In spite of the sight of the Stars and Bars flying from the radio masts of occasional automobiles coming out of Dixie, few fair-minded men can feel today that the issues which divided the North and South in 1861 have any real meaning to our present generation.
Those were the words spoken by famous World War II general Maxwell Taylor in 1952, at the dedication of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s portrait in the West Point library. This portrait has since become the topic of controversy from many who question the reverence for Lee at West Point in the form of a barracks, a gate, and multiple paintings.
Articles exploring this veneration and petitions calling for the removal of displays of Lee at West Point often fall short in addressing exactly how the Confederate leader became ingrained in academy culture. Lee’s return to a place of honor at West Point occurred as a result of a reconciliation process that downplayed the Confederacy’s treason as the primary transgression for which southern officers required forgiveness, papered over the issue of slavery, and ignored the underrepresented black officers of the US Army. The reverence shown, though, is no longer unchallenged by the diverse, twenty-first-century officer corps, and as a result, West Point now faces a decision: What should it do with displays of Lee’s person and his name? And more broadly, what place should this controversial figure—and former academy superintendent—occupy at the academy?
At the turn of the twentieth century, the institutional narrative at West Point about the Union cause was still focused on two major points: the preservation of the Union in the face of secession and the freedom of slaves. During this period, two construction projects at West Point memorialized the Civil War—the Battle Monument, a towering column at Trophy Point that was completed in 1897, and Cullum Hall, a building completed in 1900.
The Battle Monument was erected to memorialize all Union Army regulars who were killed during the Civil War. According to its official history published in 1898, the monument commemorates the souls who “freed a race and welded a nation.” Supreme Court Justice David Brewer, who spoke at the dedication ceremony, likewise described these two causes as the primary reasons that the Union’s struggle should be remembered by cadets. The monument itself still contains an inscription on its shaft calling the Civil War the “War of Rebellion” to bring attention to the treasonous actions of the Confederacy.
Cullum Hall, where Lee’s name first started to appear after the Civil War, was completed to serve as a memorial hall for West Point graduates who distinguished themselves in the military profession. The building’s deceased benefactor and Union veteran, Maj. Gen. George Cullum, left the funds for its construction in his will, and the decision as to who was worthy of memorialization in the building would be subject to a vote of West Point’s academic board. Robert E. Lee’s name was placed in this building on a bronze plaque that named the past superintendents of the academy and the years they served in the role. The decision to include Lee’s name seems to have little to do with his leadership of the Confederate Army, but was treated as a matter of historical record.
Only two years later in 1902, dozens of both Confederate and Union West Point graduates attended the one hundredth anniversary celebrations of the academy’s founding. The festivities included a speech by Brig. Gen. Edward P. Alexander, a highly influential Confederate officer who used the spotlight to catalyze the reconciliation process between white Union and Confederate graduates. Alexander’s address was steeped in “Lost Cause” rhetoric that glorified the right of states to secede. In the spirit of reconciliation however, Alexander admitted that “it was best for the South that the cause was lost,” since he viewed the strength of United States in 1902 as rivaling that of other major world powers. Finally, Alexander spoke directly of the pride “heroes of future wars” would feel toward the accomplishments of Confederate graduates, predicting those heroes would “emulate our Lees and Jacksons.” Notably, Alexander mentioned nothing of the institution of slavery, which the Confederacy fought to defend and Union graduates died to erase.
From that period forward, the narrative at West Point regarding its Confederate graduates markedly changed. Taking Alexander’s stirring words to heart, the Corps of Cadets began to forgive Confederate graduates for seceding and glorified their military accomplishments. Talk of slavery became rare—much like black membership in the Corps of Cadets during the first half of the twentieth century—and relics of Robert E. Lee appeared slowly at the academy with the support of southern interest groups.
In 1930, the United Daughters of the Confederacy—known for its financing of Confederate memorials in the early 1900s and pushing the “Lost Cause” narrative—reached out to West Point officials offering to donate a portrait of Robert E. Lee to be displayed in the Mess Hall next to portraits of other West Point superintendents. The organization hoped to feature Lee in his gray Confederate uniform, but the academy, perhaps still wary of Lee’s treasonous legacy, requested that the portrait feature Lee in the blue US Army uniform he donned as superintendent. That version of the portrait is still on display in the Mess Hall in an unremarkable fashion next to the portraits of every West Point superintendent.
The following year, the United Daughters of the Confederacy made another offer to West Point, this time to sponsor a mathematics award dedicated to Lee, who was known for his mathematical acumen as a cadet. This memorial award was sanctioned by the academy and was given until 2018 in the form of a saber, but it ceased to be sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1993, after curriculum changes meant it would no longer be presented during convocation.
Meanwhile, as the United Daughters of the Confederacy slipped Lee back into the academy’s memory and the white officer corps reconciled old differences, African-American cadets were subjugated to harsh and unfair treatment by academy officials and fellow white cadets. The best example is Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.—the academy’s fourth black graduate in the seven decades after slavery ended—who is the namesake of the academy’s newest barracks construction. In the 1930s he was given a solo room assignment and no other cadets would speak to him during his entire four years as a cadet (an act known as “silencing” typically used against cadets who were considered dishonorable). Davis graduated in the top 15 percent of the Class of 1936, but was denied entry into the Army Air Corps to maintain segregation policies. Davis continued to be silenced by several classmates and other officers for years after commissioning. For decades, Davis’s classmates and West Point leadership denied publicly that Davis was silenced, while several others wrote him letters of apology in private. His experience stands in stark contrast to that of white cadets who pushed forward with reconciliation in the same era as the institutional memory of Confederate leaders grew more positive.
Robert E. Lee’s validation as a revered figure in West Point lore was cemented on the one hundredth anniversary of his selection as superintendent and during the 150th anniversary celebration of West Point’s founding. On January 19, 1952, a massive portrait of Robert E. Lee—in full Confederate gray uniform, with a slave guiding his horse behind him—was donated to the West Point library.
The portrait’s unveiling was the occasion when Gen. Maxwell Taylor claimed that “few fair-minded men can feel today that the issues which divided the North and South in 1861 have any real meaning to our present generation.” He spoke these words only a month after the Army decided to pursue full desegregation and three years before both Emmett Till’s murder and Rosa Parks’s arrest. Desegregation nationwide still had far to go in 1952. This willful ignorance of the black experience in American history—including in American military history—was critical to the lionization of Confederate heroes and reconciliation with white southern officers. Without it, cadets and officers alike would be forced to grapple with the fact that men like Robert E. Lee betrayed their country for the right to continue owning and subjugating an entire race of people they thought inferior.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus, a West Point graduate, recently described his alma mater’s problematic association with Lee, including a barracks built, he notes, in the 1960s. While it’s true the barracks in question was completed in 1962, at the height of the civil rights movement, it was initially named “New South Barracks.” It was not named in honor of Lee until 1970, when several buildings at the academy received the names of past graduates. Lee Gate received its name in the late 1940s, when the names of all entrances to the post were changed. In broad historical context, the how, when, and why of the naming convention for Lee Barracks or Lee Gate is relatively benign in comparison to the dedication of Lee’s portrait to the West Point library. An entire committee of powerful southern financiers was dedicated to bringing back Lee’s likeness as a Confederate champion in 1952. By the time Lee Barracks was named, the view of the Civil War at West Point had already undergone a complete metamorphosis.
So, what should West Point do about its Robert E. Lee problem? We believe the solution to this complex issue is simple: Lee should be remembered, but not honored. That starts by admitting that West Point and Army leaders got it wrong in 1952. The issues of the Civil War did have a “real meaning” to the “present generation” when Taylor spoke at the unveiling of Lee’s Confederate portrait, and they have a very real meaning to our generation today. Here are our recommendations:
- Lee’s name should remain in Cullum Hall. Lee was the superintendent of West Point and his positive contributions to the academy in this regard cannot and should not be ignored. In the same vein, Lee’s portrait in the mess hall showing him in his blue US Army dress uniform as superintendent should remain as a matter of historical record.
- Lee’s Confederate portrait and any others like it should be removed and placed in the West Point museum or visitors center with appropriate historical context and background.
- Lee Barracks and Lee Gate should be renamed. Lee’s name on these facilities became an everyday testimony to the newly reverential treatment of Confederates at the academy. This encourages a revisionist history that elevates Confederates’ positive characteristics and ignores their treason and support for the institution of slavery.
Some argue that removing such symbols is tantamount to erasing history and calls for founders like George Washington to be “canceled.” We categorically reject this straw-man argument. Robert E. Lee was not just a racist and a slave owner. He chose to betray his country in the defense of his right to subjugate the black race, which now comprises a significant portion of the Army and officer corps. The leadership who saw fit to prop up Robert E. Lee as a revered figure in 1952 did so by accepting a comfortable, watered-down, and cherry-picked revisionist history. Today, history classes at the academy fully embrace the correct notion that preserving the nation’s unity and ending slavery were the defining features of the Union cause, and cadets learn about both the military skill and ideological wrongdoings of Lee and his Confederate comrades. Cadets also learn about hundreds of West Point graduates whose accomplishments are worthy of honor, respect, and reverence. Although they learn about Lee, he is not one of those deserving of such reverence by the future officer corps.
West Point seeks to educate, train, and inspire future leaders in the US Army. The Corps of Cadets is the most diverse in the school’s history and West Point needs to ensure cadets can continue to be inspired by graduates the academy sought to elevate in a bygone era. The school has so far avoided this question of Robert E. Lee, looking to the US Army for guidance. But as West Point tells many of its growing leaders, there is nothing wrong with offering a recommendation to one’s superiors. The school has a responsibility to its cadets, and we hope West Point will do what it expects of its graduates—lead.
Capt. Jimmy Byrn graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2012 with a BS in Military History. During his time on active duty, he deployed to Poland, Bulgaria, and Kosovo in support of NATO Operations Atlantic Resolve and Joint Guardian. He is currently an incoming JD candidate at Yale Law School.
Capt. Gabe Royal graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2012 with a BS in US History and American Politics. He is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and an incoming PhD student at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Administration at George Washington University, and will teach at West Point upon completion of his degree.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Department of Mathematics ceased presenting the award named for Robert E. Lee in 2018, and that the United Daughters of the Confederacy stopped sponsoring the award in 1993 after curriculum changes meant it was given annually to an underclassman and thus not presented during West Point’s convocation. The organization elected instead to transfer their donation to a different department to sponsor an award that would be included in the convocation ceremony.
Image credit: Michelle Eberhart, US Army
I disagree completely with the premise of the article. Sadly, young soldiers are doomed to repeat history if they learn so little of it, apparently even after receiving a USMA education.
I am glad that these young soldiers are furthering their education. If they are diligent, they and others might learn that treason has a specific definition articulated in the Constitution they, and I, swore to uphold. (They should know this already, having sworn to protect and defend that sacred document.)
Charges of treason were never brought against Robert E. Lee, nor any of the confederate leaders, and for good reason. Indeed, charges were seriously considered. Charges were strongly desired by the grieving widows and family members of the victorious north who had lost hundreds of thousands in the war.
To the credit of the Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant administration, prosecutions were declined. The reason is that none of the southerners (Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, Judah Benjamin, and also Robert E. Lee) were not guilty of treason, and no jury would or could have convicted them. The best criminal defense lawyers in the north were volunteering to defend Mr. Davis.
If either of these young officers rises to become superintendent of the USMA, they might have a say in the removal of the portrait and the renaming of structures. Until then, such matters should be left to the chain of command.
Thank you Cold War Colonel for calling this article out for what it is: a shameful attempt to distort and rewrite history. West Point is honored to have General Lee as part of its legacy. Those who say otherwise are either tragically uneducated on American history or have another agenda. It hurts me as an Academy grad to see that my brothers are contributing to the proliferation of these lies.
What lies are you referring to? The authors provided a cogent argument supported by reason and evidence. Can you do the same please? Also, why do you think you speak for all of West Point? The reason this is a debate is because a lot of people at West Point think we should not honor men that were traitors to the United States and sought to perpetuate the immoral institution of slavery.
Lee never committed treason..If you know anything about the mindsets of citizens prior to the Civil War you'll know that when one thought of their country they thought of their state..Their state was their country..You can't judge a past civilization on modern standards..People are a product of the generation in which they lived..Lee looked upon Virginia as his country and when Virginia called upon him for their defense he answered the call..As he stated..I can not draw my sword against my country..my family..When Lee was offered command of the entire Federal Army by Blair at Lincoln's bequest he said he'd think about it..It was the most grueling decision he ever made as he paced the floor that night at Arlington..And he came to the conclusion that he couldn't take up arms against Virginia which was his country so he tendered his resignation from the Federal Army..Prior to the war the United States when referred to in any conversation was said as the United States are..After the war it is now stated that the United States is..As Shelby Foote stated and I believe he explained it in fairly simple terms..The war made us an "is"……
The people of the time understood who Lee was at the time. That's why the U.S. Government confiscated his home and property and built Arlington Cemetery on top of it.
Where in his oath to the Constitution is it mentioned that his country was Virginia?
This country will never quit fighting the Civil War because its racism is too deep.
It is all over the comments to this article.
What you learned about the theory that the states "are" vs the United States "is" is strictly another Lost Cause BS line.
Truth is, a substantial number of southerners do not consider others as Americans with the same rights, so the War continues and will not stop, even with continued violence.
Shelby Foote is a Lost Cause revisionist novelist and no one in the Civil War academic community takes him seriously as a real historian.
I've seen in numerous places, but nothing official from our alma mater, prior to 1861 graduates swore an oath of allegiance to the state they were from, and I assume not to the Consitution of the United States. My assumption. Would like West Point to verify or refute.
Lee's home at Arlington was confiscated by a former fellow officer who hated him. This act was wrong, and the courts agreed, and ordered the property returned to his heirs. Rather than uproot the graves, Robert Lee Jr, took a settlement.
It was not a universally held sentiment that one's state was one's country. 30% of U.S. Army officers who hailed from seceded states remained loyal to the Union; the percentage was even higher in Virginia, including such notables as Winfield Scott and George Thomas.
Typical noncombatsnt type
But then the government lost the property in a lawsuit. Arlington was then sold to the government in an act of reconciliation. Read a book and learn.
