30 November 2015

Just in Time for Christmas

Robert E. Lee's Memorial
Lee Chapel - Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia

John Paul Strain recently announced the release of his latest painting and has granted me permission to post the announcement, along with the descriptive text here . . .

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. I am excited to announce the release of my latest painting, in time for Christmas.

Robert E. Lee's Memorial
Lee Chapel - Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia

Many thought of him as the realized King Arthur. Revered and loved by his soldiers, Robert E. Lee became one of the greatest generals in American history. A visiting British woman wrote "General Lee is the handsomest man of his age I ever saw. His manners are most courteous and full of dignity...he has none of the small vices...and his bitterest enemy never accused him of any of the greater ones." Perpetually faithful to his wife, he neither drank, swore or smoked. He prayed for guidance from the Almighty long and often. As a cadet at West Point he did not receive a single demerit. His class mates affectionately referred to him as the "Marble Model".

He was born to one of the first families of Virginia. His father, Light Horse Harry Lee, had been a friend and favorite cavalry commander of George Washington. In 1831 Robert married Mary Custis, Martha Washington's granddaughter.

Lee's military career was distinguished like no other. He was appointed to the prestigious Corps of Engineers. In the war with Mexico, he was brevetted three times for bravery, and played a key role in the victories achieved in battle. Becoming Superintendent of West Point, he commanded the Marines who captured the insurrectionist John Brown at Harper's Ferry.

As hostilities began to break out, the north needed a new field commander. General Winfield Scott pronounced, "If ...the President of the United States would tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and asked my judgement as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, 'Let it be Robert E. Lee!'" Lincoln offered Lee total field command of the entire Union Army. Lee pondered the greatest dilemma of his life at his Arlington estate across the Potomac from Washington. At midnight on the 20th of April, Lee wrote his letter of resignation from the United States Army. Lee wrote to General Scott, "Save in defense of my Native State, I never desire again to draw my sword." He then took the train to Richmond never to see his beloved Arlington home again. On April 23rd Lee accepted command of the Army of Virginia. And so began his defense of not only his native state but the entire South.

After the end of the war Lee moved to Lexington Virginia accepting the position of President at Washington college. For the next 5 years Lee worked tirelessly to build the college physically and financially. In 1866 Lee requested a larger church chapel be built. With the help of his son Custis and architect Col. Thomas Williamson from the VMI the chapel was constructed during 1867-68. Lee regularly attended services there upon its completion.

When Robert E. Lee died on Oct 14, 1870, a funeral procession took his remains to the chapel. VMI Cadet honor guards stood watch through the night. He was buried beneath the chapel, where he remains to this day. A year after his death, the sculptor Edward Valentine was commissioned to create a life size marble sculpture of General Lee in uniform asleep on his cot. The completed work entitled "Recumbent Lee" is reminiscent of Medieval sculptures of the Knights of Old England. In 1933 the United Daughters of the Confederacy were granted permission to display original Army of Northern Virginia battle flags with the sculpture. Two brass standards holding eight original flags and later exact reproductions would be part of General Robert E. Lee's memorial for over 80 years. Today General Lee's spirit can still be felt there, along with the soldiers who served with him.

A moving tribute. Thank you Mr. Strain.


Jeff Mathews said...

Thank you for your kind and generous consideration in posting this.

Plato said that in the ideal republic, the forms of artistic expression ought to be hymns to the god(s) and the praises of virtuous men.

In Lee, and in his spiritual father, General Washington, we have the most excellent; and I would go so far as to say, and the only examples ever needed of what the truly virtuous life should be. A true gentleman can need no other for the direction of a worthy life.

I was once gently chided by a man whose family had sided with the North who said that unlike me, he did not believe that General Lee walked on water.

I turned to him and replied: "If you sir, were informed that General Lee did not walk upon the waters, then you sir were sadly misinformed."

May there examples NEVER be forgotten.

Lindsay said...

Fascinating and perfectly timed, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this today!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Lindsay - great to hear from you.

jessie sanford said...

I see today that Levin is still reading your blog and he just could not rest taking a cheap shot at Mr. Strain. I chalk it up to him not being talented enough to paint a barn and he is jealous.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Well of course. Levin's former favorite artist to attack and mock was Mort Kunstler. Basically, if the image in any way portrays the Confederacy in any kind of favorable or honorable light, Levin can be counted on to sneer at it. He's quite predictable.

BorderRuffian said...

Lack of flags in the 1870s? During those times a person could be arrested for displaying a Confederate flag.

Champ Livingston said...

There were also strict rules of flag display established by the UCV.