A visit to President Andrew Jackson obtained his appointment to the military academy at West Point, where his hue bearing gained for him the front rank in the student body.

It was while a cadet, in the glory of his flashing brass buttons, that he first met the light of the household of Arlington, Mary Custis, whose mother was a step-daughter of Washington. On graduating, lie began his first campaign to win the noblest prize that man can seek, the heart of a beloved woman.

The modest public notice of the marriage was in keeping with the idea of the times: "Married, dune 30, 1831, at Arlington House, by Rev. Mr. Keith, Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, of the United States Corps of Engineers, to Miss Mary A. R. Custis, only daughter of G. W. P. Custis, Esq."

When Robert Lee was four years of age, his parents moved into the neighboring town of Alexandria; and three years later his father departed for a long sojourn in the West Indies, from which he never returned. So, during his boyhood days, Robert Lee was under the sole care of, his mother, the home-life being so affectionate and tender as to excite our interest and awaken our sympathy. An elder sister had fallen into ill health; and Mrs. Lee herself was an invalid. So situated, Robert became both a daughter and a son to his mother. Under her direction, he was housekeeper of his home. His spare moments were spent at her side, he was her nurse and daily companion -- read to her, rode with her and comforted her.

He grew to resemble her in disposition, in gentle manners, in careful thought. Duty became the watchword of his life. Duty to his Maker, duty to his home, and duty in that station of life in which it had pleased God to place him. Princes and princesses, born to the purple, might have well envied their condition in life. In the circumstances that make exalted station they were among the first in the whole of the New World; while the bride was rich in graces and her husband had capacity, character and excellence, and a gentle bearing that distinguished him above other men.

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.