Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stephen Dill Lee was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1833, and educated at a military school for boys. He graduated from West Point in 1854. After serving in the U.S. Army for nearly seven years, he resigned in February 1861, returning to his native state to accept a commission as captain of artillery in the Regular Army of South Carolina. A member of Beauregard’s staff during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, he later commanded the Washington Light Artillery of the Hampton Legion. Lee rose steadily in rank—fighting in Virginia, defending Vicksburg, commanding a corps in the Army of Tennessee—becoming before war’s end the Confederacy’s youngest lieutenant general.

Lee married Regina Harrison of Mississippi and settled in the Magnolia State. He was elected to the state Senate, served as the first president of Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Mississippi State University), and helped establish Vicksburg National Military Park. Elected commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans in 1904, Lee had delivered his now famous charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans six years earlier. Though the sectional conflict over slavery was one issue leading to secession, Lee wanted it understood “that we did not fight to maintain slavery, but for constitutional rights.”

In May 1908 the seventy-five year old general took ill and died while attending a reunion of Union veterans at Vicksburg. Lee’s remains were returned to his hometown of Columbus where thousands of mourners gathered and flags flew at half-staff by order of president Roosevelt. Rev. W.A. Hewitt of First Baptist Church, Lee’s pastor, spoke of his friend’s faith. “He had bravely met the enemy on many a hard fought field, but the greatest enemy he met was death. He met that enemy with the same courage, and won the greatest victory of his life. Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

“O death, where is they sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?”
1 Corinthians 15:55

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