As I stand in awe of the honor bestowed on me and even more HUMBLED by the location in which I address the ‘Citizens of the South’, my mind’s eye catches a glimpse of the greatness of the silhouette that lies behind me, and I am lost for words to those that walk upon the wind. We assemble on hallowed ground. We are sitting and standing inside the chapel that was built by Lee, supervised by his very eye, and lovingly crafted by his love of God. It reminds me of his mission. In Joshua 4:4-9, the Book of Books states that when Joshua began crossing the Jordan, he instructed twelve men representing the twelve tribes of Israel to take twelve stones from the water and place them as a sign that, “When your children ask in times to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you.’ Before Then you can answer them that, ‘the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, AND these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.’” So, it is with this sanctuary, this chapel. It is a breathing tribute to Lee’s love for Christ. AND in Proverbs 22:28, the Bible says,” Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” This is our charge!
With unfazed laurels, he rests. With untainted merit his shadow lengthens. With untarnished duty, he stands upon a shadow, lingering. His un-compromised virtues, his humble spirit, his very signature is upon our land. Tecumseh stated, ‘When you were born, you cried but the world rejoiced. So, you must live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries but YOU rejoice,” be as a warrior going home. Such is the legend and legacy of Lee. We call him a hero. We call him a legend. We say he is a man of marble. But I must beg leave of you this day to say it is not that he was an undaunted hero, but that he represented the essence of Christian character that MADE him a hero to all. He represents each of our ancestors and their sacrifices. DUTY, HONOR, INTEGRITY, HUMBLENESS OF SPIRIT AND TRUE CHRISTIAN LOVE.
While we stand in the shadow of legends, let us take a moment and envision those men and women that suffered the hardships of war and yet remained loyal to their cause. Even when it cost them everything, yet they tarried. And though our general would be appreciative of all your praise and recognition on this his birthday, he would gently ask you to recall others. Please recall the names of your ancestors that served so gallantly in the greatest army ever to march upon this earth. An army outnumbered (sometimes 5 to 1), an army out manufactured, an army out mechanized but an army never outfought. I tell you this: never was a general prouder of his men than he, as he stood in awe within the shadow of THEIR greatness. As I raise my hand to heaven and lower it to earth, I ask that you say your ancestors’ name, as we honor their memory. Let us not forget that his old warhorse, ole Pete was born on JAN. 8, 1821. Stonewall, his right arm, was born on JAN 21, 1824, 2 days after (being 16 years his junior), and of course General Pickett was born in this month in 1825.
LISTEN; can you not hear it, the fading sound of wagons, horses, wheels upon the plankton and the soft murmur of indistinguishable voices permeating the essence of our spirits? LOOK yonder across the meadow; do you not see our glorious flags dancing in the wind, as they slowly rise above the hill as the fog yields to their colors? Do you not SEE the gray images as they march by in all their colorless glory? Can you not TASTE the coffee, beans, and hardtack? Can you not taste the gunpowder as it weds the dew and softly floats upon the fields of honor? SMELL the aroma of the wood as it carries the prayers of the people skyward? Can you not FEEL the presence of those giants of yesteryear as they once again walk upon the shadows, pleading that their stories be passed on to future generations? This is our calling, this is our duty and by the honor of all that we hold sacred, we must remember, lest the world forget the greatness of the southern soldier.
Let us rekindle the pride that POLITICAL CORRECTNESS is attempting to take from us. For the war is not over; INDEED, the enemy is waiting outside the chapel walls. IGNORANCE, APATHY, HATRED, ARROGANCE, PREJUDICE AWAITS. But this war that we are currently engaged in is not fought with bullets, but with ballots. We fight ignorance and arrogance in every school that has an instructor unwilling to tell the truth of the cause. We fight to save the truth of the cause and our heritage, for it is the northern pen that now currently writes it. But we must remember that WE are armed with FORTITUDE OF DETERMINATION, we are armed with BIBLICAL principles, we are armed with LOVE and we are armed with the TRUTH and it shall set us free. We must remember whom they were, in order for us to know who we are and for our youth to understand who they will become. I charge you to remember. We must pass the torch, for they stand upon a shadow, listening…
They Stand Upon a Shadow
They stand upon a shadow
Beyond the turbid vale.
