Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History

Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History

Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History

Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History

Excerpt

It behooves me, in setting forth an unorthodox consideration of Robert E. Lee, to state precisely what I am attempting to do.

I believe that Robert E. Lee was a great man -- able, intelligent, well-motivated and moral, and much beloved by his army. He did what he believed to be right. On the other hand, I have long been uncomfortable with certain aspects of the Lee tradition. I suspect that this discomfort has several sources. Without revealing too much about myself, I acknowledge that a parochial grade school education may have provoked in me a perverse skepticism of lives of the saints. Lincoln scholar Don E. Fehrenbacher characterizes the "idealized Lincoln" as "insufferably virtuous" -- a characterization that I can appreciate.

In the case of Lee my discomfort has been more specific. Certain of the unqualified images presented in the Lee tradition have not fit, it seemed to me, with some of the facts of Lee's life. He was supposedly antislavery but was a Virginia aristocrat of the planter class who fought vigorously for a government expressly based on slavery. He was a lifetime soldier in the United States Army, a patriot sworn to defend his country, and he opposed secession; yet he seceded and made war on the . . .

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