AUGUST 21, 1943
HYDE PARK, Friday—A lady who belongs to a family whose ancestors fought on the Southern side in the War Between the States, writes me a letter stating that she thinks many people with sons or husbands, who are privates in the ranks of our armed forces today, do not realize how fine a thing it is to be a private. Therefore, she enclosed a copy of a letter written by General Robert E. Lee to her great-grandmother, because, she says, this very great general expresses herein his feelings about a boy who chose to remain a private, even though he was offered a higher rank.
The letter is so interesting historically, that I am quoting it here in full:
"Dear Mrs. ****
I received yesterday your letter of the 1st inst. in reference to your grandson. I have taken much interest in him from the beginning of his career; his amiable disposition, setting aside other considerations, having attracted me towards him.
After the death of his gallant father, a position with the Chief of Ordnance of the Army was offered him, which it was hoped he would accept, but he preferred to remain with his associates in the ranks.
I think the position of a private soldier in the Confederate Army is the most honorable in the service.
With respect, I am your kinsman and obt. servant,
I have known many fine people who preferred to go into the present war as privates, partly because they thought should promotion come, they would be better equipped to lead, having had this basic training, and partly because they wanted the opportunity to know men in the ranks, where there is, of necessity, a certain kind of intimacy and where every man stands on his own feet and starts at scratch.
I have always thought that this desire to prove yourself on equal terms with your fellow men, exists very strongly in men who have never had an opportunity to mix with a great variety of men and, therefore, are a little uncertain of themselves.