View Full Version : Today marks the birthday of an American original-

01-19-06, 09:29 AM
Today marks the birthday of an American original--Robert E. Lee
January 19, 2006 12:50 am
The Free Lance Star

KENNESAW, Ga.--Is our nation's history being taught in public schools?

Do young people still hear stories about George Washington, Booker T. Washington, and Robert E. Lee?

There was a time when schools and businesses closed in respect for the birthday of one of the South's favorite sons--Robert E. Lee.

In the modern era, sadly, Lee's birthday is no longer included on many calendars. It is today, Jan. 19.

Lee--a man whose military tactics have been studied worldwide--was an American soldier, educator, Christian gentleman, husband, and father. Many include Lee as among the top 10 of the greatest Americans who ever lived.

Lee loved his country and supported the United States Constitution.

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

It has been said that "A land without memories is a people without liberty." With that in mind, a birthday tribute to Gen. Lee will be held in Atlanta today. It begins with a parade, and a memorial will be held inside the state capitol building.

This is the 18th year the Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans has sponsored a memorial to Lee in Atlanta.

Let America not forget that Gen. Robert E. Lee was born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Va., on Jan. 19, 1807. The winter was cold and fireplaces were little help for Lee's mother, Ann Hill (Carter) Lee, who suffered from a severe cold.

Ann Lee named her son "Robert Edward" after her two brothers.

Robert E. Lee's love of 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 member of the United States House of Representatives.

Members of his family also signed the Declaration of Independence.

Lee was educated in schools in Alexandria. In 1825, he received an appointment to West Point Military Academy in New York. He graduated in 1829, second in his class and without a single demerit, a record that stands today.

He was commissioned as second lieutenant of the United States Engineer Corps. He served on engineering projects in Georgia, Virginia, and New York.

Robert E. Lee wed Mary Anna Randolph Custis in June 1831. Robert and Mary had grown up together. Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and adopted son of George Washington.

Mary was an only child; therefore, she inherited Arlington House, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.--where she and Robert raised seven children.

In 1836, Robert E. Lee was appointed to first lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of captain, Lee fought in the Mexican War. His service in this war began under Gen. Wool, but he was reassigned to the staff of Gen. Winfield Scott.

Gen. Scott would write that Lee was "the best soldier I ever saw in the field."

In 1852, Lee was appointed superintendent of West Point. Abraham Lincoln offered command of the Union Army to Lee in 1861, but Lee refused. In a letter to his sister on April 20, 1861, he said, "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 defense of my native state, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed."

Gen. Lee and his family left Arlington House at the beginning of the War Between the States. Lee served as adviser to President Jefferson Davis, then commanded the legendary Army of Northern Virginia.

After four terrible years of death and destruction, Gen. Robert E. Lee met Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. That ended their battles.

Lee was called Marse Robert, Uncle Robert and Marble Man. He was loved by the people of the South and adopted by folks from the North.

He 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."

His refusal to this offer came at a time when he had nothing.

In the fall of 1865, Lee was offered and accepted the presidency of troubled Washington College in Lexington, Va. The school later was renamed Washington and Lee College in his honor.

Gen. Robert E. Lee died of a heart attack at his home at Washington College on the morning of Oct. 12, 1870. His last words were "Strike the Tent."

He is buried at his college's Lee Chapel, near his family and favorite horse, "Traveller."

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

Lest we forget our nation's history.

CALVIN E. JOHNSON JR. is a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans.