“They had found a leader, Robert E. Lee – and what a leader! … No military leader since Napoleon has aroused such enthusiastic devotion among troops as did Lee when he reviewed them on his horse Traveller.”
So wrote Samuel Eliot Morison in his magisterial “The Oxford History of the American People” in 1965.
First in his class at West Point, hero of the Mexican War, Lee was the man to whom President Lincoln turned to lead his army. But when Virginia seceded, Lee would not lift up his sword against his own people and chose to defend his home state rather than wage war upon her.
This veneration of Lee, wrote Richard Weaver, “appears in the saying attributed to a Confederate soldier, ‘The rest of us may have … descended from monkeys, but it took a God to make Marse Robert.’”
Growing up after World War II, this was accepted history.
Yet, on the militant left today, the name Lee evokes raw hatred and howls of “racist and traitor.” A clamor has arisen to have all statues of him and all Confederate soldiers and statesmen pulled down from their pedestals and put in museums or tossed onto trash piles.
What has changed since 1965?
It is not history. There have been no great new discoveries about Lee.
What has changed is America herself. She is not the same country. We have passed through a great social, cultural and moral revolution that has left us irretrievably divided on separate shores.
And the politicians are in panic.