The Real Robert E. Lee

These days of turmoil around the statues of Confederate generals and their “monuments” have lots to talk but few actual accounts of the perpetrators of treason.

This post is about the general of the Confederate Army, Robt. E. Lee……and for all those that think they know all there is to know about the war and the people…..

Robert E. Lee is one of the most revered, beloved generals in modern history. Many are taught that this son of a Revolutionary War hero helped lead a revolution of his own, and although it was ultimately unsuccessful, his legacy and defiant spirit have inspired millions. For a few short years during the American Civil War, Lee thwarted Union armies twice his size with bold attacks and brilliant strategy. He took the fight to the enemy and very nearly won the war for the South, all by himself. After the war, he pushed peace and humble reconciliation, earning the respect of his former foes.

Or, so goes the story, anyway. The reality is, as usual, a bit more complex than the popular version. And in Lee’s case, it’s uglier, too. What were Lee’s actual thoughts on slavery? What about racial equality after the war? How good a general was he really? This is the real, complex, often ugly, untold truth of Robert E. Lee.

There’s no shortage of misconceptions floating around regarding what, exactly, Robert E. Lee’s personal feelings towards the institution of slavery actually were. Proponents of the myth that the war was fought over “state’s rights” often claim that Lee himself was opposed to the practice of owning human beings. They might even cite a letter to his wife in which he calls slavery a “moral and political evil.” Later in the same letter, though, Lee goes on to support the subjugation of slaves at length and claims that only God can free them.

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There is another post coming about the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis……according to family tales was a cousin of my maternal grandmother….her name was Bessie Mae Davis….more on that later.

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“lego ergo scribo”

6 thoughts on “The Real Robert E. Lee

  1. I am keeping away from all this, but just have to say that Bobby Lee probably cost the Confederacy victory. Longstreet could have won the war in 1863, if not before.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. I might have a copy of Lee’s memoirs in my library right now. And I definitely have Davis’ doorstops on the Confederacy. Yeah, it’s “recollections and letters”. I also have Longstreet’s, Mosby’s, and Grant’s memoirs (thank you Barnes and Noble Essential Library collection). Most are doorstops, so it’ll be interesting finally getting to them at some point.

    But regarding the idea that Lee abhorred slavery and thought the institution monstrous, plenty of slaveholders seemed to feel that way in letters and other writings (some seemed practically giddy about subjugating others), but all were more worried about their wealth and status disappearing if they did away with all that free labor.

    It’s like looking so hard for that touch of humanity that we can understand today. I once heard someone say that there could be one sentence in Mein Kampf that they might agree with, but that doesn’t change everything.

  3. Regardless of what Lee “might have thought” about slavery, he still willingly chose to commit armed insurrection against his country. I suspect he was smart enough to plant those little seeds of doubt just to muddy the waters once he saw that the Confederacy was doomed to fail.

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