Signed) R. E. Lee.

The following expresses a great deal in brief compass:

Lexington, February 28, 1870.
Mr. Samuel R. George, 71 Mt. Vernon Place, Baltimore, Maryland:
My Dear Sir; I have learned with deep regret the great sorrow that has befallen you, and sincerely sympathize in your overwhelming grief. But the great God of heaven takes us at the period when it is best for us to go, and we can only gratefully acknowledge His mercy and try to be resigned to His will. Every beat of our hearts marks our progress through life and admonishes us of the steps we make towards the grave. We are thus every moment reminded to prepare for our summons. With my earnest sympathy for yourself and kindest regards to your children, in which Mrs. Lee and my daughters unite,

I am most truly yours,

The friendship between General Lee and the venerable Bishop Meade, of Virginia (whose efficient labors in the cause of evangelical piety were widely known and appreciated even outside of his own communion), was touchingly beautiful, and the following letter will be read with peculiar interest:

Lexington, Virginia, March 7, 1866.
Rt. Rev. John Johns, Bishop of Virginia, Theological Seminary, near Alexandria, Virginia:
Rt. Rev. and Dear Sir: I am very glad to learn, from your note of the 27th ult., that you have consented to write a memoir [69] of our good and beloved Bishop Meade. Of all the men I have ever known, I consider him the purest; and a history of his character and life will prove a benefit to mankind. No one can portray that character, or illustrate that life better than yourself; and I rejoice that the sacred duty has devolved upon you.

In compliance with your request, I will state as far as my recollection enables me, the substance of what occurred in the short interview I had with him the evening before his death; and I do so the more readily, as you were present and can correct the inaccuracies of my memory. I received a message about dark that the bishop was very ill, and desired to see me. On entering his room he recognized me at once, and extending his hand said, that his earthly pilgrimage was nearly finished, and that before the light of another day he should have passed from this world. That he had known me in childhood, when I recited to him the church catechism taught me by my mother before I could read; that his affection and interest began at that time and strengthened by my marriage with his godchild, and continued to the present. Invoking upon me the guidance and protection of Almighty God, he bade me a last farewell.

With kindest regards to Mrs. Johns and your daughters, I am most truly yours,

(Signed) R. E. Lee.

A clergyman present, in describing the last interview, states that the bishop said to the great soldier: ‘God bless you! God bless you, Robert, and fit you for your high and responsible duties. I can't call you “General,” I must call you “Robert;” I have heard you your catechism too often.’

General Lee was deeply affected by the interview, and when he turned to leave the room, the bishop, much exhausted and with great emotion, took him by the hand and said: ‘Heaven bless you! Heaven bless you! and give you wisdom for your important and arduous duties.’

On the death of Randolph Fairfax, who fell at Fredericksburg, General Lee, who highly appreciated the manly virtues of this young soldier of the cross, wrote the following letter to his bereaved father:

camp Fredericksburg, December 28, 1862.
My Dear Doctor: I have grieved most deeply at the death of your noble son. I have watched his conduct from the commencement [70] of the war, and have pointed with pride to the patriotism, self-denial and manliness of character he has exhibited. I had hoped an opportunity would occur for the promotion he deserved; not that it would have elevated him, but have shown that his devotion to duty was appreciated by his country.

Such an opportunity would undoubtedly have occurred; but he has been translated to a better world, for which his purity and piety eminently fitted him. You do not require to be told how great is his gain. It is the living for whom I sorrow. I beg you will offer to Mrs. Fairfax and your daughters my heartfelt sympathy, for I know the depth of their grief. That God may give you and them strength to bear this great affliction, is the earnest prayer of your early friend,

On the death of his personal friend, George Peabody, General Lee wrote the following to Mr. Peabody Russell:

Lexington, Virginia, November 10, 1869.
My Dear Mr. Russell: The announcement of the death of your uncle, Mr. George Peabody, has been received with the deepest regret wherever his name and benevolence are known: and nowhere have his generous deeds, restricted to no country, section, or sect, elicited more heartfelt admiration than at the South.

