[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
previous
Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


[image ALT: link to next section]
next
Chapter
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. I
p339
Chapter XX

Lee Transfers from Staff to Line

As Lee dealt with his night-walking nephew, with the mischievous Gracie, and with that articulated frame of contradictions, "Curly" Whistler, so he dealt with all the cadets. He carried them on his heart, and spent many an anxious hour debating how best he could train them to be the servants of their country by making them masters of themselves. "When . . . I visited the academy," Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jefferson Davis wrote years afterwards, "and was surprised to see so many gray hairs on his head, he confessed that the cadets did exceedingly worry him, and then it was perceptible that his sympathy with young people was rather an impediment than a qualification for the superintendency."1 Earnestly, however, Lee studied the boys. By the summer of 1854 he had come to know most of their frailties, their adolescent dodges, and all their good points, and he had made a consistent "administrative policy" out ofº the school's precedents and his own observations.

He believed that the best age for a boy to enter the academy was between seventeen and eighteen,2 and he thought adequate preliminary training could be had at home.3 From the hour they were admitted his attitude toward them he put in a single sentence: "These young gentlemen are not considered exactly in the light of enlisted men, and as much deference as possible is paid to their convenience and wishes in relation to personal matters."4 Individual rights were not overridden and freedom of religious worship was always regarded.5 In official dealings his fundamental p340 was equal treatment for all,6 though he felt that he had a special duty to the descendants of statesmenº and soldiers. When a grandson of Henry Clay was subject to dismissal because he had piled up a heavy demerit through inattention, Lee wrote: "I feel that regret that must be common to every American that the Grandson of Henry Clay, should be dismissed from the National Acady. of his country, and in consideration of the name of his Grandfather, and the devotion of the life of his father on the battlefield, respy. recommend that he be allowed to resign."7

If a cadet stood well in his classes and had little demerit, Lee was not apt to see much of him, except at examination or when he invited the lad to his house for supper Sunday evening.8 But if the boy got into trouble of any sort, Lee was quick to know of it. If a cadet did not write home, Lee found out why.9 In cases of serious illness he promptly notified the family, visited the boy, and gave him the best treatment possible in the academy hospital.10 In the rare instances of death in the corps, his sympathy was personal and instant.11 It was not always easy to be precise in writing of cadets' illnesses, because sometimes there was suspicion of malingering. "You must not suppose that any doubts are entertained as to the sincerity of his opinions as regards himself, or the treatment necessary for his recovery," he wrote one father who was anxious about his son. "But the medical officers had to be governed by their own judgment in his case and be guided by the same rules prescribed for all the cadets."12

Lee kept a close eye on the class reports, and when he perceived that a boy was in danger of failing he watched his standing week by week, consulted his instructors, and on occasion would call him in to discuss his case during his cadet office hour, which was between 7 and 8 A.M. Sometimes he wrote parents urging them to prod an indolent son or to encourage a disheartened student. If p341 a prodigal returned to his books, he was more than apt to get commendation from the superintendent.13 In those instances where a boy was in danger of dismissal for demerit, without having been guilty of any serious offense, Lee always took pains to explain that the cadet's character was not involved. Here is a typical letter:

You must not however infer that his conduct has been in the least disgraceful or calculated to affect his moral character or standing. His amount of demerit has arisen from acts of carelessness, inattention to his duties, and to the regulations of police and discipline of the academy, which it is necessary for a good soldier to correct."14

When he could praise a boy's work, Lee did not stint his encomiums. In the case of a North Carolina cadet, who subsequently was killed in action while fighting at Frayser's Farm, in the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee wrote the father:

"It gives me great pleasure to assure you of the well-being of your son, and of the high estimation in which he is held at the Academy. There is none in his class more highly estimated for conduct, deportment and acquirement than himself, and he gives every promise of being an ornament to his family and an honour to the Institution. I congratulate you most sincerely on his high standing.15

Lee did his utmost to save the cadets from interruption of their studies by special leaves of absence. Much of his official correspondence had to do with applications for leaves he felt he could not grant. He uniformly declined to allow cadets to endanger their class standing by devoting time to weddings. "The cadets are placed here for a particular object," he said, "and if the indulgence in question is granted to one, it must be extended to all. You therefore see it would materially interfere with their course p342 of studies and instruction. Their presence at this time, to prepare for the approaching Jany. examination is particularly important to them, and it may be of more advantage to your son to maintain his present high standing in his class, than to enjoy the gaieties of the wedding. He will have other opportunities I hope to participate in these hereafter."16 Leaves for Christmas, a perpetual cause of exchanges between home and academy, were granted by Lee only to those who had high standing in their classes, and, after 1853, only then to cadets who could go home and return within twenty-four hours.17 Illness in the family, personal sickness, the departure of friends for the Far West, the presence in New York of intimates from a distance, even the arrival of the dead body of a parent — Lee accounted none of these a sufficient reason for absence from classes.18 As for the endless applications to grant leave to cadets during the summers they were supposed to be in camp, Lee met all of them with resolute refusal and with the patient argument that such concessions would violate the principle of equal justice to all. "I think it would be unjust," he said in a typical letter, "to his class and the rest of his Corps, to grant him a leave of absence, equally desirable to them all, and retain them to perform his share of Camp duty."19

In case a cadet fell hopelessly behind in his work, or showed himself incompetent and certain to fail in his examination, Lee often urged parents to permit the boy to resign and thereby to save him the humiliation of dismissal. His letters to these disappointed fathers were the most difficult he had to write, but p343 they were among the most tactful.20 If anything could be said in extenuation of a boy's failure — youth, immaturity, or what not — Lee always mentioned it, and when a boy's conduct had been without serious demerit, Lee noted that, too. In advising a father to let his son resign before examination, Lee wrote: "He is a youth of such fine feelings and good character that I should not like to subject him to the mortification of failure, to which he might give more value than it deserves. For I consider the character of no man affected by a want of success, provided he has made an honest effort to succeed."21 This last sentence might have been written on the eve of Appomattox.

Whenever he received the list of cadets deficient in conduct Lee went over it, as he did in Whistler's case, and reduced the demerit of those in whose behalf any valid excuse could be urged. If the number remaining was more than one hundred for six months, Lee held strictly to the rule that denied the privilege of resignation to cadets who exceeded that figure. "If some inducement to good behavior," said he, "is not held out to those whose success at the examination may be doubtful, or failure certain, I fear it may have the effect of making them entirely reckless and indifferent to order and discipline."22 If cadets had to be dismissed, he regarded delay in action as injurious both to the boys and to the academy.23 None the less, each such case was a personal distress to him. "I have just accomplished . . . the most unpleasant office I am called on to perform," he wrote Markie Williams after the June examinations in 1854, "— the discharge of those cadets found deficient at the examination. There were fortunately only nine of them, but all very nice youths, some sons of officers of the Army, one of the Navy, who having neglected their studies, contrary to all advice and efforts to the contrary, must now suffer the penalty, which they acutely feel, but which they could not be made to realize. I have just closed their connection p344 with the Academy, signed their last orders, taken leave of them, with sincere wishes for their happiness and prosperity. . . ."24

Lee wished no fuller record made of boys' dismissal than the rules required: "I think it unnecessary to multiply copies of what had better be forgotten than remembered," he told one mother who wanted a detailed report of her son's shortcomings.25 To those who wrote him after their dismissal, he always sent friendly answers, not always devoid of the sort of preachments that crowded his letters to his sons.26 At first he gave them general recommendations, if requested, but he found this a dangerous practice and toward the end of his superintendency he contented himself with reminding the ex-cadet that the certificate given him upon leaving West Point set forth his record.27 As for outsiders, Lee was careful, then as always, whom he endorsed and he did not write many letters of this type. One of the few that put his name squarely behind the reputation of another man had been penned in 1851 when he had been asked to support the candidacy of an army officer for a professorship in Virginia. He responded cheerfully and never had reason to regret his action. For the applicant was Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thomas Jonathan Jackson.28

Serious offenses at West Point on provoked Lee to urge that the cadet be brought before a court-martial, or be dismissed by the Secretary of War.29 He placed under immediate arrest a dissatisfied cadet who raised a disturbance in a classroom.30 When a cadet captain left the mess hall after having been assaulted by a cadet, Lee at once demoted the captain and asked for a court-martial of the assailant.31 When dismissal occurred, Lee was opposed in every instance to re-examination or readmission.32 It was painful to mete out punishment, especially to the young, he once wrote Totten, but "when it is necessary, true kindness requires p345 it should be applied with a firm hand, and not converted into a reward."33 As long, however, as he could permit a boy to remain at West Point, Lee was usually willing to extend mercy on evidence of repentance, almost regardless of the gravity of the offense. It was so with boys who ran away from the academy and subsequently returned.34 Each boy suspected of falsehoods received mercy. In one group of such cases Lee had to stretch logic about as far as it would go without breaking. It was painful to him, he wrote the chief engineer, to think that any member of the corps "could be guilty of the utterance or practice of a wilful falsehood, and if in your opinion the conduct of these young gentlemen, in this instance, does not admit of this severe imputation, I would ask that they not be brought to trial on a charge so injurious to their character and derogatory to that of the Corps of Cadets, but that the Dept. may place their conduct and its consequences in such a light that none may be at a loss to perceive how it is considered and the evil results of its being followed." By this involved language, he probably meant to suggest that the worse of the two offenders be dismissed from the academy. But a little later, when one of the boys repented, confessed his prevarication, and affirmed that it was common practice to dodge the officer of the day, Lee urged that some milder penalty than dismissal be imposed on him.35

Lee always accepted a cadet's confession and counted repentance as a point in any culprit's favor, but he thought the regulations should be very explicit in the matter of self-crimination.36 He wanted no tattling, either. Once, when he was riding out with his youngest son, he came upon three cadets who were far out of bounds. The instant they saw Lee they jumped over the wall by the roadside and disappeared. "We rode on for a minute in silence," the junior Lee wrote, "then my father said: 'Did you know those young men? But no; if you did, don't say so. I wish boys would do what is right, it would be so much easier for all p346 parties.' "37 The cadets did not fail to appreciate the justice and the mercy of Lee's administration. Looking backward after four years of war and more than four decades of army service, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John M. Schofield wrote of Lee: "He was the personification of dignity, justice and kindness, and was respected and admired as the ideal of a commanding officer."38

Some of the young men who had tasted Lee's discipline were included among the forty-six who graduated in June, 1854, after a session that was wholly uneventful except for the incidents already noted. The class took for its ring emblem a mailed hand holding a sword with the motto, "When Our Country Calls." It was prophetic. For when war came, seven years later, thirty-seven of the forty-six entered the service — twenty-three as Federals and fourteen with the Confederacy.39 At the head of the class, to Lee's gratification, stood his son Custis, who had maintained his improvement in his senior year and had qualified for the engineer corps. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Archibald Gracie, Stephen D. Lee (who was not a kinsman of the superintendent), John Pegram, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. D. Pender, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. B. Villepigue were also on the roll. The graduate he had come to know best, after his own son, was a stout grey-eyed lad of middle height and broad shoulders, with abundant hair and a dashing manner, a boy born to be a cavalryman and known already from his three initials as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class."Jeb" Stuart. He had visited the superintendent's home often40 and had wholly won his heart. All seven of these graduates of 1854 became general officers in the Confederacy — Stephen Lee a lieutenant general, Pender and Stuart major generals, and the others brigadiers. Oddly enough, in this particular class the only Northerners who were to fight against Lee as general officers were Henry L. Abbot and O. O. Howard.

At this commencement of 1854 the board of visitors had nothing but compliments for the cadets themselves, for the academy, and for the superintendent. "The board cannot conclude this report," it said after summarizing conditions, "without bearing testimony to the eminent qualifications of the superintendent p347 for the honorable and distinguished post assigned him by the government. Services conspicuous in the field, and when our country was engaged in a war with a foreign nation, have lost none of their luster in the exalted position he so worthily fills."41

The board had two definite suggestions, first, that Spanish be taught the cadets, and, secondly, that the course be made five years instead of four.42 Instruction in Spanish had previously been proposed by the visitors of 185043 and the extension of the course had been favored by every board after 1850.44 This time the board argued that a fifth year was necessary in order that the instruction might be given in important omitted subjects, and also in order to make good the poor preparation of many boys appointed to the academy. Secretary Davis saw the logic of this argument. He ordered instruction in Spanish begun with the next school year,45 and on July 8 he opened, through General Totten, a lengthy correspondence with Lee on the scope of the projected five-year course and on the fairest way of separating the fourth class into two sections, to graduate a year apart. Lee referred the entire subject to the academic board and reported on September 8 that the board believed the fourth class should be divided according to the age of the cadets.46 The board recommended, also, that the subjects most properly to be added to the course were constitutional and international law, elocution, history, composition, rhetoric, geography, and Spanish,47 as already directed. Economics and physiology, two subjects advocated by some of the former visitors, were not included. No change was made in the military courses taught at the academy, except that Davis ordered separate p348 instruction in cavalry and artillery.48 The cadets who entered in June, 1854, were rearranged in two classes in September, not without some complaints,49 but only a few of the new courses were undertaken for the session of 1854‑55. Lee had no part in initiating this five-year system. It was not his proposal, though he has generally been given credit for it. After a few years' trial it was abandoned.

The decisions regarding the five-year course were made subsequent to Lee's return from a fortnight's vacation, July 9 to July 23, 1854.50 After the fifth class was organized, the routine flowed on without sensation. Congress had appropriated $22,000 for the riding hall, $6500 for enlargements to the cadets' hospital, $8000 for cavalry stables, and $3000 for additions to the officers' quarters. The preliminary work for these improvements had begun, but the main construction was done in 1855.51 A museum of artillery, which was recommended by the board of visitors in 1853, was started in 1854,52 though no new structure was provided for it. Fresh needs appeared as old neglect was repaired. In his annual estimates Lee included $15,000 for a gas-house and the installation of gas in the cadet barracks, and $5000 for professors' houses. He renewed, also, his application for funds with which to build houses for the unmarried officers, who were occupying sixteen sets of quarters in the cadet barracks.53 He had forwarded plans for such a building the previous January.54

While Lee was seeking these improvements at the academy, changes that were directly to affect him were being made in the army. Secretary Davis, in his report for 1853, had pointed out the numerical weakness of the regular armed forces of the United States and had asked that they be strengthened. Congress had not acted. On August 19, 1854, Lieutenant John L. Grattan, who had graduated under Lee the previous June at West Point, had been sent out with thirty men from Fort Laramie, Wyo., to make p349 an arrest. The detachment had been attacked by Indians and every man in it save one had been killed. The survivor was badly wounded and subsequently died. This massacre created a sensation and sharpened Davis's argument when he appealed in December, 1854, for the enlistment of new regiments. Thirty million dollars, he pointed out, had been spent on Indian wars during the previous twenty-two years — enough to have paid troops who could have limited, or even prevented, the hostilities. With an army that had an authorized strength of 14,216, and seldom had more than 11,000 men under arms, Davis showed that the United States were guarding an Indian frontier of 8000 miles against 40,000 hostile Indian braves, to say nothing of the garrisons on the sea coasts and on the international borders.55 This time Congress heeded the warning and by an act of March 3, 1855, authorized the establishment of two new regiments of infantry and of two of cavalry.56

Who would command the new troops? That was the question asked everywhere in the army. The matter was not long in the air. Almost as soon as the bill increasing the army had been signed by the President, Davis announced the appointments: As of March 3, 1855, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Sidney Johnston, hero of Davis's West Point days, was named colonel of the new 2d Cavalry and Lee was commissioned lieutenant colonel.57 As he had in no sense been an applicant and had pulled no wires to win this post, Lee was surprised and not altogether pleased. The change from staff to line would bring no new compensation, for Lee was already drawing pay as colonel by brevet. Transfer meant farewell to the corps he loved and would certainly involve separation from his family. On the other hand, there was little prospect that he could rise to be chief engineer, for though Totten was now sixty-seven, he was still vigorous and not disposed to retire. Even if he should, two lieutenant colonels of engineers, four majors, and three captains were ahead of Lee.58 In the army the outlook was different. All the general officers and most of the colonels were p350 old and there was talk of increasing the number of generals.59 Still again, service in the line meant a healthful, out-of‑door life in pleasant contrast to the confinement and office work of the superintendency. But none of these things weighed heavily with Lee. He doubtless summed up his state of mind when he wrote Markie Williams: "Personal consideration or convenience, would not induce me to sever my connexion with my Corps, or to separate myself from my family. And the thought that my presence may be important to the latter, or necessary to my children is bitter in the extreme. Still in a military point of view I have no other course, and when I am obliged to act differently, it will be time for me to quit the service. My trust is in the mercy and wisdom of a kind Providence, who ordereth all things for our good. . . ."60

For these reasons Lee did not hesitate. "Promotion, if offered an officer, ought in my opinion to be accepted, but it need not be sought unless deserved," he afterwards said. On March 15 he accepted,61 and transmitted his letter to the adjutant general through Totten, so that arrangements might be made to relieve him as superintendent of the academy. He wrote his old chief: "In thus severing my connection with the Corps of Engineers, I cannot express the pain I feel in parting from its Officers, or my grateful sense of your constant kindness and consideration. My best exertions have been devoted to its service, and my warmest feelings will be cherished for its memory."62 On March 31, 1855, p351 after disposing of the cases of some cadets involved in difficulty,63 Lee turned over the command at West Point to Brevet Major Jonathan G. Barnard and went to Arlington.64 Thence, almost daily, he rode over to Washington to complete the tedious labor of settling his accounts.65

He left the academy in good condition. Colonel C. C. Chesney of the British army said: "The writer visited West Point during the time of General Lee's charge and saw the institution very thoroughly, passing several days there. He is able, therefore, to testify to its completeness, and the efficiency of the course of study and discipline — never more remarkable, he believes, than at that period."66 The school was the better for Lee's administration of its affairs, though he worked no revolution, in teaching or in discipline, and was no more, in the annals of the school, than an efficient, diligent superintendent. That he did not change the character of youth is shown by the fact that within a little more than three months after his departure the commandant had to call on the new cadets to use their bayonetsº on upper class men who interfered with them.67

As for the effect of the academy on Lee, it was immensely valuable in giving him added experience in dealing with one type of the young men he was to have under his command six years after he left West Point. He learned how to elicit the best endeavors of these men and how to cope with their weaknesses. Without dreaming that he was doing so, he likewise equipped himself to be a college president: when he went to Washington College he had to apply a different discipline, of course, but it was with a confident understanding of how the head of a school should deal with trustees, faculty, and students. It is hardly probable that he would have accepted the post at Lexington in 1865 if he had not been superintendent of the military academy.

His superintendency gave Lee useful understanding of a few of those who were to be his subordinates or adversaries in battle. He may have acquired no special knowledge of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. J. Reynolds, p352 assistant professor of philosophy, whom he subsequently encountered in West Virginia,68 but he must have profited, at the outset of the Seven Days' Campaign, by what he learned of Fitz John Porter while that officer was his adjutant at West Point. He may perhaps have seen enough of Phil Sheridan, in the last year of that soldier's cadetship, to know what manner of man he was. His memory of their behavior and standing at the academy was valuable to Lee, also, in passing on the promotion young West Pointers who adhered to the South and served in the Army of Northern Virginia. It was certainly so in one very important instance — that of Jeb Stuart.

Beyond this it is not safe to go in assuming that Lee's three sessions at West Point equipped him, as a Confederate leader, to read the minds of his antagonists. Most of the cadets of his superintendency were not accounted old enough in 1862‑65 to lead the corps that confronted him. Only twenty-four Northern men who had been at West Point under Lee became general officers in the forces directly opposed to him while he was commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Most of these twenty-four were only names to him. Just fourteen Southern cadets of his superintendency, in addition to his son Custis and his nephew Fitz, became general officers in the army of Lee.69

The years as head of the academy added to Lee's professional equipment, though to an undetermined extent. He had little time for study because of his administrative duties. Had he sat in the classes of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.D. H. Mahan while that professor was lecturing on the art of war, he would have heard expounded again the strategy taught in his cadet days, enriched by a better knowledge of Napoleon and perhaps by some lessons drawn from the Mexican campaigns. There was, at that time, a "Napoleon Club" among the officers at the academy, with Mahan as chairman and critic. It held meetings several times a month and discussed papers prepared by members of the academic board and staff. McClellan and some others are known to have presented monographs to this club, but unfortunately, as the records are said to have been p353 destroyed by fire, it is impossible to state how active a part Lee took in the discussions.70

The only present clue to his participation in the studies of the club is to be found in his reading, as attested by his borrowing from the library. During the two years and seven months of his superintendency he drew from the shelves six magazines and forty-eight books, some of the latter in several volumes, and some of them taken out more than once. He got three volumes of fiction, two of travel, and five of poetry, all of them probably for Mrs. Lee or his daughters, inasmuch as he had no taste for novels and scanty time for verse, though he knew more poetry than most soldiers.

On his own account, he got six works on geography (including maps), one on forestry, eight on architecture, five on military law, two on non-military geography, one on French and Spanish grammar, and fifteen on military biography, history, and the science of war. The books on architecture and on forestry doubtless were to help him in his work of selecting new buildings and setting out trees at the academy. The studies in military law were for use in connection with courts-martial. Most of the others much represented a review of military operations.

Of the fifteen books specifically related to war, seven concerned Napoleon. His principal study was of Gourgaud's and Montholon's Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire de France sous Napoléon, écrits à Sainte-Hélène, though he also used O'Meara and the Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo. These are not now the most-esteemed books on Napoleon's campaigns, but they were, at the time, among the best that had been issued. The volumes Lee most frequently procured from the library dealt with Napoleon's Italian campaign of 1796 and with the Egyptian operations. There is every reason to assume that he read these volumes carefully and that he became reasonably conversant with Napoleon's military career through 1801. He seems also to have studied in detail the Russian campaign of the Corsican. In the editions he probably used, one of the volumes contained Napoleon's brief notes on p354 Jomini's Traité des Grandesº Opérations Militaires, and Napoleon's lengthy notes on Considérations sur l'Art de la Guerre, originally printed in Paris in 1816. These latter notes are almost a volume in themselves, and though dictated by Napoleon on the work of an officer he did not admire, they include many of the Emperor's most discerning observations on defensive war.71 Lee may have been particularly interested in this work because it was by an officer of engineers, and it is possible that one comment by Napoleon, in particular, may have found lodgement in his memory. This reads as follows:

"But must a capital be defended by covering it directly, or by the defending army's barring itself up in an intrenched camp in the rear of the invader? The first method is the safest: It allows of disputing the passage of rivers, and defiles, even of creating field positions; of receiving all the troops in the interior as reinforcements, whilst the enemy's forces would be insensibly decreasing. It would be a very bad measure to let oneself be shut up in an intrenched camp; running the risk of being forced, or at least blockaded, and of being reduced to cut one's way sword in hand to procure bread and forage. Four or five hundred wagons a day are required for supplying an army of 100,000 men with provisions. The invading army, being superior in infantry, cavalry, and artillery, by one-third, would prevent the convoys from arriving; and, without blockading them hermetically, as fortresses are blockaded, it would render all access to them so difficult, that there would be a famine in the camp.

