Robert E Lee
Robert Edward Lee was the 5th child of a Revolutionary War hero and governor of Virgina. Robert won an appointment to West Point in 1825, graduating 2nd in his class with no demerits. He joined the Engineer Corps upon graduation and traveled to posts from Georgia to New York through the 1830s and early 1840s. In 1831, he married the great-granddaughter of George Washington’s wife, Martha, and her first husband, Daniel Custis.
Lee was recognized three times for gallantry for his military exploits and tactical planning during the war with Mexico under the command of Major General Winfield Scott, who thought the world of Lee. Under General Scott, he learned how to out-think the enemy, plan precisely and react coolly. Once the war was won, he became the superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point where he made several improvements to the curriculum and added a fifth year to the degree program.
Few know that, in October 1859, while home from Texas on family business, it was Robert E. Lee who, leading a detachment of US Marines, quickly put an end to John Brown and his radical band of abolitionists after they seized an arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, VA.
By the 1860s, with the winds of civil war blowing stronger, he was thrust into the crossroads of his destiny. He did not support secession of the south, but he could not fight against his native state either. Back then, one’s state was one’s country and he chose to defend his state, Virginia. His wife, Mary, shared that the moment of choosing between the Union which he had served for decades and Virginia was the “severest struggle” of his life. After two days of praying for the right answer, he finally resigned his officer’s commission in the North and became a major general of Virginia’s military forces, eventually heading the entire Confederate Army.
I’ll spare you all the battle thrusts and parries here, but it is interesting history if you choose to explore it. So what kind of a man was Robert E. Lee? The bottom line is he was an exceptional general who could turn an attack into a major victory against far superior Union armies over and over again.
“He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach, a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward.” ~ war-era Georgia Senator Ben Hill
“They say you had to see him to believe that a man so fine could exist. He was handsome. He was clever. He was brave. He was gentle. He was generous and charming, noble and modest, admired and beloved. He had never failed at anything in his upright soldier’s life. He was a born winner, this Robert E. Lee. Except for once. In the greatest contest of his life, in the war between the South and the North, Robert E. Lee lost.” ~ Louis Redmond, www.usflag.org
He never even called the North “the enemy,” he referred to the Union as “them over there.”
And, as now, he had the media to contend with. “It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers! In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late. Accordingly, I’m readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I’ll, in turn, do my best for the Cause by writing editorials – after the fact.” Some things never change, huh?
Even the slaves he inherited, which he set free before the war, adored him: “I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.” ~ William Mack Lee, one of Lee’s black servants. In fact, there were a great many black soldiers in the Confederate Army fighting for their beloved South. We have allowed our history – our story – to be bastardized over time. You see, the Civil War was not about slavery, it was about states’ rights. A lesson we would do well to learn.
“It was necessary to put the South at a moral disadvantage by transforming the contest from a war waged against states fighting for their independence into a war waged against states fighting for the maintenance and extension of slavery . . and the world, it might be hoped, would see it as a moral war, not a political one; and the sympathy of nations would begin to run for the North, not for the South.” ~ Woodrow Wilson, former President of the United States Does anyone see parallels here for what’s happening in our country today???
“All that the South has ever desired was that the Union as established by our forefathers should be preserved and that the government as originally organized should be administered in purity and truth.” ~ Robert E. Lee
“To tar the sacrifices of the Confederate soldier as simple acts of racism, and reduce the battle flag under which he fought to nothing more than the symbol of a racist heritage, is one of the great blasphemies of our modern age.” ~ James Webb, Sec. of Navy and Asst. Sec. of Defense under President Ronald Reagan
“The real issue involved in the relations between the North and the South of the American States, is the great principle of self-government. Shall a dominant party of the North rule the South, or shall the people of the South rule themselves. This is the great matter in controversy.” ~ Robert Barnwell Rhett, 1860
Even after the surrender, as men with smoldering eyes went to Gen. Lee and wanted to keep the anger alive and live to fight another day, Lee sadly shook his head at these beloved men and said, “Let us go home and cultivate our virtues. Abandon your animosities and make your sons Americans.”
Meanwhile, back at home, as the war raged all around her, Mary Custis Lee ran the plantation inherited from her father. Because battles continued in her area, it was not safe to travel the roads to the tax assessor’s office to pay the annual taxes on the farm, so she sent a male cousin in her place. The Union tax assessor refused the payment because the relative making the payment was not the land owner.
The plantation went into default and was fraudulently confiscated by the Federal government since the property taxes – amounting to $90 – were not paid IN PERSON by Mrs. Lee. The plantation was sold at public auction on January 11, 1864 – and the ONLY bidder was the Federal government, who reserved the property “for Government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes.” Mrs. Lee’s beloved garden was encircled with the tombstones of prominent Union officers in a blatant slap in the face to a man who, even in defeat, was a gentleman.
The land where our nation’s heroes lie was once Robert E. Lee’s plantation: Arlington National Cemetery.
And the Confederate flag that creates such rage these days among the unenlightened? It was Gen. Robert E. Lee’s battle flag. It was flown by a man who didn’t have a racist bone in him.
Today, clueless politicians who don’t know their own history have voted to remove the 93-year old statue of Gen. Lee on his warhorse, Traveler, and rename his memorial park because we are hell-bent on destroying the fabric of our own story that made America the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
“Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”
“Let danger never turn you aside from the pursuit of honor or the service to your country.” ~ General Robert E. Lee