A life of Gen. Robert E. Lee by John Esten Cooke

By John Esten Cooke

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IX. LEE IN 1861. At this time--April, 1861--General Lee was fifty-four years of age, and may be said to have been in the ripe vigor of every faculty. Physically and intellectually he was "at his best," and in the bloom of manhood. His figure was erect, and he bore himself with the brief, somewhat stiff air of command derived from his military education and service in the army. This air of the professional soldier, which characterized generally the graduates of West Point, was replaced afterward by a grave dignity, the result of high command and great responsibilities.

W. Custis Lee, written some time before: "You must study," he wrote, "to be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right. If a friend asks a favor, you should grant it, if it is reasonable; if not, tell him plainly why you cannot: you will wrong him and wrong yourself by equivocation of any kind. Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or keep one; the man who requires you to do so, is dearly purchased at a sacrifice.

We should live, act, and say, nothing to the injury of any one. It is not only best as a matter of principle, but it is the path to peace and honor. "In regard to duty, let me, in conclusion of this hasty letter, inform you that, nearly a hundred years ago, there was a day of remarkable gloom and darkness--still known as 'the dark day'--a day when the light of the sun was slowly extinguished, as if by an eclipse. The Legislature of Connecticut was in session, and, as its members saw the unexpected and unaccountable darkness coming on, they shared in the general awe and terror.

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