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
CHANCELLORSVILLE AND GETTYSBURG.
VIII. Personal Relations of Lee and Jackson
The most important incident of the great battle of Chancellorsville was the fall of Jackson. The services of this illustrious soldier had now become almost indispensable to General Lee, who spoke of him as his "right arm;" and the commander-in-chief had so long been accustomed to lean upon the strong shoulder of his lieutenant, that now, when this support was withdrawn, he seems to have felt the loss of it profoundly.
In the war, indeed, there had arisen no soldier who so powerfully drew the public eye as Jackson. In the opinion of many persons, he was a greater and abler commander than Lee himself; and, although such an opinion will not be found to stand after a full review of the characters and careers of the two leaders, there was sufficient ground for it to induce many fair and intelligent persons to adopt it. Jackson had been almost uniformly successful. He had conducted to a triumphant issue the arduous campaign of the Valley, where he was opposed in nearly every battle by a force much larger than his own; and these victories, in a quarter so important, and at a moment so critical, had come, borne on the wind of the mountain, to electrify and inspire the hearts of the people of Richmond and the entire Confederacy. Jackson's rapid march and assault on General McClellan's right on the Chickahominy had followed; he then advanced northward, defeated the vanguard of the enemy at Cedar Mountain, led the great column of Lee against the rear of
General Pope, destroyed Manassas, held his ground until Lee arrived, and bore an important part in the battle which ensued. Thence he had passed to Maryland, fallen upon
Harper's Ferry and captured it, returned to fight with Lee at
Sharpsburg, and in that battle had borne the brunt of the enemy's main assault with an unbroken front. That the result was a drawn battle, and not a Southern defeat, was due to Lee's generalship and Jackson's fighting. The retrograde movement to the lowland followed, and Jackson was left in the Valley to embarrass McClellan's advance. In this he perfectly succeeded, and then suddenly reappeared at Fredericksburg, where he received and repulsed one of the two great assaults of the enemy. The battle of Chancellorsville followed, and Lee's statement of the part borne in this hard combat by Jackson has been given. The result was due, he said, not to his own generalship, but to the skill and energy of his lieutenant, whose congratulations he refused to receive, declaring that the victory was Jackson's.
Here had at last ended the long series of nearly unbroken victories. Jackson had become the _alter ego_ of Lee, and it is not difficult to understand the sense of loss felt by the commander-in-chief. In addition to this natural sentiment, was deep regret at the death of one personally dear to him, and to whom he was himself an object of almost reverent love. The personal relations of Lee and Jackson had, from first to last, remained the same--not the slightest cloud had ever arisen to disturb the perfect union in each of admiration and affection for the other. It had never occurred to these two great soldiers to ask what their relative position was in the public eye--which was most spoken of and commended or admired. Human nature is weak at best, and the fame of Jackson, mounting to its dazzling zenith, might have disturbed a less magnanimous soul than Lee's. There is not, however, the slightest reason to believe that Lee ever gave the subject a thought. Entirely free from that vulgar species of ambition which looks with cold eyes upon the success of others, as offensive to its own _amour-propre_ Lee never seems to have instituted any comparison between himself and Jackson--greeted praise of his famous lieutenant with sincere pleasure--and was the first upon every occasion, not only to express the fullest sense of Jackson's assistance, and the warmest admiration of his genius as a soldier, but to attribute to him, as after the battle of Chancellorsville, _all_ the merit of every description.
