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´╗┐Title: Robert E. Lee - A Story and a Play
Author: Hill, Ruth
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Robert E. Lee - A Story and a Play" ***

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      A STORY
      A PLAY



Richard G. Badger, Publisher Boston

    _Little Folks' Plays of American Heroes_




    [Illustration: ARTI et VERITATI]




    Copyright, 1920, by Richard G. Badger

    All Rights Reserved




    THE STORY--                        PAGE

    Growing Up                           9

    A Young Soldier                     10

    The Mexican War                     12

    A Returned Hero                     15

    The Civil War                       16

    The College President               21

    THE PLAY--

    Act I                               29

    Act II                              37

    Act III                             44

    Act IV                              52




Once upon a time in beautiful Virginia there lived a little boy named
Robert Edward Lee. It was in the days before the Civil War when, if we
may believe all we hear, all the women were charming, and all the men
were gentlemen.

The boy's father was one of the most gallant of the gentlemen, for he
was Light Horse Harry of Revolutionary War fame. He it was who said of
Washington, "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of
his countrymen." Mr. Lee did not realize, then, how many people would
apply this same remark to his own son.

No doubt little Robert got in and out of as many scrapes as any other
active little boy, but all the time he was hard at work learning to
control his temper. I started to say he was learning to be a gentleman,
but that was something he did not have to learn. A gentleman he was by
nature, as the Lees of Virginia had been for generations.

He did not have a very happy boyhood. His father died when Robert was
only eleven. His mother was an invalid and Robert was the one who did
all the thoughtful little things that mean so much when one is sick. He
would race home from school to take her out to ride. He would arrange
all the pillows carefully and then tell her everything amusing he could
think of, because he said unless she was cheerful the ride would do her
no good.

In her last illness he nursed her day and night. If Robert left the
room, she kept her eyes on the door until he returned, but she never had
long to wait.


When the time came for Robert to choose a profession he decided to be a
soldier. He prepared himself for West Point. His teacher said that
everything Robert started to do, he finished beautifully, even if it
were only a plan drawn on his slate.

When the time came, he received his appointment to West Point through
Andrew Jackson, who was greatly taken by the appearance of this
straightforward young man.

At West Point he graduated second in his class, and better than that,
he never received a demerit all the time he was there.

Right after graduation, he was made second lieutenant of Engineers and
for some time he was busy looking after our coast defenses.

Two years afterwards he married. Who do you suppose the bride was? The
granddaughter of Washington's stepson. Robert and Mary Park Custis had
played together as children. She was an heiress, while Lieutenant Lee
was poor, but that did not lessen her pride in her husband.

Some years later, after he had been made Captain the Mississippi River
threatened to flood St. Louis. General Scott was asked for help and he
sent Captain Lee. "He is young," Scott wrote, "but if the work can be
done, he can do it."

The city government grew impatient because they thought the young
engineer was not working fast enough. They withdrew the money they had
voted to spend on the work, but this did not stop Captain Lee. All he
said was "They can do as they like with their own, but I was sent here
to do certain work, and I will do it." And he did it.

Feeling in the city ran high, riots broke out, and it was said that
cannons were placed ready to fire on the working force. But Lee kept
calmly on to the end, and his work still stands today. Just as when he
was a boy, anything he began, he finished beautifully.


Later, when the Mexican War broke out, of course Captain Lee was sent to
the border. You know what sort of country that is, how easy it is for
Mexicans to hide in the mountains, and how hard it is for Americans to
find them.

So successful was Lee as a scout, however, that first he was made major,
then lieutenant-colonel, and finally colonel, all in one year. General
Scott declared years afterward that Lee was the very best soldier he had
ever seen.

Early in the war, he started out with a single Mexican guide whom he
forced to serve at the point of a pistol. The Americans had received a
report that the Mexicans had crossed the mountains and were near, ready
to attack. Lee started out to find how near the Mexicans really were.

Soon Lee and his frightened guide came upon tracks of mules and wagons
in the road. This would have satisfied many scouts, but Lee determined
to press on until he reached the pickets of the enemy.

To his surprise he found no pickets, but he saw large camp-fires on a
hillside not far away. By this time, his guide was ready to die of
fright and begged Lee to return. But he was not quite satisfied and rode
forward. Soon he saw what carried out the report he had heard of the
mountain side covered with the tents of the Mexicans, for there it
gleamed white in the moonlight. Still riding on, he heard the loud
talking and usual noises of a camp. But by this time he discovered that
what others had taken for tents were,--well what do you suppose? Why,
nothing but sheep!

Riding into the herders' camp, he learned that the Mexicans had not yet
crossed the mountains, so he galloped back to his own camp with this
important news,--much to the relief of his guide.

At another time he set out in darkness in the midst of a terrible tropic
storm, across lava beds where Mexicans lurked. By carrying an important
message, he forced the Mexicans to retreat. Seven officers were sent on
the same errand, but all except Lee returned without delivering the
message. General Scott called it the bravest act of the whole war.

A story which shows how Lee kept right on doing anything that he knew
was right, is told of him when he was in Mexico. He had been ordered to
take some marines and make a battery to be manned by them afterwards.
The sailors did not like to dig dirt and swore. Even their captain said
his men were fighters, not moles. Lee simply showed his orders and made
them keep on. When the firing began, the marines found their trenches
very useful. The captain apologized to Lee saying, "I suppose after all,
your work helped the boys a good deal. But the fact is, I never did like
this land fighting--it ain't clean."