"There remains a third way: to manoeuvre incessantly, without submitting to be driven back on the capital which it is meant to defend or shut up in an intrenched camp in the rear. For this purpose it is necessary to have a good army, good generals, and a good commander-in‑chief. In general, the idea of covering a capital, or any point whatever, by flank marches, carries with it p355 the necessity of detaching troops, and the inconveniences attached to all division of force, in the face of a superior army."72

It is easy to trace the parallel between what Napoleon here advised and what Lee undertook in the campaign from the Rapidan to the James in 1864. Analogies between his operation and those of Napoleon in 1796 readily suggest themselves. The probability that Lee studied carefully the Egyptian campaign might be explained by a natural curiosity to see how the Emperor met a situation similar in some superficial respects, at least, to that which Scott faced landing in Mexico.

Lee probably gave some study, also, to Hannibal's campaign, through Rollin, and to Caesar's battles as related in the pages of Jacob Abbott's biography, which was then a comparatively new book (1849). Lee's use of Russian and Turkish maps would indicate, further, that he followed at least some of the early movements of the Crimean War.

After his study of Napoleon, Lee's major military reading at West Point seems to have been of the American Revolution. He twice had from the library Sparks's life of Benedict Arnold, and he used, likewise, Spark's sketches of John Stark, Charles B. Brown, Richard Montgomery, and Ethan Allen, which together form the first volume of the Library of American Biography. He probably was interested in the third volume of the National Portrait Gallery because it contained a sketch and an engraving of his father.73 He twice drew from the library the second volume of the Field of Mars, a British encyclopaedia of battles, naval and military, "particularly of Great Britain and her allies from the ninth century to the present period." The volume contained brief, alphabetical accounts, with dispatches and reports, of many of the most famous battles of history from the letter M to the end of the alphabet. Most of the battles of the southern campaign in which Lee's father had a part were treated in this volume. Yorktown was not included, as the book seems to have been printed p356 in 1781 before the final disaster of the Revolution reached Britain. The Field of Mars included, also, an essay on fortification, though this advanced no theories with which Lee was not already familiar.74

Thus it will be seen that Lee's studies were not profound, in any instance, but that his reading of Napoleon probably was critical and detailed. His use of Kausler's Atlas would indicate that he studied the terrain of Napoleon's great movements as closely as he could.75

The full list of Lee's withdrawals from the library at West Point during his superintendency, as given in the records, is as follows:

Field of Mars, vol. 2.
Kausler's Atlas and Text, 2 vols.
Brown's Domestic Architecture.
London's Architecture.
Montholon's Memoirs, vols. 1 and 2.
Gourgaud: Mémoires de Napoléon, vols. 1 and 2.
Mémoires du duc de Rovigo, vols. 1 and 2.
Montholon's Memoirs, vols. 3 and 4.
Montholon's Memoirs, vols. 1 and 2.
Pickwick Papers.
Gourgaud: Mémoires de Napoléon, vol. 2.
Hood's Up the Rhine, 2 vols.
Hood's Poems.
Ranlett's Architecture, vol. 2.
Putnam's Monthly for February, April, and June, 1853.
Putnam's Monthly for September, 1853.
Hood's Up the Rhine, vol. 1.
Putnam's Monthly for November, 1853.
Hood's Prose and Verse.
Holmes: Poems.
Sobrino: Grammaire Espagnole et Française.
Rollin's Ancient History, vol. 1.
Lowell's Poems, 2 vols.
Atlas of New York.
Sparks's American Biography, vol. 3.
National Portrait Gallery, vol. 3.
Sparks's American Biography, vol. 1.
[A. W. Kinglake's] Eothen.
Irving's Bracebridge Hall.
Abbott's History of Caesar.
Mitchell's Atlas.
Map of Orange County.
Kiebert's Map of Turkey, 4 sheets.
Cross's Military Laws.
Field of Mars, vol. 2.
Raulett's Cottage Architecture, vol. 2.
Raulett's Cottage Architecture, vol. 1.
Sparks's American Biography, vol. 3.
Carte de la Russie Européenne,º nos. 10 and 11.
Putnam's Monthly for August, 1854.
Downing's Country Houses.
Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrantes.
O'Meara's Napoleon at St. Helena, 2 vols.
[F. A. Michaux:] North American Sylva, vols. 1 to 3.
Cross's Military Laws.
Hood's Prose and Verse.
London's Cottage Architecture.
Gwilt'sº Encyclopaedia of Architecture.
Kennedy on Courts Martial.
O'Brien's Military Laws.
DeHart on Courts Martial.76

In addition to reading from the shelves at West Point, Lee was building up a small military library of his own. It is not possible to say when he bought the various items of his collection, except as the time of publication sets the dates, but prior to the war he possessed, among others, these works:

Biot: Traité Elémentaire d'Astronomie Physique . . . 1841.
Carrion-Nisas:º Essai sur l'Histoire Générale de l'Art Militaire, . . . 2 vols., 1824.
Cormontaingne:º Mémorial pour la Défense des Places . . . 1822.
Cormontaingne: Mémorial pour l'Attaque des Places . . . 1815.
Fallot: Cours d'art Militaire ou Leçons sur l'art Militaire et les Fortifications, editions of 1839, 1841, 1844, and 1846.
Fonscolombe: Résumé Historique des Progrès de l'Art Militaire . . . 1854
Jomini: Précis de l'Art de la Guerre . . . 1838.
Laisne: Aide-Mémoire Portatif à l'Usage des Officiers du Génie . . . 1840.
Merkes: Résumé Généralº concernant les Différentes Formes et les Diverses Applications des Redoubtes Casematées . . . 1845.
Noizet-de‑Saint‑Paul: Traité Complet de Fortification.
Perrot: Le Livre de Guerre . . . 1, 1832.
de Pupdt: Mémorial de l'Officier du Génie, 7 vols.77

Most of these, it will be noted, are technical treatises for the engineer, and probably were acquired while Lee was serving with the board of engineers. None of them, however, contains any notes or marked passages in the handwriting of their owner.78

Men as well as books enlarged Lee's horizon while at West Point. The staff of the academy listed so many Southerners that some jealousies had been aroused, but it included men from most of the Northern states. Lee was a frequent guest in the home of Gouverneur Kemble, at Cold Springs, N. Y., and there he probably met ex-President Van Buren, his old commander General Scott, George Bancroft, and others of like distinction.79 He did not need these contacts to give him an understanding of the Federal point of view. Having cut ditches in Georgia mud banks, run the Ohio-Michigan boundary, blasted rock from the bed of the Mississippi, repaired casemates in New York, served on Scott's staff in Mexico, and driven piles in Baltimore harbor, he already had an appreciation of the Union and of the elements that went into the making of it. Yet, while he was superintendent, he heard men of culture, p359 candor, and information discuss Napoleon's campaigns, the Crimean War, the sharpened sectional issues of slavery and states' rights, and a thousand other subjects that made for a national, indeed an international, mind. He had little to say on politics himself, but his justice toward the North long before this time had impressed Erasmus D. Keyes, a brilliant brother-officer: "Of all the hundreds of Southern men with whom I have been intimate," Keyes recorded, "[George H. Thomas] and Robert E. Lee were the fairest in their judgment of Northern men."80 Keyes recorded further: "I will not deny that the presence of Lee, and the multiform graces that clustered around him, oftentimes oppressed me, though I never envied him, and I doubt if he ever excited envy in any man. All his accomplishments and alluring virtues appeared natural in him, and he was free from the anxiety, distrust and awkwardness that attend a sense of inferiority, unfriendly discipline and censure."81


The Author's Notes:

1 150 North American Review, 57.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Lee to N. Capen, MS., Nov. 23, 1854; WPLB, 152.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Lee to Mason Cleveland, MS., March 31, 1853; WPLB, 16.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Lee to Totten, MS., March 4, 1854; WPLB, 95. The particular matter that elicited this observation was whether all cadets should be vaccinated.

[decorative delimiter]

5 For instance, where he authorized cadets of particular creeds to attend outside religious worship, see Lee to Mrs. Adele Fowler, MS., Nov. 9, 1853; WPLB, 68; Lee to Mrs. Agnel, MS., April 21, 1853; ibid., 23; Lee to B. O'Connor, MS., Dec. 17, 1852; ibid., 306; Lee to J. R. Torbert, MS., Oct. 6, 1852; ibid., 291.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Cf. Lee to Sec. War, MS., Dec. 29, 1852; WPLB, 309‑10.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 20, 1853; WPLB, 315; cf. Lee to Wm. Prather, MS., Feb. 1, 1852; ibid., 321; Lee to Totten, MS., June 22, 1853; Ibid., 35.

[decorative delimiter]

8 R. E. Lee, Jr., 17‑18.

[decorative delimiter]

9 E.g., Lee to W. Palmer, MS., Jan. 31, 1853; WPLB, 321.

[decorative delimiter]

10 O. O. Howard: Autobiography. vol. 1, p54.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Lee to Mrs. Adele Fowler, MS., Feb. 2, 27, 1854; WPLB, 89, 94; Lee to Jacob Fort, MS., March 29, 1853; ibid., 15; Lee to Elijah Smead, MS., May 18, 24, June 3, 1854; WPLB, 105, 108. For the death of a cadet, see Lee to Alpheus Frank, MS., June 29, 1853; WPLB, 37.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Lee to W. G. W., MS., Feb. 9, 1854; ibid., 89.

[decorative delimiter]

13 WPLB, 171, 173, 176, 284; Lee to S. W. Downs, MS., Nov. 1, 1853; ibid., 65; Lee to S. Sanders, MS., May 11, 1854; ibid., 104; Lee to Geo. H. Devereux, MS., Nov. 22, 1853; ibid., 71; Lee to Wm. H. Terrill, MS., April 19, 1853; ibid., 20. For Lee's office hours, see West Point Regulations, 1853, § 356, p67.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Lee to J. B., MS., Sept. 26, 1853; WPLB, 54.

[decorative delimiter]

15 R. E. Lee to Stephen Lee, MS., Aug. 30, 1853; WPLB, 48. The cadet was Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles C. Lee, Cullum, No. 1714, who stood fourth in the class of 1856. Cf. Lee to Mrs. Bureley, MS., Aug. 30, 1853; WPLB, 48.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Lee to J. C. Van Camp, MS., Dec. 14, 1852; WPLB, 305. In this instance was overruled by the War Department (Lee to Totten, MS., Dec. 17, 1852; ibid., 306). In the case of Cadet Archibald Gracie, Lee declined to allow the boy leave for a wedding but gave him permission to visit his sick mother (Lee to Archibald Gracie, MS., Oct. 6, 1852; ibid., 290‑291). See also Lee to Totten, MS., Nov. 24, 1853; ibid., 72.

[decorative delimiter]

17 WPLB, 80‑81, 163, 164; Lee to Mrs. Ira M. Harrison, et al., MS., Dec. 22, 1852; ibid., 307; Lee to Mrs. Tennatt, MS., Dec. 7, 1854; ibid., 155; Lee to C. C. Paine, MS., Dec. 11, 1854; ibid., 158‑59.

[decorative delimiter]

18 Lee to Wm. Batcheler, MS., June 20, 1853; WPLB, 33 (illness in family); Lee to Totten, MS., Feb. 25, 1853; WPLB, 4 (personal sickness); Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 20, 1853; WPLB, 315 (departure of friends for California and presence of friends in New York); Lee to Commodore J. T. Newton, MS., Sept. 26, 1853; WPLB, 55 (arrival of a corpse).

[decorative delimiter]

19 Lee to Totten, MS., March 26, 1853; WPLB, 14‑15; cf. same to same, MS., May 4, 10, 1853, May 31, June 21, 1854; ibid., 24, 25, ibid., 108, 111; Lee to James G. King, MS., April 6, 1853; ibid., 18; Lee to J. Watson Webb, MS., June 21, 1854; ibid., 112; Lee to Isaac E. Morse, MS., July 1, 1854; ibid., 116; Lee to G. R. Riddle, MS., July 7, 1854; ibid., 117; Lee to A. G. Brown, MS., July 7, 1854; ibid., 117; Lee to Henry Bennett, MS., Aug. 1, 1854; ibid., 128.

