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
LEE'S EARLY LIFE.
General "Light-Horse Harry" Lee
This celebrated soldier, who so largely occupied the public eye in the Revolution, is worthy of notice, both as an eminent member of the Lee family, and as the father of General Robert E. Lee.
He was born in 1756, in the county of Westmoreland--which boasts of being the birthplace of Washington, Monroe, Richard Henry Lee, General Henry Lee, and General Robert E. Lee, Presidents, statesmen, and soldiers--and, after graduating at Princeton College, entered the army, in 1776, as captain of cavalry, an arm of the service afterward adopted by his more celebrated descendant, in the United States army. He soon displayed military ability of high order, and, for the capture of Paulus's Hook, received a gold medal from Congress. In 1781 he marched with his "Legion" to join Greene in the Carolinas, carrying with him the high esteem of Washington, who had witnessed his skilful and daring operations in the Jerseys. His career in the arduous campaigns of the South against Cornwallis, and the efficient commander of his cavalry arm. Colonel Tarleton, may be best understood from General Greene's dispatches, and from his own memoirs of the operations of the army, which are written with as much modesty as ability. From these it is apparent that the small body of the "Legion" cavalry, under its active and daring commander, was the "eye and ear" of Greene's army, whose movements it accompanied everywhere, preceding its advances and covering its retreats. Few pages of military history are more stirring than those in Lee's "Memoirs" describing Greene's retrograde movement to the Dan; and this alone, if the hard work at the Eutaws and elsewhere were left out, would place Lee's fame as a cavalry officer upon a lasting basis. The distinguished soldier under whose eye the Virginian operated did full justice to his courage and capacity. "I believe," wrote Greene, "that few officers, either in Europe or America, are held in so high a position of admiration as you are. Everybody knows I have the highest opinion of you as an officer, and you know I love you as a friend. No man, in the progress of the campaign, had equal merit with yourself." The officer who wrote those lines was not a courtier nor a diplomatist, but a blunt and honest soldier who had seen Lee's bearing in the most arduous straits, and was capable of appreciating military ability. Add Washington's expression of his "love and thanks," in a letter written in 1789, and the light in which he was regarded by his contemporaries will be understood.
His "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department" is a valuable military history and a very interesting book. The movements of Greene in face of Cornwallis are described with a precision which renders the narrative valuable to military students, and a picturesqueness which rivets the attention of the general reader. From these memoirs a very clear conception of the writer's character may be derived, and everywhere in them is felt the presence of a cool and dashing nature, a man gifted with the _mens aequa in arduis_, whom no reverse of fortune could cast down. The fairness and courtesy of the writer toward his opponents is an attractive characteristic of the work, which is written with a simplicity and directness of style highly agreeable to readers of judgment.
[Footnote 1: See his observations upon the source of his successes over Tarleton, full of the generous spirit of a great soldier. He attributes them in no degree to his own military ability, but to the superior character of his large, thorough-bred horses, which rode over Tarleton's inferior stock. He does not state that the famous "Legion" numbered only two hundred and fifty men, and that Tarleton commanded a much larger force of the best cavalry of the British army.]
[Footnote 2: A new edition of this work, preceded by a life of the author, was published by General Robert E. Lee in 1869.]
After the war General Henry Lee served a term in Congress; was then elected Governor of Virginia; returned in 1799 to Congress; and, in his oration upon the death of Washington, employed the well-known phrase, "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." He died in Georgia, in the year 1818, having made a journey thither for the benefit of his health.
General Henry Lee was married twice; first, as we have said, to his cousin Matilda, through whom he came into possession of the old family estate of Stratford; and a second time, June 18,1793, to Miss Anne Hill Carter, a daughter of Charles Carter, Esq., of "Shirley," on
The children of this second marriage were three sons and two
daughters--Charles Carter, _Robert Edward_, Smith, Ann, and