After the fall of Mexico when the American officers were celebrating
with a banquet in the palace, a health was proposed to the gallant young
captain of engineers who had found a way for the army into the city.
Then they noticed that Lee was not there, so one of them went in search
of him.

At last Lee was found in a faraway room, hard at work studying a map.
When his friend asked him why he was not at the banquet, he pointed to
his work. Then his friend told him that was just drudgery and that some
one else could do it just as well.

"No," said Lee, "No, I am only doing my duty."


After the war with Mexico, Lee was one of the most popular war heroes.
The Cubans tried to get him to lead them in a revolution against Spain.
They offered him far more money then he could receive here, but he
thought it dishonorable to accept service in a foreign army when he held
a United States commission.

Three years later he was made superintendent of West Point. When he
learned of his new position, he wrote just what we might expect of him.
He said he was sorry to learn that the Secretary of War had decided on
him, because he was afraid that he did not have skill and experience

As a matter of fact, he made a highly successful superintendent. One day
when Lee was out riding with his son, they caught sight of three cadets
who were far out of bounds, and were going farther just as fast as they
could. After a moment Lee said, "Did you know those young men? But no,
if you did, don't say so. I wish boys would do what is right; it would
be so much easier for all parties."

After three years' service at West Point, Lee was made lieutenant-colonel
in a new cavalry regiment, intended to keep peace in the South Western
territory which had been taken over from Mexico. His time was spent in
fighting Indians.

He happened to be in Washington at the time of the famous John Brown
raid and he was sent to end it. Lee captured John Brown and then turned
him over to the civil authorities. If it had not been for Lee, John
Brown and his party would have been lynched. In talking with a friend
afterwards Lee said, "I am glad we did not have to kill him, for I
believe he is an honest, conscientious old man."


Day by day the feeling between the Northern and Southern states grew
more bitter. Lee thought both sides were somewhat in the wrong but he
kept right to his military duties. He said a soldier should not dabble
in politics.

At last the break came for Lee when Virginia decided to leave the union.
Can't you just imagine how the heart of Lee was torn? Here he was an
officer in the United States army, and yet his beloved Virginia was no
longer to be a part of the nation.

It is said that he was offered the position of Commander-in-Chief of
the United States forces if he would remain loyal to the union, but he
could not turn his back upon Virginia. It was not as if he had felt
bitterly against the North. It was not as if he felt strongly on the
slave question. As a matter of fact he had freed his own slaves before.
He wanted peace but since Virginia had decided to withdraw from the
union and so needed him, he was not the man to fail her.

We still remember how he refused to take command in Cuba because he was
a United States officer. Now he was obliged to resign his commission,
but he said he hoped never to draw his sword again except in defence of
his native state.

As soon as it was known that Lee had retired from the United States
army, the Governor offered him the position of Commander-in-Chief of the
forces of Virginia.

The president of the Virginia convention gave him his commission saying,
"Sir, we have by this unanimous vote expressed our convictions that you
are at this day, among the living citizens of Virginia, first in war,
and we pray God that it may soon be said of you that you are first in
peace, and when that time comes you will have gained the still prouder
distinction of being first in the hearts of your countrymen."

So, at the age of fifty-four, after thirty-two years of service in the
United States army, Lee accepted the command which he felt to be his

For four years, the life of General Lee was a part of all men's history.
You know how he took charge of raw recruits and in two months had sixty
trained regiments ready for the service of his state. You know how hard
it was for the South to get arms and ammunition. General Lee called upon
all the citizens to give up all the guns they owned and saw that
factories turned out as much ammunition as possible.

I don't have to tell you of Lee's victories and defeats, because you
have read of them all.

He had not only to fight with the Northern armies but he had also to
battle against home sickness and measles (measles during the Civil War
were no joke) in his own camp.

Because the Southern States were fighting for their separate rights, the
feeling of independence was particularly strong among the Southern
officers, and General Lee was sometimes seriously hindered by not having
his orders carried out.

Then came the last terrible years and months of the war when the South
could not get food or clothes or shoes for her army. But the men
inspired by Lee, continued to fight bravely on. They knew that their
general was not feasting while they starved; for often one cold sweet
potato would be all that General Lee would have for a meal.

You can see how great an influence Lee had on the army, by the words
that would pass from mouth to mouth before a battle. "Remember, General
Lee is looking at us."

Before one of the later battles of war, Lee was reviewing the troops.
"These," said one of the officers, "Are the brave Virginians."

Without saying a word, Lee removed his hat and rode the length of the
line. One man said it was the most eloquent speech he had ever heard.

A few minutes later as the men advanced to the charge one of the
youngest called out, "Any man who would not fight after what General Lee
said is a blame coward!"

During battle, Lee seemed not to know the meaning of fear. His officers
were forever telling him to keep out of danger. On one occasion he was
so determined to fight in the front of the battle, they had to refuse to
advance until he went back. He said one time in his quiet vein of humor,
"I wish some one would tell me what my place is on the battlefield, I
seem never to be in it."

Another time, he was seen to advance in the midst of firing, stoop, and
pick something up. He was replacing a baby bird that had fallen out of
its nest.

