CIVIL WAR OP-ED: Robert E. Lee: American Patriot and Southern Hero

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
Robert E. Lee on Traveller
Robert E. Lee on Traveller

 Do you remember when….Fess Parker played “Davy Crockett” on TV, American school and military bands played “Dixie” and the late country music legend Johnny Cash sang “God Bless Robert E. Lee” that includes these words:

I won't ever stop loving you my Dixie till they put me in the ground. And the last words they probably hear from me are God bless Robert E Lee.”

What was General Robert E. Lee’s favorite war horse? See answer at end of article.

January is a historic month of history when students, teachers, parents, Joe and Jane America and the world will hear much praise in memorial tribute to the Civil Rights leader and Baptist Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was born on the 15th day of January, in the year of our Lord, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia…. But, shouldn’t local, state and national news institutions also give fair and equal treatment and coverage to those who will remember the birthdays of General’s Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee who were also born during the month of January?

There will be memorial tributes to honor Dr. Martin Luther King in January and….

General Robert E. Lee will be memorialized in Lexington, Virginia with a tribute to both him and Stonewall Jackson on January 17th and 18th. Read more at:

The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans will again sponsor their annual Robert E. Lee Birthday Commemorative on Saturday January 18, 2014 at the Old Capitol Building, 201 E. Greene St., Milledgeville, Georgia. The parade route will assemble at 10:30 a.m. at the Old Governor's Mansion on W. Hancock Street and proceed through downtown to the Old Capitol on East Greene St.

The ceremony should begin around 11:00 a.m. at the Old Capitol where Georgia voted to secede from the Union in 1861. Read more at:

During Robert E. Lee's 100th birthday celebration  in 1907, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., a former Union Army Commander and grandson of United States 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.

Could you imagine the President of the United States, members of Congress or A Northern Veteran speaking publicly today in tribute to General Lee like Commander Adams and President Theodore Roosevelt did while touring the South in 1905?....The president told an aged group of Confederate Veterans in Richmond, Virginia:

“Here I greet you in the shadow of the statue of your Commander, General Robert E. Lee. You and he left us memories which are part of the memories bequeathed to the entire nation by all the Americans who fought in the War Between the States.” 

Who was Robert E. Lee?

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 her two brothers.

Lee was educated at the schools of Alexandria, Va., and also received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York state 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.

Robert E. Lee wed Mary Anna Randolph Custis in June 1831. Robert and Mary had grown up together. Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington.

In 1836, Lee was appointed to first lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of captain, Lee fought valiantly in the War with Mexico and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec.

He was appointed superintendent of West Point in 1852 and is considered one of the best superintendents in that institution's history.

General Winfield Scott offered Robert E. Lee command of the Union Army in 1861, but he refused. Lee would command the legendary Army of Northern Virginia for the South during the War Between the States.

The answer to the question of what was Lee’s beloved war horse is “Traveller” who is buried near Robert E. Lee and his family at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

Do our schools teach the young folks about Robert E. Lee and his farewell address to the troops?

Robert E. Lee,

Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia


Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia 

Appomattox Courthouse, April 10, 1865

(General Orders No. 9) 

After four years' arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. 

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss which would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.  You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God may extend to you His blessing and protection.  With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell. 

Robert E. Lee 



Let’s not forget our heroes!

                                                    * * *
 Johnson, from Kennesaw, GA,  is a speaker, writer of short stories, author of book “When America stood for God, Family and Country” and Chairman of the National and Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Confederate History and Heritage Month committee.  
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