William C. Davis on Robert E. Lee

Click here for Gary Gallagher’s lecture at Washington and Lee in 2009.

11 comments… add one
  • Anthony A. Lombardi Mar 13, 2011 @ 12:55

    Let us not forget that Gen Winfield Scott led the tragic Trail of Tears in which innocent American Indians were forced and removed from their homes. I cannot remember how many of them died.
    General Lee did not believe in slavery, but he did recommend before the war’s start that the South gradually free and arm all the slaves. He believed that the South should gradually free the slaves and teach them skills so they could easily be introduced into society and not be a burden to it.
    Over the years, several new books have come out that tell the true story of Abe Lincoln. Here is one that ran on Public TV. The Long Walk of 1864. Lincoln had the Navajos removed from their lands. Approximately 10,000 Indians were removed. During the cold winter of January 1864, Navajos were forced marched to what is now Oklahoma. All the Indians were fed were raw flour and rancid bacon. In order to gain or retrieve additional food the Indians would wait until the Union’s horses would crap and then separate the corn fed from it to eat. Anyone who fell behind or slowed down the march would be shot. Union soldiers did shoot women, children, the elderly, and pregnant women. They would stick their bayonets into the belly of the pregnant women. In all, 2,500 died in the forced march. In 1866, General Sherman became head of the Indian Affairs Unit and visited the site. He had them removed because he felt the site was in humane and disease infested .
    According to the History Channel series, Civil War History, the segment, Women at War, the North had slave contraband camps. At total of 25% of all slaves in these camps died due to disease and malnutrition. How and why?

    • Kevin Levin Mar 13, 2011 @ 12:58

      What do Scott and Lincoln have to do with Lee? Davis is not condemning Lee as some kind of arch villain. Of course Lee believed in slavery. Just take a look at his own writings which are easily accessible. For an excellent secondary source, read Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s _Reading the Man_.

  • Marianne Davis Oct 14, 2010 @ 13:28

    I do not cavil with those who see a sort of tragic nobility in Robert E. Lee. But it should be remembered that other honorable men, sons indeed of Virginia, saw their duty differently. These men remained loyal to the Union and to the uniform that they too had worn for decades. Any list of these men would have to start with Winfield Scott. Surely the struggle Lee faced was repeated in thousands of homes, with the same considerations and different results. Lee’s decision must not be seen as more chivalric simply because of its tragic consequences.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 14, 2010 @ 13:34

      Hi Marianne,

      Your point is well taken and it’s one that I’ve made any number of times on this site. I would keep in mind where this speech is taking place.

    • Margaret D. Blough Oct 14, 2010 @ 20:21

      Marianne-Let us also not forget the Rock of Chickamauga, George Thomas, who was disowned by his family for staying true to his oath.

  • Richard Williams Oct 13, 2010 @ 10:44

    The University has supervisory control, so I would assume there’s no issue w/University filming/photography. Here’s a link to their policy:


    • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2010 @ 11:27

      Thanks for the link, Richard.

  • Richard Williams Oct 13, 2010 @ 2:52

    Just wondering. Whenever I’ve visited, I’ve always known them to be rather adamant about it.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2010 @ 3:59

      I wonder if this is the exception to the rule since W&L also filmed Gallagher’s talk last year.

  • Richard Williams Oct 12, 2010 @ 18:21

    Perhaps someone received permission, but photography and videotaping is, I believe, still prohibited inside of Lee Chapel. Maybe they’ve relaxed that rule?

    • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2010 @ 0:55

      Hi Richard,

      Nice to hear from you. I was actually going to email you the link. This was filmed by Washington and Lee so there should be no legal issues.

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