He stands alone in history for the benevolent use and judicious distribution of his great wealth, and his memory has become justly entwined in the affections of millions of his fellowcitizens in both hemispheres.

I beg in my own behalf, and in behalf of the trustees and faculty of Washington College, Virginia, which has not been forgotten by him in his acts of generosity, to tender our unfeigned sorrow at his death. With great respect, your obedient servant,

Upon the death of Professor Frank Preston, of William and Mary College, General Lee issued the following announcement:

Washington College, November 23, 1869.
The death of Professor Frank Preston, a distinguished graduate [71] and late assistant professor of Greek in this college, has caused the deepest sorrow in the hearts of the faculty and members of the institution.

Endowed with a mind of rare capacity, which had been enriched by diligent study and careful cultivation, he stood among the first in the State in his pursuit in life.

We who so long and so intimately possessed his acquaintance, and so fully enjoyed the privilege of his companionship, feel especially his loss and grieve profoundly at his death; and we heartily sympathize with his parents and relatives in their great affliction, and truly participate in the deep sorrow that has befallen them.

With a view of testifying the esteem felt for his character and the respect due to his memory, all academic exercises will be suspended for the day; and the faculty and students are requested to attend, in their respective bodies, his funeral services at the Presbyterian Church, at 11 o'clock, to pay the last sad tribute of respect to his earthly remains, while cherishing in their hearts his many virtues.

R. E. Lee, President.

The above was written, currente calamo, immediately on his hearing of the death of Professor Preston, whom he most highly esteemed, not only as an accomplished scholar and high-toned gentleman, but as one who had been a gallant Confederate soldier and wore till his death a badge of honor in the ‘empty sleeve’ that hung at his side.

We also give the following extracts from a letter to Rev. Dr. Moses D. Hoge, of the Presbyterian Church, Richmond, soon after the death of his wife. After writing of a number of matters connected with the interests of the Viriginia Bible Society, he concludes as follows:

And now, my dear sir, though perhaps inappropriate to the occasion, you must allow me to refer to a subject which has caused me great distress and concerning which I have desired to write ever since its occurrence; but, to tell the truth, I have not had the heart to do so. I knew how powerless I was to give any relief and how utterly inadequate was any language that I could use even to mitigate your suffering.

I could, therefore, only offer up my silent prayers to Him [72] who alone can heal your bleeding heart, that in His infinite mercy He would be ever present with you—to dry your tears and staunch your wounds; to sustain you by His grace and support you by His strength.

I hope you felt assured that in this heavy calamity you and your children had the heartfelt sympathy of Mrs. Lee and myself, and that you were daily remembered in our prayers.

With our best wishes and sincere affection, I am very truly yours,

The date of the following letter gives it additional interest. The movements of Burnside were developing themselves, and the battle of Fredericksburg about to open; but the charger of the great captain must ‘wait at his tent door’ while from a heart as tender as that of the gentlest woman he sends these lines of affectionate sympathy to a bereaved mother:

camp Fredericksburg, December 10, 1862.
I heard yesterday, my dear daughter, with the deepest sorrow of the death of your infant. I was so grateful at her birth. I felt that she would be such a comfort to you, such a pleasure to my dear Fitzhugh, and would fill so full the void still aching in your hearts. But you have now two sweet angels in heaven. What joy there is in the thought. What relief to your grief. What suffering and sorrow they have escaped. I can say nothing to soften the anguish you must feel, and I know you are assured of my deep and affectionate sympathy. May God give you strength to bear the affliction He has imposed and produce future joy out of present misery, is my earnest prayer.

I saw F——yesterday. He is well and wants much to see you. When you are strong enough, cannot you come up to Hickory Hill, or your grandpa's, on a little visit, where he could ride down and see you? My horse is waiting at my tent door, but I could not refrain from sending these few lines to recall to you the thought and love of your devoted father,

Colonel Walter H. Taylor, of his staff, relates (in his admirable book, ‘Four Years With Lee’) that he carried him the letter [73] which told of the death of his daughter Annie, along with important official papers, and that the stern soldier suppressed his emotion until he could dispatch the business that was then most pressing; but that on going into the tent not long after he found him with the letter in his hand, weeping tears of loving sorrow.

