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The Myth And Legend Of Robert E. Lee

Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook

The myths and legend around Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and why he’s still admired by many on both sides of the Mason Dixon line.

Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army, shown March 1864, location unknown. (AP)

Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army, shown March 1864, location unknown. (AP)

Robert E. Lee unquestionably became an American Icon after the Civil war was over.

President Ulysses S. Grant lauded him, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said he was “unsullied as he read the pages of history.”

But as the nation stares hard at the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States has the hagiography of some of the battlefield commanders obscured the cause of the war: human bondage?

This hour On Point: Robert E. Lee Revisited.

-Jacki Lyden


James C. Cobb, distinguished Research Professor at the University of Georgia and author of “Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity.” His article, titled “How Did Robert E. Lee Become an Icon?” appears in the current issues of Humanities Magazine.

Natasha Trethewey, a poet and a professor of creative writing at Emory University, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007 for her collection “Native Guard.”

From The Reading List:

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  • Brett

    I heard that he had unusually small feet for a man of his physical stature, and supposedly he preferred the company of women to men. He loved to sit around with a roomful of women and gossip with them while they knitted and whatnot…

    • Terry Tree Tree

      My millitary service, and working far more predominantly with men, I prefer the company of women!   They are far cuter, and have a lot more qualities, that I prefer!
          By your evidence, maybe he was a Japanese Geisha?
          Is part of the myth, that he was greatly desired as a millitary commander by both sides?  If so, how did that get started, and kept going in the North?


    Here’s one from the legend collection. Many years ago, in elementary school, we had a little book of moral tales, each page a brief story with a picture. One morning, long after the Civil War, Lee was riding in the horsecars. At one stop, an elderly colored woman got on laden down with groceries, whom Lee recognized as one of his former slaves. The old general stood up, raised his hat and said, “May I offer you a seat, Madam?” Point made, even to our young minds: DO THE RIGHT THING.

    • TFRX

      Is this apocryphal, like George Washington and the cherry tree?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

        FACT: The Lee’s left a black woman incharge of their home when they moved to Richmond. The Davis’ adopted took a black child, whom the black “owner” was beating, into their home. Sonewall Jackosn after major battle was conerned on writing a check to pay for blacks Sunday school. What did Lincoln say about free blacks in compare? When debating what blacks would do with their freedom he said they “would root hog or die.” His home State of IL blackcodes said that a “free” black would have to pay $1000 to “prove” they could support themselves.

  • Anonymous

    He should have been executed for treason.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jamie-Funkhouser/640910157 Jamie Funkhouser

      To be executed for treason one must first commit treason. You need to learn your true history and what treason of the day was. If you read the Constitution, Abe Lincoln was the real man whom committed treason. 

      • Anonymous

        Article 3 Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  — Lee levied war against the United States.  Lincoln did not. 

  • Af_whigs

    Having just re-read The Killer Angels for the – who knows how many times – Lee comes across as a noble, sympathetic figure, who ultimately seemed to be unable to make major military decisions without second-guessing how he would be perceived by the press & public. 

    I’d be curious to know how accurate that is, as Shaara supposedly based his characterizations on documents and letters, etc.

    And while I agree that leaders of the Confederacy should have obviously been dealt with as traitors, they were also rich, powerful men.  And, as we know from repeated examples both recent and in the intervening decades, the Yankees were unlikely to punish “their own”.

  • Charlie Compton

    Robert E. Lee was a traitor.  He swore to defend and protect the US Constitution, collected a Federal paycheck for decades and when asked to protect the Union, he quit the US Army.

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      Minor point, and not to defend Lee’s decision, but let’s be accurate: his oath as an officer did not prescribe loyalty to the Constitution; that oath was changed in 1862 specifically in response to the defection of U.S. officers to the Confederacy. Lee’s oath was:

      I, _____, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.

      If we’re talking about oaths (and violations of same), it’s important to know exactly what the oath actually was.

      The U.S. Army oath for enlisted ranks didn’t include a reference to the Constitution until 1950.

    • Tomvdigangi

      My sentiments exactly!  Not only a traitor, but one who left the Union to uphold one of the most despicable causes in the history of mankind: human slavery.  It galls me beyond belief to take a tour of our National Capitol only to see statues of he and Jeff. Davis in Statuary Hall while 100′s of thousands of men and women have honorably served and sacrifed for this country, including those today in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. 

    • MarkBlair

      What garbage!  What offal!  There was NO treason in seceding from the US, secession was constitutionally legal!  The US Supreme Court said so right after the war; see Salmon P. Chase’s comments on that.  Inf act, while researching the case against Jefferson Davis, the Court researchers found that the entire military action against the South was illegal and treasonous.  So they released Davis and never tried anyone, since in the court proceeding the US would be found guilty.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jamie-Funkhouser/640910157 Jamie Funkhouser

      Robert E Lee swore to protect his country. Before 1865 every state was considered to have the power to be free and sovereign. Robert E Lee’s home country was Virginia. He swore to protect Virginia and that is what he did. He was no traitor. Learn your history.  

      • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

        “Robert E Lee swore to protect his country. . . . Robert E Lee’s
        home country was Virginia.”

        His officer’s oath, reproduced above, explicitly says, “I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America.” Whether you think his decision cast his lot with the South was justified or not, the wording of the oath he swore to is not Virginia, or open to his personal interpretation of what “his country” was.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          which is why he “resigned” then that “oath” reverted back to his “country” of which was part of “union” compact.

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            But that’s not what Jamie’s saying. The oath Lee swore to is explicit. If Jamie’s going to claim (as he seems to) that Lee’s oath was to protect his state as a “free and sovereign” entity, he’s rationalizing something that’s simply not there. As I say, the wording matters a great deal.

  • jim

    he would have fought for the union if virginia is not part of the confederacy. no, he is the real deal.

  • Michael

    I heard he freed his slaves before the war and was actually against slaverly but thought it was his duty to fight for the south.

    Any truth to this?

    • ricky

      according to what i have read he did not free the slaves he inherited from his father-in-law.

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      Not true. Lee was uncomfortable with the institution of slavery, but saw it as God’s will. He never questioned it publicly, and saw the meddlesome abolitionists in the North as being the biggest part of the problem. He formally manumitted the slaves at Arlington at the end of 1862, long after they had been effectively liberated by the Union army’s occupation of that place in 1861. Lee personally owned slaves for much of his adult life, up until at least 1852, and was served by them (his or others’) right through the end of the war in 1865.

      See: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/08/arlington-bobby-lee-and-the-peculiar-institution/61428/

      • John Tatom

        My understanding is that the record shows he managed his wife’s inheritance of slaves for five years from the death of hi sfather in law until he could afford to set these slaves free by endowing them as required by Virginia law. He did not own slaves before or after this and technically these were not his slaves. 

        Contrast this with most military leaders at the time, including Grant.

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

          Robert E. Lee personally owned slaves, himself, beginning with the inheritance from his mother in 1829, and continuing at least into the early 1850s — maybe longer. These are entirely separate from those he managed as part of George W. P. Custis’ estate, beginning in 1857.

          Lee was not required to manumit or “endow” those Arlington slaves by Virginia law. Those slaves had believed that they would be freed on Custis’ death, but his will (according to which historian one reads) either specified they be freed after a period of five years (Emory Thomas) or did no specify a time frame at all (Elizabeth Brown Pryor). Lee actually did formally manumit them at the end of 1862, but that was longer than the supposed five-year period, and in any case, for most of them freedom was an accomplished fact from the time Arlington was seized by Federal forces early in the war.

          It’s a common (and wrong) trope that Grant owned slaves, and did so through the war. Bob Pollock does the knowledge here:


          and here:


          In any case, what Grant did or did not do has no bearing on the facts of the case surrounding Robert E. Lee.

    • Mactavish

      Yes, that is true.  Lee’s wife inherited some slaves and Marse Robert promptly freed them.  Lee didn’t like slavery at all.  Andy’s not right.

      • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

        You need to read up on “Marse Robert.” Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s Reading the Man is a good place to start, but Emory Thomas’ biography is a good source, as well as Freeman’s biography. As I said, Lee found slavery distasteful, kept it at arm’s length personally, but never challenged it as an institution.

        Don’t take my word for it, though — do the research yourself, in a serious, recognized biography.

    • no name

      not only didn’t he free his slaves, he hired a person whose profession was to whip slaves

  • Gerald Fnord

    War is such a moral mess, and the Late Civil War Between the States of Northern Aggression Unpleasantness particularly so, that I think too many of us are too willing to see some light of nobility shining amidst the muck.

    But really, it is all hell.

  • Eli Siegel

    When Lee’s army entered Pennsylvania they took black Pennsylvanians
    into slavery. This is the moral measure of the Confederacy.

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)
    • Marcus33

      The Union not only enslaved all blacks they encountered, they raped the black women and tortured servants to make them tell where the valuables were buried.  Yankees were pure evil.

      • Rory

        Pure lies. 

        Many blacks fled to Northern lines and freedom.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          the “railroad” went to Canada. Why? Cehck black codes of Lincolns home State of IL – they didn’t like blacks.

  • Michael

    The south won the war? talk about Myths. 

    Atleast she’s not a Prof.

  • ricky

    We visited Gettysburg in July 2010 on a family vacation. Walking  thru town and on the battlefields where so many died is such a somber experience. You have a tremendous respect for the men who fought there and died fighting for a cause that they believed no matter what side they fought on. Lee was a great tactician and revered man.

  • Aaron

    What do Northerners think about the South?  We don’t…

  • TFRX

    Per Cobb: “A stronger pull to their home state than the union” before the Civil War. Actually, yes: Who knew this thing would go on for 2 1/3 centuries? Was that ever the safe bet in the first 50 years of the Union?

    Before 1860 the common descriptor used in speech was “The United States are…”

    After 1865 the common phrasing became “The United States is…”

    (I’ve taken this quote shamelessly from Shelby Foote or one of those other historians in Ken Burns’ “The Civil War”.)

    • John Tatom

      The Swiss Confederation has lasted 500 years and my impression from living and working there is that the Swiss identify first as a citizen of their village, then as a citizen of their canton (somewhat like states) and then as Swiss. Why is it hard to understand Lee’s principled defense of Virginia?

      • no name

        The “principle” that he fought for was slavery.  Not all pricnciples are good.  For instance fighting for the principle of nazism is principled but certainly not good (or right).  Similarly fight for the principle of slavery

  • Alan

    The notion that a state could have the power, above and beyond the power of the federal government, to deny basic rights to human beings residing in this country was a flaw in the original constitution that was not resolved legally until the conclusion of the civil war. That Lee would support such a notion does not do him credit, though I suppose his desire to see his former confederacy supporters peacefully accept the results of the war does.

    In any case, I sometimes believe the North lost the war when it took the South back into the Union. Its bigotry, which continued, its historic opposition to workers’ rights, its proud ignorance, its evangelical anti-science posture continue to make it a burden to the nation.

    • AC

      Absolutely correct. I think States that adhere to the rule of basic human rights and the Constitution of the United States may very well consider un-burdening themselves from the drag of the pathetically governed in other states. This can be done through boycott by citizens at the grassroots level, and through withholding of tax monies slated to the federal government that would find their way toward supporting and maintaining individual state policies that run counter to our principles as a nation. 

  • Bilt

    The Georgia flag did not carry the “Stars and Bars”.  It carried the Confederate Battle Flag!

  • Tar Heel

    As a Northern who grew up in North Carolina from age 6 to 26, I can tell you that Northerners do not understand the South. But neither do Southerners understand our own history. We were taught in public school that the major reason the south fought the Civil War was because of “state’s rights,” and slavery was really a minor issue. This continues to allow Southerners to perpetuate their romantic illusions about themselves.

    • Rob

      good book to read to get a better idea of southerners is Confederate in the Attic

      • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

        That’s a great book, highly recommended, but don’t assume it depicts all Southerners.

        • http://irvingpsychiatrist.blogspot.com Spinoza

          I’m sure you’re familiar with the article in the Atlantic months back which showed Lee to be a hard man in dealing with his wife’s family’s slaves when he ran the properties a few years before the CW.  I can recall standardized grammar tests in grade school which would interrogate you as to the correctness of writing say ‘red, white and blue’ rather than putting a comma after ‘white.’  Reflecting on this taking the tests I felt the ‘and’ should be a comma equivalent there.  I answered it however correctly. It would hardly make sense for Lee to have an opinion like myself in the grammar exercise and yet to go to war for somebody’s comma.

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            Yes, I am familiar with that piece. ;-)

          • http://irvingpsychiatrist.blogspot.com Spinoza

            Was that piece the fault of a man named for San Andreas?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

        Thisa book is even wrong about Mrs Martin’s husband, how much faith to put into a book that cannot even get one story right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.c.frank Jonathan Charles Frank

    This is such a backward conversation. There are plenty of old south types around me in Virginia, but they are completely in the minority and are being watered down on almost a daily basis. I have been in the south since the early 1980s and have no plans to ever leave. In many ways I feel like I have come home after several generations of being away. My immediate family has midwest roots. But my early family ties were all Virginian, yet I feel no connection to the confederates. That is the mistake that old south types make. They mistakenly believe that all white southerners are sympathetic to the lost cause. The truth is that most of us are not, anf the influence of neo confederates is doomed to continued evaporation. Most of us also consider Lee to be a traitor, but don’t care enough to argue with those old south types who deny reality. We know that they are slowly dying off, and that is a good thing. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

      If they are slowely dying off, then why is our curent government still arguing about the very thing the South brough forward, sa their ancestors against England had , the very issue of control ny a central government? TEA party? Taxed Enough Already, is same issue in 1775, 1861 and today. Or maybe you agree with Obama supporter “he gonna pay for my gas, house, etc”??

      • JJF

        Income taxes are at their lowest level since the 1950s. The Civil War had nothing to do with tariffs. You just hate black people. Next.

  • Brenda Anderson

    Robert E. Lee may have had gentlemanly manners and was kind to women.  He also led an army whose idea of states’ rights included the right to own human beings.  I was brought up in Virginia and told he was a hero who couldn’t fight against his friends and neighbors.  I was also taught not to do everything your friends do.  He could have made a different decision; then I could respect his manners.  

    • Chevelle1

      Sorry, the war really was about States Rights and freedom from tyranny.  To cover up their illegal invasion and war crimes, the Yankees cooked up the big lie of ‘it was all about slavery’.  Read about the Corwin Amendment, you’ll see.  Also, in July of 1861 the US Congress passed a resolution stating in no uncertain terms that the war was about ‘preserving the Union’ and definitely not about freeing anyone.  There were about twice as many slaves in the North as in the South, according to the 1860 Census.  Read “The South Was Right” by the Kennedy brothers.

      • Johnny10

        States rights?  Rights to do what? (Preserve the means to grow and export cotton).  What were those means to grow and export cotton, after all they weren’t tractors or horses or fertilizer?  Well then, what were they?  Uh, field hands.  OK.  And who were the field hands?  Gee, maybe sons and daughters of the farmers?  Not enough of them.  Then who else?  Mexican migrants? (oops, wrong century).  Gosh, I just can’t figure out what the South went to war over.

        • Jack

          It’s simple.  The south went to war over the invasion by the north.  Why did the north invade?  Over taxes.  The north had increased the import/export tariff to 37% and it was going to increase to 47%.  (Read about the Nullification controversy 30 years earlier – the south started to secede cause the tariff was 50% and they rolled it back – avoided secession.)
          Lincoln said the south would have to continue to pay the tariff even if they seceded.  How would you like to move from NY to TX but still have to pay NY state income tax?

        • Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

          States Rights were used by the yankee States long before the South did. They threatened secession over the Louisiana Purchase. Again during the War of 1812. Now THAT really was treason because they talked about getting back with England. None of these instances had a darn thing to do with “slavery”.
          Go figure, eh?

          • Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

            Just a thought, y’all.  It has been said that the secession of the Southern States was due exclusively upon the issue of protecting the institute of involuntary African servitude and nothing else, certainly not having to do with tariffs/taxation.
              Even if that were true, which we deny, consider this. If the tariff issue had no play at all in secession, it most certainly had eveything to do with the waging of war by the United States upon the Confederate States. This was so spoken by none other than the American Lenin himself, a. lincoln. I quote from his first inaugural address, “The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.”
              So, what was this about if not the collection of taxes/tariffs? If secession had not to do with money, certain it is, based on the very words of the war mongerer himself, that the implimenting of war itself DID!

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            “It has been said that the secession of the Southern States was due exclusively upon the issue of protecting the institute of involuntary African servitude and nothing else. . . ”

            Jimmy, I don’t think any serious historian argues that protection of slavery was the exclusive cause of secession, and that nothing else played a part. But most all agree that it was the primary cause, and the proximate cause. Without that issue there would have been no secession. The first states to secede, including my own, were very clear that the preservation of slavery was the prime mover in shaping their decision to leave the Union.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            VA, NC, etc  only seceeed AFTER Lincon called for invasion troops – slavery is not mentioned AT ALL in their secession documents. Virginia actual voted NOT to seceed before Lincolns call for troops. Georgia – my home State mention most issues, inclusing slavery, tarriffs, paying for northern projects, etc. My adopted State mentioned in convention (reeneactment of which I was chair) most issues (we used actual Journal of convention) - in actual document of secession NO reason is given and Florida is only State stating they reverted back to their NATION status.

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            Go back and read what I wrote. My wording was precise.

            Without the impetus to preserve the institution of slavery, there would not have been secession by the first states to go, setting off a series of events, North and South, which eventually led to other states seceding.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          Then what was birth fighting for? Lincoln said slavery was not reason. So what was it? He gave that reason also – “to collect impost and duties..”! So if north was fighting for money then South (as many of the secession documents state) was figthing to keep their moeny – since they were paying for most of federal gov’t and 2 days before Lincoln took office _ BEFORE THE WAR_ tarriffs were raised even further from 20 to nearly 40+% which affected mostly South. It was money, control and power as all wars are fought over.

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            “He gave that reason also – ‘to collect impost and duties..’”

            No, that’s a mischaracterization of what he said. It’s a line from his first inaugural address, in which he outlined what, as president, the limited things he would do — and not do — in those areas which had seceded. Here is the full passage:

            In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

            This is conciliatory and accommodating in the extreme. It is non-interventionist. To do anything less would be to abrogate the responsibilities of the office he was just elected to hold. He concluded:

            In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”

            When Lincoln said, “you can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors,” he left the instigation of a real, shooting war in the hands of Jefferson Davis and the seceded states. A little over a month later, at Charleston, they made their choice clear.

  • Alvin Case

    My progressive elementary school teachers in Queens, NY taught us that the Civil War didn’t effectively end until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and more or less completely ceased with the end of the ban against inter-racial marriage in a few southern states in the 1970s. I continue to see it that way, since having traveled extensively in the south and having many southern friends from college, the myth of Northern aggression persists because of the reality of the post-civil war environment being a ‘current’ event.
    The continued myth-making can be seen in some elements of the so-called Tea Party movement where “Big Government” is seen as the enemy of progress rather than the condition of social and economic union. The Tea Party Movement’s embrace of victimhood and vanguard cries for protections against ‘Otherness’ sounds very much like the same script from Southern politicians during the period of 1900-1968.
    It seems to me that historians and social scientist should consider approaching the Civil War as a current event with unique post-traumatic symptoms that affect both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

    • bill

      You know you make a point ;yall should just throw all the Southern States out. We uns will go peacably.

  • dumspirospero

    As a native Black South Carolinian, I very well understand how polemic this issue is.  In high school, when the rebel flag still flew above our state house, my classmates and I (people I’d grown up and attended school with since kindergarten) were embattled everyday in our discussions about “their” history and “our” history, because they meant and occupied two very separate spheres.  To that end, I think the discussion of Lee should be a full picture, but oftentimes, this romanticism of proper southern gentry and the “dear old South” completely excludes Black people from the narrative (though our ancestors were the reason that the War was fought). 

    This discussion of states’ rights is intellectually dishonest and disingenuous, as the economic freedom the South sought was based on the backs of free/expropriated labor supported by a racist classist feudal system.  While revisionism may exist on both sides, let’s not forget that all of the glorification of Lee (and to a larger extent Davis, Wade Hampton, and Jackson) existed in a period when the larger society (with the exception of most enslaved Blacks and abolitionists) was completely fine with the fact that an entire population was relegated to underclass status, solely on the basis of their race.  The caller who thought this revisionism only existed because of the unpopularity of racism this day in age is correct, but apparently does not understand that the opposite is true.  In this respect, in a time when there was no dignity for people who were considered chattel/personal property and their descendants, men of honor were those who sought to keep these folks in their place. In a time when blatant racism and the ownership of people were completely acceptable, of course such men would be hailed as heroes if they sought to permanently maintain racist peonage.

    • Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

      See, this is just not fair. To view history through the biased lens you are using only creates a false impression, based on your own prejudices.
      “Slavery” was, and still is, an accepted form of human relations. Now, even then there were loads of White Southerners who thought slavery wrong. They were intitled to their opinion. But the vast majority of White people worldwide considered their own race far and away better/superior to that of the African Black. They need only look at the mud huts they lived in and compared that to the sturdy wooden homes the Whites lived in, along with the advances in civilisation developed by Whites and it is easy to see why.
      No harm, no foul. Whites did not HATE the Blacks, then, but that came later. In more modern tymes.  

      • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

        No harm, no foul? Surely there was harm involved in slavery, whether or not it was “an accepted form of human relations”!

      • MJJ

        “No harm, no foul.” to describe the African slave trade. What planet do you live on, dude?

  • Sread269

       Interesting program.  The Civil War does still affect us today.  When my Vermont Air National Guard Security Forces Squadron deployed to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games we were assigned to augment the Atlanta PD near the baseball venue.  However, one day we were quickly reassigned to replace a Massachusetts Air National Guard unit who was augmenting the security detail at the Georgia State House.  We were told this was because a Massachusetts regiment had occupied the State House grounds following the fall of Atlanta during the Civil War.  A Vermont unit was okay, but a similar Massachusetts unit was too much of a historical coincidence for many. 

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      Dude, and that’s not even history — the Georgia state capitol didn’t move to Atlanta until 1868.

      • Rob

        that is true, it was in milledgeville and occupied by sherman during his campaign to the sea and held a mock congress hearings at the state capitol

      • Sread269

        You are correct.  But I knew I saw an old photograph in the State House of the site when it was the Atlanta City Hall and here it is: http://www.americancivilwarphotos.com/content/atlanta-georgia-city-hall-camp-2d-massachusetts-infantry-grounds.   Good catch.  The site that eventually became the State House was occupied by a Massachusetts unit.

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

          Fair enough. But still — that’s just nuts. I’d expect something like that from, say, South Carolina (“Too small for a republic. . . .”), had higher hopes for the acknowledged capital of the “New South.”

          • Sread269

            LOL.  We all took it in stride.  There were a few jokes about the last time all us Yankees came to visit we were put up in Andersonville, but the people we met were great!  I did develop a taste for boiled peanuts. Cajun spiced is even better.

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            “I did develop a taste for boiled peanuts.”

            Then you’ll love the hip-hop cover of “Goober Peas”:


  • Mwilson

    Jacki Lyden’s mellifluous voice is distracting … does she have to speak in this stagey way? I’ve been listening to her for years and am always, always bothered by this strange quality of hers.

  • Pingback: General Robert E, Lee: Hero or Trator? - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ3RPI5YN63HVMQGLQALFNGZ5Q Mark C

    Given that Robert E Lee had girls as young as 14 years old tortured, while he stood by screaming to “Hit her harder”, and given that he sold white looking infants and children (as well as black looking infants and children), Lee was actually a scum sucking pig.

    He was no hero, either, militarily. He ran from Richmond like a coward, and snuck away to surrender personally, making sure and taking a lot of time to primp and look just so “cute” when he surrendered.

    The real Lee was so drastically different from the myth Lee that we should just start over. 

    • southernamerican

      Facts please for this hot air????

    • Chevelle1

      That’s total baloney. you muct be thinking of Sherman, he did things like that and worse things too. 
      Robert E. Lee was the most honorable man who ever lived, right after Jesus.

      • Heehaw

        Jesus didn’t exist, so I guess that bumps Granny Lee to No. 1.