Finally with all supplies cut off, General Lee saw all further fighting
was useless, and he accepted arrangements for surrender. One of his
officers told him that history would blame him for surrendering. He
replied that it did not matter if he knew it was right.

So at the courthouse at Appomattox, Lee proved himself as great as ever
he had been in victory. It is easy enough to be great in the midst of
victory, but the truly great man is the one who remains great in spite
of defeat. That is the test.

General Grant was so much touched by the bravery and suffering of the
Southern army that by his orders no salutes of joy were fired.

After signing the articles of surrender, Lee came out of the courthouse,
looked up for a moment at the Virginia hills for which he had fought so
bravely, struck his hands together just once in agony, then mounted his
confederate grey horse, Traveller, and rode calmly away.

As he rode, he passed in view of his men,--as many as remained of them.
News of the surrender had spread, so they were standing about in
dejected groups, when they caught sight of Lee. For a moment they forgot
hunger and defeat and let out a mighty shout. Then they crowded around
their former commander kissing his hands through their tears.

"Men," he said, "we have fought through the war together. I have done my
best for you. My heart is too full to say more."


The Lees' beautiful home, Arlington, across the river from Washington,
had been used as headquarters for the Union Army during the war. The
country home they owned had been burned.

The family was now living at Richmond, and General Lee went to join them
there. You can imagine how glad they were to see each other after their
long and terrible separation.

But Lee was not allowed the peaceful home life for which he longed.
Callers of every class crowded the house.

One morning an Irishman who had fought on the Northern side came with a
basket of provisions, and insisted upon seeing General Lee. The servant
could not put him off, so when the General appeared, Pat said to him,
"Sure, sir, you're a great soldier, and it's I that knows it. I've been
fighting against you all these years, and many a hard knock we've had.
But, General, I honor you for it, and now they tell me you are poor and
in want, and I've brought you this basket. Please take it from a

Lee, of course, thanked him for it and told him that although he himself
was not in need there were poor soldiers in the hospital who would be
glad to be remembered by so generous a foe.

With the death of President Lincoln, feeling in the North against the
South took new life. Friends of Lee began to fear for his safety.

One day a confederate soldier in a tattered uniform called upon the
general saying he was speaking for four other fellows around the corner
who were too ragged to come to the house. They offered their loved
general a home in the mountains where they would guard him with their
lives. Lee thanked them with tears in his eyes, but he said he could not
live the life of an outlaw. He gave them some of his clothes and the
soldier went back to his friends around the corner.

Because of Mrs. Lee's poor health, it became necessary to leave
Richmond. A friend offered them a country house near Cartersville in
Cumberland county. But people followed him even here. An English
nobleman offered him an estate abroad, but Lee would not leave Virginia
now that she needed him more than ever.

He received all sorts of offers of money, of land, of stock if he would
allow business companies just to use his name. He was offered the
presidency of an insurance company at a salary of $50,000 a year. He
said he could not accept because he knew nothing about the insurance
business. "But General, you will not be expected to do any work; what we
wish is the use of your name."

"Don't you think," said General Lee, "that if my name is worth $50,000 a
year, I ought to be very careful about taking care of it?"

As one of his daughters said, "They are offering my father everything
but the only thing he will accept,--a chance to earn honest bread while
engaged in some useful work."

That speech made to a trustee of Washington College, brought Lee the
offer of presidency of the college at a salary of $1,500 a year. At
first Lee would not accept, because he was afraid that because he was
still a prisoner on parole it might hurt the college to have him as its
head. When the trustees told him what an honor it would be to the
college to have his name connected with it, he finally accepted.

On his old war horse, Traveller, he rode into Lexington alone to take up
his college duties. At first he was met with a reverent silence, but
soon his old soldiers broke out into their far-famed rebel yell.

He took his oath as president on October 2, 1865, and from then until
his death, he devoted himself to the needs of the college. When he took
charge there were only four professors and forty students. Don't you
think most men who had been commanders-in-chief would have considered it
beneath their dignity to accept a position like that?

He put every student on his honor. If he found that a student was
getting no good from the college, and that his influence might be bad on
the others, the student was given the chance to leave instead of being
expelled. Even as the college grew bigger, Lee knew every student
personally, and even most of his marks.

Lee was still pursued by offers of large salaries for the mere use of
his name. To one of these he replied what he might have said to all, "I
am grateful, but I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish. I
have led the young men of the South in battle. I have seen many of them
die on the field; I shall devote my remaining energies to training young
men to do their duty in life."

The trustees of Washington College wanted to give him as a home, the
house erected for him as president. But he insisted that the building be
kept by the college, he said he could not allow himself or his family to
be a tax on the college.

Because of poor health, Lee went South during his last winter. While he
was gone, the trustees voted to give his family three thousand dollars a

But this, like everything else, Lee refused. After Lee's Southern trip,
it was hoped that he had regained his health, for he took up his college
duties with such energy.

On the morning of September 28, 1870, General Lee was at his desk
promptly as usual. In the afternoon he went to a business meeting of the
Church officers. A steady rain was falling and the air was chilly. He
presided at the meeting, sitting in the cold, damp church. When it was
announced that the minister's salary had not been raised, Lee said he
would pay what was lacking.

Tea was waiting for him when he came home. He stood up as if to say
grace, but he could not speak. When the doctor came, he told Lee he
would soon be up again riding his favorite gray, but Lee only shook his
head. Then later in his delirium, he showed his mind had wandered back
to the battlefields, for once he said, "Strike the tents." And again
speaking of one of his favorite officers who had been killed in the war,
he said, "Tell Hill he _must_ come up."

Then at last Lee passed peacefully away from all battlefields.

One time a young student was called to the president's office and was
told gently that only patience and industry would prevent the failure
that would otherwise certainly come to him.

"But, General, you failed."

"I hope that you may be more fortunate than I," was the quiet answer.

But it was only the General's great modesty that made him consider
himself a failure. What greater success could come to any man than to be
always a Christian and always a gentleman?




_Scene: Alexandria, Va., the garden in front of the Lees' home in the
spring of 1819._


    Robert Lee, aged 12
    Bud, his chum, aged 11
    Slats, a friend, aged 12
    Fat, another friend, aged 13

(_Enter ROBERT and BUD. BUD has a fishing rod. ROBERT is carrying his
school books. SLATS follows tossing a ball in the air and catching it.
FAT trails along last, as usual._)

BUD--An say, Rob, get your pole and come on fishing. They say they're
biting great. Have you asked your mother if you could go?

ROBERT--No, I haven't.

SLATS--Well what do you think she is, a mind reader or something?

FAT--No, probably he thinks if he waits long enough, somebody will ask
her for him.

BUD--Don't judge everybody by yourself. Rob always does everything for
himself and a lot of things for other people, and you know it, unless
your head's too fat.

SLATS--Well, aren't you going to ask her Rob?

ROBERT--No, I told you before, I couldn't go fishing.

FAT--Well, how do you know you can't if you haven't even asked? Talk
about my head being fat!

BUD--You better be careful what you say to Rob. He could trim the life
out of you, and you know it.

ROBERT--I don't see what you boys are making all this fuss about. I just
can't go fishing, that's all. You fellows go ahead and have a good time
and tomorrow tell me all about that biggest fish that got away.

BUD--Don't you want to go, Rob?

ROBERT--Of course I want to go, but I simply can't this afternoon,
that's all.

BUD--Aw what's the secret, Rob? Aren't you and I pardners?

ROBERT--There isn't any secret, Bud. I'm just going to take mother out
to ride just as I always do.

SLATS--Well say, can't she stay home just for once?

ROBERT--She does stay home all the time except when I take her out to
ride. Now be careful, or she might hear you, and not want me to take her

FAT--Say, if I'd thought of that sooner, I'd have talked at the top of
my lungs.

BUD--Be careful, Fat, or Rob'll have you yelling at the top of your

ROBERT--Good luck, boys. Run along and have a good time. I hope the fish
bite as fast as snapping turtles. (_He goes in the house._)

BUD--Come on boys, no use trying to get Rob. When he makes up his mind,
you might just as well not try to budge him.

FAT--Aw, he's tied to his mother's apron strings.

SLATS--You shut up before I make you!

BUD (_To FAT_)--Say if you were half as manly as he is, no one would
know you.

FAT--I didn't mean anything. I like Rob just as well as the rest of you,
but if I did all the things for my mother that he does for his,
everyone'd call me a sissy.

SLATS--Yes, and probably they'd be right. Come on, Fat, I mean "Sissy."

(_BUD, SLATS and FAT go on their way. Negro servant leads out horse and
carriage. ROBERT comes out of the house helping his mother down the

MRS. LEE--Don't strain yourself, Robert.

ROBERT--You don't know how strong I am, Mother. Lean harder. I don't
feel you at all.

MRS. LEE--I don't know what I'd do without you Robert. You're both sons
and daughters to me.

(_ROBERT helps her into the carriage._)

ROBERT--There, are you quite comfortable, mother? (_He arranges the
cushions for her._)

MRS. LEE--Yes thank you dear, but I do feel as if you ought to be out
playing instead of taking an old invalid like me out to ride.

ROBERT--You aren't old and you must get well so fast that you won't be
an invalid any longer, and both of us are going to have the best
possible ride. (_They drive away._)


_The Harbor of St. Louis, banks of the Mississippi River, 1839._


    Captain Robert E. Lee
    First Lieutenant Smith
    Buck Brown, Town Bully
    Coyote Jim, his pal, a half-breed
    Soldiers at work
    Eight friends of Buck and Coyote Jim

BUCK--I'm a-lookin' for the boss of these diggin's.

LIEUTENANT--You want Captain Lee. (_Pointing to him._)

BUCK--Be you Captain Lee?

LEE--That's my name. What can I do for you?

BUCK--You can't do nothin' for me. Me and my friends can do anything we
want for ourselves. We ain't helpless, see?

LEE--That being the case, I wish you would proceed to your own affairs
and allow me to attend to mine.

BUCK--We'd be happy to have you, but this here you're doing now, don't
happen to be none of your business.

LEE--Evidently you are looking for trouble, but I am much too busy to
oblige you.

BUCK--Unless you leave off being busy right here and now, you're pretty
liable to land in a heap o' trouble.

LEE--I am not in the least interested in your threats and I will ask
you to be kind enough to leave in order to save me the trouble of having
you put out.

BUCK--I reckon you don't know who you're talking to. I'm Buck Brown and
this is Coyote Jim, my running mate, and all the rest of these here is
our pals and have come to back us up in anything we say.

