But in the spring of '62 he allowed me to volunteer, and I having selected the company I wished to join, the Rockbridge Artillery, he gave his approval, and wrote me to come to Richmond, where he would give me my outfit. He was just as sweet and loving to me then as in the old days. I had seen so little of him during the last six years that I stood somewhat in awe of him. I soon found, however, that I had no cause for such a feeling. He took great pains in getting what was necessary for me. The baggage of a private in a Confederate battery was not extensive. How little was needed my father, even at that time, did not know, for though he was very careful in providing me with the least amount he thought necessary, I soon found by experience that he had given me a great deal too much. It was characteristic of his consideration for others and the unselfishness of his nature, that at this time, when weighed down, harassed and burdened by the cares incident to bringing the untrained forces of the Confederacy into the field, and preparing them for a struggle the seriousness of which he knew better than any one, he should give his time and attention to the minute details of fitting out his youngest son as a private soldier. I think it worthy of note that the son of the commanding general enlisting as a private in his army was not thought to be anything remarkable or unusual. Neither my mother, my family, my friends nor myself expected any other course, and I do not suppose it ever occurred to my father to think of giving me an office, which he could easily have done. I know it never occurred to me, nor did I ever hear, at that time or afterwards, from anyone, that I might have been entitled to better rank than that of a private because of my father's prominence in Virginia and in the Confederacy. With the good advice to be obedient to all authority, to do my duty in everything, great or small, he bade me good-bye, and sent me off to the Valley of Virginia, where the command in which I was about to enlist were serving under "Stonewall Jackson."
Of my father's military duties at this time, Colonel Taylor, in his "Four Years with General Lee," says:
"Exercising a constant supervision over the condition of affairs at each important point, thoroughly informed as to the resources and necessities of the several commanders of armies in the field, as well as of the dangers which respectively threatened them, he was enabled to give them wise counsel, to offer them valuable suggestions, and to respond to their demands for assistance and support to such extent as the limited resources of the government would permit. It was in great measure due to his advice and encouragement that General Magruder so stoutly and so gallantly held his lines on the Peninsula against General McClellan until troops could be sent to his relief from General Johnston's army. I recollect a telegraphic despatch received by General Lee from General Magruder, in which he stated that a council of war which he had convened had unanimously determined that his army should retreat, in reply to which General Lee urged him to maintain his lines, and to make as bold a front as possible, and encouraged him with the prospect of being reinforced. No better illustration of the nature and importance of the duty performed by General Lee, while in this position, can be given than the following letter--one of a number of similar import--written by him to General Jackson, the 'rough' or original draft of which is still in my possession:
"'Headquarters, Richmond, Virginia, April 29, 1862.
"'Major-General T. J. Jackson, commanding, etc., Swift Run Gap, Virginia.
"'General: I have had the honour to receive your letter of yesterday's date. From the reports that reach me that are entitled to credit, the force of the enemy opposite Fredericksburg is represented as too large to admit of any diminution whatever of our army in that vicinity at present, as it might not only invite an attack on Richmond, but jeopard the safety of the army in the Peninsula. I regret, therefore, that your request to have five thousand men sent from that army to reinforce you cannot be complied with. Can you not draw enough from the command of General Edward Johnson to warrant you in attacking Banks? The last return received from that army show a present force of upward of thirty-five hundred, which, it is hoped, has since increased by recruits and returned furloughs. As he does not appear to be pressed, it is suggested that a portion of his force might be temporarily removed from its present position and made available for the movement in question. A decisive and successful blow at Banks's column would be fraught with the happiest results, and I deeply regret my inability to send you the reinforcements you ask. If, however, you think the combined forces of Generals Ewell and Johnson, with your own, inadequate for the move, General Ewell might, with the assistance of General Anderson's army near Fredericksburg, strike at McDowell's army between that city and Acquia, with much promise of success; provided you feel sufficiently strong alone to hold Banks in check.
"The reader will observe that this letter bears the date 'April 29, 1862.' On May 5th or 6th, General Jackson formed a junction between his own command and that of General Edward Johnson; on May 8th, he defeated Milroy at McDowell. Soon thereafter, the command of General Ewell was united to that already under Jackson, and on the 25th of the same month Banks was defeated and put to flight. Other incidents might be cited to illustrate this branch of the important service rendered at this period by General Lee. The line of earthworks around the city of Richmond, and other preparations for resisting an attack, testified to the immense care and labour bestowed upon the defense of the capital, so seriously threatened by the army of General McClellan."
On May 31st, the battle of Seven Pines was fought, and General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, was severely wounded. The next day, by order of the President, General Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia.