What Historians Keep Getting Wrong about Robert E. LeeRoundup
tags: Civil War, Confederacy, Confederate Monuments, Robert E Lee
Last month, historian Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and other history books, wrote a piece in the Washington Post on Robert E. Lee. The article attempted to extinguish the historical fire that began after White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly spoke about Robert E. Lee and his legacy. Many historians and pundits were critical of Kelly, who said that the Civil War happened because of a “lack of compromise,” and he praised Lee as an “honorable man.”
Rather than examine Kelly’s statements (the man is not a historian after all), I would like to address some aspects of the Lee debate and what people seem to keep getting wrong about Lee, despite all that has been written about him since his death in 1870. I will also address the incorrect statements Winik made in his article.
Lee the Aristocrat?
Winik states that Lee’s “lineage was impeccable” and that he “descended from two signers of the Declaration of Independence.” In fact, Robert E. Lee was not a blood relation of any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was born at Stratford Hall, which was the home of Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, both of whom signed the Declaration. But Lee’s father was Light Horse Harry Lee, who descended not from the Stratford line but the Leesylvania (located in northern Virginia) line of Lees. Light Horse Harry’s connection to Stratford was through his first wife, Matilda Ludwell Lee, the niece of Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee.
Matilda died in 1790. Light Horse Harry remarried. His second wife was Ann Hill Carter of Shirley plantation. She was Robert E. Lee’s mother. Did Lee have connections to the wealthiest and most prominent families of Virginia? Yes.
And no. It was Lee’s connections to his wife, Mary Custis, whom he married in 1831, that kept him relevant in Virginia’s social circles. By the time Robert E. Lee was ready for West Point, the Lee family was in tatters. His father, Light Horse Harry, a gifted commander during the Revolution, was dead and had lived the last ten years of his life in disgrace. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- University of South Carolina unveils statue of first black professor
- Inside Billy Graham's Powerful Relationship With U.S. Presidents
- Children have changed America before, braving fire hoses and police dogs for civil rights
- How the Activists Who Tore Down Durham's Confederate Statue Got Away With It
- Many Trump Voters Think We Need a White History Month
- AHA President Mary Beth Norton says ending sexual harassment is a high priority
- Historians fear ‘censorship’ under Poland’s Holocaust law
- How One Amateur Historian Brought Us the Stories of African-Americans Who Knew Abraham Lincoln
- History Coalition asks historians to "Urge Your Representative to Join the Congressional History Caucus"
- Dartmouth’s Randall Balmer: Under Trump, America's religious right is rewriting its code of ethics