They’ve fallen from their saddle:
A foreign sea they sail.
They mingle with the shadows
And scurry on the wind.
They’ve witnessed their last battle
But walk the land again.
At times, we feel their presence
As we stray all alone.
Their spirit is effervescent
Trying to make it home.
With trails of tears behind them
They walk upon the haze.
Their memories remind them
Of spring and winter days.
Like fog upon the mountain;
Like the morning dew.
As water from a fountain
Must run to be renewed.
They stand upon the shadows,
Just barely out of sight.
With rolling thunder’s rattle
They walk the fields tonight.
Is it not strange how a man that followed God’s principles until his death on October 12, 1870, is still endeared and revered by those who follow the sacred principles found in the Bible? And isn’t is so sad to see all that we cherish in our history and heritage being destroyed link by link today? It is said that one man can sometimes touch seven generations but a few touch eternity. I think the character that Lee tried to follow was Christ-like and the people saw it shine through him. When you accept Christ, you become a new creature. Lee said it and lived it best when he stated, “I am nothing but a poor sinner trusting in Christ alone for my salvation.” And then he lived the life in which his Savior directed him to do. When you live a life of following the teaching of Christ, people will remember. Honor, honesty, duty, virtue, chivalry, all are words that Christ lived by and set the example for us to live up to. Great men of God are not born but are created by seeking, by knocking and asking for guidance. Then they lead by example. What will people say of you after your time on this earth has gone? Will they remember you as a Christian or will they even remember. Our southern heritage calls for us to be southern gentlemen but more importantly, our heritage beckons us to embrace the ‘Book of Books’ as did our ancestors. There is a reason that we are known as the Bible belt…
I remember a story regarding Lee. During a review, a young parson from the Carolinas made a statement to Lee’s adjutant about how proud the general must be regarding the devotion of his men. The adjutant turned and stated, “Not proud sir, it awes him.” On several occasions, General Lee could not help from breaking down in reverence of men willing to do his bidding at the cost of their lives.
I remember the Texan who visited Lee after the war. Our general had left word not to be disturbed due to being tired from all the well-wishers, but after a lapse of time, his beloved went upstairs and knocked. Lee restated that he was tired and did not wish to be disturbed but his son told him that it was a Texan that was downstairs, wishing to bid him farewell before his ride home. Lee descended the stairs and extended his hand. The Texan grasped it tightly, staring into each other’s eyes, without one word being spoken. The Texan put his hand over face and with tears streaming down his face, left his captain. I remember.
I remember his uncles: Richard and Francis Lee were signers of the Declaration of Independence. I remember his father, General Henry “Light Horse” Lee, a patriot, a hero, a Governor of Virginia, and a man that helped approve the final draft of the US Constitution. I recall his worlds at Washington’s funeral; “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of men.” I recall his unpopular stance against the War of 1812, and how he was beaten. I see him leaving his beloved Virginia never to grace its sacred soil again and died at Cumberland Island, Georgia (Nathaniel Greene home) on the evening of 25 March 1818. He was buried there in the Greene family cemetery. General Lee didn’t see the grave of his father for 42 years until he was in Georgia in 1862.
I remember Ann Hill Carter Lee, his sainted mother, that instilled within his being honor, faith, duty, and servitude to his fellow men. I remember her infirmaries and how her beloved son cared for her during her declining years.
I recall Robert E. Lee entered West Point in 1825 and ending his career as a cadet with no demerits, being second in his class. Due to his well-polished traits and demeanor, he was known as the man of marble by others that admired him. Lee once stated, “There is true glory and true honor, the glory of duty done and the honor of integrity and principles.” He also wrote, “Duty is the sublimest word in the language. You cannot do more than your duty; you should never wish to do less.”
I recall Lee’s marriage to Mary Randolph Custis, the heiress to Arlington, Shirley, Roanoke, and the White House. She was the step great granddaughter of the father of our country, George Washington. A man that held the Lee family in such high esteem and selected “Lighthorse” Lee to be his right arm during America’s first revolution. The marriage yielded seven children and several thousand letters endorsing their love for God, family, and each other.
I reflect upon his appointment as assistant to the chief of engineers in Washington, and how he was selected to supervise projects such as Fort Monroe, changing the course of the Mississippi River, New York, settling a boundary dispute between states and the Atlantic coastal fortification projects masterminded by Lee.
I can see the fall of 1846, when Lee learned of military expeditions that were being sent to Mexico. I next followed Lee when he was at the city of Vera Cruz, hiding underneath a log to avoid capture, staying awake for over 2 days to give a report, and collapsing after giving the report to General Winfield Scott from loss of blood from a wound received on September 13, 1847. I read of him receiving three brevet promotions in twenty months.
I remember his service to WestPoint for three years in which his family was beside him. I recall his service in Texas and his being called to the defense of the United States by the President during the infamous Harper’s Ferry raid by John Brown. I can still see that gallant Lt. Stuart that would become forever entwined with the general due to his chivalry. I recall the emotions that permeated his soul when he had to decide whether to follow the course that he had served so admirably for over thirty years or submit to a higher calling; that of following the voice of his Virginia. He chose Virginia.
Do you recall that it was upon Lee’s shoulders that fell the arduous task of building the army, strengthening the coastal defenses, and offering his advice, talents, and experience as a military leader? Through four years of war, Lee moved down the haunting trail of tears led from the Cheats Mountain, Seven Days’ Battle and Second Manassas, past Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg, to Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Petersburg, Richmond, Sailor Creek ending at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, due to Lee’s great compassion for his brave men in gray.
I remember that sad date when all the masses cried, and the Lee family was destitute. The white house had been burned, Shirley had been ransacked and their home, their lovely Arlington, had been turned into a cemetery. Though accused of treason, Lee put aside his animosities and began the arduous task of rebuilding the South through education. The Board of Trustees at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, selected him as their president. Through Lee’s vision, the college that had been ravaged by war went from a fading memory to one of the leading educational institutes in the nation. Lee envisioned adding subjects such as agriculture, commerce, engineering and the teaching of duty, honor, and unwavering devotion to God. We are now assembled in his creation devoted to his love of our God. Here, at Lexington, Virginia, he lived. Upon the sacred soil of heritage known as Washington and Lee College, he built his greatest legacy. He set the example in which every American should attempt to obtain. I remember God being in the forefront of this institution and Lee’s earnest wish that all become sincere Christians.
As a parting thought to the Citizens of the South assembled here today, remember it is our Duty to stand for these fallen heroes, we took an oath to do no less. We MUST carry the torch and pass it on to future generations. Remember these words of General Lee “You cannot do more than your duty; you should never wish to do less.” This was the man called Lee. Denied his citizenship and almost tried for treason, Lee clung to the Christian virtues that his mother had ingrained within his heart. It took over 100 years for the ‘oversight’ of Lee’s citizenship to be rectified. I think it only fitting to share it with you to honor our general and the last president to recognize the achievements of Lee.
The following are President Gerald R. FORD’s remarks upon signing a bill restoring rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. As enacted, S.J. Res. 23 is Public Law 94-67 (89 Stat. 380). The President spoke at 2:12 p.m. at on August 5, 1975, at Arlington House (formerly known as the Custis-Lee Mansion) in Arlington, Virginia. This was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lee for over thirty years.
‘Governor Godwin, Senator Byrd, Congressman Butler, Congressman Harris, Congressman Satterfield, Congressman Downing, and Congressman Daniel, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
“I am very pleased to sign Senate Joint Resolution 23, restoring posthumously the long overdue, full rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. This legislation corrects a 110-year oversight of American history. It is significant that it is signed at this place.