LEE--I am here to work not to argue. If you are not away from these
works in three minutes, I will take means to see that you are.

BUCK--Did you know the city gov'ment wasn't going to give you no money
for your work?

LEE--They can do as they like with their own, but I was sent here to do
certain work, and I will do it.

BUCK--(_Pointing._) Do you see them cannons up there? Unless you quit
your dirty meddlin', you'll have a chance to get acquainted with them.

LEE--Do you think I'd be kept from doing my duty by a pack of bullies
and cowards? Go back and hide behind your cannon. You'll need more than
those to protect you if you meddle again.

(_BUCK and his friends skulk out._)


_Banquet Hall of the Palace, City of Mexico, after its conquest by the
American forces. Officers sitting around the table._


    General Scott
    General Wilcox
    General Twiggs
    General Magruder
    Thirty other officers

WILCOX--Well, I must say I'm thankful it's all over and I do hope it
isn't long before we can get back to God's own country. Furthermore, I
for one am thankful enough to be sitting here enjoying myself.

SCOTT--I am inclined to believe that if it had not been for one Captain
Robert E. Lee, you and I would still be fighting those slippery

PIERCE--Yes, I have the utmost confidence in the skill and judgment of
Captain Lee.

TWIGGS--His gallantry and good conduct deserve the highest praise.

WILCOX--(_Rising and raising his glass._) Gentlemen, I wish to propose a
toast that I know you will all drink heartily. I propose the health of
the Captain of Engineers who found a way for our army into the city.
Gentlemen, (_Raising his glass again_) the health of Captain Robert E.

(_All the officers rise at once and lift their glasses. Then look around
for LEE._)

WILCOX--Why he isn't here. What can be the matter.

MAGRUDER--I'll go and fetch him.

SCOTT--You might know Lee would be first in the battle and last at a

TWIGGS--I thought all of the crowd were here.

SCOTT--They are all here but Lee. Evidently we were all too much
interested in our food to notice anything else. Let's sing a song to
welcome him. (_They sing two stanzas of "Yankee Doodle."_)

TWIGGS--Here comes Magruder alone. (_MAGRUDER enters._) Why, what's the
matter? Couldn't you find him?

MAGRUDER--Oh, I found him all right, but that was all the good it did

SCOTT--Is he ill?

MAGRUDER--If he is, I wish I had the same thing the matter with me. He's
suffering from a sense of duty.

TWIGGS--You don't have to worry then.

WILCOX--Tell us all about it.

MAGRUDER--You might as well sit down first because he isn't coming.
(_They all sit down but MAGRUDER._) You see I found him in a little room
in a corner of the palace hard at work on a map. I asked him why he
wasn't at the banquet and he said he was too busy. I told him it was
just drudgery and to let some one else do it, but he looked up at me
with that mild, calm gaze we all know so well and said, "No, I'm just
doing my duty."



_General Scott's office, Washington, April 18, 1861._


    Colonel Lee
    General Scott

SCOTT--The nation is in a terrible condition.

LEE--As far as I can judge from the papers we are between a state of
anarchy and civil war. May God avert from us both!

I see that four States have declared themselves out of the Union. Four
more apparently will follow their example. Then if the border States are
dragged into the gulf of revolution, one half of the country will be
arrayed against the other.

I must try to be patient and wait the end, for I can do nothing to
hasten or retard it.

SCOTT--I don't quite see why conditions have become so serious.

LEE--The position of the two sections which they hold to each other has
been brought about by the politicians of the country. The great masses
of the people, if they understood the real question would avoid it. I
believe that it is an unnecessary condition of affairs and might have
been avoided, if forbearance and wisdom had been practised on both

SCOTT--Which side do you think is more to blame?

LEE--The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the act of the
North. I feel the aggression and am willing to take every proper step
for redress. It is the principle I contend for, not individual or
private interest. As an American citizen, I take great pride in my
country, her prosperity, and her institutions. But I can anticipate no
greater calamity for this country than a dissolution of the Union. It
would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am
willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope,
therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there
is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. Still a Union
that can be maintained only by swords and bayonets, and in which strife
and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has
no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and
progress of mankind.

SCOTT--But do you think slavery is just?

LEE--If all the slaves of the South were mine, I would surrender them
all without a struggle to avert this war.

SCOTT--Then your sympathies are with the North?

LEE--Though opposed to secession and war, I can take no part in an
invasion of the Southern States.

SCOTT--But surely you could not desert the United States army?

LEE--I deeply regret being obliged to separate myself from the service
to which I have devoted the best years of my life and all the ability I

SCOTT--But I have been given to understand that in case you remained
loyal, you would be given a very exalted command.

LEE--Yes, Blair has just been talking to me in regard to the matter, but
no consideration on earth could induce me to act a part however
gratifying to me, which could be construed into disregard of, or
faithlessness to the Commonwealth. If I am compelled to resign I cannot
consult my own feelings in the matter. Virginia is my country, her will
I obey, however lamentable the fate to which it may subject me. If the
Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my
native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in her
defence, will draw my sword no more.


