Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lee, Last of the Cavaliers -- The Restoration of Arlington Mansion

Lee, Last of the Cavaliers
In a postwar letter to British Lord Acton, Robert E. Lee noted that the South would have desired "any honorable compromise to the fratricidal war which has taken place," but that now the South had no choice but to submit to the results of the war.  Being an optimist despite the desolation around him, he concluded the letter with "I trust that the Constitution may undergo no change, but that it may be handed down to succeeding generations in the form we have received it from our forefathers."
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Lee, Last of the Cavaliers:
"People who are ignorant of history sometimes ask: "Was not Lee ungrateful to the United States that had educated him at West Point?"  The truth is, there might never have been any West Point but for Virginia, for Washington planned it, and Jefferson carried out his idea of a great military academy; while the Lees, as the colonial leaders in Virginia, had served the country as burgesses, governors and military leaders, and signers of the Declaration, so that when Robert E. Lee was appointed a cadet at West Point through the influence of Gen. Andrew Jackson, it was in due recognition of what American owed the Lees, liquidating a debt of patriotism.
At the Academy, Lee's high sense of duty made his course so honorable that he graduated without ever receiving a single demerit; and later, in the war with Mexico, fully repaid by his service all his obligations to his Alma Mater.   He also served as Superintendent of West Point, where the dignity of his life added prestige to the institution and forever blessed the memory of those who, as pupils and professors, were associated with him.  West Point today cherishes his name.
In 1902, when West Point celebrated the centenary of its usefulness, there was full recognition given to the Confederate roster, which numbered nearly one hundred and fifty distinguished generals, among whom were many Virginians – such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Custis Lee, Fitzhugh Lee, Joseph R. Anderson, Joseph E. Johnston, Jubal A. Early, George E. Pickett, Richard S. Ewell, Ambrose Powell Hill – each of whom received special eulogy.
In the toast on Alumni Day to the "Confederate Veteran," the orator said: "How shall I speak to you of the great Lee, whom it was an education to know?  Never elated and never depressed, but always calm in reliance upon his troops and upon himself, whose soldiers relied upon him and loved him unto death!..."
When the twilight began to gather for the great silence, General Lee met his end as he had lived, Christ's faithful soldier and servant to life's end. His last act was to lift his hand in benediction, as he sought to ask a blessing for the evening meal; then, stricken, he sank into his chair.  The long years of usefulness, the heavy strain of responsibility, the great life work, were ended.  The chastening touch of time had melted his strength into a tender glory that blended with a radiant splendor like a sunset on the Alps.
The force of his example was the beacon light of the ruined South. Here he was even more splendid in defeat than he had ever been in battle; and he fell like a soldier on a shield that knew no stain, surrendering his soul to his Captain, Christ, under whose colors he had fought ever since the days back at Christ Church, Alexandria, when he joined the Church militant. In Christ Church, Alexandria, at prayer, he decided the momentous question of resigning from the Union Army; and there to-day, are two modest marble tablets – the one to George Washington, vestryman; the other to Robert E. Lee, the Christian, whose chivalry made him the last of the Cavaliers."
(The Restoration of Arlington Mansion, Mrs. William Lyne, Confederate Veteran, May, 1929, pp. 184-187)