“Lee’s dedication to his native State of Virginia chartered his course for the bitter Civil War years, causing him to reluctantly resign from a distinguished career in the United States Army and to serve as General of the Army of Northern Virginia. He, thus, forfeited his rights to U.S. citizenship.
“Once the war was over, he firmly felt the wounds of the North and South must be bound up. He sought to show by example that the citizens of the South must dedicate their efforts to rebuilding that region of the country as a strong and vital part of the American Union.
“In 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to a former Confederate soldier concerning his signing the Oath of Allegiance, and I quote: “This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony.”
“This resolution passed by the Congress responds to the formal application of General Lee to President Andrew Johnson on June 13, 1865, for the restoration of his full rights of citizenship. Although this petition was endorsed by General Grant and forwarded to the President through the Secretary of War, an Oath of Allegiance was not attached because notice of this additional requirement had not reached Lee in time.
“Later, after his inauguration as President of Washington College on October 2, 1865, Lee executed a notarized Oath of Allegiance. Again, his application was not acted upon because the Oath of Allegiance was apparently lost. It was finally discovered in the National Archives in 1970.
“As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.
“General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.
“In approving this Joint Resolution, the Congress removed the legal obstacle to citizenship, which resulted from General Lee’s Civil War service. Although more than a century late, I am delighted to sign this resolution and to complete the full restoration of General Lee’s citizenship.”
I recall many men of stature that song the laurels of the man. President Theodore Roosevelt described General Robert E. Lee as, “The very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote of Lee: “His noble presence and gentle, kindly manner were sustained by religious faith and an exalted character.” Of his army, Churchill observed: “It was even said that their line of march could be traced by the bloodstained footprints of unshod men. But the Army of Northern Virginia ‘carried the Confederacy on its bayonets’ and made a struggle unsurpassed in history.”
Georgia Senator Ben Hill immortalized Lee with his passionate words: “He possessed every virtue of other great commanders without their vices. He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward. He was obedient to authority as a servant, and loyal in authority as a true king. He was gentle as a woman in life; modest and pure as a virgin in thought; watchful as a Roman vital in duty; submissive to law as Socrates, and grand in battle as Achilles!”
Citizens of the South, do you recall your heroes? Do you remember our fathers and mothers? This day is a day of remembrance, for when we honor one, we honor all. Our general would have wanted it that way…
South Carolina (Dec 20, 1860), Recall the home of succession and General Richard Anderson!
Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Do you remember the gallant charge of General W. Barksdale?
Florida (January 10, 1861), Remember the Osceola Rangers and General Joseph Finegan!
Alabama (January 11, 1861), 3rd Alabama, Cullen Battle; Major General William Mahone
Georgia (January 19, 1861), Edward Porter Alexandria calls upon you to honor the South!
Louisiana (January 26, 1861), Do you remember Richard Taylor?
Texas (February 1, 1861), Do you recall A. S. Johnston and General Hood?
Virginia (April 17, 1861); Do recall the immortal Stonewall Jackson?
Arkansas (May 6, 1861), Do you remember Patrick R. Cleburne
Tennessee (May 7, 1861), Nathan Bedford Forrest reaches from the grave to our hearts!
North Carolina (May 20, 1861), Remember Daniel Harvey Hill and James Johnston Pettigrew*
Missouri, Recall your warriors, the brave Choctaw Brigade, and Cherokee Partisan Rangers
Kentucky, do you remember the martyred John Hunt Morgan? Do you recall President Davis?
Maryland, can you not hear the cries of your brothers, as the[y] fight each other at Dunker’s Church.
Finally, as I bid you adieu, let us bring to mind that terrible day when the colors were no more and the last order that was given, as the glorious gray army faded into the shadows to walk upon the wind. Let us leave recalling General Order #9 and our duties to defend the good name of ALL our ancestors.
April 10, 1865-GENERAL ORDER #9
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 brave 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 must 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 will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection.
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.”
By David Chaltas