_Convention of Virginia, Richmond, April 23, 1861._


    Robert E. Lee
    Mr. Janney, President of the Convention
    Convention members and citizens

JANNEY--In the name of the people of our native State, here represented,
I bid you a cordial and heartfelt welcome to this hall, in which we may
almost hear the echoes of the voices of the statesmen, the soldiers, and
the sages of bygone days who have borne your name and whose blood now
flows in your veins. We met in the month of February last charged with
the solemn duty of protecting the rights, the honor, and the interests
of the people of this commonwealth. We differed for a time as to the
best means of accomplishing that object, but there never was at any
moment a shade of difference among us as to the great object itself; and
now, Virginia having taken her position, we stand animated by one
impulse, governed by one desire and one determination, and that is, that
she shall be defended, and that no spot on her soil shall be polluted by
the foot of an invader.

When the necessity of having a leader for our forces became apparent,
all hearts and all eyes turned to the old county of Westmoreland. We
knew how prolific she had been in other days of heroes and statesmen; we
knew she had given birth to the Father of his country, to Richard Henry
Lee, to Monroe, and last, though not least, to your own gallant father;
and we knew well by your deeds that her productive power was not
exhausted. Sir, we watched with the most profound and intense interest
the triumphal march of the army led by General Scott, to which you were
attached, from Vera Cruz to the capital of Mexico. We read of the
conflicts and blood-stained fields, in all of which victory perched upon
our banners. We knew of the unfading lustre which was shed upon the
American arms by that campaign, and we know also what your modesty has
always disclaimed, that no small share of the glory of those
achievements was due to your valor and your military genius.

Sir, one of the proudest recollections of my life will be that I
yesterday had the honor of submitting to this body the confirmation of
the nomination, made by the governor of this State, of you as
commander-in-chief of the naval and military forces of this
commonwealth. I rose to put the question and when I asked if this body
would advise and consent to that appointment, there rushed from the
hearts to the tongues of all the members an affirmative response, which
told with an emphasis that could leave no doubt of the feeling whence it
emanated. I put the negative of the question for form's sake, but there
was an unbroken silence.

Sir, we have by this unanimous vote expressed our convictions that you
are at this day, among the living citizens of Virginia, first in war,
and we pray God most fervently that you may so conduct the operations
committed to your charge that it may soon be said of you that you are
first in peace, and when that time comes you will have gained the still
prouder distinction of being first in the hearts of your countrymen.

Yesterday your mother, Virginia, placed her sword in your hands upon the
implied condition--which we knew you will keep to the letter and in the
spirit--that you will draw it only in defence, and that you will fall
with it in your hand rather than the object for which it was placed
there shall fail. (_Long applause from convention members and

LEE--Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention: Profoundly impressed
with the solemnity of the occasion, for which I must say I was not
prepared, I accept the position assigned me by your partiality. I would
have much preferred it had your choice fallen upon an abler man.
Trusting in Almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my
fellow-citizens, I devote myself to the service of my native State, in
whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my sword.



_General Lee's Tent._


    General Lee
    Major W. H. Fitzhugh Lee, his son
    Hon. B. H. Hill
    General Starke
    An Orderly

HILL--I have come to ask your advice. Do you think it would be wise to
move the Southern capital farther South?

LEE--That is a political question and you politicians must answer it. I
am only a soldier.

HILL--That is the proudest name today.

LEE--Yes, there never were such men in an army before. They will go
anywhere and do anything if properly led.

HILL--They could have no commander equal to General Lee.

LEE--No, we made a great mistake Mr. Hill in the beginning of our
struggle, and I fear in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a
fatal mistake.

HILL--What mistake is that General?

LEE--Why sir, in the beginning we appointed all our worst generals to
command the armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers. As
you know, I have planned some campaigns and quite a number of battles. I
have given the work all the care and thought I could, and sometimes when
my plans were completed, so far as I could see they seemed perfect. But
when I have fought them through I have discovered defects, and
occasionally wondered I did not see some of the defects in advance. When
it was all over I found by reading a newspaper that these best
editor-generals saw all the defects plainly from the start.
Unfortunately, they did not communicate this knowledge to me until it
was too late.

I have no ambition but to serve the Confederacy and do all I can to win
our independence. I am willing to serve in any capacity to which the
authorities may assign me. I have done the best I could in the field,
and have not succeeded as I should wish. I am willing to yield my place
to the best generals, and will do my best for the cause in editing a

Even as poor a soldier as I am can generally discover mistakes _after it
is all over_. But if I could only induce these wise gentlemen, who see
them so clearly _beforehand_, to communicate with me in advance, instead
of waiting till the evil has come upon us--to let me know what _they
knew all the time_--it would be far better for my reputation, and, what
is of more consequence, far better for the cause.

HILL--Don't let those waspish editors annoy you. The South is behind you
to a man. They know what General Lee cannot accomplish, no man can.

(_ORDERLY enters and salutes._)

LEE--What is it?

ORDERLY--General Starke wishes to see you.

HILL--I must leave you General, I am grateful for the audience.

LEE--I am always glad to talk to those interested in our common cause.
Good day, Mr. Hill.

HILL--Good day, General. (_Exit._)

LEE--Show General Starke in.

(_Enter GEN. STARKE. He salutes._)

LEE--(_Saluting._) Good morning, General, what can I do for you.

STARKE--Nothing for me sir, but a good deal for yourself.

LEE--This is no time to think of private benefits.

STARKE--But General your reputation is suffering, the press is
denouncing you, your own State is losing confidence in you, and the army
needs a victory to add to its enthusiasm.

