In seven years he had attained the rank of captain, and when, in 1845, war opened with Mexico, he was assigned to the first army of invasion, under General Wool. While man is born to wedlock and it is his natural portion in life, still it modifies his entire existence. The longings of the ambitious young officer, amid the mountains of Mexico, were for the smiles of his wife, and thoughts of home were mingled with the anxieties of his situation. Despite his strenuous duties, his great heart turned to the object of his love on the banks of the Potomac.
If to the South the war brought great sorrow and suffering and disaster, in like manner every hamlet at the North mourned for fallen sons. Billions of money were expended, and hundreds of thousands of lives were sacrificed in the effort to subjugate the Southern people.
With the cessation of hostilities, General Lee, with that high conception of duty that had ever governed his conduct, set an example for the Southern people of accepting the situation and resolutely returning to the paths of peace. In four months after his flag was furled and his army was parolled, he entered upon new duties as president of Washington College at Lexington, Va., and his example as a citizen was as inspiring to the South as his military career had been glorious.
"Even when the great and noble Christian captain referred to the bad treatment of Southern soldiers and people by the Yankees, he showed no resentment or bitterness, while deploring the fact. He even showed no resentment when he told of the destruction of his own home at Arlington Heights, near Washington, which his wife had inherited from General Washington.
"He had merely gone with his State, Virginia -- the prevailing principle that had influenced most of the soldiers I spoke with during my visit to the South. He was indeed, beautiful character, and of him might truthfully be written, 'In righteousness he did judge and make war'.
This tribute from England's famous military critic sustains our own view of Lee's greatness and character. His nature was not only lofty and noble, but his character was beautiful.
Such was the chief champion of the Southern people in their contest to maintain and preserve the independence won for by them by the blood and sacrifices of their Revolutionary Fathers. We honor him now, and posterity will venerate his name.
After centuries have rolled by -- when all his contemporaries shall have passed into obscurity, the name of Lee, like that of Washington, will still be luminous with a lustre of glory, and his fame will be perpetuated as the noblest, the knightliest, and the most illustrious patriot who ever drew sword in his country's cause.
General Robert E. Lee, The South's Peerless Soldier and Leader, Captain Samuel A. Ashhe, 1904.