    • Cod1stnccavcsa

      It’s apparent that you have bought into the big brother axiam that if you tell a lie over and over again it will soon pass for the truth.Where are your sources for the lies you have put out as truth?

    • Vitomanno

      Mark, I guess when God was giving out brains you decided to keep straw between your ears!!

    • Sjpierce51

      another moron

  • Pingback: A Collection of Myths » Post Topic » The Myth And Legend Of Robert E. Lee – WBUR

  • Madison_bill

    What was the point of playing the clip from the movie Gettysburg? Does the hostess think that her audience needs a hook form popular culture? Recently she played a clip form the movie Goldfinger during a show about investing in gold. Get it? Gold, Goldfinger! Embarrasing.

  • Djemdre7

    I admire Lee as a general, and tactician. However, I do believe he was wrong in which side of the conflict he chose to fight on. He may have been a great person in general, but his choice in this matter does not say much for his loyalty to his country.

    • Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

      Lee WAS loyal to his country. Virginia.
      You dont get this?

  • Jack

    Shocking that there were no military leaders or service personnel on the show.  A few relatives were able to relate their family history that informed their view of the honorable and decent man. Lee was first of all a distinguished “officer and gentleman” by the standards of the day and the standards of today.  And he was a “gentleman and a scholar,” another appellation long respected more in the South than elsewhere. For an academic to completely ignore his contribution to history as a scholar and his distinction in military history as a tactician and historian is bewildering. He died as a college president for God’s sake, rather more prestigious then perhaps than now.
    As far as whether he was a traitor, there was no discussion of his contribution to the U.S. military in his long and distinguished career before the civil war.  He retired from his US commission, an honorable action and not treason before he chose to defend his country, Virginia.  
    He made a clear distinction that he would not attack the Union, but he was first of all a Virginian and he choose to defend Virginia and the states allied with Virginia. 
    And Lee made abundantly clear that he chose to defend Virginia despite a revolution with which he disagreed.  His participation and support of Virginia was about protecting his home and people.  Or more simply it was a state sovereignty issue, not a proslavery issue.  He put his principles in action freeing his wife’s inherited slaves before Lincoln freed anyone.  And he did it for principle, not a belated war tactic to create havoc in the South.  Lincoln did not go war to defeat slavery.  He did it to preserve the Union. On this he was very clear in his politics and in his writing.
    I am surprised that an historian from the University of Georgia could get so much wrong and simply ignore the writings of Lee and others simply on the slip of thought to make the war about slavery and not states’ rights. Viewed from the perspective of both the North and the South at the time, it was snot about slavery. As was pointed out, some 95% of African slaves brought to the Americas were south of the US, but the US did not attack there. And most white Southerners did not own slaves or have relatives tied to the ownership of slaves.  It stretches credibility to think they would send their sons off to die to defend a peculiar institution with which they had no personal interest. 
    I have always been frustrated that I have spent so little time reading the works of Robert E. Lee and I will get to it someday, but I know enough to have an abiding respect for one of the greatest Americans in our history. I understand that some academics can find work and reputation in debunking past scholarship, but they owe it to Lee and students of history to stick to history and not to shifting views of the causes and morality of actions at the times or to revisionist notions about the South and imputations to its leaders at the time.
    The lost cause issue and its relationship to Reconstruction would have shed some useful perspective on Lee’s statesmanship, but tim eis limited.

    Or a discussion of Grant vs. Lee might have been helpful in providing perspective on Lee.   


    • RogerCloud

      There was no treason on the part of the South, but by Constitutional definiton, the North committed treason against the South.
      No slave ship ever carried the Confederate flag — slave ships flew the US flag!  New York imported the majority of slaves, and in their official Seal there are slave ships shown in it.  The north Promoted and profited from slavery, then when they found they could save money by paying meager wages to the workers and didn’t have to feed and care for them, Yankees pushed the South to take their slaves for the cotton fiedls that fed the Northern textile mills.  What a racket.  and there were still millions of slaves in the North when the war started.  Slave markets were active throughout the War on Pennslyvania Avenue, one was within earshot of the White House; Lincoln never tried to free any of them.  The only thing that freed slaves was the 13th Amendment, passed in December 1865.

      • Rory

        Millions of slaves in the North???

        Unless you are referring to those working long hours in sweatshops for little money and not actual slaves, you are mistaken.

        • Fenski, Bart

          i do not know about “millions,” but the Union included the slave-holding states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia

      • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

        “there were still millions of slaves in the North when the war started.”

        In the 1860 U.S. Census, the total number of slaves in the states that would eventually from the Union (including border states and territories) was 529,436 — a little more than 10% of the total in the entire country. If you exclude Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, the total was 1,833. See:


        “Slave markets were active throughout the War on Pennslyvania Avenue, one was within earshot of the White House; Lincoln never tried to free any of them.”

        Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862. See:


        I understand that there is much that people can legitimately disagree about when it comes to interpretation or analysis. But there’s no excuse whatever for getting basic, elementary facts wrong. You’re just embarrassing yourself.

        • southernamerican

          Lincoln free’s slaves in the South,while using the in Washington.
          While Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of 1862, it only freed slaves in the southern Confederacy. Slaves were still in bondage everywhere else in the United States. While southern slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Reid wasn’t freed in Washington D. C. until 1864.
          For 31 days in the spring of 1862, Reid and other slaves built the Freedom statue on the capitol grounds. In June 1862, the Freedom statue was finished and displayed on the east grounds of the capitol.
          On Dec, 2, 1863, slaves helped lift the Freedom statue to the apex of the completed capitol dome. A thirty-five gun salute was fired representing each state in the Union, including the southern states in the Confederacy.
          The year 1863 was a pivotal time in the Civil War. Despite defeats at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville and Chickamauga, the Union army had also won major victories at Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Looking at the new capitol dome and the Freedom statue, there was hope the end of the war was near.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          Do you count the number of slaves on ships flying US flags that were captured by US prior to Sumter (and later Confederate ships) as part of northern slaves? What about those slaves during war in Southern areas under control of US military used as slaves? (remember that was one of reasons for EP to “free” slaves so they could be shipped to British territories under “emmigration” Bureau created by Lincoln for colonization…?

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            If you have an actual count that gives more reliable, comprehensive data than the 1860 Census, please provide it. The census data is not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.

            In the meantime, RogerCloud is welcome to justify his claim that there were “millions of slaves in the North when the war started.”

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            not to score anything, asking valid questions. There were at least 6 slave ships I counted captured by US warships prior to April 12, 1861 flying US flags, several of which had northern State registrations and were headed to US ports. If NY banks finianced many of the slaves in the South, who actually “owned” them? The CSS Alabama captured a slave ship flying US flag, how are those slaves counted? It’s well known te SOuth had few ships (few ship builders) and most ships were built in north – especally NY, Mass and Maine- to fuel slave trade even after 1808 deadline. How are those slaves counted that those northern owned ships that carried slaves all over America’s? I say you cannot ignore “numbers” in States without somehow calculating the profits and numbers carried by northern ships.

            I agree there were not “million” in north in 1860 – most had been sold South prior to 1848 (appox deadline of slavery ending in one of the northern States- I think it was IL)

  • Rory

    Much of what the South lost they won back through terrorism and low level insurgency in the 12-13 years following Appomatox.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

      the terrorism was the 12 years of “recontruction” in which so much was stolen from the South – ever ask yourself just what did happen to all that virgin timber in Mississippi that was sold by yanks? Ans why did SC become a State of debt, till Wade Hampton finally took the governorship back supported by those who fought by him during war – black and white? Why did Sherman burn courthouses in GA and SC – what military value are they? Yes, true terrororism….

      • MyNameIsKeithStone

        Classifying Post-Reconstruction South as anything other than a white supremacist society built on terror

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          notice you did not address any of my points.

  • daniel

    Perhaps it would be usefull in our current divided political environment to note that the ploitical dialogue was stuck on the rather ideological rights of states instead of exploring an alternative way of changing production methods of the South, and compensating slave owners for losses.  How great would the U.S. economy have been had the war been avoided and the funds used for the war been diverted to development instead?

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      There were a number of proposals to buy out slaveholders. None of them gained much traction, especially when slave prices rose dramatically in the decade or so before the war. Slaveholders, by and large, were not interested — prices on the open market were too high, slaves as a property of value were too liquid, they had the added benefit of “natural increase.”

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

        some did – hence the “emancipation” of DC prior to 1863 E proclamation.

      • bill

        Gentelmen ; may I refer you to the congressional record of 1887 and the speach by the Honorable Gen. Joe Wheeler CSA/USA specificly the peace confrence of 02-1861 at Boston. Lincoln needed a war wanted a war and his financial backers insisted on a war-for bales. 

  • Jennifer2222

    A much more interesting show would have been a documentary on the war atrocities commited by Gens. Sherman and Sheridan.  Murder, rape, pillage, plunder, destruction of private property, senseless killing of livestock and childrens’ pets, torture of slaves to force them to reveal where valuables were hidden, kidnapping thousands of women to work as slaves in Northern textile mills, the list goes on and on. 

    • Mgtr1

      If you look at Catton’s Civil War – a global light read – he talks about Sherman – and how Confederate stragglers joined his “march” and were not terribly responsible – and presents the march in a more objective light… As with the Red Army in WWII advancing into Germany – it was often the supply troops and stragglers that committed atrocities – not the lead units. To be sure terrible carnage followed Sherman…but how much was beyond his control and how much was deliberate, total warfare?

  • Eshonk

    Has the discussion of the War for Southern Independence, and its causes, come down to this?  Are Northerners so insecure re:  the real reason they perpetrated a war and basically annihilated the culture and economy of the South, in response to Southern Americans’ decision to exercise their right of “consent of the governed” (just as their ancestors had done in Revolutionary America), instead of respecting said right?  It is indeed a less than heroic image of the Union, than the one that has been force-fed to Americans for over 150 years, to learn that racism was a powerful factor in Lincoln’s decision to invade the South, which brought on the war.   But freeing the slaves sounds so much more “humanitarian” than “racism”, doesn’t it?  By freeing the slaves, Lincoln could put into action his plan for deportation of Africans, so that the United States would be a country for the white man, since the whites had discovered the land and developed it for white colonization.  Africans were simply not wanted, or even needed, in the opinion of the majority of Americans.  So, instead of discussing racism and its impact on Lincoln’s decision to go to war, the “talking heads” are now attempting to besmear the character and legacy of a great American…Robert E. Lee.  Lee was raised in a single parent home, whereby he was denied the presence of a father-figure, for all intents and purposes.  However, he was blessed with a loving, extended family that encouraged Lee to do his best in whatever endeavor he chose to pursue.  Since there was no money to send him to college, he entered West Point and followed a career in the military (which he later regretted and warned his sons not to pursue).  In spite of his shortcomings, Lee tried to live a respectful and honorable life as a son, husband, and father, and tried “to do his duty in all things”.  Yes, he made mistakes…he was human, afterall…but he gave his best, and expected nothing less in return from those in his command.  So, let’s get back to discussing the issue of racism and its role in bringing-on a war that cost the lives of over 620,000 American soldiers (North and South).  Where were the political leaders who should have found a compromise to prevent the war in the first place?  Afterall, without compromise, our government doesn’t get much done…sound familiar?

    • Anonymous

      This is just crazy. 

      • Eshonk

        What is so crazy?  You are aware that Lincoln did not believe that whites and Africans could live together in the same country without causing problems, such as mixed-marriages i.e. amalgamation, aren’t you?  He did not believe that the two races were equals, and he also believed that the whites would never accept the Africans as their equals in any way.  Thus he had a major plan to deport all the Africans (that he could convince to agree to deportation) once they were freed by the war.  He even presented his plan for colonization of the freed slaves to Fredrick Douglass, but his plan was not well received by Douglass and other black leaders of the time.  Certainly you were taught about Lincoln’s plan for colonization when you were in school, weren’t you? 
        Many Southerners did not believe that the federal Constitution was being adhered to by all the States, and that interpreting the Constitution to permit such things as protective tariffs, internal improvements, and a national bank was unconstitutional.  After fighting over issues such as these, from the time of the founding of the United States, many Southerners believed that the country was not adhering to the original intent of the Founding Fathers…a limited constitutional form of government.  Finally, when the right to settle in the new territories was going to be denied to slaveholders (by the Republican Party), many Southerners came to the conclusion that  it was time to secede from the Union, and re-establish the limited constitutional government they believed was  envisioned by the Founding Fathers.  And why did the Republican Party plan to prevent slaveholders from settling in the new territories?  Was it only because they were against slavery?  That sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately that was not the real reason.  The real reason was what I stated in my previous post…they wanted to keep Africans out of the new territories so that the land would be settled by whites only.  And the existence of any slaves in the new territory would ruin their plans for keeping the new lands for whites only.  Now, what is so crazy in your opinion?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          Lincoln not only had a “plan” he implemented it but because of corruption in his administration it failed and the money disappeared, of course most information of this also was “lost”…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

    For 150 years y’all yanks have been trying to tear down this man and others, yet choose to ignore your own ancestors actions and even refuse to ask just where did y’all yanks steal all that silver that shows up in the Antiques Road show? “>)

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      Not “tear down,” simply get a more complete understanding of him, with all his flaws an imperfections. Trust me, when people say (above, apparently in all seriousness) that “Robert E. Lee was the most honorable man who ever lived, right after Jesus,” it’s not the Yankees who are peddling a biased and unrealistic view of the man. ;-)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

        I agree he was not perfect. But why is it we never see “unbias” studies from yanks of say, Lincoln, Sherman, Grant, etc? Why is it that “you” will say Southerners say “right after Jesus” yet I never read why our government paid to put and for upkeep for Lincoln in a “godly” temple??

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

          There are plenty of serious, scholarly studies about Lincoln, Grant and Sherman that are very candid about their flaws. Foner’s recent biography of Lincoln and his evolving views on race and emancipation, The Fiery Trial,is particularly good in that regard. Lee, Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Forrest and all the rest were complex and often contradictory people, and it does them no justice to paint them as outrageous caricatures, either as saints or devils.

          You asked, “why is it that ‘you’ will say Southerners say ‘right after Jesus’. . . .” Someone in this thread actually did say that — it was not a hypothetical on my part.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            When all federal museums dealing with this war are req’d by law to teach slavery as the only or main reason when you walk in front door, then yes groups like the SCV will say otherwise. In the federal Gettysburg museum on front entrance door to museum proper there is a quote of speech by J Davis. 5-6 words are left out of middle of paragraph. Why? To make it seem as Davis was a hot-head. Those words left out change whole meaning of his talk.

            When I visited the city museum in Manasas the other week the Viginia “150th commission” has it’s presentation boards there. What is very first sentance? “Slavery was only cuase of war.”

            I was just in ST Agustine, FL at lighthouse. Lighthouse controlled by federal gov’t relativley ha nothing to do with war, yet on electronick speaker you can carry with for info #12 tells of privateer Jefferson Davis that samk off coast, men came ashore “to a hero’s welcome.” Yet “12a” says maybe in time history will change that opinion.

            A few months ago in Tallahassee, FL a “HAaarvvrrdd” Prof came to talk about a MS county man. Every “fact” he presented in his “new” book had been disproven 25 years ago from actual records (as you say easily found), yet these keep promoting these falsehoods.

            I almost laughed in Getttysburg in 2008 when reading a sign downtown that “citizens where terrorized when CS troops came to town riding fast and shooting pistols in the air” at te same time frame when these same PA troops were in GA and other palces murdering civillians and buring them out and SHerman shipping women and children in boxcars north. Almost.. not really funny is it.

            Foner? I’ve read some of his works. Even emailed him. Ulness the book you mentioned somehow changes his previous, he is no different, imho.

            Are we Southerners defensive about subject? Of course when at nearly ever turn we are villified. Of course Gen Cleburne said this would happen.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            so tell us how is “mainstream” not part of problem? What many of us Southerners say, much found in Official Records and other such sources are not taught in shcools but seemingly covered up???

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            Why is it that the US in March of 1865 came to St Marks to “free” the slaves indiscrimently shelled the town Newport yet first 5 people killed were 5 slaves, yet few are taught this? Why is it that the USCT story is important yet the blacks that fought there is not – or is not beleived?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            We all “know” bout slavery, yet very few have ever heard of Morrill Tarrif passed days before Lincoln took office, fewer about Morrill Land grant Colleges, Corwin Amendment, Lincolns Emmigration Bureau, etc, etc. Why? Conspiracy? Cover up? Lack of time? Why are records of northern prisons of food,clothing, etc so difficult to find? Why were prison destroyed asap after war? Why do few know about Congressional Records where US 37th Congress debated on how to treat Confederate prisoners to kill as many as possible? Why did US military have so much money left over from prisons while their CS inmates died of starvation and exposure? Why have so many heard of “Andersonville”, yet few of Camp Chase, OH or Emira, NY?

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            “When I visited the city museum in Manasas the other week the Viginia
            “150th commission” has it’s presentation boards there. What is very
            first sentance? “Slavery was only cuase of war.”

            Can you post a picture of that? Because I’m skeptical that’s actually a direct quote.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            I did not have my camera – battery had died :<(

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            Fair enough. It was hot, I hear — bad for electronics. I’ve enjoyed chatting with, Jamey, but I really gotta go.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            wearing a wool coat portraying US marine – yes is was HOT!

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            Are you part of USMCHC?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            No. Actually we have our own group the CSS Tallahassee Marine Guard, but fell in with the FL USS Pawnee and folded into some friend from NM (Several are SCV members). The NM guys and sevveral of us from FL also did the 145th as US Marines.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            Of course while there some college age guys asked me what I thought of Sherman…being from GA and going to middle school and trying to learn all of of history… We had a good coversation for awaile till staff got aggrevated with us blocking corridor.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

            why did Grant in his autobiagraphy say the Mexican war was not justified but somehow invading his sister States were? Was he justifying his part and trying to condemn Lee? Why did he say if war was over slavery he would change sides, yet when it became about slavery in middle he did not stick to his own words? Did he have to justify what many at the time on both sides say was murder at Cold Harbor?

      • notafeminista

        Well.  With special focus on the flaws and imperfections, wink wink, nudge nudge.

        Robert E. Lee was an honorable, humble and brilliant strategist.  Some folks just have trouble seeing and/or admitting that.

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

          I’ve cited three separate, respected biographies of Lee, all of which (to varying degrees) acknowledge those things, as well as his ownership and management of slaves and views on the institution itself. They’re all part of the picture.

  • Spamwho

    The cause of the war had nothing to do with human bondage. If you are going to write about history learn some first!

    • bill

      What does slavery have to do with Gen.Lee he did not own slaves.When he received some in an estate he freed them. Lincoln received 47 from the Todd estate and sold them at auction. Grant received 25-6 the same way and kept his until forced to release them stating “good help is hard to find.” Andy is right he was a man-a very very good one. 100 Lee’s from every state could turn this country around.

  • daniel

    I think that the whole picture of the man is important.  As a soldier, he was very competent.  I hesitate to paint with a large brush, but here goes:  As a man, he represented the honor that survivors of the war needed since they were otherwise demoralized, but also he was the epitome of what was good about the pre-war period:  highly cultured and educated, respected by the entire nation for his career prior to the war, one who was able to persevere despite terrible odds, and he had what seems to be an ambivalence regarding the institution of slavery.  In those days, people like the Lees and the Custus’s were established enough to be able to treat their slaves better than others and they had the moral compunction to consider a life beyond slavery, moreso than the up-start plantations of the newly developed areas of the mostly western South which were not so much the estates of a sort of nobility but were more and more set up to gain the benefit of an economy of scale.  These places were managed by overseers who were an embarrassment to the nobless oblige kind of treatment that was much more desirable in the popular culture.  We forget that religious fervor was considerable during this time as well, and there was a friction for a number of years regarding the future of the institution of slavery.  In those days as today, crass comercialism led to an abuse of the responsibility for owners to do best by those in their charges despite the horrible notion that fellow humans were considered inferior by virtue of their skin color and were bought and sold as property.  Otherwise, the system was supposed to resemble feudalism where the lord was provider for all, and honorable citizens were embarassed by cruelty.  Lee was the choice of the defeated South to hold on to the notion that there was in some way a virtuous side to the system, and that those were values that should continue after slavery was abolished.  If this view is not substantiated through the records that exist today, it is of little importance since it was real to many during the intervening years.  Unfortunately, the cruelty of the war and reconstruction and the subsequent enshrinement of crass commercialism has continued to dimish the idealism of honor and faithfullness to region or “country” as some have described and now this trend seems to extend to workplace, friends and for some even familial ties as one is required to follow career no matter where it goes.  It is no wonder that today it is so hard for some to understand why Lee fought for Virginia.  He was old-fashioned even in his own time.  –Now you guys can tear this apart.  Good discussion! 

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      He was a man of his time, place and class, with all the attributes — positive and negative — that go with that. At the end of the day, Lee was a man, not a demigod.

    • Eshonk


      Thanks for a well-stated overview of Lee and his role as an inspirational leader to all Americans, both during and following the War for Southern Independence.  Actually, Lee is the most admired general from the war, regarded so by both Northerners and Southerners.  Unfortunately, because of being held in high regard by so many people, Lee is also the target for small-minded individuals who need a way to earn a living by attempting to disparage someone that grabs the attention of the public…and their money.  LOL.
      Yes, Lee was a human being just like the rest of us…but he handled “the condition” of being human, so much better than most of us do. 

    • Stephen D. Clark

      Don’t be too sure that the picture doesn’t include Lee having sex with slaves and then enslaving his own children resulting from the unions.

  • TomK in Boston

    Seems like he was admirable in many ways but, sorry, taking up arms against the USA is treason, no matter how you try to spin it.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

      the only person tried for treason was the hero of the north – John Brown – he was convicted and hanged

      • Stephen D. Clark

        Indictments for treason were issued, but amnesties and pardons for the same offense prevented trials.  Pardons are not issued for innocence.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

          Major Gee was indicted for treason and then just released – US had no case. Jefferson Davis was held for 2 year but no farce “witnesses” could be found as with Maj Wirtz’ farce “trial.” Doesn’t negate that that “hero” of north was convicted and hanged as a traitor. Doesn’t negate the north “claimed” secession was illegal, but forced each State to recend their secession conventions. Why would they have to do so IF it was illegal in first place?

          • Stephen D. Clark

            President Andrew Johnson issued pardons before trials, so carrying on trials became pointless.  Indictments were dropped.

            The United States of America cannot allow states with treasonous state constitutions to participate in national politics.  Still, the constitutions had no force of law.  If they did, then the South would be another country today.  It isn’t because secession is unconstitutional.

            You keep claiming that secession is constitutional, but you have no explanation as to why the South never tried a lawful approach with respect to either the United States Congress or the Supreme Court.  They just started blasting away because they knew the Constitution wasn’t on their side.  They used the “tyranny of force” against the USA when the knew the law was against them.

    • bill

      Not correct; sorry, un-correct cheif justice of the surpreeem cout advise “honest Abe” you can not charge any of them(Confederates) with treason.You Sir,and the administation shall loose.Note the price of treason is hanging but the burden of proof is very high. On the other hand the price for demeaning the currency is hanging but the burden of proof is much lower proof possitive Boston Bankers were among the founding fathers.

    • Eshonk


      You seem to have forgotten that following the secession of Virginia from the Union, Lee was no longer a U.S. citizen…he was a Virginian and a citizen of the C.S.A.  Thus, his taking-up arms to defend his family and home from an invading foreign army was not treason…it was a totally “normal” choice to make, for the protection of his loved ones and his country. 

      • Stephen D. Clark

        Bobby Lee certainly was a traitor to the United States of America.

        Secession was and is unconstitutional.  In United States law, it never happened.  See the Supreme Court’s Prize Cases, 1863.  The South never left the United States.

        The United States never recognized statehood for the South, nor did any other world power. 

