Monday, March 2, 2015

Robert E. Lee's Simplicity Sublime


Born near Washington, Georgia in 1814, John A. Campbell was considered a child prodigy and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1825 at age 14.  He attended West Point for three years and would have graduated but for the death of his father and having to care for his family.  Campbell read law and was admitted to the State Bar at age 18, which required a special act of the Georgia Legislature, and was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Franklin Pierce in 1853.   Judge Campbell served as a mediator between the Confederate Commissioners and Lincoln administration in early 1861 hoping to avoid war, but the latter refused to compromise and maintain peace; he served as Assistant Secretary of War under President Jefferson Davis.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Robert E. Lee's Simplicity Sublime

October 15, 1887
General Fitzhugh Lee, President
Lee Monument Association, Richmond, Virginia

"General, I have your invitation to be present at the ceremony for placing the corner-stone of the monument to be erected to the memory of General Robert E. Lee, at the Capitol of the State of Virginia. The monument will express the fullness of appreciation, by the people and State of Virginia to his excellence, as a citizen and functionary, who had been invested with powers and trusts exalted and vital, during a time of war, and at a period of anxiety, danger, privation, disaster, and at the close of the war, of supreme calamity.

There was an overturn of the State Government, an irresponsible administration was substituted, with a subversion of the domestic institutions before existing.  Before this General Lee had been the pause, the central point about whom all did pass with enthusiasm and confidence.  Nor did this confidence wane, nor did the persuasion of the people of his entire trustworthiness for an instant waver.  The completed monument will utter this to all generations who shall come to view it, and who will derive strength from it.

In the Spring of 1865, the Confederate States were disintegrated, their connection dissolved and their armies            capitulated after defeat.  General Lee became a prisoner of war and there was a mournful wilderness of brave and patriotic men, who had been slain and buried on [Virginia's] soil.

Were an enlightened enemy to address this assembly, we might expect him to say of General Robert E. Lee:
"That with a noble nature and great gifts he was endowed,
Courage, discretion, skill,
An equal temper, and an ample soul;

Rockbound and fortified against assaults of Transitory Passion;
So prompt and capable, and yet so calm,
He nothing lacked of sovereignty, but the right,
Nothing of soldiership, but good fortune;

Wherefore with honor lay him in his grave,
And thereby increase of honor come,
Unto their arms, who vanquished one so wise,
So valiant, so renowned."

General Lee carried into this war no profane ambition, nor oppressor's greed, nor lust for power, preferment, emolument, vain glory or sectional strife.

In his campaigns and marches there was no rapine, plunder, cruelty.  The triumph he fought for and exerted a the powers of his noble nature has the triumph of a just cause as recompense of high sacrifice and of an arduous and generous struggle.

He suffered no humiliation nor consciousness of abasement because of defeat and capitulation. There was no cause for self re-proof.  There was a right-minded and manly submission to the consequences of ill-success without scorn, resentment nor exasperation.  The people of Virginia of the Confederate States, the brave and good, everywhere may join us and say –

"Mourn for the man of long enduring soul,
The Christian warrior, moderate and resolute –
Whole in himself, a common good;

Mourn for the man of amplest influence,
Yet clearest of ambition's crime,
Our greatest, but of least pretense –
Foremost Captain of this time.

Rich in saving common sense,
And as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime."

I am General, your friend,

John A. Campbell"

(Papers of Hon. John A. Campbell, Southern Historical Papers, Volume 42, pp. 78-81)