| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
ROBERT E. LEE
THROUGH THE MEXICAN WAR
 WHILE reading of the courage and wisdom of the men
who fought for the Union, one must not forget that there
were two sides. Among the men who fought for the
South were some of the
bravest soldiers and truest
men in all history. Numbers of them believed that
slavery was right; that the
negroes were created to be
slaves, and that only as
slaves could they be taken
care of. Others knew in
their hearts that slavery was
wrong. But they thought
that it could not be blotted
out in a single day. They
felt that the negro slaves
could not be turned loose
as free men without homes
or means to care for themselves. One of the men
who believed in this way was Robert E. Lee, and it is his
story that I am going to tell.
Between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers
 in Virginia lies the county of Westmoreland. Here, in
the midst of broad lawns and mighty trees stood stately
Stratford, the home of "Light-Horse Harry Lee," a brave
cavalry commander of Washington's, during the
Revolution. And here, in 1807, "Light-Horse Harry Lee's" son,
Robert E. Lee, was born.
A few years later the father died. The elder sons were
away, and it was Robert who took the tenderest care of his
delicate mother. As he grew older, Robert decided, like
his father, to be a soldier. He obtained an appointment
to West Point and entered in 1825. At West Point he
stood high in his class. Hard study, perfect drill, good
conduct, all helped to make his cadet life a success. He
was graduated second in his class and was assigned to the
engineer corps of the army.
On the Virginia bank of the Potomac near Washington
stands Arlington, a beautiful old house with broad
porticoes. In Lee's youth this was the home of George
Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of George
One June evening, two years after Robert Lee had left
West Point, Mr. Custis's great house was aglow with a
hundred lights, and strains of wedding music floated out
across the lawn. Before the altar stood the bride and
groom, Mary Custis and Robert E. Lee. It was through
this marriage that Lee later came into possession of
From the time of his marriage until the outbreak of the
Mexican War, Lee remained an army engineer. In 1847
he was with the American soldiers encamped before the
City of Vera Cruz, Mexico. After one of the battles of
this war he wrote to Custis, the eldest of his little sons,
"I thought of you, my dear Custis, in the battle and
wondered, when the musket balls and grape were whistling
 over my head in a perfect shower, where I could put you,
if with me, to be safe....You have no idea of what a
horrible sight a battlefield is."
During the Mexican War Lee did gallant service. The
war over, he continued his work as engineer by fortifying
the vicinity of Baltimore. The year 1852 saw him made
superintendent of the military academy at West Point,
from which he had been graduated twenty-three years
before. In 1855 Congress formed two new regiments of
cavalry. As Lieutenant Colonel of one of these regiments,
Lee was sent to Texas, where he was stationed until that
state seceded from the Union.
When home on a short vacation in 1859, Lee received
orders from Washington to go to Harper's Ferry and
capture John Brown and his band of men. There
happened to be visiting at Arlington, on the day when Lee
received the order, a young cavalry lieutenant named
J. E. B. Stuart. Ever bold and ready for adventure, he
begged Lee to take him along to Harper's Ferry. This
dashing youth a few years later became Lee's trusted
cavalry commander, "Jeb" Stuart, celebrated for his big
plumed hat and his brave spirit.
COMMANDER OF THE CONFEDERATE FORCES
IN the lives of many men there comes a time when
they must choose between two things, both of which they
dearly love. That time had now come to Robert E.
Lee. During the beautiful days at Arlington, in the
spring of 1861, his soul struggled with the choice between
loyalty to the Government under which he had fought
and loyalty to the South. In April, President Lincoln
offered him the command of the Union army that was
being prepared to invade the South—to invade his own
 state, his father's state, his home. Lee refused the offer
and two days later sent in his resignation from the
United States army.
To his sister in Baltimore he wrote, "I have not been
able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my
relatives, my children, my home." Having taken his
stand, Lee went from Washington to Richmond, leaving
his beautiful Arlington to fall into the hands of the
Northern army. In Richmond he was made Commander-in-chief
of the Virginia forces.
Before long Mr. Jefferson
Davis, President of the Confederacy, came to Richmond;
and that city was made the
capital of the Southern Government.
All was bustle in
the new capital. The South
was busy collecting guns and
ammunition. Nothing was
ready for war. Everything
had to be done. Even the
soldiers had to be made from
raw recruits. General Lee
knew that Virginia would be the great battlefield for the
two armies. There were two moves to be made: to
defend Richmond, and to try to make a counter attack upon
On July 21st, the Union troops attacked General
Beauregard at Manassas, or Bull Run. Beauregard's men
were beginning to fall back when General Jackson
advanced upon the center of the Union line and drove the
troops back to Washington.
In this case defeat really helped the North more than
victory helped the South. The North saw that war was
 on in deadly earnest and that serious preparations must
be made. The South, however, grew over confident
through its first victory.
In 1862 General Lee was made Commander-in-chief,
under Jefferson Davis, of all the armies of the Confederacy;
and in June he took command of the troops defending
Richmond. Already the invading army under General
McClellan had crept so close that the roar of its cannon
could be heard in the city. Lee planned to attack
McClellan's army and drive it away.
Looking about for a man who would have the courage
and quickness to go out and explore the enemy's right,
he chose "Jeb" Stuart, the dashing young cavalryman
who lead helped him at Harper's Ferry. Lee made no
mistake in his choice. Within forty-eight hours Stuart
had ridden entirely around McClellan's army and was back
in Richmond, besides leaving torn up railroads and
destroyed provisions in the enemy's rear.
From June 25th to July 1st, Lee and McClellan fought
what are known as the "Seven Days' Battles." By these
battles Lee succeeded in forcing McClellan to retreat,
though in the last, at Malvern Hill, thousands of the brave
Confederates lost their lives.
About two months later the Northern general, Pope,
led his army against Richmond. Lee and Jackson
advanced to meet him and won the second battle of
Manassas, or Bull Run. Pope fell back to Washington,
defeated, and gave up his command.
Then followed Lee's advance across the Potomac and
his retreat after the terrible battle of Antietam.
Late in 1862 General Burnside took charge of the
Northern army and pushed toward the Rappahannock.
No sooner had Lee discovered Burnside's move than he
and his army took possession of the Heights near
Freder-  icksburg, through which Burnside would pass on his way
to Richmond. At dawn one December morning, when
Burnside's men tried
to throw their pontoon bridges across
the river, Confederate guns boomed out
the signal which
called Lee's men to
arms. Instantly the
riflemen began to
pick off the bridge
builders. The Union
army was delayed on
the river bank for
many hours; and
when finally they did
cross, they found
Lee well prepared and the Confederates stationed in the
A PONTOON BRIDGE.
The battle was begun on the morning of the 13th. All
day long the Confederate soldiers, many of them barefoot,
stood in the December snow and created havoc among the
enemy. Only once did General Meade, later the victor
of Gettysburg, break through a gap in Jackson's lines;
and then he was quickly driven back. By nighttime
Burnside's army had been beaten, and Burnside, with the
men that were left, recrossed the river.
In the spring of 1863 "fighting Joe Hooker" was in
command of the Union forces in Virginia. At the head
of a splendid army of one hundred and thirty thousand
men, he felt sure of defeating Lee, who had less than
half that number. For this purpose he marched toward
Chancellorsville, to the west of Fredericksburg, where
 Lee's army was still encamped. But Lee did not wait for
Hooker to carry out his plan. With Stonewall Jackson,
Lee moved promptly forward and confronted Hooker's
main body in a tangled forest, only a few miles from
Chancellorsville. Here a two-days' battle took place.
The Confederates won the fight, but their victory cost the
life of Stonewall Jackson.
In June, 1863, came Lee's daring ivasion of Pennsylvania.
And in July the South received the double blow
of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Lee's army was compelled
to retreat to Virginia, and from this time on Lee was
constantly worried about his ragged, hungry men. At
Richmond his wife and daughters with flying needles
were knitting socks for the soldiers. The General wrote
to Mrs. Lee, "Tell the girls to send all they can. I wish
they could make some shoes too. We have thousands of
YOU remember that in the spring of 1864 General
Grant was put at the head of the Union army and led the
Army of the Potomac into Virginia. Then followed the
terrible Wilderness campaign in which the ranks of the
Confederates grew steadily thinner, and the men grew
steadily weaker from lack of food and clothing.
Yet even in the Wilderness there were victories for
the Confederates. At Cold Harbor they held back the
Union lines with frightful slaughter. It was here that a
hungry soldier had his only cracker shot from his hand.
"The next time I'll put my cracker in a safe place down
by the breastworks where it won't get hurt, poor thing,"
In spite of much hard fighting, "On to Richmond!"
 was still Grant's cry. He knew that if he could take
Petersburg to the south of Richmond, it would be an easy
matter to capture Richmond at last. For over nine long
months Lee bravely defended Petersburg, his men ever
growing fewer and weaker, and arms and ammunition
becoming scarcer. Between Grant and Sherman the
workshops had been destroyed, and there was no way of
getting new supplies.
On the first Sunday morning in April, 1865, a boy came
into the church where Jefferson Davis was listening to
the sermon and handed him a telegram. It was from
Lee. "I can no longer defend Petersburg," it said.
"You must give up hope of saving Richmond."
RICHMOND IN FLAMES—THE END OF THE WAR.
The next day, as Grant rode through the deserted
streets of Petersburg, Lee was leading his army along the
 banks of the Appomattox. Grant pursued Lee to
Appomattox Court House. Though General Lee felt that
he must save the remainder of his men for their wives
and children at home, he declared, "I would rather die a
thousand deaths than surrender."
There were five houses at the place called Appomattox
Court House. The largest was a square brick house; and
here, on April 9, 1865, General Grant and General Lee met
to arrange the terms of the surrender.
After the meeting Lee rode up to break the news of his
surrender to his brave troops. They crowded about him
eager to shake his hand, to touch his horse; and tears ran
down their cheeks as they looked upon their beloved
leader. "Men," he said, "we have fought through the war
together. I have done my best for you. My heart is too
full to say more."
The war over, the trustees of Washington College in
Virginia begged Lee to become its President. For five
years he directed the affairs of the College, beloved by the
students as he had been by his soldiers. On a September
day in 1870, after attending a meeting of the vestrymen
of his church, he was stricken with an illness from which
two weeks later he died.
From far and near the old Confederate soldiers gathered
to escort their leader to his last resting place. Behind
the hearse walked Lee's riderless horse, Traveler, his
trappings all in black.
In Richmond there now stands a statue of Lee mounted
on Traveler. It is a tribute to a great soldier and a true
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