A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.
"Duty is the sublimest word in our language."
"Human virtue should be equal to human calamity." LEE. 1876
We here present to the reader a more detailed account of the ceremonies attending the burial of General Lee, and a selection from the countless addresses delivered in various portions of the country when his death was announced. To notice the honors paid to his memory in every city, town, and village of the South, would fill a volume, and be wholly unnecessary. It is equally unnecessary to speak of the great meetings at Richmond, Baltimore, and elsewhere, resulting in the formation of the "Lee Memorial Association" for the erection of a monument to the dead commander.
The addresses here presented are placed on record rather for their biographical interest, than to do honor to the dead. Of him it may justly be said that he needs no record of his virtues and his glory. His illustrious memory is fresh to-day, and will be fresh throughout all coming generations, in every heart.
The morning of the obsequies of General Lee broke bright and cheerful over the sorrowful town of Lexington. Toward noon the sun poured down with all the genial warmth of Indian summer, and after mid-day it was hot, though not uncomfortably so. The same solemnity of yesterday reigned supreme, with the difference, that people came thronging into town, making a mournful scene of bustle. The gloomy faces, the comparative silence, the badges and emblems of mourning that everywhere met the eye, and the noiseless, strict decorum which was observed, told how universal and deep were the love and veneration of the people for the illustrious dead. Every one uniformly and religiously wore the emblematic crape, even to the women and children, who were crowding to the college chapel with wreaths of flowers fringed with mourning. All sorrowfully and religiously paid their last tributes of respect and affection to the great dead, and none there were who did not feel a just pride in the sad offices.
AT THE COLLEGE GROUNDS.
Immediately in front of the chapel the scene was peculiarly sad. All around the buildings were gloomily draped in mourning, and the students strolled listlessly over the grounds, awaiting the formation of the funeral procession. Ladies thronged about the chapel with tearful eyes, children wept outright, every face wore a saddened expression, while the solemn tolling of the church-bells rendered the scene still more one of grandeur and gloom. The bells of the churches joined in the mournful requiem.
THE FUNERAL PROCESSION.
At ten o'clock precisely, in accordance with the programme agreed upon, the students, numbering four hundred, formed in front and to the right of the chapel. To the left an escort of honor, numbering some three hundred ex-officers and soldiers, was formed, at the head of which, near the southwestern entrance to the grounds, was the Institute band. Between these two bodies--the soldiers and students--stood the hearse and the gray war-steed of the dead hero, both draped in mourning. The marshals of the procession, twenty-one in number, wore spotless white sashes, tied at the waist and shoulders with crape, and carrying _batons_ also enveloped in the same emblematic material.
Shortly after ten, at a signal from the chief marshal, the solemn _cortege_ moved off to the music of a mournful dirge. General Bradley Johnson headed the escort of officers and soldiers, with Colonel Charles T. Venable and Colonel Walters H. Taylor, both former assistant adjutant-generals on the staff of the lamented dead. The physicians of General Lee and the Faculty of the college fell in immediately behind the hearse, the students following. Slowly and solemnly the procession moved from the college grounds down Washington Street to Jefferson, up Jefferson Street to Franklin Hall, thence to Main Street, where they were joined by a committee of the Legislature, dignitaries of the State, and the citizens generally. Moving still onward, this grand funeral pageant, which had now assumed gigantic proportions, extending nearly a mile in length, soon reached the northeastern extremity of the town, when it took the road to the Virginia Military Institute.
AT THE MILITARY INSTITUTE.
Here the scene was highly impressive and imposing. In front of the Institute the battalion of cadets, three hundred in number, were drawn up in line, wearing their full gray uniform, with badges of mourning, and having on all their equipments and side-arms, but without their
muskets. Spectators thronged the entire line of the procession, gazing sadly as it wended its way, and the sites around the Institute were crowded. As the _cortege_ entered the Institute grounds a salute of artillery thundered its arrival, and reverberated it far across the distant hills and valleys of Virginia, awakening echoes which have been hushed since Lee manfully gave up the struggle of the "lost cause" at Appomattox. Winding along the indicated route toward the grounds of Washington College, the procession slowly moved past the Institute, and when the war-horse and hearse of the dead chieftain came in front of the battalion of cadets, they uncovered their heads as a salute of reverence and respect, which was promptly followed by the spectators. When this was concluded, the visitors and Faculty of the Institute joined the procession, and the battalion of cadets filed into the line in order, and with the greatest precision.
ORDER OF THE PROCESSION.
The following was the order of the procession when it was completed:
Escort of Honor, consisting of Officers and Soldiers of the Confederate Army.
Chaplain and other Clergy.
Hearse and Pall-bearers.
General Lee's Horse.
The Attending Physicians.
Trustees and Faculty of Washington College.
Dignitaries of the State of Virginia.
Visitors and Faculty of the Virginia Military Institute.
Other Representative Bodies and Distinguished Visitors.
Alumni of Washington College.
Cadets Virginia Military Institute.
Students of Washington College as Guard of Honor
AT THE CHAPEL.
After the first salute, a gun was fired every three minutes. Moving still to the sound of martial music, in honor of the dead, the procession reentered the grounds of Washington College by the northeastern gate, and was halted in front of the chapel. Then followed an imposing ceremony. The cadets of the Institute were detached from the line, and marched in double file into the chapel up one of the aisles, past the remains of the illustrious dead, which lay in state on the rostrum, and down the other aisle out of the church. The students of Washington College followed next, passing with bowed heads before the mortal remains of him they revered and loved so much and well as their president and friend. The side-aisles and galleries were crowded with ladies, Emblems of mourning met the eye on all sides, and feminine affection had hung funeral garlands of flowers upon all the pillars and walls. The central pews were filled with the escort of honor, composed of former
Confederate soldiers from this and adjoining counties, while the spacious platform was crowded with the trustees, faculties, clergy, Legislative Committee, and distinguished visitors. Within and without the consecrated hall the scene was alike imposing. The blue mountains of Virginia, towering in the near horizon; the lovely village of Lexington, sleeping in the calm, unruffled air, and the softened autumn sunlight; the vast assemblage, mute and sorrowful; the tolling bells, and pealing cannon, and solemn words of funeral service, combined to render the scene one never to be forgotten.
The sons of General Lee--W.H.F. Lee, G.W.C. Lee, and Robert E. Lee--with their sisters, Misses Agnes and Mildred Lee, and the nephews of the dead, Fitzhugh, Henry C., and Robert C. Lee, entered the church with bowed heads, and silently took seats in front of the rostrum.
THE FUNERAL SERVICES AND INTERMENT.
Then followed the impressive funeral services of the Episcopal Church for the dead, amid a silence and solemnity that were imposing and sublimely grand. There was no funeral oration, in compliance with the expressed wish of the distinguished dead; and at the conclusion of the services in the chapel the vast congregation went out and mingled with the crowd without, who were unable to gain admission. The coffin was then carried by the pall-bearers to the library-room, in the basement of the chapel, where it was lowered into the vault prepared for its reception. The funeral services were concluded in the open air by prayer, and the singing of General Lee's favorite hymn, commencing with the well-known line--
"How firm a foundation, ye saint of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!"
and thus closed the funeral obsequies of Robert Edward Lee, to whom may be fitly applied the grand poetic epitaph:
"Ne'er to the mansions where the mighty rest, Since their foundations, came a nobler guest; Nor e'er was to the bowers of bliss conveyed A purer saint or a more welcome shade."