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“A name which every wind to Heaven would bear,
Which men to speak, and angels joy to hear.”

Another letter from Eliot broke like a sunbeam
through the monotonous clouds that hung
over the Lees.


My Dearest Mother,

—I arrived safely at
headquarters on the 22d. Colonel Ashley received
me with open arms. He applauded my
resolution to join the army, and bestowed his curses
liberally (as is his wont on whatever displeases him)
on the young men who linger at home, while the
gallant spirits of France and Poland are crossing
the ocean to volunteer in our cause. He rubbed
his hands exultingly when I told him that it was
your self-originating decision that I should leave
you. `The only son of your mother—that is, the
only one to speak of' (forgive him, Sam and Hal),
`and she a widow!' he exclaimed. `Let them talk
about their Spartan mothers, half men and demimonsters;
but look at our women-folks, as tender
and as timid of their broods as hens, and as bold
and self-sacrificing as martyrs! You come of a
good stock, my boy, and so I shall tell the gin'ral.


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He's old Virginia, my lad; and looks well to blood
in man and horse.'

“The next morning he called, his kind heart
raying out through his jolly face, to present me to
General Washington. If ever I go into battle,
which Heaven of its loving mercy grant, I pray
my heart may not thump as it did when I approached
the mean little habitation, now the residence
of our noble leader. `You tremble, Eliot,'
said my colonel, as we reached the door-step. `I
don't wonder—I always feel my joints give a little
when I go before him. I venerate him next to
the Deity; but it is not easy to get used to him as
you do to other men.'

“When we entered, the general was writing. If
Sam wishes to know whether my courage returned
when I was actually in his presence, tell him I
then forgot myself—forgot I had an impression to
make. The general requested us to be seated
while he finished his despatches. The copies were
before him, all in his own hand. `Every t crossed,
and every i dotted,' whispered the colonel, pointing
to the papers. `He's godlike in that; he finishes
off little things as completely as great.' I could
not but smile at the comparison, though it was
both striking and just. When the general had
finished, and had read the letters of introduction
from Governor Hancock and Mr. Adams, which I
presented, `You see, sir,' said my kind patron,
`that my young friend here is calculating to enter


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the army; I'll answer for him, he'll prove good
and true; up to the mark, as his father Sam Lee
was before him. He, that is, Sam Lee, and I, fit
side by side in the French war; I was no flincher,
you know, sir, and he was as brave as Julius Cæsar,
Sam was; so I think my friend Eliot here has a
pretty considerable claim.'

“`But, my good sir,' said the general, `you
know we are contending against hereditary claims.'

“`That's true, sir; and thank the Lord, he can
stand on his own ground; he shot one of the first
guns at Lexington, and got pretty well peppered
too, though he was a lad then, with a face as smooth
as the palm of my hand.'

“`Something too much of this,' thought I; and I
attempted to stop my trumpeter's mouth by saying
`I had no claims on the score of the affair at Lexington;
that my being there was accidental, and
I fought on instinct.'

“`Ah, my boy,' said the colonel, determined to
tell his tale out, `you may say that—there's no
courage like that that comes by natur, gin'ral; he
stood within two feet of me, as straight as a tombstone,
when a spent ball bounding near him, he
caught it in his hands just as if he'd been playing
wicket, and said, “you may throw down your
bat, my boys, I've caught you out!”—was not that

“General Washington's countenance relaxed as
the colonel proceeded (I ventured a side glance),


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and at the conclusion he gave two or three emphatic
and pleased nods; but his grave aspect
returned immediately, and he said, as I thought, in
a most frigid manner, `the request, Mr. Lee, of my
friends of Massachusetts, that you may receive
a commission in the service, deserves attention;
Colonel Ashley is a substantial voucher for your
personal merit. Are you aware, sir, that a post of
honour in our army involves arduous labour, hardships,
and self-denial? Do you know the actual
condition of our officers—that their pay is in arrears,
and their private resources exhausted? There
are among them men who have bravely served
their country from the beginning of this contest;
gentlemen who have not a change of linen; to
whom I have even been compelled to deny, because
I had not the power to divert them from
their original destination, the coarse clothes provided
for the soldiers. This is an affecting, but a
true view of our actual condition. Should the
Almighty prosper our cause, as, if we are true to
ourselves, he assuredly will, these matters will improve;
but I have no lure to hold out to you, no
encouragement but the sense of performing your
duty to your country. Perhaps, Mr. Lee, you
would prefer to reflect further, before you assume
new obligations?'

“`Not a moment, sir. I came here determined
to serve my country at any post you should assign
me. If a command is given me, I shall be grateful


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for it: if not, I shall enter the ranks as a private

“General Washington exchanged glances with
the colonel, that implied approbation of my resolution,
but not one syllable dropped of encouragement
as to the commission; and it being evident that
he had no leisure to protract our audience, we took
our leave.

“I confess I came away rather crest-fallen. I
am not such a puppy, my dear mother, as to suppose
my single arm of much consequence to my
country, but I felt an agreeable, perhaps an exaggerated
consciousness, that I deserved—not applause,
but some token of encouragement. However,
the colonel said this was his way; `he never
disappoints an expectation,seldom authorizes one.'

“`Is he cold-hearted?' I asked.

“`The Lord forgive you! Eliot,' he replied.
`Cold-hearted!—No, his heat does not go off by
flashes, but keeps the furnace hot out of which the
pure gold comes. Lads never think there is any
fire unless they see the sparks and hear the roar.'

“`But, sir,' said I, `I believe there is a very
common impression that General Washington is
of a reserved, cold temperament—'

“`The devil take common impressions. They
are made on sand, and are both false and fleeting.
Wait, Eliot—you are true metal, and I will venture
your impressions when you shall know our noble
commander better. Cold, egad,' he half muttered


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to himself; `where the deuse, then, has the heat
come from that has cemented our army together,
and kept their spirits up when their fingers and
toes were freezing?”'

“Give me joy, my dear mother; a kiss, Bessie; a
good hug, my dear little sisters; and a huzza, boys!
General Washington has sent me a lieutenant's
commission, and a particularly kind note with it.
So, it appears, that while I was thinking him so
lukewarm to my application, he lost no time in
transmitting it to Congress, and enforcing it by his
recommendation. Our camp is all bustle. Soldiers,
just trained and fit for service, are departing,
their term of enlistment having expired. The
new quotas are coming in, raw, undisciplined
troops. The general preserves a calm, unaltered
mien; but his officers fret and fume in private, and
say that nothing effective will ever be achieved
while Congress permits these short enlistments.”

“Thanks to you, dear mother; my funds have
enabled me to purchase a uniform. I have just
tried it on. I wish you could all see me in it.
`Every woman is at heart a rake,' says Pope; that
every man is at heart a coxcomb, is just about as


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true. My new dress will lose its holyday gloss
before we meet again, but the freshness of my
love for you will never be dimmed, my dear mother;
for Bessie, and for all the little band, whose
bright faces are even now before my swimming

“Yours devotedly,

Eliot Lee.
“P. S.—My poor jack-o'-lantern, Kisel, is of
course of no use to me, neither does he give me much
trouble. He is a sort of mountebank among the
soldiers, merry himself and making others merry.
If he is a benefactor who makes two blades of
grass grow where but one grew before, Kisel certainly
is, while he produces smiles where rugged
toil and want have stamped a scowl of discontent.”

In this letter to his mother, Eliot enclosed one
to Bessie; reiterating even more forcibly and tenderly
what he had before said. It served no purpose
but to aggravate her self-reproaches.


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