Monday, January 19, 2004


I've been waiting all day for the mail to arrive. And now at 5:30 in the evening, to my shame, I finally recall what must surely be the reason why there has been no post. Why, it is General Lee's birthday.

One hesitates to claim sanctity -- although that is the way I absorbed the story. But let us settle for nobility of spirit, great intelligence, military genius, kindness to all, and a great patriotism for his home place.

Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia

written the day after the surrender to Grant.

by Robert E. Lee

After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged.

You may take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.

For those who want to read the definitive work on Marse Robert, the Douglas Southall Freeman biography - 2, 421 pages in 4 volumes - is now on the web here.

A more manageable read - say 5 minutes max - is here.