I agree with you completely David. You should read some books that are authoritative on the subject before you spout rhetoric you have been spoon fed but haven't bothered to check out the accuracy of on the subject before you spout it. In this case check out these books. Robert Poole's, "On Hallowed Ground (a history on Arlington), MIchael Korda's, "The life and legend of Robert E. Lee, and Douglas S. Freeman's, "Robert E. Lee, Volume's I,II and III. You have your facts completely turned around. A general who knew Lee while both were in the Union Army and who hated Lee started burying Union soldiers on Lee's wife's ancestral home. The Union would not allow Mrs. Lee from returning to Washington to pay the property tax and thus the Federal government wrongfully took charge of the land. 20 years after the Civil War ended the U.S. Government recognized the wrong and gave the property back to the Lee family but on the condition they remove and rebury the large number of Union soldiers that had been buried there over the years. They couldn't afford to do that so they accepted a check for the value of the property instead. The check was paid by Abe Lincoln's son to Robert E. Lee's son. So it was the government of the U.S. that paid a check of reconciliation to the heirs of Robert E. Lee for the wrongs the federal government had done to the Lee family. Please check out your facts and list your references the next time you want to state something as a fact before you chime in on such a complex and poorly understood, by the masses, subject. In this age of revisionist history which takes liberties with the facts and tends to take subject matter out of the perspective of the time era they occurred in, I see more and more statements written as facts when they are nothing but misinformation. Unfortunately this is becoming more and more the norm instead of the exception.
I really don’t consider anyone who defends their state from an invading army as a traitor. Lincoln raised an army to invade the south. What would have your response been to such an invasion. We need to stop judging the actions of people from times past by today’s standards. General Lee and all confederate soldiers had their citizenship restored. That’s the end of the “traitor” argument.
No, it is not.
According to the Nation Archives Lee was never formally restored to full citizenship. (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/piece-lee)
Also, Lee was given the opportunity to apply for Amnesty and Pardon for participating in Rebellion. He did apply thereby admitting his role in Rebellion. If participating in Rebellion is not treasonous behavior(not convicted of treason, not brought to court for treason, but meeting the definition under which he easily could have been accused and tried for treason), I must be missing something. A rebellion, I might add, in which an Army was levied against the United States (no exceptions for who started it).
The authors never said Lee was found guilty of treason, just that he was treasonous and that the Confederacy was treasonous.
Correction: Lee was restored to full citizenship. Just not in his lifetime. Congress and President Ford restored his citizenship in 1975.
Actually, Lee applied for reinstatement but died before it was processed. If I remember correctly, it was found around 1969, 100 years after his death. C9ngress passed.an act restoring his citizenship
Doesnt resigning from military service free one from their swearing in oath? Like an active duty man or woman isnt supposed to 2nd guess the US government, nor question the leaders, especially not the President.
But if/when the retire, or resign, its open season.
Am I correct?
No such “cogent argument” was ever made and no conviction exists.
We have freedom of the press but it like history should always be a non biased undertaking. If you report your opinion as fact when it is not this is lying. You invalidate your entire story with 1 lie that’s all it takes. If you want to completely destroy your position and make your goals unattainable then by all means continue as you are. Most are intelligent enough to see that this is ridiculous in its premise and it’s sited facts. I would think it better for people opposed to what they are trying to do then for their own position as it’s ridiculously biased from start to end almost to the point of parody. I actually think we will see if West Point still has its integrity or it folds.
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The Supreme Court decision on Arlington House and its acreage is at: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/106/196/.
SCOTUS ruled that: a) the federal government could be sued by citizens over property rights; and, b) rules for paying property taxes in person were different for Arlington House than for other properties. Thus, the US Army illegally seized Arlington House over the Lee Family’s failure to pay property taxes in person, and the Lee Family had standing to sue.
This SCOTUS decision was over property rights and standing. The Feds can’t illegally seize personal property and then claim immunity from legal review by the courts. Everything in the SCOTUS ruling pertains to a legal property rights decision. SCOTUS says nothing about “reconciliation” or righting of “wrongs… to the Lee family.”
The US Army had a perfect right to seize any rebel property that could place the US capital under artillery fire. The heights of Arlington House are only 2 miles from the White House. They were a military necessity to seize after the rebel attack at Fort Sumter and Virginia’s secession. Arlington’s ownership after the war became the legal question. With legal ownership endorsed by SCOTUS, but also with thousands of US Army graves on the property, the Lee family evidently took an out-of-court settlement. The actual US government check came from the custodians of Arlington Cemetery, the US Army. As Secretary of War in the Chester Arthur administration, Robert Todd Lincoln signed the check.
Sir or Ma'am, could you please identify the incorrect statements in the article? I read through it, and nothing jumped out, but at the same time I'm not an expert on West Point history.
Thank you If only people would turn on their hearing aids, instead of sensationalized news( for rating) we would be in a better place. As Jack Webb said on “Dragnet,” Just the facts. The “politically correct “ bull has become such an instigator of hate and unsubstantiated reteric . It is political hatred that it dividing the nation. Another Civil War, with word throwing accusations. Eventually the powder will explode and we will kill each other for anything we decide is true, given by the standards of the media and untrue statements. “ GOSSIP”
So why not Benedict Arnold.
If not for Saratoga, we would probably still be British subjects.
And Arnold did not violate his oath like Lee, he only returned to the country which was his prior to that war.
As the holder of a bachelors degree in history, I find the article well written and credible.
Versus the Lost Cause racist dreamers who dream of the subjugation of people that they consider inferior or who do not agree with their politics.
Had Benedict Arnold been captured along with the British Major Andre, we'd unquestionably have hung him for returning to his original oath, as you put it.
We didn't hang Lee. We took his estate, but otherwise allowed him to retire. I don't think we should be naming things after the post-1861 Robert E. Lee, but let's be careful about tearing his name off everything just because.
Before long, our mania to clean our history will destroy the very concept. Orwell has a good book on how that goes.
Such a limited, lazy andrather selfish look back at history-but typical for modern day people who lack the ability of critical thought, but simply cry racism. It’s what ignorant people say about G. Washington too, simply because he had slaves. I suggest to all who blow off these men in our history, as simple, or cruel racists—, to do an in depth and honest study of slavery, and then the Ivory Coast slave trade, from its origins by African tribes. Learn about the patriarchal status the male slave had, and his relationship with master. The movie Roots, has proven to be the biggest cause of wanton disinformation and proliferation of racism. Learn about ex slave, and business magnate William Ellison. Learn about the black owned plantations-pre civil war- just for starters and for the true perspective..about the ghastly civil war and the real reason it was fought. Hint- think Economics and entrepreneurship.
I think it’s amazing how it seems to be completely missed
The southern states excoriated thir right to succeed they had their own constituents their own currency and leaders
Therefore it was not a civil war
It was a war between two countries
So Lee could not have been a traitor
Also the majority of those that fought in the war did not fight for slavery ( hell few owned slaves) most had never been more than 40 miles from where they were born
In what way was it credible? What violation? He held on commission at the time. “Lost Cause Dreamers”? Name calling.
I agree, leave history alone! What a damaging phase we are in
These officers offered a thorough analysis of lost cause narratives and offered a suggestion on how to deal with the Lee issue. The best you can come up with is "nope, they are young and wrong".
Do better. Charges were never brought up was just as much a "political" decision than a legal one. While we will never fully know how Lincoln would have dealt with reconciliation practically, the matter is clear that Johnson was not as inclined.
To suggest that they should shut up and color is dismissive.
Johnson was highly inclined to allow Treason prosecution of Lee. Unitil the Radical Republicans impeached him (under the guise of violating the Tenure of Office Act, but in reality because they thought he wasn't harsh enough to the Southern states), Johnson poked them in the eye by granting a full pardon for the offence of treason to all. Previous pardons had excluded Lee (not by name, but by virtue of him being a graduate of USMA and having been of a rank higher than Colonel(? IIRC) in the insurrection).
You mean this definition of treason in Art. 3, Sect. 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. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."
Are you contending that Lee, Davis, et. al. were not "leavying War" against the United States?
If you are only contending that they were not charge or found guilty of treason then your point is minor and of little bearing on whether we today can consider such actions treasonous. Historical understanding of the facts and reality are not constrained by what was declared in a court proceeding. If we understood history only through the lens of decided court cases, we would have a sad, unintelligible view of the world.
If you only want to argue that the decision to not charge leaders of the South with treason at the time was a good one, that is a discussion of interest, but not a direct argument against the allegation that the actions they took were treasonous.
With respect to Lee's actions being treasonous, unless you have a better argument; I agree with the authors. I also note that you do not contend that Lee supported the institution of slavery.
These decisions were made by those who came before us and are not up for your interpretation I'm afraid.
Mr. Dinger, sir with respect I must point out that Hitler came before you and me. Are his decisions not up for interpretation? Obviously they are, so could you please elaborate on how we are not allowed to say that we shouldn't honor men who committed treason, violated their oaths as officers, fought for slavery, and hence fought against the ideas in the Declaration of Independence?
I'm afraid they are. See how easy that was. If you don't think your actions are subject to interpretation and judgement by people in the future, I'm sorry to inform you, that is not the case. You saying it can't happen is factually wrong. If you want to contend that we should not. Please make your argument. I didn't see one presented.
Lee decided to support slavery and reject the United States. That is a fact that cannot be re-interpreted. That Lee was not convicted of treason (as legally defined at the time of the act) is not debatable either. He was not.
It is not factually correct to say we cannot look back at the facts of history and determine today that we should have and could have tried and convicted Lee of treason. We can. Should we? That's a different debate. I think yes, you think no. Our opinions won't change the facts, but they can change how we use our history to inform the decision we make today. I can say that the historical facts support that Lee's actions were treasonous (charged or not) and you can disagree. The fact that I think the record supports his actions as being treasonous (along with his support for the institution of slavery), leads me to believe that we should not place his name and likeness in places that elevate his ideals.
Whether he should have been charged with treason at the time is an entirely different question. That brings in all the questions of reconciliation. This should be fertile ground for history wonks. But America is largely, I think, past that point. If you need an academic refuge to argue the details, by all means, write some lovely articles for some history journal. But the above article is about the message we send America's sons and daughters. I do not want another cadet to have to sleep in a barracks that is named after an individual that resisted the end of an institution that enslaved their ancestors. If you cannot fathom that argument then you cannot seriously engage in the discussion. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm hoping the vast majority of people with connections to the confederacy are strongly opposed to slavery and think that the South should have abandoned it at the time rather than fight the Civil War. We don't get to wish away that history, but we can regret it, and certainly do not have to honor it.
We can absolutely look back at history, so as to not repeat mistakes (as is the mantra of historians). People should know that if they end up on the wrong side of a moral argument, they will not (or at least should not) be someone that future generations will consider a hero. I'm okay with that. By all means, study his tactics and leadership. Understand what made him a successful military commander. Even understand the pressures, morals and influences that led him to make his decision about joining the Confederacy. All fine. Celebrate that West Point can train such brilliant tacticians, yes. Celebrate that an brilliant man can end up supporting morally reprehensible institutions, no. To me, the latter of those two is the one that determines whether you get statues in your honor and your name on a building.
He was also pardoned along with many others in the Confederacy. As a matter of fact a lot of them went on to serve in Congress, and other government roles.
I can think of a few reprehensible people in Congress. I've heard the term treason thrown at more than few. That people with extreme views could get voted into Congress is not just an occurrence in the modern era.
Pardoned for what? Joining a Rebellion. (via Wikipedia: quoted from Randall, J.G. and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, Second Edition, D.C. Heath and Company, 1966, pgs. 560-561): In a final proclamation on December 25, 1868, Johnson declared "unconditionally, and without reservation, … a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws …"
Just because they were pardoned doesn't mean they were not treasonous. They absolutely were. Why would they need a pardon from it if they were never treasonous? Just because leadership at the time thought it was the right thing to offer amnesty and pardon doesn't mean we can't call their action treasonous today. Can they be legally prosecuted and punished by the government for their treason. No, not after a pardon or amnesty. Do we have to keep statues up in their honor? No.
Being pardoned is not point in his favor. Also the actions for which Lee was pardoned are the same actions for which people hung his portrait and commissioned statues of him, and therein lies the problem. Lee did little of historical significance before or after the war.
Dave it has been awhile. I hope you and your family are doing well.
It is always the right of future generations to interpret their predecessors actions. It is our hope that they view them in the times that the actions were taken and not the norms that they live in now.
That said. The primary reason that treason charges were not brought after the Civil War is that the North wanted a healthy United States that could move forward together. There were pluses and minuses for this course of action. It did reunite the country. It also, in my opinion, caused a much slower reunification of the people with respect to the individual level regardless of race/color.
The fog of that war has lifted. It is time to rethink actions of those we elevate based on the times that they took place. If you rise against your country and participate in violent actions against your country you would be committing treasonous acts even if you were not charged.
In 1913 thousands of Civil War veterans from both sides gathered at Gettysburg to remember and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle. They were able to forgive and forget and were there as Americans. They lived the war. If they can do it, perhaps those who CHOOSE to attend West Point can too and learn about its place in US history rather than tearing everything down and attempt to erase it. https://www.businessinsider.com/photos-gettysburg-veterans-return-to-battlefield-after-50-years-2019-6
I would tend to think that treason as was viewed by our founding fathers referred to foreign powers and was worded in such a way where rebellion was rising up against people who would possibly abuse or manipulate their offices and not our system of government but the abuse of it. As for obvious reasons they did not consider themselves traitorous but rebels fighting for their rights. So how can you contend that the southerners who seem to have been in earnest when they say they were fighting for their rights and freedoms are treasonous? Then by default we are a country of traitors wouldn't you agree. I think the right to bear arms kind of makes the position of the founding fathers pretty clear. Rebel if the government needs to get some humility.
Excellent and salient commentary…it is always interesting when pro-confederate acolytes divest themselves of reality that their entire identity as to who and what they are is based upon the pathology of justifying the enslavement of another human being and in doing so;committed treason against the United States .
If there is to be reconciliation, the South must first confront the fact they subverted the U.S constitution in order to sustain enslaving another human .
The south? You mean the United States
No, We down south know that we were in the Confederate States of America which was a separate country from the United States of America. Our men and gray are just as much our heroes as your men in blue. The north invaded the south sir not the other way around. Abraham Lincoln was quite the liberal president definitely in the whig party tradition. He understood the north could not exist without the south because at the time of the war for southern independence the south was the fifth largest economy in the world. Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, in January, 1864, summed it up best when he said: “ every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… it means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy. That our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; Will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; Will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traders, and our maimed veterans as objects for derision. It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.
This is total BS No more moral man than Lee. He was no
racist and he freed his slaves before the War Between the States.
Sir, I agree with many of your points, and also think the article made some interesting point. I would point out though that the 'Southern Heritage' argument is far from exclusive to the old rebellious confederate states. I was born in raised in the Old South, but have lived across the width and breadth of the nation. I can quite firmly state with accuracy that you will find those waving the old Battle Flag / Dixie Flag are just as likely to come from small town America in many northern states such as Penn, New York, Michigan, Ohio, etc. as the old south, if not more so.
PN, yes, that is the definition of treason we have all sworn to support and defend.
You raise an interesting point that was hotly debated. Lee and David had differing roles in the opening of the war. However, they both resigned all offices under the United States prior to their actions on behalf of the confederacy.
At the time of Lee's resignation, Virginia was still in the Union and had already held a state convention and voted to stay in the Union. It was only after Lincoln's call for troops that the Old Dominion held a second state convention and voted to leave the Union. Lee and his beloved Virginia never engaged federal troops until the federal troops were in Virginia. True to his resignation letter, Lee only raised his sword in defense of his native Virginia.
Davis clearly had a different role. He considered himself a citizen of a different country. Charging him with treason against the United States would have made about as much sense as charging Filipino revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo with treason against the United States.
Frankly, your point about supporting the institution of slavery is a red herring. Every state and federal official prior to the civil war took an oath to support the constitution which supported slavery until the adoption of the 13th Amendment. President Lincoln, in his first inaugural speech, expressed support for the Corwin Amendment which would have made slavery permanent. The Stars and Stripes flew over slaves for much longer than the Stars and Bars. The Revolutionary War included states in which slavery was legal. Are we to excise our history prior to the 13th Amendment, get rid of the Stars & Stripes, and rejoin Great Britain because some in our history supported slavery or supported compromises to avoid bloodshed over slavery?
I must disagree with your conclusion. We are arrogant indeed to undo in hasty emotion what our forefathers put in place after great hardship and contemplation.
Support for slavery a Red Herring? It is not an attempt to mislead of distract from the relevant point. It is one of the two main relevant points: Treason and support for Slavery. Those are the reasons being put forward by the authors. Your argument about slavery existing under the Constitution prior to the Civil War however meets the definition of red herring quite well.
The fact that Virginia only joined the confederacy after the Union raised called for troops is only a mitigating factor. There is nothing in the definition of treason which exempts people because they were hesitant to commit treason. The fact that they were not in official offices is also of no relevance. Any citizen can commit treason. If you want to argue they weren't citizens of the US that would probably be a more reasonable approach. However, if I claimed I was part of a fake nation when I chose to commit treason that wouldn't likely fly very far.
Lincoln absolutely had to wrestle with the question of whether allowing slavery is an acceptable way to preserve the union. Did Lincoln "support" the institution of slavery? Absolutely not. Would he have tolerated it to preserve the Union? There seems to be some evidence of that. He was only in that position because of the vehement support for slavery in the South.
The civil war was fought primarily over the institution of slavery. Our history prior to the war back through the founding of the country should not be forgotten, but when we as a nation made the progress toward recognizing the moral reprehensibility of the institution of slavery there were some who fought for it (and against their country). We today are under no obligation to continue venerating those that fought to maintain such an institution. That was not the choice of Washington, Adams, et. al. (but it does not exempt them from inspection either). Some may have arguments about why we shouldn't venerate the Founding Fathers as well, but their historical experience was not that of Lincoln or Davis or Lee. That was not the decision of the time.
I think most reasonable people understand the tremendous turmoil Lee felt at having to make such a decision. I do not wish to ever be in such a tough place. But the decision to maintain the presence of statues, names of buildings and such is ours today, not his. It is being made every day. We make that decision today, not in the past, and we get to take into account our present understanding of race and slavery. Must we elevate an individual for supporting what we clearly see today as morally reprehensible? No. We can put those statues, portraits in places of historical context, places that do not present them as objects of veneration. We can give the names of buildings to individuals who better represent our values today. We do not need to cover up the fact that at some point the building was named Lee barracks, put up a plaque showing the historical naming of the building.
Hasty emotion? Let's argue the merits of whether the statues, names and portraits should remain as is, like the authors, who made a recommendation. They did not demand, they did not threaten. They made their point and you disagreed with points that I thought we unsatisfactory and unconvincing. Let's have the public debate and let leaders decide. If they decide opposite what you think is correct, vote, protest, write letters, call your congressperson. The time is now to have the discussion. Don't hide by calling this hasty. It's overdue. Long overdue. As you say, we are doomed to repeat history. We are doomed to repeat our failure to recognize the stain of slavery and resulting turmoil that continues to reverberate in our country.
We should study history and be able to understand it in the context of the world at the time. The lessons we draw from that history, however, are necessarily being applied to the world we live in today. Let's let history be instructive, rather than a shackle. Stop venerating those that fought against their countrymen to preserve an institution we despise today. Put the statues and portraits in places of introspection not elevation.
Find your comment on slavery being the primary cause of the Civil War, not correct. Only 10 to 15% of Southerners owned slaves. I wonder if you took a poll of the confederate army exactly how many of those men were fighting to uphold the institution of slavery. I suspect most of the troops would say they were fighting to protect their families their land and their homes Against an invading army from the north.
General Lee could not have committed treason. Why? Because only citizens can commit treason, and he was not a citizen of the United States from April 17, 1861 until he regained his citizenship on July 22, 1975. So, since he was not a citizen until 1975, then his actions after April 17, 1861 CANNOT be treason.
Here are the words of the President in July 1975, restoring General Lee's U.S. citizenship:
"I am very pleased to sign Senate Joint Resolution 23, restoring posthumously the long overdue, full rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. This legislation corrects a 110-year oversight of American history. It is significant that it is signed at this place.
Lee's dedication to his native State of Virginia chartered his course for the bitter Civil War years, causing him to reluctantly resign from a distinguished career in the United States Army and to serve as General of the Army of Northern Virginia. He, thus, forfeited his rights to U.S. citizenship.
Once the war was over, he firmly felt the wounds of the North and South must be bound up. He sought to show by example that the citizens of the South must dedicate their efforts to rebuilding that region of the country as a strong and vital part of the American Union.
In 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to a former Confederate soldier concerning his signing the Oath of Allegiance, and I quote: "This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony."
This resolution passed by the Congress responds to the formal application of General Lee to President Andrew Johnson on June 13, 1865, for the restoration of his full rights of citizenship. Although this petition was endorsed by General Grant and forwarded to the President through the Secretary of War, an Oath of Allegiance was not attached because notice of this additional requirement had not reached Lee in time.
Later, after his inauguration as President of Washington College on October 2, 1865, Lee executed a notarized Oath of Allegiance. Again his application was not acted upon because the Oath of Allegiance was apparently lost. It was finally discovered in the National Archives in 1970.
As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.
General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.
In approving this Joint Resolution, the Congress removed the legal obstacle to citizenship which resulted from General Lee's Civil War service. Although more than a century late, I am delighted to sign this resolution and to complete the full restoration of General Lee's citizenship."
Technically, the Confederacy did not wage war against the United States. The Union armies invaded the territory of the Confederacy and the Confederate armies defended their territory.
The Confederate government never planned to conquer the Union. There were occasional raids into Union territory all of which failed.
By that legal definition of treason, Lincoln and the Federal army should have been tried for treason. Lincoln used a federal army to invade the southern states. Lincoln imprisoned the Maryland legislature and ignored the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States. Lincoln unconstitutionally raised an Army and used it to destroy the democratically elected legislatures of the Southern states & to annihilate their legal constitutions.
The Officers of the Union army should have resigned their commissions if they did not want to commit treason. They had a moral obligation, like Lee, but failed to uphold it. They had a duty to defend and uphold the Constitution, but instead they sided with a tyrant and became tyrants themselves–using the bayonet to instill their political aims on democratically elected governments. Lincoln is the traitor, Lincoln is guilty of treason, and statues of Lincoln should be removed from any place of prominence. And, mark my words, they will be removed.
glad to see you prove the idiotic and easily disproved lost cause narrative is alive and well, and provide the exact evidence to eradicate any honors to Confederate traitors.
Colonel Lee should be honored for his contributions to West Point, the U S Army, his civil and military engineering accomplishments, and his skills at mathematics. The study of his tactics as an enemy combatant is necessary as are those of Forrest, Thomas's Jackson, Joe Johnston, Rommel, Ludendorff, and other foes of the USA. I was taught to speak with reference for my Confederate ancestors and their leaders. Times have changed and we have to recognize the change by fully confronting the good, bad, and ugly facts about all of our nation's military leaders and their mistakes. No one speaks of the character and morals of many of our past military officers but it is necessary not to romanticize these fully human persons regardless of their accomplishments.
Mr. Owen, I like your distinction between monuments that honor and textbooks that teach. Hitler, Osama, King George III, and all the other enemies of the flag go in one (textbooks) but not ther other (monuments). However, I think a lot of people skip over the fact that, even in Lee's lifetime, a majority of Americans considered slavery abhorrent. By the time of the Confederacy, the western world except America had largely ended the practice of slavery. I would argue that even by the standards of their own time, the Confederates were monsters and bullies.
You sir, are lost.
The decision not to prosecute was made as an attempt to speed reconciliation; not due to a lack of evidence. After four hard fought years, neither Johnson or Grant felt that prosecuting the Southern Commanders would lead to speeding reconciliation, on the contrary, they were concerned about it beginning an insurgency that would never be won.
Anyone invoking how Lincoln would have thought/acted also has no basis in argument or fact. His assassination is what set the terms for the amnesty, reconciliation, and reintegration of the South. If you would like to read more; https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20090228_art009.pdf – written by Colonel Jim McDermott USMA '95.
Sir, being a member of the bar and a former prosecutor I must respectfully disagree with your analysis and logic.
Let me just say that as military officers we took an oath to follow civilian authority. As current and retired military officers, we should not be making hasty and ill-founded accusations of treason about individuals who haven't committed treason or who haven't been convicted of treason. Should this practice be encouraged for any reason? That is my primary objection to the article.
But if for the sake of argument the decision to not prosecute was indeed made for the sole purpose of furthering reconciliation, can the hurling of unproven treason charges and the destruction of historical monuments further that reconciliation?
The victorious North had the means, wherewithal and emotional justification to prosecute any Southerner it wanted, but chose not to. They were on the scene and made their decision. They had suffered the losses. Their political leaders were accountable to the millions of grieving family members who had lost a loved one in the conflict–and yet they made the decision not to prosecute anyone for treason.
It strikes me as supremely arrogant to second-guess the decisions of our great-grandparents more than a century and a half later.
And yet we have the supreme Court who has regularly had to modify the decisions of that generation because of how racist, sexist, and bigoted they really were.
Second guessing, or effectively analyzing, past decisions is a vital component of progress and professionalism. It is how we learn and improve.
USMA 11, military decisions, yes.
But second guessing civilian prosecutorial decisions, political decisions, or USSC decisions is beyond the military ethic. We take our orders from the civilian decision makers. We don't second guess them.
I agree, and certainly in accordance with Lee's early beliefs, that political decisions are best left in the realm of politics. Do you contend that the decision as to whether monuments and portraits are or are not displayed at USMA is a political issue? Do you know who makes the decision? Honestly,this one isn't rhetorical. I don't know for sure, but I'm assuming the Superintendent. You seem to be focused on the treason argument, so maybe I'm reading into your implications a big more than I should.
Calling Lee's actions treasonous is not second guessing prosecutorial decisions. It is a statement of fact. The authors never said he was found guilty of treason or should have been convicted of treason. Lee himself asked for a pardon for his role in the rebellion. Pardon from treason. Lee admits he committed treason. Convicted, charged or not. Calling his action treasonous is fully permissible.
There does seem to be some legal confusion on the matter, but from what I (non-lawyer) can tell, accepting a pardon inherently carries with it an admission of guilt ("Burdick v. United States, 236 U.S. 79 (1915)". Justia Law. Retrieved 2019-10-20.). If a murderer is pardoned for a crime, you can be sure that I will be calling them a murderer when it is appropriate. Can the government disadvantage them of their rights as a citizen after a pardon? That's an entirely different question and has nothing to do with the argument made by the authors.
Wading into political ground as an active duty officer should always be approached with extreme caution. I hope the authors sought and received good advice on the matter. With respect to treason though, this not a case of active defiance of military order, political decisions, second-guessing or anything even remotely close.
I assume that the victorious North chose not to prosecute because they thought it was the best course for the nation at the time. I'm on board with that. Most likely the best course of action.
I'm also assuming that descendants of the confederacy know that slavery and succession were wrong and are apologetic. However, there is a not-insignificant group of people that cannot bring themselves to say that. And a less-significant group that argue that argue to opposite. If, over 150 years later, knowing what we know now, people cannot acknowledge that slavery is wrong and that it should have been abolished rather than succeed, then maybe we should stop entertaining them with statues in their honor in places of prominence.
If you say, "I don't think I would have had the guts to stand up against my buddies and fight against them to eliminate slavery." or "I can see how they made the decision to support slavery at the time." I can see how you can come to those conclusion. But if you say, "I think their decision was the CORRECT one at the time" I think you are giving aid and comfort to white-supremacists, KKK and the like.
If I'm a good white supremacist, KKK, neo-Nazi I can always look to the veneration of Confederate leaders to validate my beliefs. I would think to myself, "If people really believed my white supremacist beliefs were wrong they wouldn't have these statues, portraits and barracks named after someone that supported slavery."
It strikes me as supremely ignorant to assume that our choice of who we elevate as heroes doesn't matter.
Can we apply your same template to, say, FDR's arrest and internment of over 100K Unites States citizens during WW2? FDR is regarded as a hero to the Left but his statues remain.
Secession was not regarded as treason by the North or South from the founding until the Lincoln administration convinced enough northerners to believe it was treason.
This whole Anti South crap going on now is just the left justifying it's political hatred for the South. It is also the elites who run this country dividing Americans any way they can, so the policies of the elites don't get discussed.
Secession wasn't the treason. Levying war against the government was the treason. The Confederacy levied war against the US Government, so the Confederacy committed treason.
I grew up in the south. As did my parents. None of us ever once identified with slaveowners.
No sir the south did not levy war against the United States of America because the Confederate States of America only wanted a peaceful succession. It was Lincoln who understood the economics of losing the south who decided to wage war by calling for the enlistment of 75,000 troops to put down the “rebellion“.
It was the USG who levied war. The Southern states defended themselves against an invading Army. It takes a lot of gumption and decades of historical revision to send an Army to another state, and claim the people defending themselves are "levying war" against you. It would be like me punching you in the face, and then saying "stop attacking me!" when you put your hands up in defense.
As for not "identifying with slaveowners," who do you identify with? Do you not respect the admirable qualities of G. Washington and Thomas Jefferson? How about Pres. Grant? They all owned slaves. And its not like the US Govt hated slavery. Slavery was still legal in the North leading up to the war, during the war, and after the war. The war was over for 9 months, and there were still thousands of slaves legally held in Union states. The US Government never banned slavery throughout the entire war, although they had the power to do so.
Sorry that the Confederacy, a government that had a provision in its Constitution prohibiting Congress from ever passing a law banning "negro slavery", is viewed negatively.
No less an authority than James Madison viewed secession as an act of revolution, rather than a right under the Constitution.