In a letter written not long after, he thus alludes to his great affliction: ‘The death of my dear Annie was indeed to me a bitter pang. But the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In the hours of night, when there is nothing to lighten the full weight of my grief, I feel as if I should be overwhelmed. I had always counted, if God should spare me a few days of peace after this cruel war was ended, that I should have her with me. But year after year my hopes go out, and I must be resigned.’

The daughter whose death is so touchingly alluded to in the above letter was Miss Annie Carter Lee, who died at Warren, White Sulphur Springs, North Carolina, the 20th of October, 1862. At the close of the war the citizens of the county erected over her grave a handsome monument, which was unveiled with appropriate ceremonies. In response to an invitation to be present, General Lee wrote the following:

Rockbridge Baths, July 25, 1866.
Ladies: I have read with deep emotion your letter of the 17th instant, inviting myself and family to witness the erection of a monument over the remains of my daughter, at Warren, White Sulphur Springs, on the 8th of next month.

I do not know how to express to you my thanks for your great kindness to her while living, and for your affectionate remembrance of her since dead.

My gratitude for your attention and consideration will continue through life, and my prayers will be daily offered to the throne of the Most High for His boundless blessings upon you.

I have always cherished the intention of visiting the tomb of her who never gave me aught but pleasure; but to afford me the satisfaction which I crave, it must be attended with more privacy than I can hope for on the occasion you propose.

But there are more controlling considerations which will prevent my being present. Her mother, who for years has been afflicted with a painful disease, which has reduced her to a state [74] of helplessness, is this far on her way to the mineral springs, which are considered the best calculated to afford her relief. My attendance is necessary to her in her journey, and the few weeks I have now at my disposal is the only time which can be devoted to this purpose.

Though absent in person, my heart will be with you, and my sorrow and devotions will be mingled with yours.

I hope my eldest son and daughter may be able to be present with you, but, as they are distant from me, I cannot tell under what circumstances your invitation may find them. I feel certain, however, that nothing but necessity will prevent their attendance.

I enclose, according to your request, the date of my daughter's birth, and the inscription proposed for the monument over her tomb. The latter are the last lines of the hymn which she asked for just before her death.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

His son's wife, to whom he was deeply attached, and to whom he wrote many touchingly beautiful letters, full of the consolations and hopes of the Gospel, died while her husband (General W. H. F. Lee) was in a Northern prison, and on his return General Lee wrote him the following:

camp, Orange county, April 24, 1864.
I received last night, my dear son, your letter of the 22d. It has given me great comfort. God knows how I loved your dear, dear wife, how sweet her memory is to me, and how I mourn her loss. My grief could not be greater if you had been taken from me. You were both equally dear to me. My heart is too full to speak on this subject, nor can I write. But my grief is for ourselves, not for her. She is brighter and happier than ever—safe from all evil, and awaiting us in her heavenly abode. May God in His mercy enable us to join her in eternal [75] praise to our Lord and Saviour. Let us humbly bow ourselves before Him, and offer perpetual prayer for pardon and forgiveness. But we cannot indulge in grief, however mournfully pleasing. Our country demands all our strength, all our energies. To resist the powerful combination now forming against us will require every man at his place. If victorious, we have everything to hope for in the future. If defeated, nothing will be left us to live for. I have not heard what action has been taken by the department in reference to my recommendations concerning the organization of the cavalry. But we have no time to wait, and you had better join your brigade. This week will, in all probability, bring us active work, and we must strike fast and strong. My whole trust is in God, and I am ready for whatever He may ordain. May He guide, guard and strengthen us, is my constant prayer.

Your devoted father,

His affection for Jackson and Jackson's love for him were very touching. To Jackson's note informing him that he was wounded General Lee replied: ‘I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events I should have chosen for the good of the country to have been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory which is due to your skill and energy.’ It was on the reception of these touching words that the wounded chieftain exclaimed: ‘Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee.’

Several days afterwards, when his great lieutenant was reported to be doing well, Lee playfully sent him word: ‘You are better off than I am; for, while you have only lost your left, I have lost my right arm.’

Hearing soon after that Jackson was growing worse, he expressed the deepest concern and said: ‘Tell him that I am praying for him as I believe I have never prayed for myself.’

The 10th of May, 1863, was a beautiful Sabbath day, and Rev. B. T. Lacy, at the special request of the dying chieftain, left his bedside to hold his usual services at the Headquarters of the Second Corps. General Lee was present at the service, and at its conclusion he took Mr. Lacy aside to inquire particularly after Jackson's condition. Upon being told that he would not probably live through the day, he exclaimed: ‘Oh! sir, he must [76] not die. Surely God will not visit us with such a calamity. If I have ever prayed in my life I have pleaded with the Lord that Jackson might be spared to us.’ And then his heart swelled with emotion too deep for utterance, and he turned away to weep like a child.

He thus announced the death of Jackson:

General order, no. 61.

Headquarters, A. N. Va., May 11, 1863.

With deep grief the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieutenant-General T. J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th inst., at a quarter past 3 P. M. The daring, skill and energy of this great and good soldier are now, by the decrees of an all-wise Providence, lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defence of our beloved country.

R. E. Lee, General.

In a private letter to his wife General, Lee wrote:

camp near Fredericksburg, May 1, 1863.
In addition to the death of officers and friends consequent upon the late battle, you will see that we have to mourn the loss of the great and good Jackson. Any victory would be dear at such a price. His remains go to Richmond to-day. I know not how to replace him; but God's will be done! I trust He will raise up some one in his place.

General Lee manifested the deepest concern for the spiritual welfare of the young men under his care. Soon after becoming president of Washington College, he said, with deep feeling, to Rev. Dr. White—then the venerable pastor of the Lexington Presbyterian Church—‘I shall be disappointed, sir; I shall fail in the leading object that brought me here, unless these young men become real Christians; and I wish you and others of your sacred profession to do all you can to accomplish this.’

Rev. Dr. Brown, editor of the Central Presbyterian, and one of [77] the trustees of Washington and Lee University, says in his paper: ‘The crowning excellence of such men as Jackson and Lee was their sincere Christian piety.’ The remark made by General Lee to the Rev. Dr. White was made to us upon another occasion in a form even more emphatic. ‘I dread,’ said he, ‘the thought of any student going away from the college without becoming a sincere Christian.’

At the beginning of each session of the college he was accustomed to address an autograph letter to the pastors of Lexington inviting them to arrange for conducting in turn the regular chapel services of the college, asking them to induce the students to attend their several churches, Bible-classes, etc., and urging them to do all in their power for the spiritual good of the students. Not content with this general request, he was accustomed to prepare lists of students who belonged themselves, or whose families were connected with particular churches, and to hand these to the several pastors with the earnestly expressed wish that they would consider these young men under their especial watchcare, and give them every attention in their power. And he would frequently ask a pastor after individual students— whether they belonged to his Bible-class, were regular in their attendance at church, etc.

General Lee did not believe in enforced religion, and never required the students by any collge law to attend chapel or church, but he did everything in his power to influence them to do so, and with the largest success.

At the ‘Concert of Prayer for Colleges,’ in Lexington, in 1869, I made an address in which I urged that the great need of our colleges was a genuine, pervasive revival—that this could only come from God; and that inasmuch as He has promised His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, we should make special prayer for a revival in the colleges of the country, and more particularly in Washington College and the Virginia Military Institute. At the close of the meeting General Lee came to me and said, with more than his usual warmth: ‘I wish, sir, to thank you for your address; it was just what we needed. Our great want is a revival which shall bring these young men to Christ.’

During the great revival in the Virginia Military Institute in 1869 he said to his pastor, with deep emotion: ‘That is the best news I have heard since I have been in Lexington. Would that [78] we could have such a revival in all our colleges!’ Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick, professor of moral philosophy in Washington College, relates the following concerning a conversation he had with General Lee just a short time previous to his fatal illness: ‘We had been conversing for some time respecting the religious welfare of the students. General Lee's feelings soon became so intense that for a time his utterance was choked; but, recovering himself, with his eyes overflowed with tears, his lips quivering with emotion and both hands raised, he exclaimed: “Oh, doctor! if I could only know that all the young men in the college were good Christians, I should have nothing more to desire.” ’

General Lee was deeply interested in the Young Men's Christian Association of the college, and seemed highly gratified at its large measure of success.