        From ForeignRelations.Com, “Belligerent Recognition”:

        “[I]n July 1862, when a representative asked Britain to recognize the Confederacy as a separate and independent power, the prime minister, Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, advised Earl John Russell, the foreign minister, that recent military reverses indicated that the time for recognition had not yet come. Russell therefore replied that ‘In order to be entitled to a place among the independent nations of the earth, a State ought to have not only strength and resources for a time, but afford promise of stability and permanence.’ On the other hand, when the Union protested Britain’s having any relations with the Confederacy, Russell stated that the protection of British interests there might cause him to deal with the Confederate capital and even with southern state capitals, ‘but such communications will not imply any acknowledgment of the Confederacy as a separate state.’ The French took the same attitude, so that both Britain and France acknowledged that belligerents obtain their rights from the fact of war rather than from recognition.”


        “[B]elligerents obtain their rights from the fact of war rather than from recognition.”

        The South attempted secession.  The attempt failed.  No Southern right to statehood was obtained in the facts of the American Civil War.  Lee was a traitor.

  • daniel

    The point was that he wasn’t tried for treason in an effort to heal the nation.  That was the point then, and  healing should still be our priority.    

    By the way I thought that Jackie Leyden did an excellent job.  What a difficult topic to take on

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

      was he not tried because of some “healing” or as Supreme Court justice said the case would based on the Right oF States and the U gov’t had no case?

  • bill

    I can understand why the Lee family will not release the families papers.What I know about RE Lee is great grand pa Robert Rankin H 4th Tx Infantry followed him for 4years,was wounded 3times and starved at Point Lookout. No other commander in history could have kept the army not only togeather but tacticaly sound through the unimaginable hardships. If you think contrary thats ok,you may wish to thank Light Horse Harry for the bill of rights [sic A. Hamilton'S Diary;"That Light Horse got his D*&%d bill of rights."]. I seek to be remembered only as a earnest and humble Christian. R.E.Lee. and may God bless him.

    • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

      One of my relatives was in Co. G of the 4th Texas; he ended up at Rock Island for the last 18 months of the war. He later told how he and his buddies, sometime after the retreat from Gettysburg, tried to break a comrade out of punishment and themselves ended up charged with mutiny. He credited Lee with intervening with Longstreet to get the charges against them dismissed. He admired Lee, too. But we have to look all those folks with both their good points and bad.

      • bill

        hey Cousin, Grand pa wrote home of standing guard at Lee’s HQ one night in a down pour. Gen Lee called out Captain do come in out of the rain.Grand pa replied He wasn,t a Captain but the guard and couldn’t leave his post. Lee replied very well then Captain you may aquite you duty frum under the fly. I can’t imagine OLe fussy Westy doing that for any of us. Always remember they were Lee’s Texans!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

        interesting, the group I fall in with from NM portray the 4th TX. We did Saylors Creek in 2005 – I was CS marine, as my ggg-grandfather Duncan S Creel

      • http://twitter.com/FilmCriticOne Mark DC

        To think Lee never did a decent thing in his life is crazy.   Hitler was very nice to dogs.  He was even kind to a few jews, who had helped him when he was younger.

        Just because Lee had slave girls whipped,  and kept track of their tortures, and gave 600% higher  bounties for capture of LIGHT skinned girls, does not mean he had blood dripping from his eye teeth 24/7/

         Read what George Mason predicted about future Southern leaders, born about the time Lee was born.  Mason predicted men like Lee — who looked like gentleman, but would be “raised  from birth” to see segments of mankind as inferior and deserving of punishment.    That is exactly how Lee and most Confederates said blacks were –inferior and being punished by God.  If you don’t grasp that,  it doesn’t matter  how “smart” you are about what side arm went with what holster in the Civil War.   

            Lee was one of the bad guys. One of the child whippers, one of those who regularly and without any feeling whatsoever, separated mother slaves from her children.  Lee’s slaves started trying to  escape — for a REASON.   He had ongoing and extreme problem with escaped slaves – and he responded with torture and terror.  

            Figure it out. Either deal with what really happened,  or quite pretending you are about historical accuracy or truth. 

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

          You’re too shrill for your own good, Mark. Always havebeen. Your rhetoric is no more thoughtful, constructive or rational than that of the Lost Causers who fly into a spittle-flecked rage at the mention of Sherman’s name. Two sides of the same coin, really.

          • http://www.facebook.com/MarkDouglasCurran Mark Curran

            Sorry you don’t like the truth.    Lee had slaves whipped, and sold children, that’s in his own slave ledgers. Too complicated? Moving too fast?   

            The truth matters, I suggest you learn some. 

          • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas)

            Please familiarize yourself with what I’ve written about Lee, Mark, both here and elsewhere, before you suggest I need to go learn “the truth” about him. (You can start here.) I think, frankly, I’ve been pretty fucking candid about Lee’s history with the institution of slavery — at least candid enough to bring down the wrath of Lee’s fanboys, here and elsewhere.

            Right now you’re being a shrill reactionary who’s so determined to get your point across that you’ve lost track of who’s said what, and that harms your credibility.

        • Thomas Forehand, Jr.

          Mark: Repeating an unsubstantiated, unproven story (that Lee had slaves whipped) does not make it true.  And just because Wesley Norris claimed that is what happened did not make it true.  And just because his buddies in the media printed his story, did not make it true that Lee had anyone whipped.  Please supply proof (nonbias) that Lee had anyone whipped, etc. If you cannot, please retract your accusation.
               This kind of accusation has been making the papers since 1859.  Has I ever been proven?  I do not think so.
          Tom Forehand, Jr.

  • Clutchmc USMC Fighter Pilot

    Humanities?…this diatribe is historic revisionism and current propaganda at it’s best! Trash..

  • Clutchmc

    If slavery caused the War Between the States…just ask yourself one basic question. “Would the Northern states have invaded the South had the South not seceded? Would the North had invaded the South at a loss of over 500,000 men on both sides just to “free the slaves”? Think about that. Secession was the cause of the war, plain and simple. The modern day Northern liberals have always attempted to claim a superior sense of morality over the South. This is their template.

    • Stephen D. Clark

      The Northern states did not invade the South, and the South did not secede.

      The United States of America suppressed a giant insurrection in the southern part of the nation.  It wasn’t Maine and New York against South Carolina and Georgia.  The boys in blue fought for the United States, not their respective states.  Their flag was the American flag.

      The South attempted to secede.  The attempt failed, so secession as a fact never occurred.  The United States never recognized statehood for the South, nor did any other nation on earth.

      The USA did not go to war to abolish slavery.  The only people who make that kind of case just to refute it are those who want to gloss over the fact that the South attempted to secede to perpetuate slavery.  The United States became embroiled in a massive rebellion because it was necessary to assert authority over its own territory.  The United States engaged in the Civil War to prevent the nation from splitting in two.

      The United States was morally superior to the South because of that variance in motives to engage in war.  The USA fought to preserve the unity of the nation, but the Southerners fought to preserve their repulsive tyranny over negro slaves.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2ZAD5LZHKWMZN2DQQHRMQUOSI Jamey

        If the SOuth never seceeded, then why did north federal gov’t FORCE SOuthern States to “recend” their secession conventions? If it was not an invasion then why did north call it a “war” and treat it as such? If it was not a “war” then why did north illegally blockade it’s “own” seaports – something a country only does against another country? If the north fought to preserve “unity” then the SOuth by default -as their ancestors in 1776 – fought against tyranny of force.

        • Stephen D. Clark

          1) The people of any state whose representatives were to serve again in the United States Congress had to demonstrate fealty to the nation after their prior rebellion against it.

          2) From Justia.Com syllabus of the Supreme Court’s Prize Case (1863): “To create this and other belligerent rights as against neutrals, it is not necessary that the party claiming them should be at war with a separate and independent power; the parties to a civil war are in the same predicament as two nations who engage in a contest and have recourse to arms.”

          3)Again, Justia.Com, Prize Case (1863): “The present civil war between the United States and the so-called Confederate States has such character and magnitude as to give the United States the same rights and powers which they might exercise in the case of a national or foreign war, and they have, therefore, the right jure bello to institute a blockade of any ports in possession of the rebellious States.”

          5) Force isn’t automatically tyranny.  The police use it against criminals all the time.  It is the criminal who is guilty of the tyranny of chaos and anarchy.

  • Slipstream

    Jackie Lydon, again.  I would like to listen to this show…but I can’t stomach listening to her.  Please bring back Jane Clayson or some of your other substitute hosts.  Please.

  • Stephen D. Clark

    A Massachusetts soldier quartered at the Lee family mansion in Arlington, VA, wrote this to his hometown newspaper, the Courier & Gazette in Greenfield, MA, published on 15 June 1863:

    “At the cook house for the overseer’s family I noticed an octoroon, nearly white, with fine features. She told me that her mother, long since dead was a quadroon and Gen. Lee’s housekeeper at Arlington, and to the question, ‘Was your father a colored man?’ she answered without hesitation ‘No,–master’s my father.” And this father and master now leads an army, the sole purpose of which is to establish a government founded on an institution which enslaves his own children, making his own flesh and blood saleable property!”

    The accuracy of the report is impossible to verify, but it’s eyewitness testimony.  It’s also not out of keeping with the traditions of Southern slaveholding.

    Read what Mary Chestnut wrote in her diary, “A CONFEDERATE LADY’S DIARY”:

    “God forgive us, but ours is a monstrous system & wrong & iniquity … This is only what I see: like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives & their concubines, & the Mulattos one sees in every family exactly resemble the white children-& every lady tells you who is the father of all the Mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own.”

    If it was learned that Lee actually made a slave of his own child, then his face should be chiseled off Stone Mountain.  That kind of example would be one to show the nature of “honor” in the worst kind of tyrant.

  • Anonymous

    Robert E. Lee, Rapist!

    • Sjpierce51

      you are a moron…

      • http://twitter.com/FilmCriticOne Mark DC

         the idea that Lee raped his slaves is repugnant, but very likely the case.  We know he screamed at girls while he had them tortured.  We know he kept track of how often and how many lashes of the whip he ordered for female slaves.

        We know Lee paid 600% higher bounties for the capture of  LIGHT skinned slaves.   We know Lee regularly wrote sexually charged letter — some sexually explicit letters — to women.  He was, shall we say, a “robust” man.     His relatives, including his father, we known to have fathered slaves.

        Pluss SOMEONE white was impregnating Lee’s slaves — half of them HALF OF THEM — were mulatto. Who fathered them? Casper?   The  Pillsbury dough boy?

        YOu couldn’t just walk up to a plantation and rape 20-50 slaves, without someone telling Mrs Lee.  If Lee did not rape the slaves — let’s be clear. SOMEONE did. And Lee had to have known who it was.  He had about 50 light skinned slaves!   Do you think he was blind?

        • Jamesmgray

          You are so full of crap you should be shot. You know nothing about Lee if you believe what you posted. It’s obvious you are a bigot, a fool or worse.

          • Stephen D. Clark

            Here’s someone saying that someone else should be shot for his opinion and then calling that person a bigot and a fool? Ironic.

      • BlkInMass

         The Truth hurts, Sick Evil Racist bastards!
        Spit on The Rapist Lee!

  • http://twitter.com/FilmCriticOne Mark DC

    Apparently  you are clueless about Lee.  He not only defended slavery as ordained by God, he defended the torture of slaves as necessary for their instruction.

    Yes, I know all about the letter he wrote to his wife — read the WHOLE thing, not one sentence. He said slavery was a political evil– read the next sentence— it was evil to WHITES, it was a blessing to blacks, and God’s will.  

    Since we are not taught about the  pervasive mind set of Confederates — that God was punishing the black race by slavery —  we are not taught that Lee was a major advocate and practitioner of that  belief.  Just to take the President and VP of the Confederacy — Davis insisted slavery was “a divine blessing”   and that  negroes were “fit only for servitude””  and that “God delivered the Negro unto  us”.

    The Vice President, Stephens, had a regular stump speech, where he boasted emphatically that the SPREAD of slavery per the word of God was “the great moral truth” of the Confederacy.   

    Since we aren’t taught the very basics of how religious kooks, really, had taken over control of the South,  we can’t make sense of the Civil War.

    Southern sermons — given just before the Civil War started  – said God was allowing this war to prove once and for all that slavery was ordained by God.  The preacher was sure that the South would win, of course.     We will know if slavery is “of God” or not, by this war.  

    There is a book — very politically correct — called “They Prayed To The Same God”  about the civil war. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Lee said abolitionist were trying “to destroy the American church”  and predicted they would continue “their evil course”.

    Davis said the “evil serpent” —  he meant abolitionist — are “whispering the lie of freedom” into the slave’s ear, causing them to be “dissatisfied”.  God gave the Negro low intelligence, dark skin, and “a natural affection for his master”     But that evil abolitionist was “interfering” with the will of God.

    Southern papers were full of speeches that are so extreme, you can’t believe anyone would write them as a parody.   Abolitionist are regularly refereed to as evil, or even the devil.   Satan, said some Southerner, was “the first abolitionist.

    When we today hear the word “abolitionist” we accept that as a good thing. In fact, Lee and  Davis supporters insist they were abolitionist, only “with a different time table”.   But the word abolitionist, to Southerners, was like the term “child molester” today.    The lowest of the low.   Someone to hate, to hunt, and if you had the chance — well, abolitionist were literally hunted in the South, literally.

    We have white washed the horrors of slavery — for example Lee had girls as young a 14 whipped, and he actually kept track of the number of lashes he ordered them whipped.    His slaves said Lee was “the meanest man we ever saw”

    Did Lee rape slaves?  No one knows for sure.  But we know his relatives — his own father — was known to father slaves, and as Lee biographer Elizabeth Pryor says, whites were “increasingly enslaving other whites”.    Pryor points out that HALF –HALF — did we mention HALF — of Lee’s slaves were mulatto, in 1860.   In fact,  he had some slave women so light skinned, they could pass for WHITE.

    In other words, there is much, much, much we have to learn about Lee.    So far, we have been fed essentially a silly myth.

    Google Lee’s papers.

  • Otrbnksnc

    Listening to a Virginia Beach morning radio show, they said the during the surrender at Appomattox, Lee urinated on himself.  As having Lee as my hero and going to college with his great great great grandson, I am offended at the accusation.  Can anybody validate this accusation before I go after this radio station?

    • Stephen D. Clark

      Considering that Lee fucked the prettiest of his slaves and then put the resulting offspring, his own children, in bondage, why are you surprised?

  • Otrbnksnc

    I have read the comments below, yet I see no references to substantiate the accusations.  Again, I’m looking for proof of my original post, and as for the rest I don’t have time at the moment to rebut them, but I will this weekend.  In the mean time, I’d like to know what history books you were educated with?

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarkDouglasCurran Mark Curran

    Astonishing that so few in the SOuth have any idea why their leaders seceded.  Did you know they explained why? Any clue?

    Seriously, do you have have ANY CLUE why the South seceded, per Davis, per the Confederate “founding fathers”?   No, I don’t mean what they shoved up your hiney in school. I mean what Southern leaders said at the time.

    Read these three words: AT THE TIME.

    AT THE TIME SOuthern leaders screamed it from the rooftops — the spread of slavery.  AT THE TIME they shouted it in headline –the SPREAD of slavery. 

    AT THE TIME, in official documents, in their own Constitution, in their own newspapers “THE TRUE ISSUE”  was, guess what. THE SPREAD of slavery.

    That is what they said AT THE TIME.  That is what Davis said AT THE TIME.  That is what Southern headlines said AT THE TIME.  The spread of slavery.

    Not the preservation of it — that’s bullship.  No one was trying to end slavery where it was.  The Southern leaders were screaming their gonads off  SPREAD SLAVERY.

    Toombs screamed to cheering crowds EXPAND [SLAVERY] OR PERISH.   SOuthern headlines called the SPREAD of slavery “THE TRUE ISSUE”.     The rebel constitution’s implicit demand was the SPREAD of slavery.

    Guess what Jefferson Davis said the “intolerable grievance” was that made secession and war necessary?  Go on, guess.  He is the SOuthern leader — would he know or not?  He said the intolerable grievance was the resistance to the SPREAD of slavery.

    S P R E A D. SPREAD. Your own leaders said it, AT THE TIME.

    AT THE TIME, they were going  ape shit over applebutter for the spread of slavery.   Officially, unofficially, repeatedly. 

    But once they got their hiney’s kicked.  once the bulliest got sent back home to momma, they were all “Slavery? Us? Oh no no no, not us’”  

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

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In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

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Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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