Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Robert E. Lee, Traitor

In probably my favorite Disunion piece so far, Elizabeth Brown Pryor takes to task the myth of Robert E. Lee taking the natural stand to defend his state against Union tyranny. Like much about Civil War mythology, this has little to no truth.

Lee was not brave nor honorable in refusing to serve his country. We've long known that many southerners fought for the Union, including George Thomas.

But as Pryor points out, a recently discovered letter from Lee's daughter shows that Lee actually countered the wishes of most of his own family in committing treason. Two of his own cousins served the Union, including Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee!!!

So I have even less respect for Lee than I did yesterday. Here is a man who refused an order to protect Washington, D.C., outraging his fellow Virginian Winfield Scott, who basically kicked him out of the army. Here is a man who turned his back not only on his nation, but on the military tradition of his own family and the desires of his own wife and children in order to protect slavery.

And while I don't want to trivialize Lee's decision, because it was a hard one for him to make, he was also completely wrong.

Robert E. Lee is not a hero. He was not a good man. He was a traitor to his country. And he should be remembered as such.