In early April 1865, General Robert E. Lee withdrew his troops from their lines around Richmond and Petersburg and retreated west. He hoped to link up with the army of Joseph Johnston in North Carolina, but it was not to be. The remnant of Lee’s once formidable army was trapped near Appomattox and forced to surrender.
More than a century and a half has passed since the last shots were fired, and now General Lee is being forced into another retreat.
On December 10, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to remove a statue of Lee from the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland. Perhaps that will happen, perhaps not. A few days before Christmas, however, Lee’s statue was removed from its place of honor in the United States Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Elsewhere, in various places, statues and monuments in remembrance of Lee and other Confederate notables are coming down.
I myself, as a childhood son of the South, was taught to respect Robert E. Lee. In April 1861, this good man was caught on the horns of a dilemma. He did not wish to resign his commission and was opposed to secession. Also, though a slaveholder, he had moral reservations about slavery and believed it was on its way to extinction. Nevertheless, he could not take up arms against his native state, and he believed it was his duty to defend it against armed incursion. It was a fateful but understandable decision.
Now, for many Americans, Lee is an object of scorn, condemned as a traitor and a racist. Others, like me, continue to honor his memory.
I believe Lee was a very honorable man – far more so than many of those who wish to impugn his character and tear his memorials down. Of course, he was a product of his time and his environment, and he should not be judged on the basis of modern sensibilities about race. Very few notables of old would bear up under that type of scrutiny. Indeed, if we look too hard there will be no statues left. Recently, Bill Maher, in a pseudo-serious manner, criticized Jesus for not condemning slavery in the First Century. Christ and his apostles were obviously not woke. Absolutely nothing is sacred to a counterculturist.
Honor our heroes. Pay tribute to bravery and sacrifice. It is far past time to put to rest the enmity that divided our soldiers in blue and gray and continues to divide our country