46 comments… add one
  • KGaetano Jan 22, 2011 @ 16:24

    Guilty as charged. I denigrated Lee’s abilities far too much to make a point.

  • David L McCrary Jan 22, 2011 @ 12:13

    I know Gen Lee had undying faith in his men but having stood where the assault began on Day Three I just find it unbelievable that they had any plausable chance to pierce the Federal line and then follow it up. Gen Longstreet disagreed with the overall strategy. He wanted to manuver the army to an advantageous postion so the Union would be forced to attack. Gen Lee made the decision to fight at Gettysburg. They never recovered from Pickett’s Charge.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2011 @ 12:15

      Thanks for the comment, but I am not sure what it has to do with the subject of this post.

  • KGaetano Jan 21, 2011 @ 23:25

    OOps. frontal (-;

  • KGaetano Jan 21, 2011 @ 23:23

    Robert E. Lee was a skilled leader of men, whose dignity and concern for his men inspired affection and admiration toward him. On most occasions he was an excellent strategist and tactician of war, but his rash front assault on the Union line on the third day of Gettysburg did a great deal to hasten the end of the Confederate insurrection.
    I think that holidays commemorating Lee as Confederate commander are a disaster. I concur with Ulysses Grant’s assessment of Lee.

    I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.

  • Jonathan Dresner Jan 18, 2011 @ 12:04

    I don’t see what’s so hard about this post, honestly. We honor MLK, like Washington and Lincoln, for his positive contribution to American society, though his most immediate impact certainly was in the South.

    What did Lee give the US that would deserve a parallel honor? What did Lee give Alabama, even, that would merit a state-level day of recognition? And if I’m wrong and he does merit it, what’s the value or meaning of having it coincide with MLK’s honors?

    • Arleigh Birchler Jan 18, 2011 @ 12:47

      Simply because Lee-Jackson Day had been celebrated by many Southern states at that time for many decades. I am glad we now have a day to honor Dr Martin Luther King Jr. I do not expect that everyone else should stop having the holiday that they grew up with. One “bank holiday” is a better solution then having the banks and government offices closed twice in the same week. Honoring both Gen Lee and Dr King on the same day also means that Southerners from many different groups and strata of society are sharing something symbolic.

      • Jonathan Dresner Jan 18, 2011 @ 16:24

        Sharing? Were there many joint celebrations? Or were they “separate but equal”?

  • Arleigh Birchler Jan 18, 2011 @ 7:54


    Perhaps the point is too subtle for some of us. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr led a very significant march in Alabama. No, Robert E Lee never led a march in Alabama. Therefore … ?

    Since the last point is rather ambiguous, it leaves each person to fill in the blanks as they see fit. I understand that Lee-Jackson Day has a long history across the South. Given all the alternatives, I think the fact that Alabama has:Lee-King Day might be a good thing. For me it sends a message of hope and reconciliation. I realize that I am in the minority on that point.

    In the twisted labyrinth of my mind this seems to fit in with Neil Young’s songs about Southern Man and Alabama, and the response, Sweet Home Alabama. That shadowy area of the psyche is one that seems to me to merit attention.

  • Brendon Jan 18, 2011 @ 6:46

    Hmmm. Since you’re apparently arguing that a Lee holiday should not be celebrated in Alabama because Lee never marched in that state, then its safe to assuming when following your logic, that MLK Jr. Day should not be observed in New England, the Mid-West, and the American West because he did not march in either of those states.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 18, 2011 @ 7:22

      Thanks for the comment, Brendon. Actually, I am not suggesting that a Lee holiday ought not to be celebrated in Alabama. And for the purposes of this essay I’m not even suggesting that New England states ought to celebrate MLK Day. I am making a point about Alabama.

      • Brendon Jan 18, 2011 @ 8:00

        Then I don’t understand the point that you are trying to make.

        Yes Lee did not march through Alabama but thousands (probably tens of thousands) of Alabamians served with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in at least 16 different regiments.

        Or is it that the only states that can legitimatly celebrate Lee and his army are Virginia (and now West Virginia), Maryland, and Pennsylvania because he lead troops through those states?

        • Kevin Levin Jan 18, 2011 @ 8:07

          You are correct that thousands of Alabamians served in Lee’s army as well as other Confederate armies.

          I am not saying anything about who should or who should not commemorate Lee.

          • Brendon Jan 18, 2011 @ 9:02

            Then what is the point of this post?

  • Bob Jan 18, 2011 @ 3:58

    I think the connection is Lee is seen as a hero across the South thus why the Lee holiday remains in many southern states. Washington never marched in Alabama either, but they still celebrate Washington’s Birthday (despite modern conceptions, the holiday is STILL officially George Washington;s Birthday…see Congressional record for reference). I personally think the King holiday should be changed to a holiday to respect ALL of those who have fought for Civil Rights. There are others, many more respectable than King, who made huge strides in Civil Rights. Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks etc…

    • Kevin Levin Jan 18, 2011 @ 4:54

      What do you mean by “more respectable that King”? I agree that King overshadows a great many people who came before and after, but there is no doubt that he is the face of the civil rights movement and for good reason given his work throughout the 1950s and 60s – much of which took place in Alabama. As far as I know neither Frederick Douglass nor George Washington ever set foot there.

  • Scott MacKenzie Jan 17, 2011 @ 9:26

    Lee might not have, but Union general James H. Wilson did with his cavalry corps in March-April 1865. They ranged through the state ending the remnants of Confederate rule. After burning the University of Alabama, they marched south, fighting a sharp but brief battle at Selma. Wilson then headed east to march through Montgomery, almost a century before – to the day – that Dr. King did). They continued onwards through Auburn, fighting at West Point, Georgia, and finally at Columbus. His troopers caught Davis near Irwinville in May. The uncontested nature of Wilson’s raid proved how much Alabama suffered during the war. Few white men remained to fight, while slavery all but ended throughout the state.

    While I will give The Other School its credit for last season, this year belongs to Auburn. War Eagle.

    • Billy Bearden Jan 17, 2011 @ 9:56

      And it was the Wilson Raid in West Point where a friend of mine lost his ancestor, a hispanic colonel from Florida. Those troopers of Wilson’s sure knew how to kill old men and young children

      • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 9:59

        Scott and Billy,

        While I appreciate the references to Wilson’s campaign in Alabama it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post.

        • Scott MacKenzie Jan 17, 2011 @ 10:16

          Very well, but I find it interesting how the Lost Cause, as employed by the other poster, twisted history to suit their agenda.

  • GPS Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:55

    Great post, Kevin. Made me think of a discussion I once had w/ someone who claimed Lee marched his Confederate Army in Georgia. I responded that my only recollection of Lee’s military service in GA was — irony of ironies — as a US Army officer (aiding construction of US Army coastal defenses near what would later become Fort Pulaski). To understate his response, he was nonplussed. At least in this instance, it seems like some see the Lost Cause as threatened by references to Lee’s prior role as US Army officer (esp. in Yankee turf like Michigan, Ohio, & Illinois). Too bad; to me, it makes his story much more complex and compelling.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:56

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for the comment, but I am not really making a point simply about whether Lee operated in Alabama. I think most well-informed people are aware of that fact.

  • Lisa Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:47

    The thing is though, it’s not about recognizing Lee as “great leader.” If it was, then maybe (and that’s a BIG maybe), it would be about realizing Dr. King’s dream.

    It’s only about one thing and that’s getting a one up on MLK. It’s about basically saying, for lack of better terms, “screw you Martin Luther King.” It’s about everyone being represented (and I say that sarcastically). If African Americans are going to have MLK Day, then white Southerners have to have R. E. Lee Day.

    A friend on FB has already called it a “joke” (apparently it has no relevance to her) and an editorial ran in the paper the other day that I’ve heard several people agree with saying Washington and Lincoln (yes, Lincoln), don’t get their own day and even though the editorial never actually said it, the point was, then why does MLK. I’m absolutely disgusted by it.

    • Billy Bearden Jan 17, 2011 @ 9:41

      Mr. Bearden,

      This is your first warning. At no time has anyone insulted you on this site. Failure to restrain yourself will result in you being permanently banned from commenting on this site. I assume you are capable of making your point in a mature manner.


  • Arleigh Birchler Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:45

    Sorry. I really did not mean to imply that you were. I am merely honest with myself. I find that when I talk about things people tend to get the impression that I know what I am talking about. I talk about things I know nothing about all of the time so that I can learn. It is the only way I know to get outside of my own set of biases and prejudices. I find nothing worthwhile it talking to folks who all agree with me.

