June 5, 2017

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

Ada Serwer  The Atlantic:

The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.

There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.

But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a “foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.”

Excellent summation of the controversy surrounding Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy, and the whitewash called the “Lost Cause.” Lee was a very different man than his legend holds, and as such he was the epitome of the Southern white man before, during, and after the American Civil War.

Lee and his Confederacy belong in museums and history books, not in statuary and memorials. That war made the United States what we are still, one nation - at times for better or worse - of disparate sub-cultures. It also exposed an ugly truth about white America descended from Europeans. We talk a good game about individual liberty, but have great capacity for subjugation as long as it’s of someone else.

#American #culture #Civil #War #Robert #E #Lee #Confederacy #Lost #Cause

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