It’s another one of those slow days here at Civil War Memory, but I didn’t want Robert E. Lee’s birthday to pass without showing due respect. With that in mind I thought we would once again try our hands at giving this print a caption. This is a truly bizarre print. I assume that in addition to Lee and Longstreet we are looking at John Bell Hood and A.P.Hill. It looks like Hill’s horse is eating blood-stained grass. What’s Lee complaining about? Even Traveller looks upset with Longstreet. I will leave the rest to you.
OK Ken, what do you got for us?
And if you are looking for something to listen to this Saturday evening, here is a nice discussion between Peter Carmichael, Allen Guelzo, and James McPherson.
Gary Gallagher’s forthcoming book explores Confederate loyalty through the lives of Robert E. Lee, Steven D. Ramseur, Jubal Early. Gallagher has analyzed the lives of all three, including an early biography of Ramseur, but this might be his most extensive treatment of Early to date. Many of us anticipated a full-length biography of Lee’s “Bad Old Man”, but that is not going to happen.
Last week the Lovett School in Atlanta hosted Gallagher as part of its speaker series, which you can watch below. I am very much looking forward to this book.
Here is a short clip of Tom Dugan portraying Robert E. Lee. There is a short interview with Dugan and the director, but the clip that I found most interesting was Dugan’s portrayal of Lee’s views on slavery and race. What you get is a very loose reading of the historical record and a great deal of fantasy.
Earlier this week I introduced you to Byron Thomas, who is considering joining the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It looks like the research that will be necessary to establish his connection with a Confederate soldier will have to wait as Byron needs to write an essay on Robert E. Lee. Now being enrolled at a state university in South Carolina one would assume that Byron would ask a librarian and/or the history department for references. Instead, Byron is asking the good folks at the SHPG for their recommendations. This is a train wreck in the making and wrong on so many levels.
We’ve seen this group in action when it comes to doing history. If this is for a history class, Byron is going to be eaten alive by his professor.
Here is a wonderful example of what happens when we fail to train students on how to utilize the Internet. We all know it can be a powerful tool when used correctly, but the vast majority of students have little training on how to search for information and evaluate individual websites. We also need to train our students on how to do historical research. It needs to begin in middle school, if not before, and continue right through college. If Byron’s professors are simply assigning history essays without any training than they deserve to have to read what is likely to be produced as a result of what we see here.
And what we see here is basically the equivalent of approaching strangers on the street and asking them for reliable sources. How sad.
I don’t normally share reader mail, but this struck me as worth posting. It’s been a few years since I last visited Stratford Hall and while I had a pleasant visit I too was struck by the emphasis on the cherubs.
Today I visited Stratford Hall. The Great House obviously demonstrates the Lee family’s tremendous wealth during the eighteenth-century, and, while I was generally impressed with the interpretation of the plantation, I was a bit disappointed that there is not a more significant effort to interpret the slave life enforced and endured at Stratford Hall.
The docent pointed out the cherubs in the nursery’s fireplace that young four-year-old Robert E. Lee said good-bye to when he and his family moved to Alexandria. Apparently, as the story goes, young Robert recognized the gravity of his family’s move and that he would not see his cherubs anymore.
What struck me with this story is how it conveys his sense of childhood innocence, which of course we should expect from a small child. Sheltered from the world around him, he had become attached to these cherubs set into the fireplace’s iron backing. He regarded them as something real, something deserving of a farewell, all the while his family enslaved dozens of African Americans and denied them the opportunity of any similar sense of childhood bliss. Did young Robert ever hear the crack of a whip or the crying horror of a slave being sold away from his family? We’ll never know perhaps. But if he did, his family and possibly even black servant protectors shielded him from the oppression outside and away from the Great House and its more immediate and stately environs.
I have young children who have neither experienced nor have come to understand the ugliness that the world perpetuates and endures. For this, I am thankful beyond expression. I often wonder what they will grow up to become, to believe and to defend as worthwhile. Young Robert grew up to defend a slaveocracy- an institution that represented everything opposed and contradictory to those cherubs in the fireplace. Acknowledging our history, even its ugliness, helps to strive to do better for the next generation.