Great comment Tenther! It may interest you to note that the first serious talk of Secession in the United States was not made by Southern states, but rather by Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Unhappy with the Federal government over its entry into the War of 1812, which had led to the burning and ransacking of the White House (then known by another name), the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, and other parts of the District of Columbia, these states met in 1815, in Hartford, Connecticut, at an event called the Hartford Convention. Ar the meeting, these states were justified, planned, and began steps to secession, as they believed it was their Constitutional right to leave the Union. The only thing which stopped the secession campaign was the surprise news of Jackson's victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans, which won the war for the USA. For details, check out "Hartford Convention" on wikipedia.
Sir, could you please point out the incorrect facts or logical fallacies in the argument? If we name one building after a traitor, then we should name other buildings after other traitors. Benedict Arnold Barracks. John Walker Lynn Barracks. Americans who were enemies of the flag.
The issue is General Lee was not a traitor. From April 17, 1861 until July 22, 1975, he was NOT a citizen of the United States. And foreigners CANNOT be guilty of treason, only citizens.
You are correct. Military history must be kept in context. To be viewed objectively and clearly. Not looked at through politically colored glasses. Sam Grant settled both questions concerning Lee and secession. Pete Longstreet worked for Grant in New Orleans against former Confederate anarchists.
Lee was the greatest Napolionic military leader in history. Jackson and Stuart also deserve recognition for their military prowess. After all. We're talking about West Point. Not the Hamptons or the history department at Berkeley.
Spot on, sir.
Thank you Cold War Colonel. I was preparing to state the same thing but nearly as eloquently. Confederates were not traitors. The States they represented seceded.
Thank you, Colonel, for standing up for historical truths. The writers of this article are repeating the lyankee and federal government myth that the ”Lost Cause was a Myth”.because they still refuse to admit the war was started over $$$ and power. It is the same myth the national park service (run by the federal government) uses and amped up during the Obama administration. Secession and the Constitution used to be taught at West Point and strategies of Lee and his generals are helpful to future military leaders. The only “problem” West Point has is allowing politics to enter their academy.
You really nailed it, Kristen. I'll take your half-baked conspiracy theories and ill-informed, hyper-politicized blather over well-researched, thoughtful analysis anyday. Keep it up!
Jefferson Davis was indicted for treason. The House of Representatives overwhelming voted in support of the charge of treason. Davis was released on bond of $100,000 (over $1.5 million today). While out on bail, he fled to Canada then Cuba and Europe. He was pardoned for the crime of treason by President Johnson in 1868. Johnson is well known for his sympathy to the Confederate cause.
To your larger point, yes the Constitution has a specific definition of treason. I'm curious in what way you feel the leaders of the Confederacy did not " levy War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort"?
I read that Lee was indicted as well. The indictment was presented in this video (https://www.c-span.org/video/?446960-2/robert-e-lees-treason-war-crimes-indictment) by the author, John Reeves, in The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee. Any serious historians care to comment? I couldn't find the document in any easily accessed location.
I guarantee you that Edwin Stanton would have commenced a military tribunal that would have seen to it that the whole bunch of traitors found the end of their lives on the same gallows where the Lincoln assassins got their just due.
Those traitors can thank Andrew Johnson for saving their unworthy skins.
All former slave owners and traitors fighting against the United States at any time in history do not deserve the honor of recognition at any and all United States Military institutions and all public areas .
Sir these people are lower than whale shit.
Randall W. Allen
ALL the Founding Fathers were traitors who had previously sworn allegiance to King George III. Many of them were slave owners. So by your logic they should also be removed from public display. in the case of George Washington you will need to rename a state and district and burn most of the banknotes.
Jesus h christ what a total copout. One of the biggest white washing jobs deffending institutionalized racism I have ever read. Lower than whale shit and totally UNSAT.
What a throw back to antebellum mind sets.
It is sad that you would be given a commission and benefit from our great nation.
Randall W.Allen veteran United States Navy
“None of the southerners were not guilty of treason.”
Totally agree, though you probably didn’t intend for a double negative to actually tell the truth.
Fiction is fun, CWC. Your version of the events of 1861-65 is comically wrong. BLUF – no honors for traitors like Lee. The issue is not whether the trash needs to be taken out but rather which cadet or Soldier serving at West Point will be the one(s) to do it. If I were a young, intelligent cadet I would make it my mission to storm that building housing Lee's portrait and tear it from the wall. Fling it onto the lawn and burn it with all the disrespect you can muster. No honors for murderous traitors and no peace for those who allow them to maintain a presence in public places of reverence. That's your mission statement – any questions?
• While personally against Slavery & Secession told
Winfield Scott, when refusing overall command of
the Union forces, “I cannot raise my sword against
my mother, i.e., my state.” State loyalty was much,
much deeper then, than we can imagine today.
• No other country in history, that I know of, has ever
allowed Memorials & Naming of & by the.
vanquished foe. In part, this was fulfilling Lincoln’s
wish in pronouncing Americans, brothers once
The firebrands of today, would likely cast their lot with the Radical Republicans of the 1860’s, desiring to hang all the Rebel leadership. However, having sworn to never raise arms against he United States again, they were granted their paroles, their freedom and their citizenship.
To state that Lee did not commit treason because no charge of treason was levied against him is a false argument. The Constitution defines treason as follows: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."
If the actions of Lee, Davis, and the rest does not constitute treason against the United States, then I guess nothing ever will.
Where to begin with how wrong people are for wanting to erase history, when we seem to repeat it so often. I certainly have NO problem condemning slavery in a supposedly free country. I take issue with the people covering up the north's role that FORCED many southern states to leave the union and ultimately declare war. The northern economy which became industrialized while the south relied heavily on agriculture and cotton had the southern economy booming, and yes sadly slavery was at the forefront. I do think it's obvious how the south viewed the north as being hypocritical and the issue of STATES RIGHTS (why do people want to deny this?) was certainly called into question. The north was unmistakably correct about wanting to abolish slavery, it's how they decided to go about it that I take issue with. The federal government began placing huge tariffs on cotton and threatened to collapse the southern economy altogether. southerner's who had made tons from cotton were in danger of losing everything and were painted in a corner by POLITICAL CORRUPTION (we clearly learned nothing from this). I can see why politicians want to avoid discussion and support COVERING UP even more questionable decision making, Keep in mind the Andrew Carnegie's and Vanderbilt's of the world did see African Americans as "cheap labor" who didn't require bathroom breaks. I can assure you that working for greedy industrialists was still a much better alternative! As much as I do like Abraham Lincoln, he did trample all over the constitution, perhaps as much as people have accused Robert E. Lee of doing. To be fair, Lincoln was dealing with an unprecedented situation. In the end both sides got some things right (ending slavery being by far the most crucial obviously), and both sides did a lot wrong that resulted in over 800,000 lives lost. There is so much to learn from, so much is very relevant today! Destroying our history is the absolute worst thing we can do in my opinion! It underminds blacks as well as whites, slaves overcame and did not allow some of the worst cruelty ever thrust on a human being to break their will, their story deserves to be told. I believe you then have to discuss the entire history to teach the full lesson from the past.
Leave the statuses and paintings alone. West Point is an important part of our history. It’s a museum in its entirety. Instead of erasing history, the cadets should be learning about it. They should learn that Lincoln wanted General Lee to be the US commander but as was the norm at that time, Lee was loyal to his state. They should learn that the Civil War was a hugely tragic period in our history. It was a failure of politics and compromise. It is not a cliche that brother fought brother. The cadets should learn about it because if you don’t, you are damned to repeat it.
America has been on life support for a generation. The PC crowd in Richmond just forced out General Peay at VMI. The decay will continue and the Country will get weaker. You can make valid arguments about history, etc., but the Left will have none of it. We have let them rot our institutions and the minds of our youth, and they have grown up thirsting for power over anything else. Lee and Jackson will live on at the Military colleges around the globe and be erased here in America-how poignant.
Completely false. Lee and 59 other Confederates were brought up on charges, which were later dropped. But they were brought up on charges. And yes they would have been convicted with an impartial jury. The problem was two fold-first, such would have went against the wishes of Lincoln. And second, it would have set precedence and caused the South to rise up again, which would have led to more war.
Charges for treason were brought against Lee and thirty- six other high ranking Confederates
Treason — "Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000"
I am not sure what the rules were in 1861. But this is the language that seems to be in place today. If we have sworn an oath to the the USA but chose to fight in an armed rebellion, it would seem that would be treason. Just because charges weren't filed doesn't mean they weren't treasonous. And even if they had been tried and acquitted, that doesn't mean they weren't guilty. Just because the gloves didn't fit doesn't mean OJ wasn't a murderer.
Why would anyone from the South ever again go to this woke Institution??? Ashamed of West Point.
The south tried to leave the union Robert e. Lee was a southerner just like the rest.theyystayed with their states and families to the end until the government completed the subjugation of the south.
more lost cause propaganda, great job on also proving the necessity of tearing any honor to Confederate traitors down.
Mr. Kostyal, one implication of your statement is that slaveowners, not slaves, were somehow victims when they were "subjugated" into not enslaving black people and no longer violating black people's God-given inalienable rights. Obviously no one feels sorry for slaveowners, so I must've misunderstood what you meant. Could you please elaborate?
You do realize of course, Mr. McCoy, that they slave trade was carried on by New Englanders and many people in the north owned slaves. You should be aware that Lincoln first freed the slaves in the south and left the slaves in the north under subjection until later.
Correct. The Emancipation Proclamation freed in slaved persons in states in rebellion against the United States.
Lincoln did not have the legal power to free the slaves in the North, but since the South was in rebellion and subject to martial law, he had the authority to free the southern slaves.
The 13th Amendment was necessary legally to free the slaves in the States that were not in rebellion.
Otherwise, the slave owners in the North could demand payment for confiscation of property by eminent domain, and Congress did not authorize such an expenditure.
Not hardly, just like the rest.
This is excellently written and I can’t agree enough as a fellow West Point graduate. Thank you for putting this to eloquent words. I’ve expressed to AOG that I wouldn’t be donating any more money to the academy until they right this transgression. I hope with your sound analysis and reasoning they’ll do the right thing like we were so often taught.
Chris Bennett, Class of 2013
Keep your $100. It’s clear the Academy has shifted left in political philosophy ever since it heavily recruited civilian professors causing academic and military standards to slip. The Academy doesn’t have a Robert E. Lee problem. It has a problem with a small slice of radical liberal grads that have sided with the Democrat agenda. The Academy doesn’t need your pittance of donations.
Yes, keep your pittance! There should be a political litmus test on R-Day from now on to ensure that only conservatives are allowed to matriculate at West Point! And NO MORE CIVILIAN INSTRUCTORS, because, like, THEY DON'T EVEN GO HERE.
CNQ86, do you ever wonder whether there is a wider world out there than your daily dose of hate-filled propaganda? One filled with things like open-mindedness, respectful disagreement, and wonder? Or are those all commie/socialist terms to you. Grow up.
I can only guess that you must gave difficulty equating a "small slice of liberal grads" with American patriots.
It doesn't require much effort or being a liberal, to recognize that R.E. Lee's actions represent the textbook definition of treason. He even acknowledged as much.
I think it's helpful to hear Ulysses Grant's take on Lee as a general (excerpt from Chapter LV of Grant's Personal Memoirs):
"General Lee, who had led the Army of Northern Virginia in all these contests, was a very highly estimated man in the Confederate army and States, and filled also a very high place in the estimation of the people and press of the Northern States. His praise was sounded throughout the entire North after every action he was engaged in: the number of his forces was always lowered and that of the National forces exaggerated. He was a large, austere man, and I judge difficult of approach to his subordinates. To be extolled by the entire press of the South after every engagement, and by a portion of the press North with equal vehemence, was calculated to give him the entire confidence of his troops and to make him feared by his antagonists. It was not an uncommon thing for my staff-officers to hear from Eastern officers, "Well, Grant has never met Bobby Lee yet." There were good and true officers who believe now that the Army of Northern Virginia was superior to the Army of the Potomac man to man. I do not believe so…"
"Be thou at peace." GEN Lee was put in a position to pit loyalty to his home and family against loyalty to his country. This was doubtless a very difficult decision for him to make, and one that he likely felt most tangibly when facing his former classmates from USMA on the field of battle. Hopefully members of the Long Gray Line will never have to face a decision like that again. However, it is better to acknowledge the situation and allow members of our ranks to learn from it rather than trying to erase it from history. Perhaps every mention of Lee (or other grads who chose to side with the CSA) should be marked with a highly visible footnote to acknowledge this reality.
Mr. Campbell, with respect, I would like to offer a set of facts that moved me off the position you articulated.
Lee's own writings made it very clear that he and the Confederacy were fighting for slavery. For generations before the Confederacy, a majority of Americans thought slavery abhorrent. In the 1860s, western civilization (except America) had largely eradicated slavery.
What changed my mind was the fact that judging the Confederacy by their own time's standards, it is still an evil regime.
I agree that he should be studied, but that puts him in textbooks, not honored in monuments.
Another logical test that persuaded me was that if we can honor one American enemy of the flag, why not honor others? Benedict Arnold Hall, John Walker Lynn Stadium,… some would say Jane Fonda Barracks.
First, I am not a West Point Grad so maybe my opinion doesn't belong here but I think Lee's post war activities should not be lost on this debate. I did not know much but found this helpful, from:https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/robert-e-lee-after-war
Here are some key excerpts about his time at Washington College in Lexington:
Whatever happened, he had no desire to leave Virginia. "I cannot desert my native state in the hour of her adversity," he remarked to a friend. "I must abide her fortune, and share her fate."
At first Lee hesitated, but on the advice of friends and family he eventually accepted the position. He wrote to the trustees that he believed, "it is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony."
Lee's personal involvement with many of his students reflected his desire to create a new generation of Americans. In response to the bitterness of a Confederate widow, Lee wrote, "Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans."
Now I will admit that this source is probably the rosiest picture that can be painted of his post-Civil war activities but they should not be discounted. I think the situation is complicated and a complete picture of the life of Lee should be told and not limited to just "good" or "bad." He seemed to be dedicated to helping rebuild the U.S. following the war, not bad for a "traitor."
The part of the article that I disliked was the denigration projected on the United Daughters of the Confederacy. How they, right or wrong, lost loved ones…lots of them in that terrible war. This flippant dismissal is, in part, why we continue to have problems in wars today. The pain of loss is real and continuing to rub their nose it does not help. It only creates resentment and does not foster reconciliation.
This is where is gets complicated because the pain of slavery and in my opinion what was worse, the post civil war treatment of blacks in this country. (The reason I say worse is because in slavery, it was a legacy of a past world. The post-war Jim Crow era is worse in my opinion because so many died to end the horrible institution and their sacrifice was largely wasted.)
So where do I stand on Lee? I do not support removal because living is a complicated business and as humans we will not always make the right decisions. Lee was a man of his time and did great things and lived honorably while simultaneously stained by essentially defending slavery. In my opinion, the removal of these statues / portraits without explaining the how, when, why does a disservice to the long fight against racism. Racism alone is not the reason his portrait is there.