It is not possible to contemplate this august affection and admiration of the two soldiers for each other, without regarding it as a greater glory to them than all their successes in arms. Lee's opinion of Jackson, and personal sentiment toward him, have been set forth in the above sentences. The sentiment of Jackson for Lee was as strong or stronger. He regarded him with mingled love and admiration. To excite such feelings in a man like Jackson, it was necessary that Lee should be not only a soldier of the first order of genius, but also a good and pious man. It was in these lights that Jackson regarded his commander, and from first to last his confidence in and admiration for him never wavered. He had defended Lee from the criticism of unskilled or ignorant persons, from the time when he assumed command of the army, in the summer of 1862. At that time some one spoke of Lee, in Jackson's presence, as "slow." The criticism aroused the indignation of the silent soldier, and he exclaimed: "General Lee is _not_ 'slow.' No one knows the weight upon his heart--his great responsibilities. He is commander-in-chief, and he knows that, if an army is lost, it cannot be replaced. No! there may be some persons whose good opinion of me may make them attach some weight to my views, and, if you ever hear that said of General Lee, I beg you will contradict it in my name. I have known General Lee for five-and-twenty years. He is cautious. He ought to be. But he is _not_ 'slow.' Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man whom I would follow blindfold!"
The abrupt and energetic expressions of Jackson on this occasion indicate his profound sense of the injustice done Lee by these criticisms; and it would be difficult to imagine a stronger statement than that here made by him. It will be conceded that he himself was competent to estimate soldiership, and in Jackson's eyes Lee was "a phenomenon--the only man whom he would follow blindfold." The subsequent career of Lee seems to have strengthened and intensified this extreme admiration. What Lee advised or did was always in Jackson's eyes the very best that could be suggested or performed. He yielded his own opinions, upon every occasion, with perfect readiness and cheerfulness to those of Lee, as to the master-mind; loved him, revered him, looked up to him, and never seems to have found fault with him but upon one occasion--when he received Lee's note of congratulation after Chancellorsville. He then said: "General Lee is very kind; but he should give the glory to God."
This affection and admiration were fully returned by General Lee, who consulted Jackson upon every occasion, and confided in him as his personal friend. There was seldom any question between them of superior and subordinate--never, except when the exigency required that the decision should be made by Lee as commander-in-chief. Jackson's supreme genius, indeed, made this course natural, and no further praise is due Lee in this particular, save that of modesty and good sense; but these qualities are commendable and not universal. He committed the greatest undertakings to Jackson with the utmost confidence, certain that he would do all that could be done; and some words of his quoted above express this entire confidence. "Say to General Jackson," he replied to the young staff-officer at Fredericksburg, "that he knows just as well what to do with the enemy as I do."
Lee's personal affection was strikingly displayed after the battle of Chancellorsville, when Jackson lay painfully, but no one supposed mortally, wounded, first at Wilderness Tavern, and then at Ginney's. Prevented from visiting the wounded man, by the responsibilities of command, now all the greater from Jackson's absence, and not regarding his hurt as serious, as indeed it did not appear to be until toward the last, Lee sent him continual messages containing good wishes and inquiries after his health. The tone of these messages is very familiar and affectionate, and leaves no doubt of the character of the relations between the two men.
"Give him my affectionate regards," he said to one officer, "and tell him to make haste and get well, and come back to me as soon as he can. He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right." When the wound of the great soldier took a bad turn, and it began to be whispered about that the hurt might prove fatal, Lee was strongly moved, and said with deep feeling: "Surely General Jackson must recover! God will not take him from us, now that we need him so much. Surely he will be spared to us, in answer to the many prayers which are offered for him!"
He paused after uttering these words, laboring evidently under very deep and painful emotion. After remaining silent for some moments, he added: "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."
The tone of these messages is, as we have said, that of familiar affection, as from one valued friend to another. The expression, "Give him my love," is a Virginianism, which is used only when two persons are closely and firmly bound by long association and friendship. Such had been the case with Lee and Jackson, and in the annals of the war there is no other instance of a friendship so close, affectionate, and unalloyed.
Jackson died on the 10th of May, and the unexpected intelligence shocked Lee profoundly. He mourned the death of the illustrious soldier with a sorrow too deep almost to find relief in tears; and issued a general order to the troops, which was in the following words:
With deep grief the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieutenant-General T.J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th inst., at quarter-past three P.M. The daring, skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an All-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But, while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God, as our hope and strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do every thing in defence of our beloved country. R.E. LEE, _General_.
It is probable that the composition of this order cost General Lee one of the severest pangs he ever experienced.