Lee in Battle

Nor was it only a question of mere politeness. Lee was as tender and sympathetic to man and beast in the fury of combat, in the chaos of defeat, as he could have been in his own domain at Arlington. After the great charge on the third day at Gettysburg, an officer rode up to him lashing an unwilling horse. 'Don't whip him, captain, don't whip him,' protested the general. 'I have just such another foolish beast myself, and whipping doesn't do any good.' And as the tumult of disaster increased, the sympathy took larger forms of magnanimity than mere prevention of cruelty to animals. There was no faultfinding, no shifting of perhaps deserved blame to others, nothing but calmness, comfort, cheerfulness, confidence. 'All will come right in the end; we'll talk of it afterwards; but in the mean time all good men must rally,'—'Never mind, General. All this has been my fault. It is I that have lost this fight, and you must help me out of it the best way you can.'

So, with incomparable patience, tact, and energy, the great soldier held his army together after defeat and kept it in a temper and condition which went far to justify Meade's reluctance to follow up his success. Only, to complete the picture, one should turn to General Imboden's brief sketch, taken after the work was done and natural human exhaustion and despair claimed some little right over even a hero's nerve and brain. It must be remembered that this was a man fifty-six years old. Towards midnight Lee rode up to Imboden's command. 'When he approached and saw us, he spoke, reined up his hone and endeavored to dismount. The effort to do so betrayed so much physical exhaustion that I stepped forward to assist him, but before I reached him, he had alighted. He threw his arm across his saddle to rest himself and fixing his eyes upon the ground, leaned in silence upon his equally weary horse; the two formed a striking group, as motionless as a statue. After some expressions as to Pickett's charge, etc., he added in a tone almost of agony, "Too had l Too bad! Oh, too had!"

With the portrait of Lee himself in the shock of battle we should put a background of his soldiers and their feeling as he came among them. We have already heard their passionate cry when he rushed to put himself at their head and charge into the thickest of the fight. “Go back, General Lee! Go back!' General Gordon, who loved to throw a high light of eloquence on all such scenes, describes this one with peculiar vividness, giving his own remonstrance, 'These men are Georgians, Virginians, and Carolinians. They have never failed you on any field. They will not fail you now. Will you, boys?' and the enthusiastic answer, No, no, no!' Those who like the quiet truth of history, even when it chills, will be interested in an eyewitness's simple comment on this picturesque narrative. 'Gordon says," we need no such encouragement." At this some of our soldiers called out, "No, no!,” Gordon continuing, said, "There is not a soldier in the Confederate army who would not gladly lay down his life to save you from harm "; but the men did not respond to this last proposition.'

It cannot be doubted, however, that Lee's personal influence in critical moments was immense. On one occasion, just before battle, there was heard to pass from mouth to mouth as a sort of watchword the simple comment, 'Remember, General Lee is looking at us.' Stuart's aide, Von Borcke, describes a scene which is immensely effective as showing how little the general relied on words, and how little he needed to. Lee was riding through the ranks before a charge. 'He uttered no word. He simply removed his hat and passed bareheaded along the line. I had it from one who witnessed the act. "It was," said he, "the most eloquent address ever delivered." And a few minutes later he heard a youth, as he ran forward, crying and reloading his musket, shout through his tears that "any man who would not fight after what General Lee said was a damned coward."'

Perhaps the most splendid battlepiece of Lee in the midst of his fighting soldiers is Colonel Marshall's account of the triumphant advance on the third day at Chancellorsville. The enemy were retiring and the troops swept forward through the tumult of battle and the smoke of woods and dwellings burning about them. Everywhere the field was strewn with the wounded and dying of both armies. 'In the midst of this scene General Lee, mounted upon that horse which we all remember so well, rode to the front of his advancing battalions. His presence was the signal for one of those uncontrollable outbursts of enthusiasm which none can appreciate who have not witnessed them. The fierce soldiers, with their faces blackened with the smoke of battle, the wounded, crawling with feeble limbs from the fury of the devouring flames, all seemed possessed with a common impulse. One long unbroken cheer, in which the feeble cry of those who lay helpless on the earth blended with the strong voices of those who still fought, rose high above the roar of battle, and hailed the presence of the victorious chief. He sat in the full realization of all that soldiers dream of - triumph.'

This was victory. But there came a day of defeat, when the Army of Northern Virginia, after four years of fighting and triumphing and suffering, shrunk almost to nothing, saw their great commander ride away to make his submission to a generous conqueror. Their love, their loyalty, their confidence, were no less than they had ever been. If he said further fighting was useless and inhuman, it must be so.

But this very absolute confidence increased the weight of the terrible decision. All these thousands trusted him to decide for them. He must decide rightly. What the burden was we can only imagine, never know. But under the noble serenity maintained by habitual effort, good observers detected signs of the struggle that must be taking place. 'His face was still calm, but his carriage was no longer erect, as his soldiers had been used to see it. The trouble of those last days had already ploughed great furrows in his forehead. His eyes were red as if with weeping; his cheeks sunken and haggard; his face colorless. No one who looked upon him then, as he stood there in full view of the disastrous end, can ever forget the intense agony written upon his features. And yet he was calm, selfpossessed, and deliberate.’ So great was his anguish that it wrung a wish to end it all, even from a natural selfcontrol complete as his. 'How easily I could get rid of this and be at rest. I have only to ride along the lines and all will be over. But,' he quickly added, 'it is our duty to live, for what will become of the women and children of the South if we are not here to support and protect them?'

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