Just my opinion.
"Lee's own writings made it very clear that he and the Confederacy were fighting for slavery."
This is an absolute lie. Lee stated very clearly that he would fight for Virginia, whichever way she went. He stated that he did not believe Virginia should secede, but he was duty-bound to defend her against any invader. Virginia itself voted *against* secession multiple times after other states had seceded. It was not until Lincoln unconstitutionally raised an army and demanded Virginia to contribute soldiers to that illegal Army that the Virginia legislature changed their mind to be pro-secession. Throughout all that, Lee stayed with Virginia, because he was loyal to his people, the Constitution, and the legitimate authority in Virginia–the democratically elected representatives in the legislature.
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This is why we don’t have so many “opinions” about what Grant thought. He told us in his memoirs. I look at Lee and wish he had written his memoirs. Despite all the letters and memos and their interpretations, we are still guessing what he actually was thinking. His memoirs could have changed history. By the way Lee was the only one of eight southern Colonels to leave the Union Army.
Another point. “Duty, Honor, Country”, West Points motto was developed as part of the 100 year anniversary in 1902. Country was added to the motto to ingrain in West Pointers that they were committed to the USA over their individual state. During the CW several Members of Congress wanted to defund West Point because so many graduates and cadets left the Union Army and West Point to defend their state. After the CW Congress past the Land Grant Act which created the ROTC in part to prevent loosing so many officers.
Finally, as General Longstreet is famous for saying during the CW “If not for slavery, why are we fighting?”
I found this to be helpful <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/making-sense-of-robert-e-lee-85017563/">Making sense of Robert E. Lee</a>.
Robert E. Lee was in a no-win situation in 1860; he made the wrong choice, but he probably knew that. He did what he thought was the most honorable thing, not the most advantageous or the most likely to leave him on the winning side. The arguments for the legality of secession were strong ones, and as Jefferson Davis later said, a proper epitaph for the Confederacy would be "Died of a theory." Note our Founding Fathers who won their revolt eighty-odd years earlier would have all been branded traitors if they had lost.
The painting of Lee in the library certainly gives him more daily exposure to the cadets; sticking it in a museum is to consign it to ignominy.
Better that it be where it is seen and becomes the subject of contemplation and debate, much like we're having here.
If the "most honorable thing" he could consider is that a racist slavery policy should be defended with the lives of thousands then we are under no obligation to venerate him in any way. If we chose to study his military tactics and leadership in an academic setting, fine. We study Genghis Khan, but do not build statues to him. Statues, awards and barracks are what we should reserve for those we choose as examples of our higher ideals. If we built one in the past that does not reflect our values today we need not destroy it, but we need not leave it up as an example of that to which we aspire.
If Lee were revived today and saw the arc of history since his defeat I would hope he would recognize his mistake and demand any statue of him be taken down.
Our founding Father's died for liberty from an oppressive government. We, in America, weren't being told to stop killing natives and expanding and decided to rebel in order to continuing that practice. If that were the source of our rebellion against Britain, we would have changed that narrative long ago. Maybe we did. I'd love to hear the historical facts on the matter. In any case, the moral justification, as we understand it today makes comparing the
PN, if you study the war long enough, you will find that the reason for the war was exactly the same as the revolutionary war. TAXATION. To be sure, the South needed slavery to support their farms, but Lincoln needed the taxation of cotton products to support the government. He clearly indicated that slavery was not the issue for him. Holding the Union together, because he needed the tax money, was the real cause of the war. Slavery was an underlying issue. Not the cause.
The loss of taxation was the threat that the South could use against the North to get them to continue accepting slavery. If slavery wasn't an issue Maybe, MAYBE, Lincoln would have not sought to end the succession if they had stronger revenues from only the north. I don't think I know enough to be certain either way. Yes, holding the Union together was primary to Lincoln, but that would have never have been brought up as an ultimatum if the South wasn't dead set on retaining slavery.
No one here has painted the Union and northern leaders as holy crusaders bringing justice to the oppressed slaves of the South. They have plenty of issues of their own.
I'd love to see the documentation of Southern leadership that shows they were willing to accept a scenario where the Union remained intact and slavery ended. Point me too it.
Maybe if you study the war for a few more years you will run across the southern states declarations of succession. A random selection below… and if you don't trust me you can read them yourself. Spoiler alert: —– They all mention slavery and prominently.
Here is Georgia's first two sentences of their declaration of succession: "The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery"
Mississippi: (second sentence, identified as their primary reason) "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world."
South Carolina is a little more coy but still put slavery up there, front and center: "The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue."
Not, other over-taxed states or economically-disadvantaged states. Slaveholding states.
Texas beats around the bush for a bit too, but their first actual concrete issue: " She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
If taxes were the main problem why not say it up front? Was taxation an issue. Without a doubt. Distribution of wealth in a country is always a problem.
Oh and the states right issue (if that's the next arrow in your quiver) is basically the slavery issue. States rights' to control the institution of slavery. If you are hiding behind legal cover to defend your immoral behavior, you are still being immoral.
What boat did you just get off?
Kindly explain the text of South Carolina's succession declaration in which they specify that slavery was the major reason they succeeded.
I don't see anything about taxes in that or in any other confederate states' declaration, but every one fully states that slavery was the central reason.
I don't think that any Civil War revisionist would be able to stop laughing at this one.
What you may not know is the main reason that the southern colonies joined the Revolutionary War was because the British promised to outlaw slavery if they won.
You can research that one, if you dare.
The Founding fathers were slave owning traitors who had sworn an oath to king George iii. Even George Washington admitted they had very little public support. They terrorised the far larger percentage of British Loyalists to obtain their goals. Their real motivations were to continue slavery and expand West of the Appalachians – both of which Britain was going to prevent. They would have would have hung from a gallows if the British had won.
I would gladly buy it for our antibellium home.
The states had a right to secede as defined in the Constitution…the Union was the aggressor. Most Southerners did not own slaves, and fought for their homeland against the invaders. Is Lincoln a criminal for suspending habeas corpus to prevent Maryland from siding with the Confederacy, which would have meant Washington was in the middle of 2 Confederate states? I oppose the oppression of any person by anyone, but I will point out truth. Your definition of a traitor is inaccurate at the least
Mr. Benner, could you please cite and quote the element of the Constitution that supports secession?
10th Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
If you can cite and quote where the power of secession is "delegated to the United States by the Constitution," then secession is not supported by the Constitution. If not, then the states have the right to secede.
In fact, the Virginia legislature, when ratifying the Constitution specifically stated that joining the United States was contingent upon a key point: "the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will."
Go take a minute and read the constitution. There is absolutely no provision for secession.
Next go read the definition for treason, you will see that it is defined as attempting to overthrow the government, which the CSA was clearly doing to the USA.
It stuns me we have all the access to information in the world and people are still this willfully ignorant. Do better
As we see today there is a terrifying, ignorant, emotion fueled rush to judge any historical figured from our past. Using today's more highly developed virtue (??)
no context is given or allowed to Americans who lived in a different time, place and world.
The majority of fair minded Americans have been shamed or scared into acquiescing and NOT fighting this scary precedent….
It just may well be the end of all of us..
By "all of us" do you mean people that support slavery and racism? Or literally all of humanity? If it is the latter I would like to hear more about the scenario in which all of humanity is wiped out due to the removal of statues. How exactly do you see this playing out?
They did leave the Union. It was the Union that invaded. These men were protecting their homeland.
WCG, sir or ma'am, were the slave owners protecting the 40% of southerners who were black when the slaveowners used state governments to violate black people's God-given inalienable rights?
Generally a good run down. But there lies a dichotomy. We celebrate the good Lee and trash the bad…I do agree…if that is the case, id there an option of calling the Barracks Colonel Lee Barracks or Colonel Lee gate to celebrate the officer before transgression?
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The great compromise
As we see today there is an ignorant, emotion fueled rush to judge any historical figured from our past that doesn't comply with today's more highly developed virtue (??)
No context is given or allowed to Americans who lived in a different time, place, country and world.
The majority of fair minded Americans have been shamed or scared into acquiescing and NOT fighting this scary precedent….
It just may well be the end of ALL of us…
I remember my history books wrote that Robert E. Lee agonized over his decision to leave the Union Army for his home state, Virginia. It was a different time and a different place – something that receives no consideration or thought today. It’s too easy to call people names, especially when they have no other purpose than to destroy or to go along with the crowd.
Of course, history books seem to change as the mood in the country does or as a group of people seem to insist on what is truth, no matter what we all learned before. For instance, Howard Zinn and his socialist/communist revampment of American History. The Vietnam War is another. Though Zinn went to Hanoi twice, many us who served there suddenly don’t know what we experienced because the all-knowing professors are the final arbitrators.
Then to use an adulterer and a criminal who passed classified information to another in supporting your thesis is sad, too.
Given the record of West Point in dealing with things, cadets will have to take our their markers and strike-out every instance where Lee’s name appears – or make that, edit their computer documents and do the same.
Mr. Sandiford, could you please quote the passages that are emotion-fueled rushes? Or ignorant?
Would it change your mind if you knew that, for 80 years before the Confederacy. A majority of Americans thought slavery was abhorrent?
Would it change your mind to know that by 1860, western civilization, except America, had largely eradicated slavery?
Judging Confederates by their own time's standards, they're evil and monsters and bullies.
I can go back farther. Even the Old Testament says racism and slavery are terrible.
What could change your mind? As a God-fearing man, I know I am not omniscient and therefore often wrong. So I'm always trying to prove myself wrong, so that I can learn and grow. I didn't use to be bothered by Lee Barracks, but I put together the best argument for both sides, and I changed my mind.
Sean McCoy, many years ago when I was told that people justified slavery based on the Bible, I did not believe it. But for the past few years I have read through the Bible each year. There are numerous places where owning slaves is justified. In several places. Slaves are told to serve their masters, but the masters are admonished to treat their slaves kindly. In the book of Leviticus, along with the many rules God, through Moses, gave the Hebrews. he gives about holding slaves. If anyone holds another Hebrew he is not to hold him as a slave, but as a hired hand who will serve him until the year of Jubilee, In the year of Jubilee which occurred every 50 years they were to be freed and all lands which had been sold were to go back to the families to whom it originally belonged. But, if the slaves were not Hebrews, then they were really slaves, as well as their children. They were to be passed on as an inheritance and were to be their possessions forever. This is in Leviticus 25.
In the New Testament the book of Philemon Paul, while in prison in Rome, becomes aquainted with Onesimus, a runaway slave. Paul convinces Onesimus to return to his master, Philemon, but he also writes to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a Christian brother.
No, I am certainly not excusing slavery, but using the Bible to condemn it just isn't valid.
"Would it change your mind if you knew that, for 80 years before the Confederacy. A majority of Americans thought slavery was abhorrent?"
More revisionist history. Abolitionists were a tiny minority. At least 12 Presidents were slave owners at some point. Even Ulysses Grant had owned slaves. They would not have been elected if the majority of public thought slavery was abhorrent.
You're right. I think it would be wise to rename the math honor and I can think of no other man deserving of the honor than Alden Partridge, a man with a deep history with West Point and the mathematics department.
Robert E Lee was an officer in the United States Army. He served in that capacity with distinction and honor. He chose to turn down command of all Union troops, but went with his home of Virginia instead, when Virginia seceded from the Union. The last years of his life, he stated on numerous occasions that his biggest regret in life was choosing a military career.
At every reunion of troops, he deliberately marched out of step. It should also be stated, emphatically, that he pledged his allegiance to the USA after the war. Leave him alone, those who refuse to concede to the facts of history.
I find it sad that such intelligence is exercising such an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance. You can't judge the past actions of any individual – that is true. However, you can judge the current actions happening in your current environment. I was born in Richmond, VA and my last name is Jefferson. My family was enslaved at Monticello. All that means is that I grew up watching, listening, and reading the false narratives and the truth from experts that know; not only from books but generational knowledge.
I cannot think of anywhere in the world where losers/traitors are lifted up and celebrated. The war is over and the false narratives of greatness and honor as we see are not sustainable. Truth is easily sustained. Exegete the documents and the history to arrive at the truth. What's happening here is called eisegesis and that when you super-impose your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to fit the narrative that suits you. It not logical or in plain terms – it's a lie.
Lee and the confederacy loss. He violated his oath as an officer, therefore, making him a traitor. Take the statues down.
By your own logic then, Mr. Jefferson, you should be marching down to the local court house to legally change your name to erase the shame associating you with a slave-owning serial rapist. Whatever you've done to try to bring honor to your name is irrelevant, and does not change the horrific stain of the past. Hurry along now, lest we all find you to be a hypocrite of the lowest sort.
Not a West-Pointer, but a vet here, Steve. Your demeaning language reveals your true character, sir.
I’m proud of my name because of my family. Not because Thomas Jefferson’s involvement. We had a documentary about my grandfather made prior to his death and he spoke about how he wanted to change his name. When the historians contacted him he wanted nothing to do with it. He was a man in his own terms. When i think Jefferson i think of him.
Sir, my objection is to the gratuitous charges of treason. They are divisive, and as a former prosecutor, the charges do not apply here.
However, I think your standard of not recognizing the traits of "losers" seems a bit harsh. Indeed, by that standard USMA should remove all references to former USMA Superintendent WIlliam Westmoreland.
Even if were justified by reason and logic, the removal of relics or reminders from our painful past will condemn our followers to repeat that painful history. And I say that as a descendant of American Indians who might emotionally desire to see monuments honoring Sherman and Sheridan removed.
It’s quite simple. Define treason. Take away the names and emotions. Wash the acts with standard.
Never use the words or phrases like, “but” or “consider.” Just ride it out brother.
With respect, we're judging the traitors by the standards of their time. A majority of Americans disliked slavery for 80 years before the Civil War. Democracy was going to make slavery illegal, slave owners didn't want to stop stealing people's God-given rights, and the Confederate officers violated the oath they swore.
Excellent and salient commentary…it is always interesting when pro-confederate acolytes divest themselves of reality that their entire identity as to who and what they are is based upon the pathology of justifying the enslavement of another human being and in doing so;committed treason against the United States .
If there is to be reconciliation, the South must first confront the fact they subverted the U.S constitution in order to sustain enslaving another human .
The content of this video leaves something to think about pertaining to statues.
It's a bit sad to see U.S. Military members, current or former, defending someone who betrayed the country in order to hang onto some regional pride, or worse – racist ideals.
Your oath is (or was) to defend against such people. Robert E. Lee may have been a fine military tactician and leader, but he was certainly the enemy of the United States, the Union, America for at least 4 years. He allowed for the war to last longer than it otherwise would have because of his skill as a general – killing tens of thousands of Americans. And why? So southern rich white people could own and exploit brown people.