[decorative delimiter]

20 WPLB, Dec. 27, 1852, p307; Lee to J. Folsom, MS., Jan. 22, 1853; ibid., 316; Lee to Reuben Willets, MS., Jan. 29, 1853; ibid., 320 (advising against an attempt to have a boy reappointed to the academy); Lee to R. E. Campbell, MS., May 24, 1853; ibid., 27; Lee to Harmonys, Nephews & Co., MS., Oct. 21, 1853; ibid., 62‑63; Lee to E. H. Herbert, MS., Dec. 5, 1853; ibid., 74; Lee to Richard Berry, MS., Dec. 8, 1853; ibid., 75; Lee to C. F. M. Noland, MS., Nov. 15, 1854; ibid., 148; Lee to M. O. Wade, MS., Nov. 20, 1854, pp150‑51; Lee to A. H. Moss, MS., Jan. 10, 1855; ibid., 172.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Lee to R. E. Campbell, MS., May 24, 1853; WPLB, 27.

[decorative delimiter]

22 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 17, 18, 1855; WPLB, 175‑76, 177‑78.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Lee to Totten, MS., Feb. 23, 1854; WPLB, 92‑93.

[decorative delimiter]

24 Markie Letters, 49.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Lee to Mrs. Margaret Hetzel, MS., Jan. 31, 1855; WPLB, 181.

[decorative delimiter]

26 E.g., Lee to A. F. Devereux, MS., Jan. 25, 1854; WPLB, 88.

[decorative delimiter]

27 Lee to M. L. Montague, MS., Feb. 15, 1853; WPLB, 326; Lee to W. H. Peck, MS., Jan. 9, 1854; WPLB, 85; Lee to John P. Sherburne, MS., Feb. 27, 1855; ibid., 188.

[decorative delimiter]

28 T. J. Arnold, Early Life and Letters of Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson, 216.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Lee to Totten, MS., Dec. 9, 1852, Feb. 23, 1854; WPLB, 303, 92‑93.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 31, 1854; WPLB, 89.

[decorative delimiter]

31 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 10, 1855; WPLB, 172‑73.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 7, 1853; WPLB, 313; Lee to P. C. Ricketts, MS., Jan. 24, 1853; ibid., 318; Lee to A. F. D., MS., Jan. 25, 1854; ibid., 88.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 7, 1853; WPLB, 313.

[decorative delimiter]

34 Lee to Totten, MS., Oct. 6, 7, 9, 11, Nov. 18, 1852; WPLB, 291, 292, 294, 299; Lee to R. M. P., MS., Nov. 19, 1852; ibid., 299. The boy involved in this case seems to have been dismissed by court-martial, despite Lee's willingness to accept his promise to mend his ways. For a similar case, see R. E. Lee to R. H. L., MS., Sept. 6, 1852; WPLB, 284‑85; Lee to Totten, Sept. 16, Oct. 15, 1852; ibid., 286, 295.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Lee to Totten, MS., April 7, April 10, 1854; WPLB, 97, 98.

[decorative delimiter]

36 Lee to Totten, MS., March 4, 1853; WPLB, 5‑6.

[decorative delimiter]

37 R. E. Lee, Jr. 12‑13.

[decorative delimiter]

38 J. M. Schofield: Forty-six Years in the Army, 15.

[decorative delimiter]

39 B. J. Lossing: Memoirs of Lieut.-Col. John T. Greble, 24.

[decorative delimiter]

40 Cf. O. O. Howard: Autobiography, vol. 1, p54.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Ex. Docs., 2d sess., 33d Cong., vol. 1, part 2, p133. For Lee's amusing remarks on entertaining so many visitors at commencement, see Markie Letters, 48.

[decorative delimiter]

42 Ibid., 154, 130.

[decorative delimiter]

43 Ex. Docs., 2d sess., 31st Cong., vol. 1, p271.

[decorative delimiter]

44 The instruction committee of the board of 1850 urged a five-year course, but the board did not endorse it that year (see Ex. Docs., 2d sess., 31st Cong., vol. 1, p272). For the recommendation of the boards of 1851‑53, see Ex. Docs., 1st sess., 32d Cong., vol. 1, p367; ibid., 2d sess., 32d Cong., vol. 2, p171; Senate Docs., 1st sess., 33d Cong., vol. 2, p182.

[decorative delimiter]

45 2 Cent. U. S. M. A., 110. The professorship of Spanish was established by act of Congress, Feb. 16, 1857.

[decorative delimiter]

46 Lee to Totten, MSS., July 8, Aug. 22, Aug. 28, Sept. 8, 1854; WPLB, 120, 130, 131, 135.

[decorative delimiter]

47 Ex. Docs., 1st sess., 34th Cong., vol. 1, part 2, pp228, 243, 255. For the arrangement of the course by years, see ibid., 248‑49. Constitutional law had previously been taught with ethics, and Kent's Commentaries was the textbook during the whole of Lee's administration (see Lee to E. W. Morgan, MS., Oct. 30, 1854; WPLB, 146).

[decorative delimiter]

48 Lee to Totten, MS., Dec. 19, 1854; WPLB, 162.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Cf. Lee to George H. Crosman, MS., Sept. 24, 1854; WPLB, 138‑39.

[decorative delimiter]

50 WPLB, 122, 123, 124. Lee arrived at West Point and resumed his duties on the morning of July 24. The vacation doubtless was spent in Virginia.

