I originally sent this to my local newspaper, but for whatever reason they decided not to published it. With recent protests and much more, I’d like to simply cover who Robert E. Lee was. In no way is this article condoning or sympathizing with any racists or violent protestors. However I feel it is my duty to give the right story, even if no one else agrees with me. Since I like to space out some of my post I was intending on publishing this article Monday. The reason this article was published tonight is because I heard of a Confederate monument being destroyed by “protestors” in North Carolina. So, here you go.
After a Robert E. Lee memorial was removed in New Orleans there has been another rekindling of the old Civil War debates. As a Constitutionalist I see the Civil War as utterly devastating in all accounts. Each side was not operating in what I’d consider a Constitutional manner, and we very nearly lost the principles that uphold liberty. While I could spend the rest of this article explaining the complexities of the Civil War I wish to focus more on the people who fought it.
I have always found interest in the southern side of the Civil War thanks to Robert E. Lee. When looking at history we like to say “this side is evil and this side is good,” but like many Civil War soldiers Robert E. Lee wasn’t fighting for a philosophy. He was fighting for the mere defense of his state. General Lee was originally opposed to secession, refused to lead the union army solely based on his love for Virginia and freed his slaves (that he reluctantly inherited in 1857) before the war’s end. This is a man who said, “What a cruel thing war is, to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors.” Lee, much like Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, was a devout Christian who constantly put fate up to God. He was opposed to slavery and only could wait and wonder why God had instituted it. When the war was over he said he would go through it all again to see slavery abolished.
What surprises me, and might upset some southern sympathizers, is Robert E. Lee is not the greatest Confederate figure. He very well could be the Confederacy’s best general, but after the war he did not try to hang onto the Confederate name. He went so far as to tell a widow of a fallen Confederate soldier, “don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.” Lee wanted nothing more than to become an American and move into a hopeful future. It’s sad that people must associate him with the hate spread by the KKK and their sympathizers.
We must remember that the Civil War was never officially a war (the United States never recognized the Confederate States as a country), and by the end of the “rebellion” even Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederate States) stated they were fighting for independents, not slavery. This was years after General Cleburne said the same thing in his request to allow slaves to fight for their freedom. During the war General “Stonewall” Jackson had been sending money to an illegal black church he opened in Virginia (which continues to this day). More Americans died in the Civil War than any other war, and considering the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t made until after Americans had already fought the bloodiest battle in our history leads me to the conclusion that there was a lot more behind this than whether 13% of the population got to keep their slaves. And whether north or south, black or white, I wish we didn’t have to tear down southern heritage, American Veterans and history simply because of evil throughout it. If we are to bleach our history of anything relating to slavery President and General Ulysses S. Grant, who kept his slaves longer than most Confederate Generals, should be forgotten as well (which I don’t think is the answer either).
The point of me writing this article is not to make you believe the Civil War was over slavery or whether states have the right to secede. I just wish people could see that not all the men who fought for the Confederacy were evil, and we can even learn some things from them. Currently parents are debating whether Robert E. Lee Elementary (Lee Elementary School of Tech) in Tampa Bay should be renamed. Draw your own opinion, but today I felt I had to share what I know of General Lee and his friends.
As for destroying Confederate monuments, this is unacceptable. You can disagree, and you can choose to oppose Confederate monuments in your city if you feel it doesn’t represent what the city has become, however at least act with some respect. North or South these soldiers were all Americans. Imagine a time where state patriotism wasn’t uncommon. Where we all loved our states like Texans love Texas. Now imagine if your state seceded from the union and needed to repel invading forces. You may have opposed seceding, but even today I feel many people would die for their state regardless of the issues at hand. Confederate soldiers are still American veterans, and whether you want their memory in your city or not doesn’t mean you have reason to vandalize monuments to soldiers.