Why is he a Problem? Did he Trigger a Snowflake? No matter what is done with him He is still to this damn day the only person to graduate Westpoint without a single Demerit.
Not even remotely true.
Military history must be kept in context. To be viewed objectively and clearly. Not looked at through politically colored glasses. Sam Grant settled both questions concerning Lee and secession. Pete Longstreet worked for Grant in New Orleans against former Confederate anarchists.
Lee was the greatest Napolionic military leader in history. Jackson and Stuart also deserve recognition for their military prowess. After all. We're talking about West Point. Not the Hamptons or the history department at Berkeley.
What about Benedict Arnold?
He was responsible for one of the Continental Army's greatest and most important victories.
Is there an Arnold Barracks or Hall or an Arnold Gate at West Point?
He didn't renege on or betray any "constitution" which specifically included the crime of "treason".
He decided to reaffirm his prior allegence to King George and reestablish British rule in New England (the same as Lee fighting for "Virginia"?).
Let's put up a portrait of him in his British uniform next to the one of Lee in his confederate uniform.
Otherwise it is long past time the Lost Cause" BS be tossed to the garbage can of historical propaganda along with the USSR's Pravda..
The idea for all the Lee praise is simply taken from a military stand point. They honor him for his contribution to the United States Army, West Point and for what he was able to do many Civil War battlefields. Look at the stats he was outnumbered A LOT and was able to crush superior Union Army's at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, inflicted heavy Union casualties against a superior force at Cold Harbor, Staved off diaster at Antietam and almost beat Meade at Gettysburg. Yes he lost the war and yes he resigned his commission, but he caught hard and that's why he is honored. To compare him to Arnold who betrayed the US for money and prestige to a guy who simply wasn't willing to fight against his family is a bit crazy.
Arnold was a Revolutionary War hero. In addition to his victory at Fort Ticonderoga, he was the reason the British were defeated at Saratoga and the invasion of upstate New York and New England was thwarted, and that victory was crucial in convincing France to join us as an ally.
Without France it is highly problematic whether the Continentals could have won the War, and so you might say we are Americans because of him.
Where are the plaques at West Point to honor his contributions in those crucial victories.
He started the war as a subject of King George III, and the British overlooked his prior revolutionary actions and accepted him back as a British subject (maybe not an honored one, but nonetheless accepted back).
Now let us examine Mr. Lee.
He took an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States, the only country of which he was a citizen or subject.
Arnold took no such oath.
The Constitution clearly states that the country to which Lee was swearing allegiance was the United States, NOT Virginia.
Despite all this Lost Cause hogwash, the fact remains that Lee was a traitor who violated his oath, while Arnold simply reaffirmed his allegiance to his original country.
What good is a man's oath if it can be ignored so easily for such a person.
West Point doesn't have a Robert E Lee problem….they have a West Point problem
Solid analysis, thanks for contributing to the conversation.
There is no "Robert E Lee problem". there is, however, a communist/socialist/progressive problem.
Blind adherence to right-wing talking points…strong move. Explanation? Contribution to public discourse? Do you have anything worthwhile to say at all?
As an non-American, but ally, friend and comrade, I find this thread, the article and the larger issue fascinating. I must agree first with those who point out that the two authors here have tried to frame a balanced and reasoned analysis and they deserve no opprobrium for that. But there are fair arguments to be made on the other side, some of which have been suggested in this thread.
It seems to me that the objections against Lee as a proper role model are two: That he fought in defence of slavery; and that he fought against the USA – which may or may not have made him a traitor, depending upon your view. These are two very different issues and I suggest treating them separately might be helpful.
The charge of treason seems less strong to me and the easier to counter. As others have pointed out, Washington was clearly a traitor to the British crown at the same time that he was also a colonial patriot. Rebels/patriots are always traitors to the other side, so that the dominant label which history will assign them largely depends on the success of their rebellion. I suggest that, morally, and leaving aside for a moment the morality of the cause for which a rebellion occurs, participation in a widespread uprising is very different from the treason of an individual who betrays his state. To a certain extent, the scale of a rebellion confers some legitimacy upon it, and therefore to those who support it. I propose, therefore, that participating in an armed rebellion, especially a large-scale civil war, ought not to be considered automatically immoral – especially by an army that was itself born in rebellion.
This leaves aside, however, the question of the right or wrongness of the cause for which the rebellion occurred. And that is the second objection to honouring Lee – that his cause was an evil one.
There is little dispute among modern historians that the Confederacy seceded to preserve slavery . Lee may have fought in defence of his state, but his state fought to preserve slavery, and Lee, a slave-owner, understood this. On the other hand, every historical figure should be considered by the standards of her time. Moses and David would have had owned slaves. And has been pointed out, so did most of the American founding fathers.
On the other, other hand, by 1861abolitionism enjoyed growing support everywhere in the western world, so that the USA was almost the last western state to abolish it. Lee's defence of slavery was therefore far from being the normative worldview of his day as it was in earlier eras. Lee and his comrades were among a minority defending an institution that was even then widely considered cruel, unsustainable, and fated to inevitable abolition. He was fighting on the wrong side, historically and morally, and he knew it.
It is true that Washington and Jefferson also had slaves. But they also had misgivings about their own slave-holdings, as their writings show. The difference is that in their time abolitionism was in its infancy and not yet a widespread view. Far from resisting a broad-based movement for reform, a case can be made that they were, for their time, even sympathetic to abolitionism. I judge, therefore, that whatever moral taint we should attach to their slave-holdings, it is much less than we should attach to Lee.
In summary, I think that the charge of treason against Lee is unreasonable, but that there is more substance to the charge that he fought for an immoral cause. How much the US Army should be willing to look past a great commander's moral failings is for my American comrades to decide.
Finally, a dispassionate look at the issue. Though others have presented intelligent and researched perspectives, few seem to have been able to set aside their own biases.
I suggest that the moral issue might be further clouded by other factors: The economic needs of the south (and the pivotal role of chattel slavery within such), that Lee’s surrender and later efforts likely prevented the continuance of the war by several years, the idea that slavery was a catalyst for the then- (still-?)unsettled debate of confederalism vs federalism, etc.
Few, if any, are arguing for the CSA or that Lee’s decisions placed him on the right side of history. Yet, none of his detractors have sufficiently challenged the idea that his choices were based on what he felt was the most honorable course. We may disagree with his sense of honor, blessed as we are with post-modern theories and 160 years of hindsight, but he was an honorable man who clearly held values like loyalty in high regard.
An argument could be made for keeping the statues and other honors as they stand, simply by virtue that they periodically spur these conversations, thus keeping their lessons alive. We have men like Lee in our history – men who, at least arguably, wanted to be good and honorable men. Heroic men, in certain light. Flawed men, at the same time; debatably, men who crossed lines from which there is no coming back – but not monsters. Men. With flaws of a nature any of us could develop, should the whim of circumstance offer such a conflict of loyalty – errors to which we are less prone, if only because we don’t limit our heroes to those beyond human failing.
We are under no obligation to validate Lee’s sense of honor. Feel free to try and understand it. It makes a great story. However, many traitors think they are doing the honorable thing when they engage in treasonous acts. Lee didn’t want to let down his buddies in Virginia and saw the defense of Virginians as his highest duty. He and his sympathizers want(ed) to reframe “his buddies” as “his countrymen”. If you only want to fight for your friends, family, fellow land-holding Virginians that’s your call, but don’t expect your countrymen to call it anything other than treason when you fight against your country. And when you do in support an objectively immoral practice… All the worse. If I have a bias for people that make objectively moral stances on issues, I’ll take that criticism fully and completely.
Not every honored person at USMA is squeaky clean, true. But Lee stands in stark contrast to those others we venerate as heroes. Stop giving a wink and nod to those that see West Point’s elevation of Lee as a validation of their beliefs that racist institutions like slavery are or were worth fighting for.
And for those that love the narrative that he was honor-bound to defend his fellow Virginians. I can guarantee there were some slaves in Virginia that were not so keen on his sense of honor.
Please re-read what I, and the commenter I responded to, wrote.
Nowhere did either of us suggest that slavery was “a cause worth fighting for,” or that you are under any obligation to agree with or validate Lee’s sense of honor, nor did I offer my own personal stance on the issue. If you believe Lee’s decisions were not based on his personal sense of honor, please argue such – I just ask that you do so with reason rather than umbrage.
RAY recommended viewing the two major criticisms of Lee as two separate issues, and I suggested the need to recognize one’s biases and set them aside in order to understand all sides of the situation. You have so far refused to do either, and continue to insist that his decisions were simply wrong and undeserving of deeper consideration. That conviction is certainly your right, but it approaches the debate from a point of impasse.
You wish to see his statues and portraits removed, and you feel his actions were irreconcilable – we accept that and have moved past it. Please stop distracting from those who wish to further the conversation with your already-established personal opinion.
Either address the points made or find an echo chamber somewhere else.
I did not suggest you or RAY thought slavery was, "a cause worth fighting for." I thought it was clear that when i said "you" above I was talking to a generic you that really is best represented as me talking to Lee. If you thought I was actually saying you (Hate_me) wanted to fight to defend slavery, that is not the correct interpretation. I absolutely apologize if you got that impression.
The split is, in fact, problematic. If you cannot bring into the conversation whether the reasoning for the treason was to support a morally just cause or a morally unjust cause (in today's common understanding; slavery bad) then you cannot fully assess whether we should honor them today. I'm fine with just making the treason argument alone. Others may wish to know the motivation for the treason. I think that is a valid position for someone to take. Splitting the criticism avoids, or at least sidesteps, that judgement.
Sure, it's worth going back to see how his actions were understood and perceived in the past. But those building names, portraits and statues have meaning today. Right now. If you need the reconcile the primary actions for which Lee is celebrated as, maybe not treasonous, rather than, obviously heroic, maybe naming a barracks name after him isn't the right thing to do.
Is there ever a level of moral repugnance that we have today that ever justifies removing the name of an individual who might have in the past been looked on with honor? If your answer is no, could you be convinced otherwise? I'm not talking torching paintings, dumping statues in the river. Just removed from places and positions that gives the appearance of endorsement. Put them somewhere in which those items can be presented in context with all the fabulous detail that dispassionate historians can reveal.
If you can walk me through how you explain to a black cadet that he should consider Lee a hero, I'd also like to hear that. Should any cadets see Lee as a hero?
PN, I apologize for being unable to respond to you immediately – I only recently returned from a deployment and am enjoying my first post-quarantine drinks (America is weird, when faced with a crisis). Also, I couldn’t find a direct “reply” option to your post.
I’ll be able to provide you a proper response once my anticipated hangover has subsided.
No worries. Welcome home!
I'm confusing enough as it is. Make heads or tails of it sober can be a challenge.
One statement that stands out is not true. Lee never owned slaves. He married into a family who did. In 1858 on his death bed Lee’s father in law instructed him to release the slave in 5 years after his death. In 1863 Lee did just that. He freed them during the war. On the other hand US Grant was a slave owner when he was living and working in Missouri. To call either a racist is not accurate. Not all slave owners were racists and not all racist are slave owners.
Can you argue against the specific points at the below website or have other resources that prove your contention? The website indicates :
"Robert E. Lee owned slaves. He managed even more. When defied, he did not hesitate to use violence typical of the institution of slavery, the cornerstone of the cause for which he chose to fight."
Specifically about whether Lee wanted to release the slaves he was managing for his wife: "State courts in both 1858 and 1862 denied Lee’s petition to indefinitely postpone the emancipation of his wife’s enslaved people and forced him to comply with the conditions of the will. "
Wow Lee was sure a racist…so racist like all un his day that on December 29, 1862, Lee officially freed the enslaved workers and their families on the estate, coincidentally three days before the Emancipation! Woke West Point there you go again….you should be ashamed…..his wife attidtude toward slavery changed and I would surmise his too. Secondly, Lee's devotion to duty and his state is why he could not fight against Virginia where his family's land and inheritance was….remember Light Horse Harry Lee? That was his father he fought in the American Revolution…they are treasonous white terrorists too according to today's body politic! I am ashamed a West Point grad could write such a revisonist history. Where are the true Americans? We are being taken over by Marxists and the Great Reset types….God help us.
There is a common thread woven into the fabric of our nation that is being unraveled. Picture pulling a seemingly loose thread from a sweater and watch the sweater buckle as it tries to release the imperfection.
In section 6 of his will, the benefactor Maj. Gen. George Cullum, stipulates “and to prevent the introduction of unworthy subjects into this hall the selection of each shall be made by not less than two-thirds of the members of the entire academic board of the United States Military Academy” USMA, federal, state and local governments and community organizations today are challenged with “unworthy subjects.”
General Petraeus’ keen insight summarizes where we are today; “Once the names of these bases are stripped of the obscuring power of tradition and folklore, renaming the installations becomes an easy, even obvious, decision.”
Gabe and Jimmy brilliantly illustrate and annotate in historical context the “obscuring power of the tradition and folklore” we’re trying to make sense of in light of the our nations sin of slavery and inhumane discrimination. I am so grateful to God to witness this time in our history as men and women like Gabe and Jimmy challenge us and lead us through turbulent times.
I thought this was one of the better articles and made several good points.
I disagree with several important points and perspectives.
The repeated notion that Lee was a traitor that betrayed his country ignores that he defended his state (after resigning), which is where most officers’ loyalties lied in 1861.
The assertion that Lee did nothing that deserves the Academy’s recognition is absurd. He was a brilliant tactician, an inspiring leader, a very good Supe, he worked to reconcile the nation after the war, and he was (yes) an honorable man in the context of his time.
First off, Jimmy and I are honored and humbled that so many have taken the time to read this. We welcome both positive and negative feedback. Counter arguments are critical to ensuring our contentions are challenged appropriately. However, as authors we strive to let our work stand as is and resist the urge to respond to everything at the risk of coming across as defensive.
As a person of color, I walked by Lee Barracks during my cadet years with a sort of amusement at the juxtaposition of my very existence at West Point. But as a history major who strove to understand context over judgment, I was not particularly inclined to seek the changes we outline in our article. It was, simply put, “no big deal.”
A few weeks ago, when Jimmy told me he wanted to do some research on this topic, my opinion had not really changed. To be clear, we absolutely approached the research and writing of this article with open minds willing to have our opinions changed. Ours did.
The title of our article could also read, “Why Was Lee Honored at West Point in the First Place?” Jimmy and I are not crafting a legacy of Lee at West Point that is palatable to a 21st century officer corps; we are highlighting a highly problematic Just Cause narrative and those who sought to re-write history at USMA in the first place.
