Lee, Jackson remembered by UDC

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2004

Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were in the spotlight at Cambrian Ridge on Thursday when the Father Ryan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy held their monthly meeting.

Cleve Poole, vice-president of legal affairs for Pioneer Electric, was the guest speaker for the day. Poole, whose wife Faye is a UDC member, claims Civil War veterans as ancestors on both sides of the conflict.

He shared some of the intriguing details he had researched on the lives and times of the two southern gentlemen, who were both born in January. The following are some of the highlights of Poole’s detailed presentation.

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John Brown’s downfall

&uot;Lee’s father, ‘Lighthorse’ Harry Lee, was one of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. He fought along side General Washington and later served as governor of Virginia. Unfortunately, Harry Lee wasn’t much of a businessman, and died penniless,&uot; Poole said.

John Calhoun stepped in and secured his late friend’s son a position at West Point.

&uot;Lee was well liked by his peers at West Point and graduated second in his class without a single demerit against him,&uot; Poole said.

Lee married George Washington’s stepdaughter, Mary Ann Custice, in 1837.

&uot;Since the only degree offered at the time at West Point was engineering, that’s what Lee became – he spent seventeen years as an engineer,&uot; Poole explained.

Lee’s first experience in battle would be in the Mexican War of 1846, during which, Poole said, the future Confederate general ably performed dangerous reconnaissance duties.

In 1859, Lee led the marines against fiery abolitionist John Brown and his followers.

The conflict lasted &uot;all of four minutes&uot;, with Lee and his men soundly defeating the Brown camp, Poole said.

&uot;Brown was later hanged and his death made him a martyr to many. The original verses of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ refer to ‘John Brown’s body moldering in the grave’ – for this reason, many southerners did not like the song,&uot; Poole explained.

New Testament faith, Old Testament fighter

Stonewall Jackson was a native of what is now known as West Virginia, then a part of the state of Virginia. &uot;He lost both of his parents by the time he was six, and an uncle raised him,&uot; Poole said.

Jackson, whose uncle had little use for formal education, worked hard to educate himself and at age sixteen, even taught school for a brief time.

He received an appointment to West Point and was later promoted to major during the Mexican War. Jackson left the Army in 1852 after clashes with superiors.

&uot;Many people don’t know what a deeply religious man Jackson actually was. He disliked the hypocrisy he often saw in his superiors’ lives. It was said of Jackson that he lived by the New Testament – but fought by the Old Testament,&uot; said Poole.

Jackson went on to Virginia Military Institute to teach artillery tactics and physics in the years leading up to the war.

A loyal Virginian

President Lincoln took office in November 1860, but &uot;his honeymoon was brief – South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 10,&uot; Poole said.

In February 1861, Lee was summoned to meet with Winfield Scott to discuss possible command of the Union forces, but the loyal Virginian was reluctant to take the position.

Once his state made public their secession from the Union on April 9, 1861, Lee felt he had no choice. He refused an offer to lead the Union Army and resigned from the U.S. Army.

&uot;Things were different then. Today we see ourselves as Americans first, then Alabamians, but in those days many people gave their first loyalty to their state,&uot; Poole explained.

On April 23, Lee accepted command of the Virginia troops and went on to serve as personal advisor to Jefferson Davis for the next year.

The new Confederate States had met in Montgomery in early February to establish a constitution, adopt a flag and elect Davis as their president.

Poole pointed out a curious fact about the Confederate flag – only eleven states seceded, yet the flag bore thirteen stars. &uot;It appears they were banking on Kentucky and Maryland seceding and they didn’t.&uot;

The Confederate constitution emphasized state’s rights over national sovereignty; included &uot;Bill of Rights&uot; within its text; provided for line item veto; omitted &uot;promote the general welfare&uot; and prohibited slave trade while giving states regulation of slave ownership.

Standing like a wall

Jackson received his famous nickname at the Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) where, it was said, the stalwart soldier &uot;was standing there like a stone wall.&uot; He proved extremely loyal to his commander and fellow West Point graduate, Lee, saying, &uot;So great is my confidence in General Lee I am willing to follow him blindfolded.&uot;

&uot;Jackson was the kind of guy we would call ‘scrappy,’&uot; said Poole. Of the enemy, Jackson said, &uot;Shoot them all, I do not wish for them to be brave.&uot;

In May 1863, Jackson was seriously wounded by friendly fire during the long siege at Chancellorsville. His arm had to be amputated. On May 10, 1863, Jackson succumbed to pneumonia. His dying words were said to be, &uot;Duty is ours: consequences are God’s.&uot;

Of Jackson, Lee simply said, &uot;He never failed me.&uot;

‘They will cut us in half’

Lee firmly believed the majority of the war’s battles would be fought in the Washington, D.C. and Virginia areas and concentrated his forces there. However, Davis feared the Union Army would move west and &uot;cut us in half&uot; – &uot;and that is exactly what happened,&uot; explained Poole.

More and more Confederate cities fell until the capital city itself was occupied by Union forces. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1864, telling his troops, &uot;I have done the best I can do…go home now.&uot;

In spite of the tremendous odds against them, Poole said, the Confederate forces, out-manned, out-gunned, poorly clothed and feed, suffered only half of the battlefield casualties of the Union – 70,000 dead versus 140,000 dead.

After the battle

Following the war, Lee was offered the presidency of several distinguished schools but chose tiny Washington University (five teachers and one hundred students) due to its proximity to V.M.I. Under his leadership the school, later renamed Washington and Lee, flourished.

The final words of this old soldier were, &uot;Strike the tent!&uot;

&uot;Jefferson Davis had this to say about Jackson and Lee: ‘They supplemented each other – together they were absolutely invincible.’&uot;