What Is Lee Thinking?

I appreciate the recent comments on memory and R.E. Lee  as I am working to complete an essay on how the Civil War, and the Confederacy in particular, is taught to high school students around the world.  The spectrum is broad and there were a few surprises along the way.  Discussing with students how their peers in other countries learn American history helps to bring important interpretive themes into sharper focus and makes it easier to see them as assumptions worth analyzing.

How about one final image.  This one is titled “The Christian General” by William A. Maughan.  You will be sad to hear that the limited edition print is SOLD OUT.  I’ve said it over and over, but it is worth repeating, that you can’t imagine a painting which depicts Grant or Sherman reading from the “Good Book” to an innocent child.  I can’t help but wonder what is on Lee’s mind as he stares beyond the pages of the Bible.  What do you think?


April 9, 1865

The surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 effectively ended the Civil War and  slavery in the United States.  Why are we no longer "expected to join in singing Patriotic songs" to mark the occasion?

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Remembering Lee: A Response to Brendan Wolfe

Brendan Wolfe, who both blogs at the Biederbecke Affair and works as the editor of the VFH’s Encyclopedia Virginia [Encyclopedia Virginia Blog], responded to my last post with an incredibly thought-provoking question.

Per your instructions, I clicked when I was finished crying, and now I want to make a comment about your post regarding Lee’s decision to resign from the Army and accept a commission from Virginia.  I sympathize with your efforts to bring more balance to the historical consideration of this moment; I even sympathize with your tendency to chide men like Al Stone for their myth-steeped take on the Civil War.

But with the name of your blog in mind, I’m wondering if you could take the discussion a step further: What does this “rewriting” of Lee’s decision say about how and why we remember the Civil War?  Perhaps we are too quick to turn to “honor” as an explanation, but don’t we have a cultural (and for a time even political) need to exonerate Lee? To bring him back into the American fold by not judging his decision too harshly, by not — as unnamed critics do in the
newspaper article you link to — calling him a traitor?

The myth of Lee may be bad history but it’s also played an important role in putting the country back together again.  I know there are all sorts of caveats and potential objections to that last statement, so I’m curious to know what you think.

My response follows.

[click to continue…]


I Feel His Pain…

though I am not quite sure whether it’s Al’s or Robert E. Lee’s.  Click here when you are finished crying.

Update: Just a few of the sources that Al Stone uses to interpret R.E. Lee.

Gods and Generals by Jeff Sharra

Killer Angels
by Michael Sharra

The Last Full Measure
by Jeff Sharra

The South was Right
by James & Walter Kennedy

A view of the Constitution of the United States of America
by William Rawle

When in the Course of Human Events
by Charles Adams

Republic of Republics
by Bernard J. Sage

Anyone surprised?

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Florida’s Confederate Plates Bill Dead in the Water

[Hat-Tip to John Maas]

It looks like Representative Don Brown’s bill to offer Confederate plates to Florida’s residents is going nowhere.  Here is what Brown had to say:

It is not about racism, it’s not about slavery, it is about an acknowledgement that many of these people’s families have documented that they had friends and family or family who lost their lives fighting for a cause they believed in.

Fair enough, but why not honor your Confederate heritage  in a way that does not involve defacing a sacred symbol?