After his death, a Northern newspaper wrote of him "We have long since ceased to look upon him as the Confederate leader, but have claimed him as one of ourselves; have cherished and felt proud of his military genius; have recounted and recorded his triumphs as our own; have extolled his virtue as reflecting upon us—for Robert Edward Lee was an American, and the great nation which gave him birth would be today unworthy of such a son if she regarded him lightly".
Robert E. Lee opposed
Slavery, and had freed the slaves he inherited from his Wife's estate long before the war. One of them, William Mac Lee, chose to stand by Robert E. Lee's side throughout the war, serving as his cook and confidant. This former slave and friend described Lee with these words, "I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee".
In recognizing the profound mark that Robert E. Lee left on the world, one is forced to contemplate the fundamental principals on which Robert E. Lee built his life. We must seek to understand the foundational beliefs that led to a life so respected, so admired and so loved. What was the rock on which Robert E. Lee built his life? What was the river that ran deep through his soul that gave him strength, that sustained him, and that led him to attain such heights, and carry on in the face of bitter defeat. What was the guiding light that led to the Courage, Honor, and Integrity that shone forth in his life?
In studying Robert E. Lee for over 10 years, it has become crystal clear to me that Robert E. Lee was a devoted follower and humble servant of Jesus Christ. The teachings of Christ and the words of the Holy Scriptures shine forth in the walk and life of Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee was a man of Prayer and Devotion. In addition, his own writings demonstrate his profound faith. There is extensive documentation that Robert E. Lee was a man of faith, and a man of prayer. Some examples are given below.
Robert E. Lee prayed for an end to slavery.
"The doctrines and miracles of our Savior have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small portion of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist! While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day." Excerpts from Robert E. Lee's Letter to President Pierce prior to the War
Robert E. Lee Prayed for his Friends
Upon hearing that
Stonewall Jackson had been injured in battle, Lee Prayed for him and requested that word be sent to Jackson to let him know that he was praying for him . . . "When you return I trust you will find him better. When a suitable occasion offers, give him my love, and tell him that I wrestled in Prayer for him last night, as I never prayed, I believe, for myself." And he had to turn abruptly away to conceal his emotion. from Part 6, Chapter 8 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE."
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
Robert E. Lee Prayed for his Family
"May God guard and protect you and yours, and shower upon you every blessing, is the prayer of your devoted brother, R.E. LEE.", Excerpt of a Letter from Robert E. Lee to his sister.
Robert E. Lee was deeply moved by the prayers of others
When he was informed that the chaplains prayed for him, tears started to his eyes, and he replied: "I sincerely thank you for that, and I can only say that I am a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone, and that I need all the prayers you can offer for me." from Part 5, Chapter 13 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
Robert E. Lee Prayed with His Men, In the Midst of Battle
He did not fail, on many occasions, to show his men that he was a sincere Christian. When
General Meade came over to Mine Run, and the Southern army marched to meet him, Lee was riding along his line of battle in the woods, when he came upon a party of soldiers holding a prayer-meeting on the eve of battle. Such a spectacle was not unusual in the army then and afterward--the rough fighters were often men of profound piety--and on this occasion the sight before him seems to have excited deep emotion in Lee. He stopped, dismounted--the staff-officers accompanying him did the same--and Lee uncovered his head, and stood in an attitude of profound respect and attention, while the earnest prayer proceeded, in the midst of the thunder of artillery and the explosion of the enemy's shells. from Part 5, Chapter 13 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
Robert E. Lee Prayed Daily
"I, therefore, can anticipate for you many years of happiness and prosperity, and in my daily prayers to the God of mercy and truth I invoke His choicest blessings upon you." Excerpt from a Letter from Robert E. Lee to his son dated 1867
Robert E. Lee Prayed and Gave Thanks for his Food
"General Lee returned to his house, and, finding his family waiting tea for him, took his place at the table, standing to say grace." Account of Robert E. Lee's Last meal from Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, Chapter 24.
Robert E. Lee Prayed In Battle
Again near Petersburg, Lee was observed kneeling in prayer, a short distance from the road, as his troops marched by. from Part 8, Chapter 19 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
When another minister, the Rev. Mr. Jones, delivered an earnest address at the "Concert of Prayer for Colleges," urging that all Christians should pray for the aid of the Holy Spirit in changing the hearts of the students, General Lee, after the meeting, approached the minister and said with great 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." from Part 8, Chapter 19 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
One morning, while the venerable Dr. White was passing General Lee's house, on his way to chapel, the general joined him, and they entered into conversation upon religious subjects. General Lee said little, but, just as they reached the college, stopped and remarked with great earnestness, his eyes filling with tears as he spoke: "I shall be disappointed, sir, I shall fail in the leading object that brought me here, unless the young men all become real Christians; and I wish you and others of your sacred profession to do all you can to accomplish this result." from Part 8, Chapter 19 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
"One day last autumn the writer saw General Lee standing at his gate, talking pleasantly to an humbly-clad man, who seemed very much pleased at the cordial courtesy of the great chieftain, and turned off, evidently delighted, as we came up. After exchanging salutations, the general said, pointing to the retreating form, 'That is one of our old soldiers, who is in necessitous circumstances.' I took it for granted that it was some veteran Confederate, when the noble-hearted chieftain quietly added, 'He fought on the other side, but we must not think of that.' I afterward ascertained--not from General Lee, for he never alluded to his charities--that he had not only spoken kindly to this 'old soldier' who had 'fought on the other side,' but had sent him on his way rejoicing in a liberal contribution to his necessities." from Part 8, Chapter 19 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
Of the extent of this Christian moderation another proof was given by the soldier, at a moment when he might not unreasonably have been supposed to labor under emotions of the extremest bitterness. Soon after his return to
Richmond, in April, 1865, when the _immedicabile vulnus_ of surrender was still open and bleeding, a gentleman was requested by the Federal commander in the city to communicate to General Lee the fact that he was about to be indicted in the United States courts for treason. In acquitting himself of his commission, the gentleman expressed sentiments of violent indignation at such a proceeding. But these feelings General Lee did not seem to share. The threat of arraigning him as a traitor produced no other effect upon him than to bring a smile to his lips; and, taking the hand of his friend, as the latter rose to go, he said, in his mildest tones: "We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them." from Part 8, Chapter 19 of "A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE." BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE
"Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia, August 13, 1863.
"The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people, appointed August 21st 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 services, 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 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."
"Help me to be, to think, to act what is right because it is right; make me truthful, honest, and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me." From the Truman Library. This Robert E. Lee prayer was memorized by Harry Truman, and Used by Truman throughout his life.