His letter in reply to one making him an honorary member of the association was as follows:

My Dear Sir: I have received your letter announcing my election as an honorary member of the Young Men's Christian Association of Washington College—a society in whose prosperity I take the deepest interest and for the welfare of whose members my prayers are daily offered. Please present my grateful thanks to your association for the honor conferred on me and believe me,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, Mr. A. N. Gordon, Corresponding Secretary Young Men's Christian Association.

Rev. Dr. Brantly, of Baltimore, and Bishop Marvin, of Missouri who stayed at his house during the college commencement of 1870, both speak of the warm gratification which General Lee expressed at the encouraging report of the religious interest among the students.

General Lee was a member of the Episcopal Church, and was sincerely attached to the church of his choice; but his large heart took in Christians of every name; he treated ministers of all denominations with the most marked courtesy and respect; and it may be truly said of him that he had a heart and hand ‘ready to every good work.’ When once asked his opinion of a certain theological question, which was exciting considerable discussion, he replied: ‘Oh! I never trouble myself about such [79] questions; my chief concern is to try to be an humble, earnest Christian myself.’

An application of a Jewish soldier for permission to attend certain ceremonies of his synagogue in Richmond was endorsed by his captain: ‘Disapproved. If such applications were granted the whole army would turn Jews or Shaking Quakers.’ When the paper came to General Lee he endorsed on it: ‘Approved, and respectfully returned to Captain——, with the advice that he should always respect the religious views and feelings of others.’

The following letters, addressed to a prominent rabbi of Richmond (to whom I am indebted for copies), will serve to illustrate the broad charity of this model Christian:

Headquarters, Valley Mountain, August 29, 1861.
rabbi M. J. Michelbacher, Preacher Hebrew Congregation, House of Love, Richmond, Virginia:
Reverend Sir: I have just received your letter of the 23d inst., requesting that a furlough from the 2d to the 15th of September be granted to the soldiers of the Jewish persuasion in the Confederate States Army, that they may participate in the approaching holy service of the synagogue. It would give me great pleasure to comply with a request so earnestly urged by you, and which, I know, would be so highly appreciated by that class of soldiers. But the necessities of war admit of no relaxation of the efforts requisite for its success, nor can it be known on what day the presence of every man may be required. I feel assured that neither you nor any member of the Jewish Congregation would wish to jeopardize a cause you have so much at heart by the withdrawal even for a season of its defenders. I cannot, therefore, grant the general furlough you desire, but must leave it to individuals to make their own applications to their several commanders, in the hope that many will be able to enjoy the privilege you seek for them. Should any be deprived of the opportunity of offering up their prayers according to the rites of their church, I trust that their penitence may nevertheless be accepted by the Most High, and their petitions answered. That your prayers for the success and welfare of our cause may be answered by the Great Ruler of the Universe is my ardent wish.

I have the honor to be, with high esteem,

Your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General Commanding.


Headquarters, A. N. Va., April 2, 1863.
M. J. Michelbacher, Minister of Hebrew Congregation, Richmond, Virginia:
Sir: It will give me pleasure to comply with the request contained in your letter of the 30th ult., as far as the public interest will permit. But, I think it more than probable that the army will be engaged in active operations, when, of course, no one would wish to be absent from its ranks, nor could they in that event be spared. The reports from all quarters show that General Hooker's army is prepared to cross the Rappahannock, and only awaits favorable weather and roads.

The sentence in the case of Isaac Arnoldh as been suspended until the decision of the President shall be known. Thanking you very sincerely for your good wishes in behalf of our country,

I remain, with great respect,

Your obedient servant,

Headquarters, A. N. Va., September 20, 1864.
Rev. M. J. Michelbacher, Richmond:
Sir: I have received your letter of the 15th inst., asking that furloughs may be granted to the Israelites in the army from September 30 to October 11, to enable them to repair to Richmond to observe the holy days appointed by the Jewish religion.