  • Laurie Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:34

    No but now we have Alabama football, also very important. Roll Tide!

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:36

      Yes, I experienced the religion that is Alabama football during my 2-year stint in Mobile. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  • Billy Bearden Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:27

    Mr Levin,

    Thanks for allowing my comments.
    My take on this thread is perhaps you disagree with Lee Day in Alabama, being Lee had no ‘connection’ physically to that great state. My rebuttal is of course neither of the two other Men
    did either. All 3 had and do have followers – Columbus maybe not so much – and hold them in such esteem they were found worthy of official state recognition. This ‘bothers’ some people.
    If I am incorrect, please give me some insight and I will reevaluate my assesment.

  • Arleigh Birchler Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:22

    Yesd, I fail to see the point, also. That is mainly because I am dense and slow. Sherman never marched across Alabama, and Quantrill never led a raid into Alabama.

    I realize that I am ignorant about a lot of things, but I think that celebrating Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Robert E Lee together is a big step toward realizing Dr King’s dream.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:26

      I am not sure why you have to question your own level of intelligence. I certainly am doing no such thing.

  • Ole Roy Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:15

    So Kevin What is your point?? Do you want the MLK day to be celebrated by it’s self and give State and bank Employe’s another day off for Lee? Or due you want Lee’s Birthday done away with all together?

  • Billy Bearden Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:03

    Neither did Jesus or Christopher Columbus. What is your point?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 8:08

      Hmmm…I don’t see how Jesus or Christopher Columbus are relevant. You are correct, however, in pointing out that neither individual marched across the state of Alabama.

      • Richard Jan 17, 2011 @ 10:36

        Considering Dr. Kings religious views and training I would have to disagree about the statement on Jesus. He was there in the hearts and minds of those marching.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 11:26

          I assume you understood the point I was trying to make.

  • Ole Roy Jan 17, 2011 @ 7:47

    They already know that Kevin. Folks Celebrate Lee across the South because he was a great man and beloved leader.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 7:57

      Thanks for the comment, but you missed my point.

  • Arleigh Birchler Jan 17, 2011 @ 6:40

    I have always thought that Robert E. Lee was loyal to Virginia, not to the Confederacy. Perhaps that is due to misinformation. As far as I know, he never led an Army into any other Confederate state. I seem to recall that he was only made commander of ALL Confederate armies near the end of the War. He did, however, command units that came from all of the Confederate states to Virginia.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 7:28

      Lee was a thorough nationalist from beginning to end and believed that the states should do whatever was demanded of it by the Confederate government in Richmond. If you are interested in this aspect of Lee’s view of the war I highly recommend Gary Gallagher’s essay, “An Old Fashioned Soldier in a Modern War?” which you can find in his book, Lee and His Generals in War and Memory.

      • Bill Backus Jan 17, 2011 @ 13:36

        While part of Virginia at the time, Lee did command Confederate troops in West Virginia. And while not as large as a Department/Army he commanded in Virginia from 1862-65, Lee did command the Department of Carolina and Georgia in early 1862.

        And let’s not forget that thousands of Alabamians died fighting under Robert E. Lee…

        • Arleigh Birchler Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:07

          If you are referring to the battles in western Virginia at the start of the war, I do not believe Lee was in command. He was an advisor to President Davis at that time, and could only recommend action.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:11

            No, Lee was in command. I am no expert on this subject, but you could take a look at Clayton Newell’s _Lee vs. McClellan: The First Campaign.

            • Arleigh Birchler Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:23

              I stand corrected (I had to check a few sources first.) I had always been of the impression that he was only an advisor at Cheat Mountain. He was recalled to Richmond after that, and was placed in command of the ANV after Joe Johnston was wounded defending Richmond.

              • Margaret D. Blough Jan 18, 2011 @ 18:44

                Arleigh-I join in Kevin’s recommendation of the Newell book. In addition to the military aspects, it goes into the origin and history of the tensions between the NW counties and the Tidewater/Piedmont regions of Virginia that led to NW counties. One of Lee’s biggest problems was two of his generals, former VA Governor Henry Wise and former US Secretary of War John B. Floyd (such an inept general that I’ve long held that the greatest service he did for the US was to go with the Confederacy), long-time political rivals who were far more interested in feuding with each other than in fighting the US Army.

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