[decorative delimiter]

51 Ex. Docs., 1st sess., 34th Cong., vol. 1, part 2, 231, 241.

[decorative delimiter]

52 Boynton, 297; Senate Docs., 1st sess., 33d Cong., vol. 2, pp183, 197.

[decorative delimiter]

53 Lee to Totten, MS., Oct. 7, 1854; WPLB, 140; Ex. Docs., 1st sess., 34th Cong., vol. 1, part 2, p232.

[decorative delimiter]

54 Lee to Totten, MS., Jan. 5, 1854; WPLB, 82.

[decorative delimiter]

55 Ex. Docs., 2d sess., 33d Cong., vol. 1, part 2, pp3‑6.

[decorative delimiter]

56 Ex. Docs., 1st sess., 34th Cong., vol. 1, part 2, p3.

[decorative delimiter]

57 It has been alleged, in the face of Mr. Davis's convincing denial, that the secretary gave the command of this regiment to Southern men in anticipation of an early war between North and South. Cf. Van Horne: George H. Thomas, 12.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Army Register of 1854, p12; Ex. Docs., 2d sess., 33d Cong., vol. 5 (Doc. 58).

[decorative delimiter]

59 Cf. Scott's report, ibid., 123: "Some forty or fifty officers, mostly in the higher commissions, rendered non-effective by the infirmities of age, by wounds or chronic diseases, now press down into lethargy, and then despair. . . ."

[decorative delimiter]

60 March 14, 1855; Markie Letters, 52‑53. Lee doubtless owed the tender of command to the good will and admiration of the Secretary of War, who virtually controlled the new appointments. General Scott, of course, would have given Lee any command at his disposal, but Scott was quarrelling with Davis, exchanging angry, written broadsides with him, and could do Lee no good. "I tell you," he said emphatically to William Preston, "that if I were on my death-bed tomorrow, and the President of the United States should tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and asked my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, let it be Robert E. Lee." (General William Preston, quoted in Cooke, 512. Cf. ibid., 558.) Scott thought that Lee should have been made colonel and Johnston lieutenant colonel, but subsequently said the appointments were satisfactory. Virginians were gratified at the honor that had come to him and to other natives of the Old Dominion elevated at the same time. (W. P. Johnston: Life of Albert Sidney Johnston, 185; Richmond Dispatch, March 8, 1855.)

[decorative delimiter]

61 Lee to S. Cooper, MS., March 15, 1855; WPLB, 191; the quotation is from R. E. Lee to Custis Lee, Feb. 15, 1856; Jones, L. and L., 89.

[decorative delimiter]

62 Lee to Totten, MS., March 15, 1855; WPLB, 192. Lee's surrender of his commission in the corps was announced in orders of July 19, 1855 (A. G. O., MS., G. O., 19).

[decorative delimiter]

63 Lee to Totten, MS., March 24, 1855; WPLB, 193.

[decorative delimiter]

64 Boynton, 249; A. G. O., MS., S. O., April 12, 1855.

[decorative delimiter]

65 Lee to Totten, MS., June 27, July 21, 1855; Eng. MSS., 1405, 1419.

[decorative delimiter]

66 C. C. Chesney: Military View of the Recent Campaigns in Virginia, vol. 1, p50, quoted in Bradford, Lee the American (cited hereafter as Bradford), 17.

[decorative delimiter]

67 2 Cent. U. S. M. A., 110.

[decorative delimiter]

68 R. E. Lee, Jr., 40‑41.

[decorative delimiter]

69 This list was compiled by checking Cullum against Wright's General Officers of the Confederate Army and the biographies in the Confederate Military History.

[decorative delimiter]

70 Eben Swift: "The Military Education of R. E. Lee," loc. cit., 107‑8. It is quite possible that some of the papers of the "Napoleon Club" may yet be unearthed in the records at West Point. Among them may be one by Lee.

[decorative delimiter]

71 It is not possible to say which edition of Gourgaud and Montholon was used by Lee, because four were listed in the catalogue of 1853. His withdrawals from the library, if correctly recorded, indicate that he may have used two editions. Other things being even, however, it is probably safe to assume that he used principally the English edition (Catalogue no. 4628), published by H. Colburn & Co., London, 1823‑24. Major E. E. Farman, librarian of West Point, has very graciously checked these items for the writer.

[decorative delimiter]

72 Memoirs of the History of France During the Reign of Napoleon, vol. 4, pp304‑5 (London edition, 1823).

[decorative delimiter]

73 He declined, however, to be represented in a later volume of this work (Lee to John Livingston, MS., Oct. 20, 1854; WPLB, 145).

[decorative delimiter]

74 The Field of Mars, Being and Alphabetical Digestion of the Principal Naval and Military Engagements, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, Particularly of Great Britain and Her Allies from the Ninth Century to the Present Period. . . . Embellished with Maps, Charts, Plans, and Views of Battles. . . . London . . . MDCCLXXXI (vol. 2, M to Z).

[decorative delimiter]

75 F. G. F. Kausler: Atlas des plus mémorables batailles, combats et siéges des temps anciens, du moyen âge et de l'âge moderne en 200 feuilles. . . (Carlsrouhe et Fribourg, 1831). This atlas contains no maps relating to America. For operations in the new world Lee probably used S. A. Mitchell: A New Universal Atlas . . . (Philadelphia, 1848).

[decorative delimiter]

76 For this list the writer is indebted to Miss Margery Bedinger, former librarian of West Point. In addition to these books, Lee in 1855 read, for the second time at least, Suchet's Mémoires of the Peninsular War (Markie Letters, 51‑52).

[decorative delimiter]

77 These and other books formerly the property of General Lee are now in the Library of the Virginia Military Institute. The writer is indebted to Colonel William Couper of that school for a careful collation of them.

[decorative delimiter]

78 Except on the title page of the volume of plates for O'Connor's Art of War, which was the copy he used at West Point. This note reads:

"Minute tactics learned from books which treat on the various arms
General tactics, from duties of arms
Strategy, from experience and criticisms on Campaigns and battles
Staff duties arise from the march and operations of an army
2. Kinds executive and administrative
Military and civil duties of each."
[decorative delimiter]

79 Keyes, 569; Marian Gouverneur: As I Remember, 126.

[decorative delimiter]

80 Keyes, 166.

[decorative delimiter]

81 Keyes, 205.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 21 Nov 13