For me, the removal or renaming of Lee’s honors at West Point is secondary to the examination of his legacy at USMA. These are just small, symbolic steps that can be taken to indicate our commitment to developing an inclusive officer corps that is reflective of the demographics of our nation. Furthermore, I recognize that simply changing names and symbols alone does not result in real, substantive change; and pales in comparison to seeing minorities in leadership positions throughout West Point’s USCC, faculty, and administration. On that front, West Point continues to lead, and I remain deeply proud of our alma mater.
Are you and Jimmy two of the anonymous authors or signatories of the recent open letter to the class of 2020? For transparency you should confirm or deny.
Relevance? Why can’t you counter the arguments with reason, logic or evidence? Are you saying you’d change your mind about the logic, evidence and argumentation they presented based on their political leanings?
The audacity of someone to demand transparency when they identify themself as cnq86.
Look kid, bias is always relevant and the bias of the signatories of that letter is quite apparent. If they conceal they signed the letter, which it appears they will, they have a credibility issue. If I search the list I imagine I would find the name. If an author begins an article with this title I find inherent bias because it starts with a conclusion already drawn that WP has a Robert E. Lee problem which it doesn’t. Further I tire of radical leftists here the LGL and in the streets. Further I have zero respect for signatories of that indefensible letter that was nothing more than liberal propaganda. So the relevance is obvious.
(Kid? You're funny. )
Ohhh…. you mean just relevant to YOU. I see. If it was just relevant to you maybe you should have asked them privately. I thought you were saying that generally people need to declare their political leanings before they post their opinions so everyone knows whether to automatically reject them or not. It sounded like a terrible approach if what you are aiming for is productive civil discourse.
If they say they are not signatories (and I don't think they need to say one way or another), then you have some arguments to make? Why don't we hear them now? I'm not a signatory of the letter. I'm still interested to see if there are valid points to be made here. Enlighten me.
By all means, look for the evidence of bias. Reveal it through logical argument and presentation of facts. But you won't, because you "tire" of it. I guess courage does quit.
You have the opportunity to present your arguments here, but you choose not to. My lazy assumption will be that your arguments are not very good.
Still shocked at the audacity of someone to demand transparency when they only identify as cnq86.
Cnq86 your irrelevant question reveals your prejudices. Take your racist filth ball and go home.
Matt why don’t I offer you an email so we handle this like a couple Infantry officers in person. I care less if you’re a grad. I’ll even fly out to you to settle this matter In person. I expect you’d scatter like an Antifa school girl you pussy.
I would hope that we can agree that name calling is not going to advance anyone's argument.
Both of the above comments were unnecessary and undignified. I can appreciate the passion. I certainly get caught up in the argumentation (and border on mockery at times), Let's leave out the direct insults.
No neither of us were part of that open letter or any of the other political writings surrounding the President’s recent West Point visit or his work with West Pointers in public office. Not sure I understand how either of us being a part of that letter somehow makes a difference to what we have written here when it comes to transparency?
Benedict Arnold was Commandant of West Point.
Where are his statute, painting in his Continental Army uniform. or plaques?
(USMA grad here)
The biggest and most celebrated part of Benedict Arnold's legacy at West Point is that he (or his scratched out plaque in the old chapel) was "cancelled" for being a traitor. But unlike modern cancel culture, West Point left that scratched out plaque up as a statement in and of itself… so he is remembered, but not kindly.
I'd prefer to have the something similar happen with the monuments to the Confederacy at West Point and elsewhere. Leave them up, but re-cast them in a way that highlights the dark side of the Confederacy (i.e. slavery, they were traitors to the union, and they were losers).
As an Army Historian, I am well aware that there are often multiple sides to any story and historical brief, and this MWI article is no different.
The writers conveniently left out that the Lee portrait unveiled in 1952, was done so by none other than two of Robert E. Lee’s grandchildren! Yes, the Lee family was involved in the ceremony and delighted in the production of the work. (Check the archival file on the ceremony!)
Also, Lee is recognized for his accomplishments as Superintendent of West Point. His positive impact on USMA in the 1850’s must not be erased. This is why we have plaques to him and another ‘confederate’ superintendent; Pierre Beauregard. No mention of him.
Historical accuracy seems lost on these authors who only wish to make a statement at the loss of history.
Shame on you! You were educated better than your current comments indicate.
You may have to explain the significance of the Lee grandchildren. I am not understanding the relevance to whether Lee's portrait should be displayed prominently.
What changes that Lee made to the USMA are being erased (that haven't already been superseded)? I don't think the author's said, "go look for every action Lee made as superintendent and reverse it." I don't think the authors said to hide any positive impacts Lee had on USMA. In fact they said the exact opposite. From the article, "Lee’s name should remain in Cullum Hall. Lee was the superintendent of West Point and his positive contributions to the academy in this regard cannot and should not be ignored. "
You are correct, we did leave the fact that Lee’s grandchildren were present at the presentation, however if you view the picture of the portrait you will see both of Lee’s grandchildren at the unveiling. The link to the document which is embedded in the text actually takes you directly to the archive file you’re discussing. The fact his grandchildren were there doesn’t change what we wrote, and if anything I believe it makes it an even stronger point. We tried to ensure that the public could access these files by linking them, and unfortunately we found a lot more than we were able to write about in 2,500 words or less. We thought about putting it in there, but decided it didn’t really add to the article as much.
Thanks for your comments
What a great article, I appreciate that you discussed the context of the time, gave an articulated rebuttal to their error in judgment and the best way to move forward.
I expect that when the decision to remove the monuments comes, we do not hear a peep from those that say we shouldn’t second guess decisions of leadership. If not, your hypocrisy will be resounding.
Pithy AND accurate, winning combo. I couldn't agree more.
I would think being personally responsible for the deaths of approximately 120,000 Union soldiers to include numerous West Point graduates (He holds the record) would preclude Lee’s name or image from gracing anything at West Point other than to outline his role as the Superintendent.
Let’s not forget the 50,000 Confederate soldiers to include 600 officers who died under his command. His actions at Gettysburg were borderline incompetent and born of utter arrogance.
Add in the fact his decision to defend Virginia (Richmond and Petersburg) at all costs when the war was clearly lost resulted in the utter destruction of the South's infrastructure, countless/needless civilian casualties and wiped out almost an entire generation of Southern men.
We don’t have buildings and monuments dedicated to Benedict Arnold, a man who served with distinction and honor until he committed treason and tried to surrender West Point to the British. Why does Lee deserve anything more than his RIGHTFUL place in a history book and his mention among the other Superintendents at Cullem hall?
Can you imagine going back in time to say, 1875 and pushing the idea of erecting a monument, hanging a portrait and naming various buildings and a gate after Robert E. Lee at West Point? Do you think the widows and children of the dead Union soldiers would think it was a good idea? How about the wives and children of West Point officers killed while facing Lee? Who speaks for them?
Crying about revisionist history is laughable since the reason Lee has been lifted up to Sainthood among many is due to the revisionist history pushed by the powerful group The Daughters of the Confederacy during the early 20th century. This is the same group that erected monuments to honor the Ku Klux Klan until that become unfashionable.
Why Lee is held in higher regard than General Robert L. Eichelberger is a mystery to me. I doubt most of you grads even know who he is. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Eichelberger
By the Academy’s own rules, the barracks should have never been named Lee Barracks. Barracks are only to be named after USARMY Theater Level Commanders. Robert E Lee was never a USARMY Theater Level Commander. He was a Confederate Theater Level Commander. When the barracks come out if renovation they should be renamed after a US Army Theater Level Commander just like the rules say. End of discussion.
From an American of African Descent Old Grad,
More will follow, but I wanted to give my initial response. Yes, I served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, Yes, I retired. Yes, I also went to law school.
This is to those who are not in support of disencumbering Lee establishments. Obviously, you are not a minority of African descent or you would feel differently. And it takes courage (not surprising of true leaders of character) for those who are in the majority to advocate USMA ridding Lee’ establishments. Why? Lee DECIDED to side with slavery and oppression of black people.
Lee owned slaves— period. You come across like it is ok. Robert E. Lee was a brutal slave master. Not only, when he whooped the slaves, did he say, “Lay it on ’em hard,” he said, “Put brine on them,” so to burn them.
If I was responsible for raping, killing, and enslaving YOUR mother, daughter, and sister would you want to celebrate me? You would not. Accordingly , I do not- and never have supported that guy. Leaders treat people as they want to be treated. That is Day 1 instilled in us at the Academy. West Pointers do NOT tolerate those who act in contrast. You need retraining.
Robert Lee was a slap in the face to me each and every day I walked the halls. Myself and many minority classmates (including women) said on a continuous basis, “Why are we propping up this guy when, if he won, we would not be here?” In fact, we would still be picking cotton or the like!
Lee was a Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician, but so was Hitler. And history tells, that Lee and Hitler would have more of an alliance than Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.
Your hang up on him not being charged as a traitor intentionally circumvents the point. His actions were traitorous. For example, right now, you attempt to raise an army and attack a military base—-Nobody cares that you were a beloved leader (like Hitler). You just attacked a military installation! The day prior you could have given a powerful speech and developed the world’s best plan for decreasing the Army’ quarterly expenditures…. today you attacked a base! Hence you are terrorist who caused terror. This is what Robert Lee is to many.
But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black.
You want to celebrate that?
You do NOT get it. We should NOT celebrate a guy who advocated my enslavement. If it were up to him, no American of African American descent would be a member of West Point’s ranks as a graduate. It sounds like you are ok with that— which is a problem in itself.
If anything, when you— yes YOU, say that you support this guy, you give your support for slavery. Spare us all the “denied the south it’s freedom to operate” line. When the south used slaves to work the cotton and tobacco fields. You obviously need to get out of your bubble and build relationships.
Why not rename the barracks/gate in honor for the first female graduate? The first Native American graduate? The first astronaut? The first female general? Instead we go with the guy who wanted to enforce slavery, killed Americans, tore families apart, and who lost the war?
More will follow.
Thanks, Andrae, for this response and perspective. I found the article compelling, and I agree with it (especially the distinction between being able to learn about him and his military acumen, while not paying reverence to his traitorous ideology) and with your analysis. I didn't think about it much as a cadet, to be honest, other than I've always puzzled why we spent so much time 100+ years later bending over backwards in pursuit of honoring confederates in the name of "heritage."
I know this is a divisive topic, but it's also disappointing seeing so many seditionist sympathizers responding here and coming out of the woodwork generally to defend the preservation of such glorifying monuments as though they are somehow the linchpin in keeping these topics in the history books. The history and the act of positively honoring as heroes, etc., are two different things. No one is erasing history (if anything, we're only finally starting to recognize that the history actually includes far more than just the overly reverential, revisionist view of those past traitors).
As an aside, I agree completely with the notion of finding other firsts and greats to rename things called "Lee" at USMA.
I do not agree with celebrating a man who made a conscious decision to enforce slavery. I had to walk through the halls while I was a cadet and be tormented with the idea that he was a great leader. What is the difference between General Lee and Hitler?
General Lee was the not the architect of slavery. He did not desire to eliminate a race. Hitler was the driving force for genocide. He wanted to eliminate the Jews.
I hope we can differentiate. I find the comparison absurd.
I think Rommel and Lee comparison is a more interesting topic, but hardly relevant to the discussion here.
Rommel is indeed the more apt analogy, and of course the obvious difference is that he was German and Lee was American.
As we all know, the contemporary German Army does not honour Rommel or Model or Manstein, despite their undoubted brilliance as commanders, because they fought for an odious regime.
That is the real analogy which applies here.
If you do not know the difference, you did not belong at West Point nor in the military services of the United States. There is no reference you can offer to support your false claim that Lee attempted to 'enforce slavery.' Fighting for ones pereceived homeland has nothing to do with 'enforcing slavery.' In fact. Lee freed the slaves that he had inherited. You must have overstayed your time at Benny Havens.
History is an important part of the learning process, especially in war tactics. Both Grant and Lee, as well as others were praised by observers later on for the remarkable efforts that both sides gave. The major story is that both Grant and Lee were educated in the very same school at West Point, with Lee even becoming the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. History should remain untouched at USMA
and for those who object, just stop at the gate and go back to New York.
That is the cognitive dissonance I spoke of earlier. The history is wrong, but to justify your wishes and desires you not deny it but attempt to weakly justify it.
You are actually saying that you desire the future leaders produced to lead American troops of all backgrounds to be birthed in a false narrative and lead with skewed history as their cornerstone.
Because, believe it or not non white officers and soldiers know the false narrative provided by history. Can we get to the truth and stop with the fragility arguments. There is no honor in that.
Agreed Jefferson Lafayette,
let’s promote the truth and not celebrate a lie all to say “he was a West Pointer!” It defies our principles. At the academy if a person lied and or did something dishonest, he would be shamed and called a piece of crap. Let’s teach the truth, not lies. Heck stop teaching Jesus is white! All that sun and there were no ACs. I am not trying to open a can of worms and I’m sure someone is going to zero in on my comment. My point is, teach the truth. Do not celebrate subjects that go against what we stand for. And USMA stands for Duty, Honor, Country. We can argue that Lee defied all three pillars.
To teach that we should emulate and celebrate him, that is the lie.
What about statues and pictures of Native Americans like Tecumseh or Osceola? They were enemies of the state, yet we venerate them for their skill as warriors. Should they be removed along with Lee's picture? Or, conversely, should we erase the history of the Buffalo Soldiers who fought against Native Americans in many skirmishes to include the Red River War against the Kiowa and Comanche?
I am fairly certain that West Point does not place any statues or pictures of opponents/enemies/adversaries in positions that are indicative of honoring them at the same level as a Patton, Eisenhower, Grant, Bradley, Pershing, Scott, MacArthur. Do you know of any?
The U.S. Army honoring native american warriors and tribes they fought is an interesting and related topic. However, I don't think the case for them as traitors is remotely parallel.
I don't know much about USNA, but just read the the Tecumseh statue they have is a recreation of what was actually a ship's figurehead of "Tamanend, the great chief of the Delawares, a lover of peace and friend of William Penn." (USNA PAO website: https://www.usna.edu/PAO/faq_pages/Tecumseh.php)
I must agree with PN that the case of Native resistance against the US Government is very different from that of the Confederacy. Though the legal status of the Native peoples varied over the course of the two or more centuries of conflict (at least from a colonial or US Government POV), it seems fair to characterize their many campaigns as resistance to conquest – something which intuition, military ethos and modern international law all recognize as legitimate and honourable.
In any case, I have argued in the chain above that the fact Lee and his fellows fought against the USA is a weak argument. since they were effectively replicating the secession of the thirteen colonies two generations before them. The stronger argument against honouring Confederate generals is that they fought, consciously, to defend an evil regime. It seems to me that the issue of Native resistance is not relevant to this 'morality' argument.
The rebelling colonists did not pretend that their "secession" was legal under British law, and their leadership fully expected that if they lost, far from having statues erected in their honor, they would be tried for treason, would likely be found guilty, and would be executed.
I have in my library a copy of History of the United States which was used as a textbook at The US Military Academy in 1828. The cadets were taught from this book that secession of states was a Constitutional option. It was not a strange political idea until the War of 1861-65.
Do we not honor character traits of forgiveness and reconciliation in our leaders? Do we not honor the best in our historical figures? If not, who does not have qualities which would justify tearing down their memory? How important is winning the war if we can’t win the peace we hope following great victories? President Lincoln understood this as did Gen. Robert E. Lee. After the war, Lee sworn, in writing, to uphold not only the Constitution but the laws and proclamations addressing the emancipation of the slaves. He encouraged others to do likewise. Should not this be lauded? Remembered? Without forgiveness which leads to reconciliation our country can not survive. This is why Lee is important.
Those are good reasons to not despise Lee, but not good reasons to elevate him among the likes of others accorded similar honors at USMA. I think most people understand that Lee, as a man of his times, was not a monster and can be recognized at West Point in some fashion. However, as you can see from the comments above, those who wish to elevate Lee also see him as a victory in re-writing history in the Lost Cause framework in which slavery was not central to the Civil War. Putting Lee's name and likeness in places that better reflect his role in history is what the authors propose. Leaving Lee's name and likeness in places of honor reinforces a view of history that is widely discredited.
Dan: Uh, not quite. I'm sorry, but that is a clear example of complete, cherry-picked revisionist history BS. His interest was not in support of the former slaves. But here again is the point, as PN notes: that doesn't somehow mean we should actively elevate him to some equal footing as Eisenhower or Patton, etc. It's like saying, "well, he stopped beating his wife, so I fail to understand why we can't celebrate what a great husband he was." Please!
Lee believed (and this is available from many historical sources, including the additional portions of the letters, etc., that so many people use to promote your own revisionist view) that slavery was better for black people than being in Africa and it was a burden that whites needed to perpetuate until such time as divine intervention supported their freedom. He didn't care one bit about the slaves' view on the matter…
And even still, even if these details are somehow debatable, that's such equivocation in support of seditionist worship…there are sooooo many other figures more worthy of continued honor by us. We should do better. The absence of "Lee Barracks" does nothing to history.
On August 1, 1960, a New York dentist, Dr. Leon W. Scott, wrote an angry letter to Eisenhower excoriating him for having a picture of Lee in his White House office. Here was Eisenhower’s answer written on August 9:
Dear Dr. Scott:
Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War between the States the issue of secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.
General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.
From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.
Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower's thoughts mirror those of many other military leaders of the time who had been steeped in the Lost Cause narrative. Just because smart people fell pray to propaganda does not require us to follow their lead.
So smart men may resist the counter-propaganda fashionable today – right?
Is today’s German Army had a statue Of Rommel, who would care. We study these men for how they fought as we are military professionals. We don’t study them for their politics. This is the other have of being a-political. We study Hannibal as well. Stop judging people who lives generations ago by today’s standards…..we don’t critique Grant for lack of skill employing helicopters
I think many people in Germany would certainly care. They don't have any statues of Rommel, and they removed and/or destroyed what Nazi statues and memorials they did have after the war.
The issue is not whether Lee, Rommel, Napoleon, etc. should be studied, but whether they should be celebrated and/or honored.
There are many statues and memorials to Rommel and other German military leaders. The German military dress uniforms are very similar to those worn in WW2. The navy, air force and army still use they same Maltese Cross insignia on their equipment. The German national anthem is still Deutschland uber Alles.
Out of curiosity, would someone clarify how putting historical figures in context is misguided? The issue should not be whether to hang a portrait or erect a statue or build a monument to a controversial individual but where. Once that is resolved, there should be less controversy. In Lee's case, there is nothing wrong with his portrait, among USMA superintendents. Likewise, placing statues in museums, where context can be added. However, as USMA is a federal government property, funded by taxpayer funds, it is important to consider that there is a vast difference of opinion, as to placing statues/monuments, etc., on public grounds. The simple solution should be to place controversial items, in private parks/museums, for both supporters and others to view them and to learn about the history relevant to them. This is the art of compromise and doesn't erase any history or seek to destroy anyone's cultural heritage but seeks to accommodate opposing views, in the least controversial manner.
BTW, are any of the comments, on this topic, written by a USMA graduate, who is a POC? I ask because the authors noted the "silent" treatment meted out, for four years (1930's), against Benjamin O. Davis, when he was a cadet, based solely upon his being black and ignoring his dedication to serving his country, proudly. Wonder what he may have thought of that "tradition" during his appointment? Probably, something that the venerated Lee would have sanctioned.
I think a portrait of Lee from before the Civil war would be tolerable. But any monument to confederate officers should appear as Benedict Arnold‘s does. They did less found this nation than Arnold did. Is their treason any less heinous than his was?
you obviously dont know anything about Lee or his past or family and that they contributed to this nation for 150 years before it was even a nation.
OK, we get it. The South is bad, the war was all about slavery, anything Southern is bad, and we as a country have always been wrong and racist. Honestly, is anyone else getting tired of this? Also, i appreciate the authors' "compelling" suggestion that we stop what they deem as someone else's revisionist history by allowing them to revise it instead.
Was it even worth mentioning that the seeds for the Civil War were sown decades prior to the actual conflict, even in the Constitution itself? No, that truth- among others- doesn't matter anymore, because it conflicts with hackneyed and simplistic slavery explanation.
If it is about slavery- and what isn't?- how do the authors deal with the issue of commanders of slave-state outfits that remained in the Union (Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, and Kentucky)? Well, slavery be damned, they must all be OK, since they fought on the right side, correct?
Bottom line, this is a trite, poorly-executed, historically-illiterate "cancel culture" argument that could only be made by "woke" authors in 2020.
their woke hate based ideology is not getting the traction they need to sustain it so they have to keep beating everyone over the head with the "woke" reasons why hating America and our past is a good thing.
misery and hate only want one thing – spread misery and hate to others
I read the article and comments with interest. I'm surprised to see how many commenters are unaware that Robert E. Lee was indicted for treason by a grand jury in Norfolk, Va., on June 7, 1865. You can see the indictment here:
I wrote a book about the subject titled, "The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee."
President Andrew Johnson, Chief Justice Salmon Chase, and District Judge John Underwood all believed that Robert E. Lee had committed treason and should be held accountable. For numerous reasons, the Johnson administration failed in the end to prosecute Lee, Jefferson Davis, and several other prominent Confederate leaders. In my book, I argue that Americans deliberately chose to forget this episode from our past.
So what? Suppose the Confederacy had indicted Lincoln for treason – no difference. Both indictments would have died on the vine. The Federal government would have cherished imprisonment for Lee and Jefferson but feared their claim against the South's right to secede would have been overturned in the courts and the fruits of war lost.
Slavery was legal thur out the colonies . North and south we were in it together.we started out two different sections and still are in a lot of respects our food music customs. Prior too the war letters were written from one sister too another how everything in your country.
I feel we cannot totally judge these people who lived back then. Southerns the majority defended their farm family friends from a invading army. In the beginning slavery was not the cause but became the cause as written later .than northerns were not too happy about it.
The description of the portrait of Lee mentioned in this article says that his "slave" was holding the reins of his horse. Lee's manservant was a former enslaved person at the Custis plantation, Arlington, who had been freed by Lee and was being paid wages during the war. This should be corrected.
they knew it was not a slave that was holding his horse. they lied and said it was a slave because it helps spread their hate filled rhetoric.
to believe their intention was anything but hate based in this article is horrible naivety.
I see nothing wrong with leaving history and the participants as it is. The good, the bad, the ugly. It is history and that’s the way it will always be. Rewriting history creates resentment. Brushing it insert he rug creates resentment. Time and generations is the answer. Forcing change is not. Give it another 150 years and this discussion will be pointless.
The level of hypocrisy and selective history on display here is amazing. George Washington was a British army officer who betrayed his oath of loyalty. He would have been publicly hanged if Britain had won the War of Independence. Washington was also a slave owner. So you better rename DC and a certain state in the Pacific Northwest. While you are about it rename DC because Columbus was slave owner and genocidal tyrant (who never even set foot in what later became the United States).
Old Grey Hog History is what makes all countries great erase it and you have nothing.
Since all things Robert E. Lee should be erased and exterminated at West Point, then the term, the” Long Gray Line” should be abolished since Confederate troops wore gray, after all. That could be offensive to hyper sensitive cadets and potential social justice warriors ( if only they fought for their country as fiercely as they fight for perceived cultural and societal civil rights grievances). It should probably be changed to the Long Blue, Camo, or perhaps Rainbow Line.
Excellent point and consistent logic, Mr. Corbin.
The argument against honoring Lee as a great commander and one to be honored is totally without merit and speaks to the cancel culture of our day. The War was not fought over slavery as a primary cause – at least not according to Abraham Lincoln. The War was fought over the same issue that looms large today _ the right of the States to determine their own local policies that do not conflict with the US Constitution. Just because some issue becomes 'fashionable' today does not mean that future leaders should abandon history and tradition and embrace whatever silly notions becomes soically promoted.
Robert E. Lee was a decent politician, a good horseman, and a crap general. His battle tactics were proud at best. Napoleon would have slaughtered him with inferior technology.
Can an Army officer be a snow flake? Our history is our history, I guess we can rewrite it but would that not be a violation of the Honor Code? Our Institute just took down the Statue of Stonewall, a great leader who inspired and lead from the front. I wonder if the men who made this decision soldiers loved and respected them as much as Stonewall's did? Same for Lee, his men refused to move forward when it was clear he intended to lead the attack. As for what kind of man he was – I'll go with what his soldiers thought.
Eisenhower letter regarding Robert E. Lee
President Dwight Eisenhower wrote the following letter in response to one he received dated August 1, 1960, from Leon W. Scott, a dentist in New Rochelle, New York. Scott’s letter reads:
“Dear Mr. President:
“At the Republican Convention I heard you mention that you have the pictures of four (4) great Americans in your office, and that included in these is a picture of Robert E. Lee.
“I do not understand how any American can include Robert E. Lee as a person to be emulated, and why the President of the United States of America should do so is certainly beyond me.
“The most outstanding thing that Robert E. Lee did was to devote his best efforts to the destruction of the United States Government, and I am sure that you do not say that a person who tries to destroy our Government is worthy of being hailed as one of our heroes.
“Will you please tell me just why you hold him in such high esteem?
“Leon W. Scott”
Eisenhower's response, written on White House letterhead on August 9, 1960 reads as follows:
August 9, 1960
Dear Dr. Scott:
Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War Between the States the issue of Secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.
General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.
From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.
Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.
December 29, 1862, General Robert E. Lee, after leading a confederate victory at Fredericksburg VA, signed the document, with his fellow executors, that completed the manumission of the few remaining chattel slaves at Arlington, Romancoke and White House plantations per the requirement of his father-in-law's will. This completed the 10 year manumission process freeing over 200+ slaves in three estates under Virginia law.
Note: Virginia’s legal process involved the 1) slaves consent, 2) demonstrated education, training in an employable trade or profession and 3) finding employment for each individual or family at Lee’s expense as per Virginia law.
“There are few I believe in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery is a moral and political evil. While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years be but as a single day.”
Robert E. Lee, December 27, 1856
In a letter to his wife regarding a speech by US President Franklin Pierce www.loc.gov
Truly interesting comments of Lee here. To the victor goes the writing of history and so the northern text books have taught their tales of this gruesome war to our children painting the picture of Lincoln as near deity . He was arguably the worst president this country has ever known. With his centric government ideals and ruthless neglect of the constitution he invaded the south and allowed the most vile of generals to burn rape and loot the land of a people that wanted to exercise their right of succession legally as to the the constitution. Even he knew Lee was the best general and wanted him to command the Union army. Lee and his principles would not fight for such. The lost cause comments amuse me the most here. There was one cause and one cause only for Lincoln’s invasion. Money. 100%. If you think one soldier in the Union army signed up to go save slaves your are very naive. Lincoln’s own words in his inaugural speech indicates his care for slavery. Zero. The emancipation proclamation came later in the war as a political tactic to try and get slaves to uprise which failed. Slavery was wrong plain and simple. Lee knew it. That is not what he fought for. Lincoln’s tariffs and desire to keep money from south’s success flowing into Washington was his goal and when SC had enough he boiled over and would stop at nothing to save the Union. He threw thousands of northers in jail for speaking out. He destroyed newspapers if they printed negative of him. He was dictator. He wanted to purify the US and remove blacks and even had plans to ship back to Africa. He did not want them moving west either. And his terrible generals like Sherman. Please read the atrocities he committed to the Indians. Robert E Lee was an amazing man, Lincoln knew it everyone did. I too am proud to honor this man with the likes of George Washington as a great commander.
Maverick on 05.20.22 at 8:06 pm wrote here one of the most insightful comments on the growing attempts by many Americans to erase or
revise our history including historical leaders. Many of those supporting the statue removals, school and Military base name changes do so because of the names were of Famous Leaders of the Southern Forces during our Civil war. A war that the South saw as attempt to stop the Northern majority from infringing on their way of life, including their economy. The South was in fact invaded by the Northern Armies which did nothing more that bring more states to the Southern cause and which also caused the great General and leader Robert E. Lee to resign from the U.S. Army and return home to defend his state. The young college students and others are saturated with the faculties intentional attempt to destroy our heritage.
You must also consider the influence of America's enemies on this movement to erase our history. That is what Stalin did that is what the
ISIS AND ISRG made a point of destroying religious, political and patriotic statues, buildings ect.
So I say we must teach our children and definitely our military the history and the lessons taught by that history and the leaders of the past.
Interesting fact: If Lee was such a bad individual, why did Lincoln promote him to be the supreme commander of the union?
When my late husband and 1961 USMA grad was signing in at Ft. McPherson,GA in June 1973, the room was filled with other newly arrived service members. My husband was surprised when his name was called at the head of the list. The woman conducting the process told hithat she could not let someone who shared Robert E. Lee's birthday ( 19 January) wait to be called. Times have changed. Today this would not happen. Our family lived in quarters on Lee Road for 4 years. It was an address. our address. Don't know a neighbor who thought the name was to celebrate the Confederacy.
Class of 1961 50th year gift to West Poit is Reconciliation Plaza. The "renaming committee" has suggested a $300.000 change to Reconciliation Plaza to remove any iota of Confederate memorializing.. To me, it is history. The committee has approved changing Lee Road to something else.
If we delete mention of former Confederates at our government institutions, then we are no better than the ancient Egyptian pharaohs who scratched the names of previous pharaohs from public monuments or the Soviets who constantly updated textbooks by adding or deleting those persons who were in favor or disfavor at the time. If we proclaim ourselves to be better than them–which we do–then we will leave the names of ex-Confederates where they are. If we remove them, we are no better than the Soviets.