Saturday, January 19, 2008

On his 201st Birthday, the Name of Robert E. Lee is still Spoken in Reverence!

General Robert E. Lee's 201st Birthday!

Today we Southerners celebrate the 200th birthday of one of the most famous Americans who ever lived. I refer, of course, to General Robert Edward Lee, late of the United States Army, and Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. In truth, this man’s birthday ought to be a national holiday. Quite simply, Robert E. Lee saved America.

After the signing of the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox, Virginia, in April of 1865, had not Gen. Lee asked his men to return to their homes and become good citizens, those bedraggled, yet angry men, men who had an awful lot of fight left in them, would have taken to the hills, and the swamps, and continued the fight even unto today! As it was, some fought on for months, especially in the western territories, and even here in the mid-Atlantic, Partisan troops, under command of John Singleton Mosby, the famed “Gray Ghost”, continued to raid Union forces for at least 30 days after the formal surrender. Lee was the only man alive who could have, and did, call upon those men to lay down their arms and go home to their families and what was left of their homes. They obeyed him.

Why? Respect and Honor.

Lee is not, I repeat, NOT a legend. He was REAL. Lee is one of the handful of historical figures for which the stories of his honor and deeds are not myth, but fact. He was the epitome of a Southern Gentleman.

James Dickey, the poet laureate of South Carolina, was asked once by Barbara Walters to define a “Southern Gentleman”. Dickey replied: “A Southern Gentleman is a southern male… with a bible in one hand… and a cannon ball in the other!

Had the South won the war, Lee would have, most certainly, been the next President of the CSA. He, more than any single Confederate, reflected the true South.

As Lee lay dying, the streets and lawns of his neighborhood were filled with well-wishers, admirers, and mourners, as they awaited word of his death. His bed had been turned, days before, to enable Lee to see, through the window, those crowds of people who came to honor him because there was no way they could ever repay him for his service to both The CSA and The USA.

Robert Edward Lee was an American in every sense of the word. America is in great need of men, with the character of Robert E. Lee, today.

The First National Flag of the Confederacy flies outside my home today. It flies alongside Old Glory. Those two flags tell the story of two great nations whose destiny is forever bound together into one entity, one country.

Over the State House grounds, in Raleigh, the Third National Flag of the Confederacy will snap briskly in the January breeze. Newspapers, throughout the South, will carry articles in praise of Lee today. Here, in the South today, our steps are a little lighter, our chests swell with a tad more pride, than usual, and we look with respect upon those flags of old which mark a nation denied and a dream un-fulfilled.

Our South was once a land of Cavaliers, and Southern Knights, and Southern Ladies in their flowing dresses of silks and fine linens, and mansions surrounded by cotton fields and tobacco fields, and shielded by mighty oaks draped in Spanish moss, and perfumed by giant magnolias. A land of Dreams? To be sure. A land of flaws? Absolutely.

The South was not Camelot. But she was as close as we are ever likely to come on this continent. Had the Old South, in fact, been Camelot, then for certain, Robert E; Lee would have been our King Arthur.

Marse Robert, as you grace the mansions of heaven this day, know, sir, that you have not been forgotten. Your name is yet spoken in reverence among those in whose veins the blood of your Knights continues to flow. We salute you sir! We salute your memory. We have bound ourselves to a movement to keep your legacy alive and well.

Let it be known, among all the world today, that we honor General Robert Edward Lee. An American!


(A fellow Southern compatriot, Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
of the Chattahoochee Guards,
Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1639
has written the following. Please see below:)

(This was originally published in 2007)

Robert E. Lee's 200th Birthday:

On August 5, 1975, 110 years after Gen. Lee's application,President Gerald Ford signed Joint Resolution 23, restoringthe long overdue full rights of citizenship to Gen. Robert E.

At that signing, President Ford said, quote, "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" unquote.

Some people are declaring 2007, "The Year of Lee."Please share the following story with your children and local school teachers. The story of Robert E. Lee should be taught in our nation's schools as America prepares to remember his 200th birthday on Friday, January 19, 2007.

A portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, painted by well known"Depression-Era" artist Ernest L. Ipsen, was presented to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York on General Lee's birthday---January 19, 1931. Mrs. L.M. Bashinsky, President of the United Daughters ofthe Confederacy, presented the painting and it was unveiled by two great grandsons of Robert E. Lee, Edward Ely, 111 and Robert Edward Lee De Butts.

The late Franklin D. Roosevelt, America's 32nd president, spoke at the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Statue in Dallas, Texas, on June 12, 1936 and said, quote," I am happy to take part in this unveiling of the statue of Lee. All over theUnited States we recognize him, as a great general. But also, all over the United States, I believe we recognize him as something much more than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen." unquote.

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 said, "All the South has ever desired was that theUnion, as established by our forefathers, should be preserved, and that the government, as originally organized, should be administered in purity and truth.

"Tell your children that Robert E. Lee was born at Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County, Virginia, on January 19, 1807. The winter was cold and the fire places were little help for his mother, Ann Hill(Carter) Lee, who was also suffering from a severe cold. Ann Lee named her son "Robert Edward" after her two brothers.

Robert E. Lee's love for his country undoubtedly came from his close association with those who had lived during the American Revolution. His father, "Light Horse" Harry Lee, was a Revolutionary War hero, Governor of Virginia and a member of the House of Representatives. Lee was educated in the schools of Alexandria, Virginia. In 1825, he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated in 1829, second in his class and without a single demerit. Lee was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of the United States Engineer Corps. His first assignment was at Cockspur Island, Georgia to supervise the construction of Fort Pulaski.

Robert E. Lee wed Mary Anna Randolph Custis on June 30, 1831. Robert and Mary grew up together. Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. George and Martha Washington raised him as their own son. Mary was the only child; therefore, she inherited Arlington House, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. where she and Robert E. Lee raised seven children.

In 1836, Lee was appointed 1st Lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of Captain, Robert E. Lee fought in the War with Mexico. His service in the war began under Gen. Wool but he was later reassigned to the staff of Gen. Winfield Scott. Gen. Scott wrote that Lee was "the best soldier I ever saw in the field."

Robert E. Lee was appointed Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1852. Lee had served in the United States Army for nearly 32 years when he was offered command of the Federal Army at the outset of the War Between the States. In a letter to his sister on April 20, 1861, Robert E. Lee said, quote: "With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty as an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I therefore, have resigned my commission in the army and save in the defense of my native state, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed" unquote.

Gen. Lee and his family left "Arlington House" at the beginning of the War Between the States. Lee served as advisor to President Jefferson Davis, and then commanded the legendary Army of Northern Virginia beginning on June 1, 1862. After four years of death and destruction, Gen. Robert E. Lee met Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on April 9, 1865, that ended their battles.

Robert E. Lee was called Marse Robert, Uncle Robert and Marble Man. Lee was a man of honor, proud of his name and heritage, After the War Between the States, he was offered $50,000 for the use of his name. His reply was: "Sirs, my name is the heritage of my parents. It is all I have and it is not for sale."

In the fall of 1865, Robert E. Lee was offered and accepted the position of president of troubled Washington College in Lexington,Virginia. The school was later renamed Washington and Lee College in his honor.

Gen. Robert E. Lee died of a heart attack at his Washington College home at 9:30 on the morning of October 12, 1870. Lee is buried at the school's Chapel near his family and favorite horse "Traveler."

A prolific writer, Lee wrote his most famous quote to his son Custisin 1852: "Duty is the sublimest word in our language."

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."

By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Member, SCV Public and Media Relations Committee
Chattahoochee Guards SCV Camp 1639

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