A Brief History Of Robert E. Lee
For over 150 years, the legacy of Robert E.Lee has stood as the standard for honorable action and faithful service. Born in 1807 as a son of a Revolutionary War hero and a descendant of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Lee would evolve into a true man of honor and military genius. As a young man, he enrolled in the nation's premier military academy, West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He acquired not a single demerit during his time as a cadet at West Point. Lee went on to perform his duties as a military engineer officer.When the United States went to war with Mexico in 1846, Lee served on the staff of Major General Winfield Scott, who commanded the American forces that invaded Veracruz and captured Mexico City. As an engineer officer, Lee’s contribution was significant as he helped Scott find ways around the Mexican defenses. He was a hero of the Mexican American War and made large contributions to U.S. land grants which led to westward expansion and helped increase
American dominance in the world. In 1852 Lee was appointed Superintendent of the U.S Military Academy at West Point and oversaw successful curriculum changes. Lee opposed slavery. In a letter written as early as 1856 he said this about slavery: "There are few,I beleive,in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil." Lee lived in an era when the nation was seen as being secondary to the states that created it. Lee opposed secession, but after Virginia seceded from the Union, Lee decided that he could not take up arms against his family and home. He was so well respected that President Abraham Lincoln offered Lee command of the Union army to defeat the South. As a soldier's primary duty is to defend his homeland, Lee respectfully declined the offer and sided with his home state of Virginia and the South.
During the Civil War, Lee achieved many victories against forces with greater numbers and resources. He was the most loved and respected General of the war by his men. His strategies and tactics are still taught in military history and strategy classes today all over the world. After the Civil War, Lee would act as a vital and effective leader healing the wounds of a divided nation where he encouraged unity and restoration. He more than anyone else, likely saved the South and united the nation. He rejected the proposal of an insurgency against the Union and called for reconciliation to heal the country. Without Lee, the Civil War may have become an insurgency type war and a continuation of hostility like in today's Middle East. One cannot speak of Robert E. Lee without understanding his unwavering dedication to his country, especially in the formative post war years that reunited a divided nation. In 1960, soon to be President John F. Kennedy openly lionized Lee saying “Robert E. Lee, who after gallant failure, urged those who had followed him in bravery to reunite America in purpose and courage." Since then, the South has emerged as the most super-patriotic section of the country--it's people more prone to wave the American flag and sing the national anthem.
After the war, he became President of Washington College which was later renamed Washington and Lee University after his death.
When Lee passed away in 1870, a former slave of his family did his eulogy. He said "I've never met a more noble man as Robert E. Lee who released all his slaves more than 10 years before the War of the States". Over the years, American Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr.,and Clinton publicly declared Lee's invaluable contributions to American cultured history. Over the years, Americans have celebrated his legacy for generations to come with many monuments and memorials all over the United States. Many streets and schools across the country bear his name. The U.S. government has honored his legacy by having him on 5 U.S. postage stamps, naming U.S. Army Fort Lee,Virginia, a World War II tank (M3 Lee tank) and even a U.S. Navy submarine (USS Robert E. Lee) after him.
Robert E. Lee personifies American culture and history and his legacy should be respected and remembered for generations to come. Those who understand and appreciate history realize that there are some characters from the past who stood at historic crossroads. Those characters should not be washed away by wholesale stereotypes and today's political correctness rather they should be understood for the ways that they were unique and not judged by today's standards.
Thousands of New Orleanians volunteered to defend their homeland and fought under General Lee as the “Louisiana Tigers” in the Civil War and many did not return home. After Lee’s death in 1870, the “R.E. Lee Monumental Association” was formed to honor those New Orleanians and Louisianians who perished in the war by erecting a monument to their beloved and respected leader Robert E. Lee.