LEE--I cannot afford to sacrifice five or six hundred of my people to
silence public clamor. When it is time to strike, we will strike with a

STARKE--I wish those Northerners were all dead.

LEE--How can you say so?

Now I wish they were all at home attending to their own business, and
leaving us to do the same. They also are my countrymen. General, there
is a good old book which says, "Love your enemies." What a cruel thing
is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest
joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts
with hatred instead of love for our neighbors and to devastate the fair
face of the beautiful world.

STARKE--But think of our men who have laid down their lives so bravely.

LEE--The loss of our gallant officers and men throughout the army causes
me to weep tears of blood and to wish that I might never hear the sound
of a gun again.

STARKE--I am sorry to have worried you General, you are right, good day!

(_Salutes and exit. Enter MAJOR W. H. FITZHUGH LEE._)

W. H. F. LEE--Father!

LEE--Fitzhugh, how good it is to see you. You don't know how much I have
missed you and your mother and your brothers and sisters.

W. H. F. LEE--Won't it be wonderful when the war will be over and we can
all be together again.

LEE--God grant that it may be so!

W. H. F. LEE--I can't stay any longer, Father. I just came in to see you
a moment before starting. I must be about my duty.

LEE--I know that wherever you may be placed, you will do your duty. That
is all the pleasure, all the comfort, all the glory we can enjoy in this

Duty is the sublimest word in the language. There is a true glory and a
true honor, the glory of duty done, the honor of integrity of

(_They salute._)


_Battlefield, the Southern Lines. Shells falling all around._


    General Lee
    General Gordon
    General Gracie
    General Stuart
    Northern Prisoners

(_Enter squad of Soldiers with three Northern prisoners. One without a

LEE--(_Addressing prisoner without cap._) Where is your cap? Did the
Rebels shoot it off?

PRISONER--(_Saluting._) No, General, but one of them took it off.

LEE--(_Noticing a blue cap on one of the Confederate soldiers._) Give
him back his cap, even if your own is ragged.

Men, you had better go farther to the rear, they are firing up here, and
you are exposing yourselves. (_Exeunt soldiers and prisoners._)

(_Enter General Gracie who places himself directly in front of General
Lee in the direction of the firing._)

LEE--Why General Gracie, you will certainly be killed.

GRACIE--It is better, General, that I should be killed than you. When
you go to the rear, I will.

(_Enter General Gordon with company of men._)

GORDON--General Lee, this is no place for you. Do go to the rear. These
are Virginians and Georgians, sir--men who have never failed--and they
will not fail now--Will you boys? Is it necessary for General Lee to
lead this charge.

SOLDIERS--No! no! General Lee to the rear. General Lee to the rear! We
will drive them back, if General Lee will only go to the rear.

GORDON--Forward! Charge! and remember your promise to General Lee.

GEN. STUART--General, this is no place for you, do go away at once to a
safe place.

LEE--I wish I knew where my place is on the battlefield: wherever I go
some one tells me it is not the place for me to be.

LEE--(_To soldiers._) Soldiers, I am more than satisfied with you.
Your country will thank you for the heroic conduct you have
displayed,--conduct worthy of men engaged in a cause so just and sacred,
and deserving a nation's gratitude and praise. Now you must go farther
back, you are exposing yourselves unnecessarily. (_As they pass back a
little, slowly and unwillingly, Lee goes farther forward, stoops down
and picks up something._)

FIRST SOLDIER--What is he doing?

SECOND SOLDIER--Why he's picking up a little bird that had fallen from
its nest.

FIRST SOLDIER--"He who heeds the sparrow's fall."

SECOND SOLDIER--I've heard of God, but here is General Lee!


_Outside Appomatox Courthouse during Lee's conference with Grant._

_Ragged Confederate soldiers on one side. Northern troops on the other._

1ST CONFEDERATE--Their uniforms don't look much like ours, do they?

2ND CONFEDERATE--No, nor their General doesn't look much like ours

3RD CONFEDERATE--Didn't Marse Robert look wonderful when he went through
that door? Just naturally hating to go in, but going just the same,
because he knew it was right.

1ST CONFEDERATE--Of course he had to go in, we couldn't have stood
another day without any rations.

2ND CONFEDERATE--You mean you couldn't. I could have gone till I dropped
without rations, if Marse Robert had said so.

3RD CONFEDERATE--But he wouldn't let his men suffer any longer when he
saw it was no use. Sh! Here he comes now.

(_Soldiers stand at attention. The door slowly opens and LEE steps out.
He looks up to the hills and sky. Silently clasps his hands together,
then slowly and almost bent, walks down the steps. For a moment the men
are silent. Then the sight of GEN. LEE is too much for them and they
crowd around him cheering him._)

LEE--(_Lifting his hand for silence._) Men, we have fought through the
war together. I have done my best for you. My heart is too full to say


_Scene--Lee's Parlor at Richmond._


    Gen. Lee
    Mrs. Jackson, a family friend
    Jack Sharpe, a former Confederate soldier
    Sam, an old negro servant
    G. W. Custis Lee, Gen. Lee's son
    Mr. Brown, representative of an Insurance Company
    Judge Brockenborough, Trustee of Washington College

PAT--(_Bursting through door with a huge basket of provisions,
salutes._) Sure, sir, you're a great soldier and it's I that knows it.
I've been fighting against you all these years, and many a hard knock
we've had. But, General, I honor you for it, and now they tell me you
are poor and in want, and I've brought you this basket. Please take it
from a soldier.

LEE--I thank you comrade, but I'm glad to tell you I am not in need. But
there are plenty of poor fellows over at the hospital who would be only
too glad to get food from so generous a foe.

PAT--Just as you say, sir, but if ever you are in need just let Pat
Murphy know, that's all. (_Exit._)

(_Enter MRS. JACKSON._)

LEE--How do you do, Mrs. Jackson.

MRS. JACKSON--Good morning General, and how are all the family?

LEE--We are all as usual, the women of the family very fierce and the
men very mild.

MRS. JACKSON--I think every woman of the South is fierce now. I am
bringing up all my sons to hate the Yankees.

LEE--Madam, don't bring up your sons to detest the United States
Government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all this
local hatred and make your sons Americans.

MRS. JACKSON--How can you talk that way after the way you have been

LEE--General Grant has acted with magnanimity.

MRS. JACKSON--If there ever was a saint on earth, you are one. Now I
must go upstairs and tell your wife so, but I reckon she knows it. Good
morning. (_Exit MRS. JACKSON. Enter JACK SHARPE dressed in ragged
clothes, he looks all around, then goes up to Lee and salutes._)

SHARPE--General, I'm one of your soldiers, and I've come here as the
representative of four of my comrades who are too ragged and dirty to
venture to see you. We are all Virginians, General, from Roanoke County,
and they sent me here to see you on a little business.

They've got our President in prison and
now--they--talk--about--arresting--you. And, General, we can't
stand--we'll never stand and see that.

Now, General, we five men have got about two hundred and fifty acres of
land in Roanoke--very good land, too, it is, sir--and if you'll come up
there and live, I've come to offer you our land, all of it and we five
men will work as your field hands, and you'll have very little trouble
in managing it with us to help you.

And, General, there are near about a hundred of us left in old Roanoke,
and they could never take you there, for we could hide you in the
hollows of the mountains, and the last man of us would die in your

LEE--I thank you and your friends, but my place is among the people of
Virginia. If ever they needed me, it is now. (_He goes to the door and
calls SAM. Enter SAM._)

LEE--Sam I want you to find all the clothes I can do without and give
them to this soldier for his friends.

SHARPE--I thank you general, and if ever you change your mind, just let
Jack Sharpe hear from you. (_Exit JACK and SAM. Enter Lee's oldest son,

G. W. LEE--Well, Father, hard at work entertaining visitors as usual, I

LEE--Yes, I don't see how so many find the time to come here.

G. W. C. LEE--Lots of the poor soldiers are out of work.

LEE--I am sorry. Tell them they must all set to work, and if they cannot
do what they prefer, do what they can. Virginia wants all their aid, all
their support, and the presence of all her sons to sustain her now.

G. W. C. LEE--I don't quite know what I'm going to do myself yet.

LEE--You can work for Virginia, to build her up again. You can teach
your children to love and cherish her.

G. W. C. LEE--You are right, Father, all my life you have never failed
to give me inspiration. (_Exit. Enter SAM and hands LEE a letter. He
opens it and reads._)

LEE--"Dear General: we have been fighting hard for four years, and now
the Yankees have got us in Libby Prison. The boys want you to get us out
if you can, but, if you can't, just ride by the Libby, and let us see
you and give you a cheer. We will all feel better after it."

SAM--Will you all go for to see 'em, Marse Robert?

LEE--They would make too much fuss over the old rebel. Why should they
care to see me? I am only a poor old Confederate. (_Exit SAM, shaking
his head. Enter MR. BROWN, a well-dressed business man._)

BROWN--I have not the honor of your acquaintance, General, except as all
the world knows you. My name is Brown and I represent a well known
Insurance Company.

LEE--I am afraid my life is hardly worth insuring, Mr. Brown.

BROWN--It is not about that I came to see you. I understand you are not
as yet permanently employed and I have come, therefore, to offer you the
presidency of our company at a yearly salary of $50,000.

LEE--I thank you, sir, but I would be of no value to your company, as I
know nothing whatever in regard to insurance.

BROWN--But, General, you will not be expected to do any work, what we
wish is the use of your name.

LEE--My name is not for sale. I thank you, sir. Good morning. (_Exit
BROWN. Enter Judge Brockenborough._)

GEN. LEE--Good morning, Judge, what a pleasure to see an old friend!

JUDGE--Good morning, General, I should not have dared to call on so
busy a man if I did not have a special mission. I have come to offer you
the presidency of Washington College, at a salary of $1,500 a year. I am
sorry we can offer no more, but the war has left the college in a
wretched condition.

LEE--I am afraid because of my many enemies that my connection with the
college would make its condition far more wretched.

JUDGE--No, General, the whole South loves and respects you, and if you
will only accept this position you will make us the happiest of all

LEE--I would have much preferred that your choice had fallen upon an
abler man. But if you really want me, I will be only too glad to come. I
have led the young men of the South in battle. I have seen many of them
die on the field. I shall try to devote my remaining energies to
training young men to do their duty in life.

**Transcribers Notes**

Minor punctuation errors corrected

Page 15 dishonerable changed to dishonorable

Page 20 Appomattox and Page 51 Appomatox both spellings left intact

Multiple use of defence/defense left intact

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