CIVIL WAR OP-ED: Robert E. Lee: Remembering an American Legend

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Sir Winston Churchill once remarked, ‘Lee was the noblest American who had ever lived and one of the greatest commanders known to the annals of war.’

 
Dear students, teachers, parents, church, community leaders, historians and folks everywhere,

 January is the birthday month of War Between the States Generals; James Longstreet born on January 8, 1821, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson born on January 21, 1824, George Pickett born on January 28, 1825 and Thursday, January 19, 2012, is the 205th birthday of General Robert E. Lee, whose memory is still dear in the hearts of people everywhere.

 
Many events are planned around the nation that include….
  

The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Robert E. Lee Birthday Celebration in Milledgeville, Georgia on Saturday, January 21, 2012, in the Old Legislative Chambers of the Old State Capitol Building at 11 AM. A Parade will begin at 10:45 AM from the Old Governor’s Mansion to the Old Legislative Chambers.

 
Did you know that….

 
During Robert E. Lee’s 100th birthday in 1907, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., a former Union Commander and grandson of US President John Quincy Adams, spoke in tribute to Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee College’s Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia? His speech was printed in both Northern and Southern newspapers and is said to had lifted Lee to a renewed respect among the American people.

 
Who was Robert E. Lee?

 Robert E. Lee, a man whose military tactics have been studied worldwide, was an American soldier, Educator, Christian gentlemen, husband and father.

 Robert E. Lee was born on Jan. 19, 1807, at ‘Stratford’ in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The winter was cold and the fireplaces were little help for Robert’s mother, Ann Hill (Carter) Lee, who suffered from a severe cold.

 Ann Lee named her son ‘Robert Edward’ after two of her brothers.

Robert E. Lee undoubtedly acquired his love of country from those who lived during the American Revolution. His Father, ‘Light Horse’ Harry was a hero of the revolution and served three terms as governor of Virginia and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Two members of his family also signed the Declaration of Independence.

Lee was educated at the schools of Alexandria, Va., and he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1825. He graduated in 1829, second in his class and without a single demerit.

 Robert E. Lee’s first assignment was to Cockspur Island, Georgia, to supervise the construction of Fort Pulaski.

 While serving as 2nd Lieutenant of Engineers at Fort Monroe, Va., Lee wed Mary Ann Randolph Custis. Robert and Mary had grown up together, Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the Grandson of Martha Washington and adopted son of George Washington.

 Mary was an only child; therefore, she inherited Arlington House, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where she and Robert E. Lee raised seven children.

In 1836, Lee was appointed to first Lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of Captain, Robert E. Lee fought in the War with Mexico and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec.
 
Lee was appointed Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1852.
 
Gen. Winfield Scott offered Lee command of the Union army to Lee on April 17, 1861, but he refused. He said, ‘I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children.’

 
The Custis-Lee Mansion ‘Arlington House’ would be occupied by Federals, who would turn the estate into a war cemetery. Today Arlington House is preserved by the National Park Service as a Memorial to Robert E. Lee. http://www.nps.gov/arho/

 
Lee served as adviser to President Jefferson Davis, and then on June 1, 1862, commanded the legendary Army of Northern Virginia.
 
After four years of death and destruction, Gen. Robert E. Lee met Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia and ended their battles.

 
In the fall of 1865, Lee was offered and accepted the presidency of troubled Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. It is today Washington and Lee University.

Lee was called Marse Robert, Uncle Robert and Marble Man.

 

Robert E. Lee died of a heart attack at 9:30 AM on the morning of October 12, 1870, at Washington College where he is buried at Lee Chapel.

 

Dr. Edward C. Smith, respected African-American Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C., told the audience in Atlanta, during a 1995 Robert E. Lee birthday event, ‘Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee were individuals worthy of emulation because they understood history.’

 

On August 5, 1975, 110 years after Gen. Lee's application, President Gerald Ford signed Joint Resolution 23, restoring the long overdue full rights of citizenship to Gen. Robert E. Lee. Read more at: www.ford.utexas.edu/library/speeches/750473.htm

 

Lest We Forget!

* * *
Johnson, from Kennesaw, GA, is a speaker, writer, author of the book ‘When America Stood for God, Family and Country and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. 
Comments powered by Disqus