It would afford me much pleasure to comply with your request did the interests of the service permit, but it is impossible to grant a general furlough to one class of our soldiers without recognizing the claims of others to a like indulgence. I can only grant furloughs on applications setting forth special grounds for them, or in accordance with the general orders on that subject applicable to all the army alike.

I will gladly do all in my power to facilitate the observance of the duties of their religion by the Israelites in the army, and I will allow them every indulgence consistent with safety and discipline. If their applications be forwarded to me in the usual way, and it appears that they can be spared, I will be glad to approve as many of them as circumstances will permit. Accept my thanks for your kind wishes for myself, and believe me to be, with great respect,

Your obedient servant,


This characteristic was noted by all who came in contact with him, and not a few will cordially echo the remark of the venerable Dr. White, who said, with deep feeling, during the memorial services, ‘He belonged to one branch of the Church and I to another; yet, in my intercourse with him—an intercourse rendered far more frequent and intimate by the tender sympathy he felt in my ill health—the thought never occurred to me that we belonged to different churches. His love for the truth, and for all that is good and useful, was such as to render his brotherly kindness and charity as boundless as were the wants and sorrows of his race.’

It were an easy task to write pages more in illustration of the Christian character of our great leader; but the above must suffice.

If I have ever come in contact with a sincere, devout Christian —one who, seeing himself to be a sinner, trusted alone in the merits of Christ—who humbly tried to walk the path of duty, ‘looking unto Jesus’ as the author and finisher of his faith— and whose piety constantly exhibited itself in his daily life—that man was General R. E. Lee.

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)
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 (72)
Jefferson Davis (17)
T. J. Jackson (8)
Jesus Christ (8)
W. H. F. Lee (5)
H. Everard Meade (4)
William H. Fitzhugh Lee (4)
B. T. Lacy (4)
A. P. Hill (4)
W. S. White (3)
George W. Randolph (3)
Frank Preston (3)
M. J. Michelbacher (3)
John B. Gordon (3)
William G. White (2)
Peabody Russell (2)
J. T. L. Preston (2)
William N. Pendleton (2)
George Peabody (2)
Annie Carter Lee (2)
John Johns (2)
Stonewall Jackson (2)
Randolph Fairfax (2)
Elliott (2)
Christian (2)
George Woodbridge (1)
Wilberforce (1)
William White (1)
John S. White (1)
Virginia (1)
Charles S. Venable (1)
Walter H. Taylor (1)
J. E. B. Stuart (1)
Kirby Smith (1)
Sir (1)
A. M. Scales (1)
Rodes (1)
Rockbridge (1)
Christian President (1)
J. W. Pratt (1)
W. N. Pendleton (1)
Pender (1)
William Johnson Pegram (1)
Paxton (1)
Bedgebury Park (1)
T. V. Moore (1)
E. M. Marvin (1)
John Hill Lamar (1)
Thomas J. Kirkpatrick (1)
Lucinda Jones (1)
Joseph S. Jones (1)
Thomas J. Jackson (1)
Hooker (1)
Hood (1)
Moses D. Hoge (1)
D. H. Hill (1)
Heth (1)
J. M. Heck (1)
Grant (1)
A. N. Gordon (1)
Samuel R. George (1)
Fitzhugh (1)
Orlando Fairfax (1)
Ewell (1)
C. A. Evans (1)
Early (1)
A. E. Dickinson (1)
A. H. Colquitt (1)
Lewis Minor Coleman (1)
T. R. Cobb (1)
J. L. Clarke (1)
Thomas H. Carter (1)
Thomas Carroll (1)
Burnside (1)
Brownlow (1)
William Brown (1)
John A. Broadus (1)
Carter Braxton (1)
Brantly (1)
A. W. Beresford (1)
W. H. S. Baylor (1)
Isaac Arnoldh (1)
R. H. Anderson (1)
M. Alston (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: