Talk:Robert E. Lee/Archive 1

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The article mentions two dates, 10 October and 12 October, when reffering to the date of his death. Also, it says that his stroke made speech impossible, but then states that his last words were spoken on his deathbed. Can someone clarify this? 05:01, 5 September 2006 (UTC)


Had to disambiguate, as Robert E. Lee (writer) (or Robert Edwin Lee) credited himself with the same name. ugen64 01:03, Mar 8, 2004 (UTC)

"The medical part of his death is, to say the least, 'quite weak'..."[edit]

The medical part of his death is, to say the least, "quite weak". Please ask your local pharmacist or any highschooler to improve it.-- 08:18, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

How about you, can you do it? Everyking 08:24, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)


There are two references to his citizenship. Needs cleaned up.

Matt Yohe 02:59, 24 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Fifth child, not fourth???[edit]

According to geneological sources, Robert E. Lee was the fifth child of Anne Hill Carter and Lighthorse Harry Lee, not the fourth as listed in the Wikipedia entry.

See for details. One child died in infancy.

Scott Mingus June 30, 2005 15:17 (UTC)

Where is Custis Mansion?[edit]

The second paragraph of Early Life and Career states, "They lived in the Custis mansion, which today is a National Memorial, located at Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River in Arlington, just across from Washington, D.C.." Westmoreland County, VA (where Stratford Hall is located) is a considerable distance from Arlington, VA (where Custis Mansion is located). Custis Mansion is a National Memorial located in Arlington National Cemetary. I have not made an edit, as I am still new to participating in Wikipedia and would prefer a more knowledgable and experienced person to confirm and edit this.--Asacan 19:21, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Law schooling[edit]

I'm afraid the passage about how the General "incorporated law into the academic curriculum -- at the time an odd concept, because law was seen as a technical rather than intellectual profession" is mistaken, and I have to remove it. The College of Law at no less proper and Virginian a place of higher learning than William and Mary was established in 1779, and Harvard Law School in 1817. (Charles Sumner was one of its first librarians...) Samaritan 07:13, 31 August 2005 (UTC)

Too trivial?[edit]

Not sure the George Form by reference is too trivial as it may be the first or only time someone (not familiar with the US Civil War) hears the name. Having said that, the reference may be indirect as I recall that a paddle steamer or similar vessel was named Robert E.Lee too....

One thing more that occurs to me is that the car in the Dukes of Hazzard was named the General Lee. Could this be the same General Lee? The Dukes are often referred to as being Southern (see the Dukes article) and according to this page Robert E.Lee was a Southern hero. If this is the case,then perhaps this too should feature in the trivia section. DavidFarmbrough 16:08, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

The nature of triviality is of course subjective. There are probably tens of thousands of facts associated with Lee and his legacy, and the art of writing a good encyclopedia article is not to enumerate them all, but to include only those that improve the reader's sense of who the man was, what he accomplished, and what impact he had on society. In my judgment, citing a modern song in which his name is used as a euphemism [for "ass"?] does not meet that standard. It is vaguely offensive as well as trivial. As to the Dukes, if you can find a source that confirms the car was named for this general, that probably had enough cultural impact to warrant mentioning it because it was a long-running TV show and a movie. Saying that it "probably" was named for him is not useful. As to the vessel, if you can find out which one it was (type, location, years of operation, etc.), including it is appropriate for a Wikipedia bio article, but only if you can be specific. Hal Jespersen 17:52, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
The collective response to the trivia entry of "The General Lee car in Dukes of Hazzard was named after Robert E. Lee" would be a collective "DUH," methinks. Remove it? --Pathogen 17:29, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
One thing to remember here: common sense is not common. Some people may actually not know this, specifically those in other parts of the world. Or the few people who are too dumb to know. Zchris87v 02:31, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Last words[edit]

The earliest known source for "Strike the tent" is referenced in Freeman, q.v.; at which point Freeman (and, a fortiori! Bartlett's Quotations) should not be quoted, of course. Whether Lee said any such thing is of course very much open to doubt, but I removed the sentence that states that, since there is no known contemporary source that he did not, and the reader may form her own opinion: certainly, he did mumble things after his stroke, according to the accounts of witnesses, so "or anything else" isn't right. Bill 14:30, 14 October 2005 (UTC)


Lee himself is not known to have claimed Scots ancestry, "Lee" is an English name, not a Scots, and again, his folks had been here for at least 2 generations since the old country — whatever that was. Freeman, his best biographer, mentions the idea only to sniff at it, as the brainchild of some other author: see his footnote. Bill 20:46, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

(Added after the 2d revert by our Scots friend) The Fontaine paper, mentioned in the footnote I just cited, on careful reading, will be seen to be commendatory and very vague: 17th in descent, assuming it's true, from Robert the Bruce does not make one a Scots-American. At that remove, Lee very likely had French and German ancestry as well: that doesn't make him a French- or German-American. At any rate, the paper traces Lee's descent to Bruce via 17 generations of mostly very non-Scottish, English ancestors. At some point almost any Englishman has some Scottish blood; and if Lee's connection with Scotland is so tenuous that you have to go back 17 generations to find it — as opposed to a real Scots-American, whose more immediate forbears would be Scots — why would anyone call Lee a Scot, or want to? Bill 21:37, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
The Lee's had been in Virginia since the late 1600's...his mother's side of the family, the Carter's had been in Virginia since at least 1624...I'll look it up if needed, but both branches originated in England.--MONGO 05:01, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

According to The Lees of Virginia; biography of a family, by Burton J. Hendrick, Richard Lee, who came to Virginia in 1690, used the arms of the Lees of Shropshire, but which branch of that family is unknown. Claims about 12 generations before that are therefore extremely doubtful, and meaningless for a cat; most of the population of Virginia is more Scots than that. (In any case, Wikipedia:Categories says that it should be obvious, when going from a category to an included article, why the article is in the category. This cat does not meet that standard. If our Caledonian anon cares to edit the article, we can discuss this further. Until then, I support the reversion.) Septentrionalis 18:15, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Who cares where his surname came from? I have an Irish surname, does that mean I can't have Scottish, Welsh, English and Scandanavian ancestry? (I do by the way). People don't only have "2" branches to their families. Have a look at a family tree. They have 4 or 8 or 16 or 32 etc. etc. depending on how far back one chooses to go. Unless Lee was very inbred I think it's safe to say that not all his ancestors were Lees from Shropshire. 12:20, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

Delegitimize vs. Downplay[edit]

I would argue that the removal of Lee's portrait from the Richmond mural is more than just downplaying the South's Confederate heritage. Downplaying suggests acceptance of the South's Confederate heritage but reducing its importance and placing it in a broader context of the South's history. The concerted effort to remove all Confederate symbols and names from public display is more than this. It is an attempt to make all references to Confederate history unacceptable. I don't want to start a revert war, but 'downplay' seems much too weak of a description. What are the views of others out there?

Nicholas F 22:17, 29 December 2005 (UTC)

I dunno, there are a heck of a lot of existing Lee monuments in Richmond, including the giant statue of him on Monument Ave. There's no movement to get rid of that, or get rid of the numerous other Confederate generals memorialized there. There's also the Museum on the Confederacy downtown that flies the Confederate flag every day. Plenty of roads and such named after Confederates. If there's one thing Richmond doesn't do, it's try to deny its Confederate heritage. Anyways, IMHO, I think "downplay" is appropriate for this particular action. Midas 14:12, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

Well, Richmond over the past few years, has renamed various bridges that were formerly named for Confederate generals. I believe the last one removed Jeb Stuart's name from the structure. The addition of Arthur Ashe to Monument Boulevard, and the addition of a statue of Lincoln on the riverside, indicates less a downplay and more of what Nicholas said. They're reducing the Confederate scheme in the broad view of Richmond's history. RebelAt 22:48, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

After thinking it over, I do believe that "delegitimize" is more accurate than "downplay". The grounds for removing Confederate names and images has not been that the Confederacy accounted for only four years of Richmond's (or the South's) history, but rather that they are offensive. This is not the advocation of a rebalance of history, but rather the delegitimizing a portion of it. If it offensive to have Lee's image on the canal mural, why isn't just as offensive to have a statue of him on Monument Avenue? Nicholas F 02:51, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

I have to say I didn't know about the road name changes. Do you know which bridges? I'm just curious cuz I grew up there. That does seem kind of silly. Anyways, I see what you guys are saying, and I seem to be outnumbered here, but I still think "delegitimize" is a bit strong. I feel like people are more interested in forgetting the history of or changing the focus of the city than they are in affecting other people's political views, which is how I read "delegitimize." What about something like "gloss over," or something to that effect? Something in between "delegitimize" and "downplay"? Just a thought. Midas 20:03, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

I did some quick searching and found a couple references to the changes. Interestingly, it seemed somewhat difficult to find much, if anything. Here's what I found:
I think, now, rather than say delegitimize, something more along the lines of "reduce in the scheme of things." That is, rather than focus on the Confederate history as being the Civil War aspect of the city, its becoming more just a part of the history of the city during the Civil War. Its incorrect to simply say the Confederacy was a four year part of Richmond's long history. Politically, that is true, but socially, culturally, the idea of the Confederacy remained with the city for decades after the war. The Lost Cause myth being a prime example. It wasn't as if the people of Richmond simply dropped all references, beliefs, and thoughts, on the Confederacy in April of '65, but carried much of it on.RebelAt 19:26, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

I can agree with that. Thanks for the links! Midas 21:45, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

Lack of Coughing Ability[edit]

I must respectfully dispute this. The pneumonia was probably due to the force feeding - aspiration pneumonia was a common side effect of force feeding. Not the stroke.

Deceptive edits by anonymous, 26 Jan 06[edit]

If you just scan quickly thru "diff", the last edit just looks like the simple addition of Lee's horse Traveller. In fact, the same editor performed repeated edits and deleted a lot of material; not that I think there was intent to deceive, it's just the way they edited. I have no axe to grind on any of it, but others may want to take a look, to revert or not. Bill 00:14, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

Only cadet without demerit at West Point?[edit]

We are currently unsure at de: where Lee really was the first cadet (and so far the only) to graduate the Academy without a single demerit. -- 17:35, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

You did well to check. He was not the only, by any means; nor can he be considered the first, since 5 of his own classmates went thru the entire four years without a single demerit (reference, naming the 5 cadets, and see the further note there). There may have been others before. I'll rewrite the passage in the English Wiki in a few seconds. Bill 20:29, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Minor adjustments[edit]

But the edit summary line warn't quite big enough to lemme write this, even abbreviatedly:

  • I threw out the junk commercial link just added
  • per standard policy, I removed a pair of higher cats
  • more controversially — especially since the link is to my own site — I added a link to Freeman's bio in the Links section, and this although it's already under the References: because it's by far and away the most important Web resource on Lee, and might not be seen buried in the Refs. I will hardly be offended if this gets reverted, but the aim is to be useful to a reader scrolling down to "Links". Bill 21:51, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

Merger and changes to related article[edit]

I have merged Arlington House into Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial and added some significant text (e.g. the story of the selection of Arlington as the site of Arlington National Cemetery). Given the heat that things Lee-related can generate (see above), I thought that I'd ask the denizens of this page to take a look. Inevitably, the story or Arlington House is inextricably linked to the story of Lee. Help me achieve NPOV. --JohnPomeranz 12:40, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

Military record[edit]

had to attack some mexicans[edit]

i don't understand the sentence "by finding a route to attack the Mexicans which was not defended because the terrain was thought to be impassable." what?

  • You're right, this doesn't make sense. I commented it out. If anyone can fix this, please do. Gwimpey 04:10, Nov 22, 2004 (UTC)
    • fixed. big_hal 22:57, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

How famous?[edit]

Is it correct to say Lee is more famous than Grant? Rich Farmbrough 22:09, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Yes, of the subset of humanity interested in this era, Lee is better known. big_hal 22:25, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Nobody who knows Lee but doesn't know Grant is interested in the Civil War-era U.S. Samaritan 05:35, 22 May 2005 (UTC)
Not necessarily. Most people know both Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. It can be said, however, that Grant was more popular; being made famous from the fifty dollar bill...

On the other hand, everyone who knows the course of the war probably knows Lee as the southern commander, but may or may not realize that norther victory was delivered by Grant.


I'm sorry, but I find the statement that Lee is better known than Grant to be indefensable. How can you possibly say that with any kind of exactness. Lee was certainly iconic in the South (still is), but Grant was god-like in the North from 1865 to the rest of his life. In fact, he was still honored around the world even after a scandal-ridden presidency. Trying to match levels of popularity is an impossiblity in my opinion.

thanks, mike

Edits on Commander, AoNV[edit]

I added some battle details, but a few comments in case you're concerned:

  • I changed 2nd Manassas to Bull Run because other battles here, such as Antietam, used the northern names.
  • James Longstreet was Lee's "war horse", not Traveller, who was just a horse.

Hal Jespersen 02:00, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Robert E. Lee had 5 horses...Ajax, Lucy Long, The Richmond, The Roan, and Traveller. Traveller is the one he most often rode into battle on thus that was his war horse. Lee McNulty

I think the point being made was one of context. Traveller definitely was the horse that Lee rode during the Civil War. However, as it relates to Lee's specific use of the term "war horse," he most defnitely meant James Longstreet, a soldier that he placed a lot of faith in.

It would be just like Bart Simpson speaking about his "dawg" but everyone would know that he was speaking about Milhouse his friend rather than Santa's Little Helper, the family dog.

Lee's usage of the term "war horse" as a term to describe just James Longstreet can be found in the narration of the Civil War series by Ken Burns (that's where I first heard it) and in the book, Lee: The Last Years by Charles Flood. User:Ladydayelle

Freeman (Vol. II, Chapter 27, note 41) traces the Lee-Longstreet-war horse quote to G. Moxley Sorrel, Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer (New York, 1917, 2d ed.) — p116. As for horses of a more equine species, a 6th horse fought with him in the Mexican War: Grace Darling (opening sentence of Freeman's Vol. I, Chapter 18, and note there). Bill 23:03, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Again, in the context in which Lee used the term, he was referring to James Longstreet, again just in the way that one to refer to another person as being my "rock."

No one is disputing that the term was used during the Civil War or by Lee or the definition of the term. The fact is that when speaking about James Longstreet, Lee used the term as the best way to describe not just him but his contribution to the war as a soldier. User:Ladydayelle


I inserted "field" command into text as his role prior to this was essentially as an advisor excepting the W. Virginia theater of 1861. The current version makes it look as though he was a field commander prior to this which he essentially wasn't, hence my edit.--MONGO 14:16, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Aha. Well, I now understand your intent and have reworded it appropriately. See if that does it for you. Hal Jespersen 16:35, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Look great, thanks..not much time to edit...but try to adjust and or add as time allows.--MONGO 20:55, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

greatest general and irony[edit]

I removed the additional sentences that attempted to address his greatness and the irony of his opponent. (I realize that some of this text changed over multiple edits, so I am addressing the general theme of the changes, not necessarily what is currently there.) The constraint of citing the US Military Academy for selecting a general who succeeded against the greatest odds is rather silly; was that the means by which you omitted George Washington as the candidate? Why should a general's education matter for such a comparison? And the attempt to draw irony into the mix at this point was not well worded. As to further attempts to suggest that Lee was the greatest general, I do not think we should go there. "One of the greatest," certainly. But remember Washington, Scott in Mexico, Patton, and the person who actually beat Lee, Grant. I think the original text was reasonable as it was. Hal Jespersen 21:44, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)

... I don't want to turn this into a back-and-forth on an article, so I'll make no further edits, but I have to say that I disagree with you. First of all, the article is supposed to be about Lee the man, not just Lee the general. An important aspect of Lee's character is the sharp irony contained in the fact that he was arguably the greatest general ever produced by the U.S. military establishment (for which I used West Point as a strawman), and yet he was at his most brilliant fighting other products of that same military establishment. It was not a device to remove Washington from the mix, although it did serve that purpose (Washington is perhaps the only other general to succeed in similar circumstances to Lee). But, remember that Washington was a product of the British military establishment, not the uniquely American one that followed it in North America. The use of West Point as a constraint was therefore, I would argue, not "silly," but an attempt to differentiate quickly and easily wholly American generals from those of the Revolution/1812 era and before.
As for who the greatest general was: Washington was removed from the mix by my "silly" constraint, and I simply don't see how you can make an argument based on any factual information that any U.S. general other than Lee won larger battles against longer odds, which is all I had, in fact, stated. As for Grant beating Lee, I think you would be hard-pressed indeed to find a military historian who would agree that Grant beat Lee on account of out-generalling him... However, the article is fine as it is -- it's just got a less emotionally involving introductory paragraph. RiseAbove 00:02, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Allow me to start by apologizing for my use of the term "silly". I enjoy discussions such as this and try to avoid terminology that prevents others from enjoying them, too, so I am sorry.

I would like to address what I perceive to be the two dominant threads of your concern:

1. Themes. I agree that it is useful to establish themes in the opening paragraph or two of a biography like this one. However, I do not agree that the irony of Lee's opponents warrants placement there. Actually, I believe the real irony is that the current admirers of Lee are at the same time strong admirers of his opponents -- the U.S. Army and the Federal Union. So the irony is better reflected on people of the current time than on Lee. That sort of observation belongs more in a footnote or trailing passage regarding his legacy than it does defining the man in his first paragraph. If you asked me what I believe the themes are that define the man, I would say there are four. (1) Lee's strong sense of duty and loyalty and the heartbreak that resulted when he was conflicted between his U.S. Army career and his home state. (2) His audacity and aggression in battle, both during the Mexican War and from June of 1862 on. (Some people are unaware that kindly, gentlemanly Robert E. Lee with his snowy white beard was the most aggressive of all the army commanders in the Civil War and that the Army of Northern Virginia had an appallingly high attrition rate.) (3) His relationship with his subordinates, both good and bad. (In 1862 he inherited two great subordinate generals, Longstreet and Jackson. When he lost their services, his performance went downhill. He was unable to groom adequate successors and he was unable to adjust his command style appropriately to less talented men.) (4) His nature as a gentleman throughout the war, including his relationships with subordinates, but most importantly his magnanimity in accepting his final defeat and his encouragement of Southerners to reconciliation.

2. Grant versus Lee. You are expressing what I consider to be the conventional wisdom or popular view of Grant's achievements. The notion that Grant's success was a product only of his overwhelming resources is not one held by the majority of serious military historians, such as Fuller, Hart, or Esposito. It is certainly the opinion of those who subscribe to the lost cause movement. Grant undoubtedly had superior resources, but a general cannot be faulted for using everything at his command. You cannot evaluate Grant's performance merely by examining his one-on-one fight with Lee. He was the general-in-chief for all of the Union armies and he devised a coordinated strategy that applied simultaneous pressure against all of the Southern armies. Lee, on the other hand, resisted Jefferson Davis's desire that he perform such a service for the Confederacy until it was too late. One of the interesting facts about the Civil War was that the South actually had an important advantage over the North -- it did not have to win the war, it only had to avoid losing it. It merely had to hold on long enough that the Northern public gave up. If Lee had been able to devise a strategy to hold on long enough so that Abraham Lincoln was not reelected, he would have won the war. That Grant was able to prevent him from doing that was no small accomplishment. Grant seized the initiative from Lee, something that had not happened previously in the war, and he kept the initiative, subjecting Lee to a campaign characterized not only by bloody battles, but by bold maneuver. His movement across the James River was a master stroke that took Lee by surprise and effectively sealed his fate at Petersburg. So, considering whether Lee was the greatest general, I would probably rank him in the top five of American history, but only in the top two in the Civil War. Hal Jespersen 21:26, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)

It can certainly be debated day and night as to who is the better general. Every general in history has strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps Grant was more gifted in general strategy when it comes to an overall plan of victory against the entire Confederacy. Though Lee did not coordinate very well with the other theatre commanders of the Confederacy, within the realm of local tactics involving his army, he was unequaled. There is a reason why many Northerners called Grant 'the Butcher', because of the heavy casualties he sustained while engaged against the Army of Northern Virginia. While almost always outnumbered at least 2 to 1, and with many soldiers who were without shoes, food, and other equipment, Lee was able to outmaneuver, and defeat his enemies. If Grant and Lee were given the exact same amount and quality of soldiers, it is without a doubt that Lee would defeat him most, if not all, of the time. Of course, it is almost impossible to perfectly compare generals, because there are so many other factors when it comes to combat and victory. Supplies, technology, terrain, mobility, tactics, willpower, morale, and just plain old luck are other very important factors. Looking at all of those factors, it should be agreed that Lee was more capable than Grant at utilizing all aspects of war, though Grant had his talents in certain areas. The best generals take all of the information from the battlefield, and do the best they can with it to achieve victory. It is the generals who do not take everything into account that end up being defeated. Though Lee did make mistakes (Grant did as well), overall Lee was a more capable and beloved commander. In the end, troop morale and willpower along with great tactics can only do so much against the unlimited resources of the enemy. This can also be seen in the Napoleonic wars, as well as with the Eastern Front of World War II. Also, not many people claim that Meade was a better general than Lee, even though Meade defeated him at Gettysburg. So even though Grant defeated Lee in the end, there are many other factors to look at other than tactical ability. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by AFpilot157 (talkcontribs) 22:35, 14 March 2007 (UTC).

Sorry, it is clear you are a worshipper of Lee, but he was at least as much of a butcher as Grant. That insult was thrown at Grant by political opponents of the war in the North. But consider Lee's performance at Gettysburg, and his general reluctance to give up when Grant had him in a death grip. Really, Lee sacrificed more of his own men for no gain than Grant ever did. And after all Grant won, and preserved the Union - that was his aim, he knew what he had to do to achieve it, and he simply carried through with it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:19, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

Gettysburg and Others[edit]

It seems as if the Battle of Gettysburg, or rather, Lee's and the Confederate's role in it, could do with a better explaination. As is, it seems rather disjointed, and decreases the amount of blame that can be laid upon Lee. Is it fair to absolve a general from blame, because his troops don't "fight as vigoursly" as he expected? The implication is that its more their fault and not his. I think it all can be phrased better. I take it, also, that the lack of much detail on the other battles is due to articles existing for them. That said, I think more should be explained, condensed, sure, but enough to let a general reader interested in Lee understand better his generalship without having to click through a dozen articles in the process. RebelAt 22:56, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

Well, go ahead and make the changes and we'll see if we agree. Almost all of the recent activity in this article has been regarding slaveholding issues, so it would be refreshing to have more martial discussions. At one time both Lee and Grant had relatively condensed analyses of their campaigns, but recently Grant fans have been pumping a lot more detail in his article, so it would make sense. I did not write the passage about "fight as vigorously", but I believe it refers to Ewell and Longstreet, not the soldiers. Hal Jespersen 00:18, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Disputes on sections related to slavery[edit]

Lee and slavery (Jun-Aug 2005)[edit]

The following claim...

There was little doubt as to Lee's sentiments. He was opposed to secession and slavery.

... is, with regard to slavery, at best misleadingly selective and at worst an baldfaced lie. Lee did not "oppose" slavery in any meaningful sense; he defended the continuing enslavement of Blacks as "necessary for their instruction as a race", claimed that "How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence," and condemned abolitionism as an "evil Course" that practiced by people "intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others". Lee also owned slaves at different points throughout his life; at the time he accepted his command in the Army of Northern Virginia he personally held some 63 slaves that came under his legal control as the executor of his father-in-law's estate. To claim that an active slaver who defended the indefinite legal protection of slavery as ordained by God for the good of the Black race could be said to be "opposed to ... slavery" -- much less that there was little doubt as to those anti-slavery sentiments! -- is simply misinformation or disinformation. As such I have removed this part of the claim from the article and added a section on Lee's slaveholding and his views on slavery.

Radgeek 17:39, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I'm new here so maybe I don't have all my facts straight... I thought that the slaves Lee received from his father in law were freed. Is this not true? I did get this "fact" on the internet so it may be incorrect.
As is mentioned in the main article, they were freed by Custis in his will. Lee, as executor, was charged with processing the legal paperwork needed for manumission (which could take a while, due to Virginia's restrictive laws on manumission at the time). But the evidence is fairly clear that Lee sought to delay manumission and keep the slaves as long as he could get away with it, because of the money he could make by hiring them out elsewhere in Virginia. He explicitly told the slaves immediately after Custis's death that he intended to keep them the full five years, and when three of the slaves left in 1859 he had slave-hunters find them and had them returned and whipped. The details are discussed in brief in the article and at length in the documentary material linked from it, as well as here.
Hope this helps. Radgeek 19:52, 14 August 2005 (UTC)

Radgeek, you should read what you quote. Here is a good excerpt: "While we see the Course of the final abolition of human Slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power," written by R.E. Lee. Secondly, you are judging this man by today's standards not the standards of his time which shows your lack of historical integrity. For example, look at Lincoln's quotes during this time period about blacks "I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races." People today who do not have historical integrity are judging him based on today's standards, like they do Lee, and this is leading to inaccurate conclusions about both men. Finally, here is a link showing Robert E. Lee's own words about slavery: [1] Lee McNulty

Lee, I have read the letter you're quoting from. You seem not to have read it in full, since Lee's main concern in the letter is not to condemn slavery but rather to condemn abolitionism. He explicitly states that slavery in the near term is a necessary evil for American blacks to undergo, and must be preserved against abolitionist agitation: "... I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence." Your selective quotation from this letter in order is either lazy or dishonest, depending on whether you have ever read it closely or not. Your claim that I am judging Lee outside of his historical context is false; I make no claims above other than the documented fact that Lee was a slaver and supported the preservation of slavery as an institution indefinitely into the future. (I do have my own views about Lee's character, but they are not at issue here.) I will, however, note in passing that it is just false to claim that there weren't people morally opposed to slavery in Lee's time. There were; in fact, there was a whole movement of them. They were called abolitionists, and Lee's 1856 letter to his wife explicitly condemns their position. Radgeek 05:28, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Go back and read from my link in the end. Robert E. Lee states, "So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery was abolished." He continues to state that he happily lost what he lost in the war because of the fact that slavery was abolished. I do not think he could be more plain or specific as to his thoughts on the matter.

Your contention that I am either lazy or dishonest is laughable. Your obviously pulling your personal views into this and your attacks on me prove as much. When you bring your personal views into writing history, your personal views do become an issue.

Yes, there were those who held moral feelings against slavery and they were called abolitionists, but they were outliers, not the norm of society. Again, I do not see anywhere in that Lee spells out his condemnation of the position of Abolitionists. Instead, he speaks of his unhappiness in the way they are carrying out their desire to have slavery ended because he fears it will cause violence. He writes:

   "The Consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly set forth, & they must also be
   aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty; for which
   they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of
   a Civil & Servile war."

Again, he could not be more clear in his desire for slavery to end as noted here:

    "While we see the Course of the final abolition of human Slavery is onward, & we give it the
    aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as
    the result in his hands who sees the end."

He disagrees with the Abolitionists not on the issue of slavery, but how it should end. Hopefully, my continued quotations will disprove your theory of my dishonesty or laziness.

Your website and the one-side info you post on it shows your personal feelings and your quotations expose how you let that influence your posting. It also exposes your lack of historical perspective. You stated:

    "No servant, soldier, or citizen that was ever employed by Robert E. Lee could with truth
    charge him with bad treatment. Except for having enslaved them."

Again, it was a norm in those days in the society he grew up to own slaves. Your except for having enslaved them comment notes the fact that you are placing today's morality on the man. Again, I have found no proof here that the man even owned follow this with rubbish stating something about that he holds the slaves as long as he can and how his goal was to make money off them, but you offer no proof. Maybe you should point that insult you aimed at me earlier back towards yourself.

Lee McNulty

--- Libel suit? ((Sep. 21, 2005)) ---

While making some copyedits and adding links to documention, I also commented out the following claim in the section on Lee and his flogging of the Norrises:

Lee sued for libel a newspaper that publicized the event.

The story appeared in newspapers at two different points: with the publication of two letters in the New York Tribune in June 1859, and again with the testimony of Wesley Norris published in 1866. I have found no documentation suggesting that he ever published a public reply, let alone contemplated a suit for libel. Douglas Freeman's biography of Lee (1934) after dismissing the charges out of hand and refusing to directly mention or discuss Wesley Norris's personal testimonty (this much is consistent with its glorification of Lee, and the casual racism and hostility towards abolitionism in history and biography written in the 1930s). Freeman himself refers to the charges twice as a "libel;" but he does not record any suit by Lee, and states that although Lee was indignant about the letters he declined public comment on the stories in both 1859 and 1866 (cf. Vol. I. pp. 390ff and Vol. IV. pp. 257-258). If you can find any documentation of a libel suit that Lee brought feel free to mention it; or if you would prefer to instead discuss Lee's indignance and public silence feel free to do so; or if you prefer to leave the section as-is that would also be fine by me.

Radgeek 20:37, 21 September 2005 (UTC)

Restoration of information about Lee and Custis's slaves (Dec 3-7, 2005)[edit]

On October 23 substantial and documented information about Lee's treatment of Custis's slaves was deleted from the "Lee as slave-owner" section. This was done without explanation or justification by an anonymous user at IP Here is the text that was deleted:

The decision caused dissatisfaction among Custis's slaves, who had been given to understand that they were to be made free as soon as Custis died.
In 1859, three of the slaves—Wesley Norris, his sister Mary, and a cousin of theirs—fled for the North. Two 1859 letters to the New York Tribune (dated June 19 and June 21), and an 1866 interview with Wesley Norris, record that the Norrises were captured a few miles from the Pennsylvania border and returned to Lee, who had them whipped and their lacerated backs rubbed with brine. After the whipping, Lee forced them to go to work in Richmond, Virginia, and then Alabama, where Wesley Norris gained his freedom in January 1863 by escaping through the rebel lines to Union-controlled territory.

I have restored the deleted text since no reason was given for removing it and it states material information about Lee's career as a slave-holder based on three contemporary printed sources. If there is some reason why the text should be edited, or even removed, I'd be glad to hear it. But I would like to hear it before it is simply stricken.

--Radgeek 09:06, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

I edited this to reflect that the two letters referenced were both anonymous and based on hearsay. The letter writer does not claim to have witnessed the events mentioned. Additionally the source of the Wesley Norris interview should be noted. Iwalters 13:48, 7 December 2005 (UTC)

"Scurrilous?" (Dec. 25-29, 2005)[edit]

I removed following absurdly POV passage, recently added by Xenophon, from the section on "Lee as slave owner":

Since the source of this scurrilous material was from institutions inimical to Southerners in general and Lee in particular, there is much doubt about its authenticity. The use of "anonymous letters" should immediately put scholars on their guard.

This is simply POV cruft attached to a factual description of what existing documents say about the events in 1859.

"Scholars" may decide for themselves what they should or should not make of letters which are explicitly identified, in the article, as anonymous, and of personal testimony that corroborates the outlines, but contradicts some of the details, of what they claim. If you have some specific evidence that the Standard or the Tribune were substantially biased against "Southerners in general" (my understanding is that they were actually quite partial to Black Southerners, inter alia) or to "Lee in particular," you should feel free to cite it. (Actually, as far as I know, Lee had never particularly come up in the anti-slavery press at all in 1859, when the Trib letters were published; they certainly would have had no more special reason to object to him than any other Virginia slave-driver.)

If you want to offer some specific reasons as to why these documents should be taken with a grain of salt, then you should feel free to integrating them into the paragraph. If, on the other hand, you have nothing more to add than tacking on your own conclusions about the "scurrilousness" of the charges, or the reliability of anonymous letters and personal interviews that happened to be published in abolitionist papers, then you are simply adding nothing at all to the article other than POV fulminating.

Which is not what WikiPedia is for.

--Radgeek 07:11, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

The following is also POV cruft, and has once again been removed:

The anonymous, uncorroborated, and for the most part third-hand character of these accounts renders them suspect; current consensus among serious historians regards them as abolitionist propaganda.

I appreciate the attempt to tone down User:Xenophon's absurd version. However, again, it is already noted that the 1856 letters are anonymous and third-hand; readers may make of that what they will. Historians can too, but absolutely no evidence whatsoever is provided for the claim that "current consensus among serious historians regards them as abolitionist propaganda." In fact no historians are mentioned at all in order to support this claim. The claim that the accounts (plural) of the whipping are uncorroborated is plainly false on its face. The two letters are directly corroborated by Wesley Norris's personal testimony. Xenophon might still find that testimony untrustworthy. Fine; but describing the letters or the testimony as "uncorroborated" is a plain lie.

As for the "claim" that Lee forced the Norrises to work on the railroad that, again, is a matter of public record. As far as I know, this much is not disputed -- in fact, I think that Lee mentions it in a December 1862 letter to his wife, in which he asks her to have Custis begin a search for the Norrises in order to finally give them their manumission papers; but I can't be sure, because I don't have the letter or any of my books at hand at the moment. In any case, if you do have any source at all that does dispute it, you should feel free to mention it in discussion here. If you don't have a source, maybe you could explain the grounds for your objections to the passage as written before your edits.

Please make some attempt to explain what you are trying to do and discuss it here before adding this sort of thing again.

--Radgeek 05:10, 28 December 2005 (UTC)

POV would be to remove the matter altogether: that we cannot do, since the assertions (not the underlying facts if any) are a matter of historical fact, and germane. But you cannot change the consensus of historians: and between the consensus of professional historians and scholars and that of Wikipedians, guess who I'll go with. Wikipedia purportedly prides itself on sourcing things; why then are you ready to allow unsourced material (anonymous, third-hand letters), just because it's old? An old (anonymous, uncorroborated, third-hand) assertion is every bit as unsourced as if some Wiki editor had made it. So if it's going to be included — and there's no good reason not to (I hold no particular brief for either side) — the least that can, and should, be done, is to alert the reader that the bulk of the accusations is in a pair of anonymous letters, and third-hand (even the anonymous writer does not claim to have been a witness, merely to have it from someone else: the stuff of urban legend).
Now granted that Wikipedia thrives on prurient topics, and this is about the only prurient thing that can be dug up in this particular article, whence the taste for it; but shouldn't we grow up? Bill 12:34, 28 December 2005 (UTC)
1. Please provide evidence for your assertion that the consensus of professional historians and scholars denies the charge that Lee had the Norrises whipped. As it stands this is simply an unsubstantiated assertion.
2. Please explain what you mean by "uncorroborated" in reference to the two anonymous letters from 1859. Under the ordinary use of the word, they are directly corroborated by Wesley Norris's personal testimony seven years later.
3. As has already been explained, the fact that the letters were anonymous. It is simply boorish and POV to repeat this at the end of the column as if WikiPedia readers were not capable of deciding for themselves what to make of anonymous letters later confirmed on some points and contradicted on others by personal testimony.
4. That the letters reported third-hand information is worth noting. However, it is easily mentioned in the description of the letters (for example, "two anonymous letter-writers ... claimed to have heard that Lee had the Norrises whipped ...") without the POV "moral of the story" at the end of the paragraph.
--Radgeek 06:52, 29 December 2005 (UTC)
I'm not interested in pursuing a revert war, so I'm offering some time for cooling off and discussion on Talk before I do anything to the closing passage about the letters and Norris's interview. However, I notice that you also restored the clause claiming that the "assertion" that Lee "hired out" the Norrises on the railroad in Virginia and Alabama is "uncorroborated." Again, this is corroborated; it is a matter of public record; and it is not, as far as I know, disputed by even the most sympathetic biographers of Lee. If you have absolutely any evidence of a dispute over whether or not Lee hired out the Norrises to work on railroad lines in Virginia and Alabama, please provide it before you insert this clause again.

Slavery disputed (Feb. 2006)[edit]

I strongly dispute the accurancy and the neutrality of this article! (unsigned)

I think it's really messy to do all this citation-challenging in the text of the article itself. I have removed the 2 sections in dispute and put them here for people to argue about, achieve consensus, and possibly restore them to the article. I think someone needs to come up with some credible references that apply to the section and do not require footnotes on every phrase of the section. (It's too bad that we have such few Refs overall!) Hal Jespersen 01:27, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
I strongly object to what frankly amounts to vandalism and the insertion of overtly POV editorializing into this section over the past day. I object even more strongly to the removal of these sections, however. Messy though it may be, this is important material about Lee's life that is often selectively discussed or simply denied, and moving it out of the public eye, even for temporary editing, seems to me a mistake.
As for the earlier edits themselves, several of the citation "challenges" are nonsense; others are lies. Frankly I am inclined to simply revert this section to its state as of 03:37 9 February 2006. Comments are interleaved. Please also consult the discussion of similar points in sections above. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
 ===Lee as slave holder===

As a member of the Virginia aristocracy, Lee had lived in close contact with slavery all of his life, but he never held more than about a half-dozen slaves under his own name—in fact, it was not positively known that he had held any slaves at all under his own name until the rediscovery of his 1846 will in the records of Rockbridge County, Virginia [citation needed], which referred to an enslaved woman named Nancy and her children, and provided for their manumission in case of his death. [2] [cited source not the text of the will, and does not document its claims]

This is a lie. The cited source documents its claims as to the 1846 will here: "Lee's Will -- Obtainable -- Clerk's Office, Lexington, Virginia." If you want to check up on it, request a copy of the will from the Clerk's Office in Lexington Virginia nad tell me what you find. If you don't want to, then you haven't got any basis for challenging the cited source, which tells you where to find the evidence. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

However, when Lee's father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis, died in October 1857, Lee came into a considerable amount of property through his wife, and also gained temporary control of a large population of slaves—sixty-three men, women, and children, in all—as the executor of Custis's will. Under the terms of the will, [cited source not the text of the will, and does not document its claims]

(!!) This is an baldfaced lie. The document at [3] is the text of Custis's will, and offers as its source Historic Arlington, By Karl Decker and Angus McSween, pages 80-81 / Leslie S. Smyth, Contributor Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

the slaves were to be freed "in such a manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper", with a maximum of five years from the date of Custis's death provided to arrange for the necessary legal details of manumission.

Custis's will was probated on December 7, 1857. [citation needed] Although Robert

The date of probate is offered at [4] and sourced to Freeman's biography of Lee. I don't see that it's necessary to repeat the citation link here but if you really want it, it can be added. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Lee Randolph, Right Reverend William Meade, and George Washington Peter were named as executors along with Robert E. Lee, the other three men failed to qualify, leaving Lee with the sole responsibility of settling the estate, and with exclusive control over all of Custis's former slaves. [citation needed]

Again, see [5] and Freeman. See also the Custis will [6] for the names of the original executors. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Although the will provided for the slaves to be emancipated "in such a manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper" [citation needed],

This is in the text of the will [7]. Include the link if you want. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Lee found himself in need of funds to pay his father-in-law's debts and repair the properties he had inherited [citation needed]; he decided to make money during the five years that the will had allowed him control of the slaves by hiring them out to neighboring plantations and to eastern Virginia (where there were more jobs to be found)[citation needed]. The decision caused dissatisfaction among Custis's slaves, who had been given to understand that they were to be made free as soon as Custis died.[citation needed]

See Norris's testimony and Freeman's biography, Ch. XXII, esp. p. 381ff and p. 390. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

In 1859, three of the slaves—Wesley Norris, his sister Mary, and a cousin of theirs—fled for the North, but were captured a few miles from the Pennsylvania border and forced to return to Arlington. [citation needed]

This is becoming absurd. Not even sympathetic Lee biographers deny that the slaves fled for the North and were captured in Maryland. In addition to Norris's testimony and the two letters to the Trib, see Freeman, p. 390. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

The authors of two anonymous letters to the New York Tribune (dated June 19, 1859 and June 21, 1859), claimed to have heard that Lee had had the Norrises whipped (verification of anonymous reports needed);

I have no idea what this means. The article expressly states that these were anonymous letter writers claiming to have heard something about Lee. Given that that's all the article says, what needs to be "verified" is not that they told the truth, but that this is what they said. Which you can do by looking up the letters section of the Trib from June 19 and June 21, 1859. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

in an 1866 interview, printed in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, [citation needed]

The source for this claim is the National Anti-Slavery Standard of April 14, 1866. You can look it up, you know. It's also reprinted in John W. Blassingame (ed.): Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, and Interviews, and Autobiographies. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press (ISBN 0807102733). 467-468. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Wesley Norris himself stated that Lee had them whipped and their lacerated backs rubbed with brine. (hearsay: verification Norris' claim needed)

The article states only that Wesley Norris stated this. Again, you do not need to verify whether or not Norris's testimony was true in order to report that this was what his testimony was. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Lee sent the Norrises to work on the railroad in Richmond and Alabama.[citation needed] Wesley Norris gained his freedom in January 1863 by slipping through the Confederate lines near Richmond, Virginia to Union-controlled territory. [citation needed]

See Norris's testimony. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Because the source of this material is from institutions inimical to Southerners in general and Lee in particular, and based on anonymous letters and hearsay, there is much doubt about its authenticity.

This is absurd POV editorializing. Readers can make their own decisions about how they should react to the sources of publication, the use of anonymous letters, or the use of first-person testimony (not hearsay; the term is irrelevant outside of a legal context, and you're misusing it anyway). The claim that the "institutions" that this "material is from" are "inimical to Southerners in general and Lee in particular" is nothing more than an unsupported bald editorial pronouncement. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Lee released Custis's other slaves after the end of the five year period in the winter of 1862 [citation needed].

See Freeman, p. 476, [8], and the end of Chapter IV in Robert E. Lee Jr., Recollections and Letters of General Lee (you can find the passage by searching in the text for "One marked characteristic of my father was his habit of attending to all business matters promptly"). Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

This took place after Lee had already assumed command of the Confederate army of Northern Virgina, ostensibly and putatively to fight for slavery, when in fact he by that time had no slaves, and had none for the rest of his life.

More editorializing, along with a weak attempt at original research (through insinuation and speculation) on Lee's views about slavery during the war. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
 === Lee's views on slavery ===

Since the end of the Civil War, it has often been suggested that Lee was in some sense opposed to slavery. In the period following the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lee became a central figure in the Lost Cause interpretation of the war, and as succeeding generations came to look on slavery as a terrible wrong, the idea that Lee had always somehow opposed it helped maintain his stature as a symbol of Southern honor and national reconciliation.

The most common lines of evidence cited in favor of the claim that Lee opposed slavery are: (1) the manumission of Custis's slaves, as discussed above; (2) Lee's 1856 letter to his wife in which he states that "There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil," and (3) his support, towards the end of the Civil War, for enrolling slaves in the Confederate army, with manumission offered as an eventual reward for good service. Lee gave his public support to this idea two weeks before the war ended, and too late to do any good for the Confederacy.[citation needed]

Critics object that these interpretations mischaracterize Lee's actual statements and actions to imply that he opposed slavery. The manumission of Custis's slaves, for example, is often mischaracterized as Lee's own decision, rather than a requirement of Custis's will. [citation needed] Similarly, Lee's letter to his wife is being misrepresented by selective quotation; while Lee does describe slavery as an evil, he immediately goes on to write:

It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.

— Robert E. Lee, to Mary Anne Lee, December 27, 1856

In fact, the main topic [citation needed] of the letter—a comment in approval of a speech by President Franklin Pierce&mdash [citation needed];is not the evils of slavery at all [citation needed], but rather a condemnation of abolitionism,

What the hell? The source for the claim that the main topic of the letter is a condemnation of abolitionism is the text of the letter. Lee explicitly sets the evils of slavery to one side, saying "It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages," and thus that he moves on to another topic, viz. whether or not people should try to end the institution of slavery now. (He argues that they shouldn't, andp raises Pierce's statements against abolitionist agitation.) Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
which Lee describes as "irresponsible & unaccountable" and an "evil Course". [letter says no such thing. Readers are urged to read the whole letter to obtain the whole of Lee's thoughts, thoughts not of a rabid racist or enthusiastic supporter of slavery. The source cited is only part of the letter: [9]
A lie accomplished through overt editorializing. If you don't think that the letter says any such thing, then edit the article so as to remove the claim that it does. The problem is that it does say this. Thus Lee: "The Consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable" and "Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?" As for whether Lee's views are racist or pro-slavery, again, you can let the reader read Lee's words and decide for themselves. Radgeek 05:18, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Finally, critics [citation needed] charge that whatever private reservations Lee may have held about slavery, he participated fully in the slave system, [citation needed] and does not appear to have publicly challenged it in any way [citation needed]until the partial and conditional plan, under increasingly desperate military circumstances, to arm slaves. [citation needed]


After that lengthy discussion of the slavery issues, are we ready to remove the POV sticker from this article? If not, please enumberate reasons here. Hal Jespersen 20:40, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

slavery: let doubts be expressed[edit]

Given the debate and contest surrounding the sections on Lee and slavery, the only fair way to resolve this issue is to allow the questioning of neutrality and sources stand, and allow alternative points of view be stated. I am opposed to removing what has been written, and I am also opposed to removing alternative points of view that have been added.

It is a fact that some of the sources cited do not say what the writer claims they say, or are sources that are poisoned wells, or are hearsay and anonymous, or are simply outdated and need collaboration from more recent sources – and prayerfully from sources that are not Communist, Cultural Marxist, are gleefully advocating the genocide of white Southerners, Backcountry “Scots-Irish, and Celts in general . Persons who wish to maintain a point of view need to get off their rears and away from their computer screens, and get to a library and do serious research. That obliges me as well, and I’ll take a look at Freeman, a scholarly edition of Lee’s letters, and more recent studies of the man.

Also there needs to be a serious study of the Virginia Cavaliers and their culture. The only really worthy study that I know is in David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed, and even that study needs more depth. The passages in the same book on the New England Puritans should resolve all doubts as to that group’s lust for genocide.

Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg 17 ii A.D. 2006 12:08 hrs

I strongly object to the following attempt to editorialize on sources recently added in the reference section:
^ George Washington Parke Custis's Will Memo nota bene: Source relies on aanonymous source, and is therefore questionable.
The source concerning Lee's slave Nancy is not "anonymous." It is Robert E. Lee's 1846 will, explicitly listed "Lee's Will -- Obtainable -- Clerk's Office, Lexington, Virginia," and the page points also to page 371 of Freeman's biography (see the bottom of the page, where it says "Source: ..."; cf. [*.html#note38 note 38 on Vol I. Chapter 21). As a general note, it may be fair to describe the further sources that a given source relies upon if this may be of interest. (The problem here is that you've simply got the facts about the further sources wrong.) However, readers are quite capable of determining for themselves whether the facts make the source "questionable" or not. Your attempts to lead them by the nose here are a clear violation of WP:NPOV.
^ Freeman 1934, Vol. I, p. 381. Nota bene: source is 72 years old. Collaboration from recent research needed.
I think you mean "corroboration." In any case, readers who have mastered subtraction are quite capable of determining for themselves that a book written in 1934 is in fact 72 years old, and quite capable of deciding for themselves whether that is a problem or not.
^ Testimony of Wesley Norris (1866) Nota bene: source cited is the will of Custis, not the testamony of Norris.
This is the result of what seems to be a cut-and-paste error by Hlj (cf. the diff) when moving the references from inline links down to their own section. The correct source to cite for the claim that the slaves were given to understand that they'd be free as soon as Custis died is Norris's testimony, not Custis's will, which of course says only what Custis set down as his last will and testament, not the understanding thereof that he gave out to his slaves. The proper link is [10], which reprints the testimony from the National Anti-Slavery Standard of April 14, 1866, which in turn was reprinted in John W. Blassingame (ed.): Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, and Interviews, and Autobiographies. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press (ISBN 0807102733). 467-468 (as noted on the web page). I'm going to restore the correct link and make the source more explicit.
^ Anonymous letter to New York Tribune, June 19, 1859 Nota bene: source cited is not the New York Tribune itself, and because it is anonymous, it needs collaboration from sources not anonymous.
^ Anonymous letter to New York Tribune June 21, 1859 Nota bene: source cited is not the New York Tribune itself, and because it is anonymous, it needs collaboration from sources not anonymous.
Again, you mean "corroboration." Readers are capable of determining what department of the newspaper a "letter" was printed in; the fact that it's anonymous is explicitly mentioned. What readers will make of that when it comes to the credibility of the letter is up to them, not you.
^ Testimony of Wesley Norris (1866) Nota bene: source cited is the will of Custis, not the testamony of Norris.
See above. Also, you mean "testimony."
^ Ibid
^ Freeman 1934, Vol. I, p. 476.
^ Lee's 1856 letter to his wife Nota bene: source not scholarly and on an prejudiced website. Quotation from a scholarly edition of Lee's letter's needed.
The "source" is a collection of mostly public-domain texts called the Fair Use Repository. If you check Freeman's biography at pp. 371-372 and compare, you'll find that the text of the letter at the Fair Use site agrees verbatim with it. I am baffled by what you think the "prejudice" involved in a collection of verbatim reprinted texts is, and in any case object to the POV editorializing. Of course, a reference to printed editions of Lee's letters would be helpful here, but there's no reason to clutter up the Reference section with this editorial nannying before this has been done.
^ Ibid
^ Freeman 1934, Vol. I, pp. 394-395.
^ Ibid, pp. 403-404.

I've removed the editorializing and will be editing the source list to correct a couple of copy-and-paste errors shortly. Radgeek 17:56, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Folks, I've gone to an enormous amount of trouble to put Freeman online, who is the immediate secondary source of most of this stuff — might as well use him. For example, the 1856 letter to wife is onsite, at [11]. Now Freeman worshipped Lee, OK: but at least was enough of a scholar that we can trust him to (a) have seen the sources himself; (b) reproduce them correctly — although he may excerpt with bias. . . . Bill 18:07, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
Bill, I appreciate the work you've done and have found it a valuable source (for all its limitations) in writing the article. I've been removing links to the Freeman online following the example of User:Hlj, who I think might have been concerned about copyright issues, since the book was published in 1934. Since then I've checked your online copy and found that you seem to have confirmed that it's in the public domain; given that, I think that the links to the online copy are a valuable addition and that all the footnoted and inline references to Freeman could and should be linked to the online copy. I encourage you to make the edit yourself, or will do so myself when I have time later today, if there aren't any objections. (So, y'all, if there are objections to adding the hyperlinks, make 'em now...) Radgeek 18:48, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
I don't think I removed any Freeman links, I just moved them to the Notes section. I consider the use of embedded, unidentified URLs in the main body of the article (vs the Notes, Refs, or External links sections) to be sloppy writing. Since we have the tools to put in real footnotes, let's do so by identifying the source clearly, not just adding a blind link. (One reason for this besides courtesy to the reader is that I've found that online texts of sources sometimes change locations, so not identifying what the book is leaves the reader high and dry if the link moves.) BTW, I also do not think it is necessary to footnote every phrase in a paragraph or to provide multiple footnotes to the same source in that or nearby paragraphs. Hal Jespersen 01:44, 18 February 2006 (UTC)
The following overt POV editorializing has also been removed.
Lee's remarks reflect a legitimate fear of the Puritanical tradition of New England, its radical intolerance, and its willingness to use violence against its enemies, as in the Salem witch burnings. Lee's views of New England were endorsed by a New Englander, Henry Adams, that the principle pleasure of New England was hate, "of oneself if no better victim offered." (The Education of Henry Adams, chapter 1). Lee's fears were confirmed by the genocide of the Southern people attempted by Sherman under Lincoln's orders. Lee also had good reasons for thinking that slavery eventually would and could be resolved and abolished without violence, given that every other country in the Nineteenth Century that abolished slavery, did so peacefully. Whatever Lee's views of slavery may have been, the record in undeniable that he opposed slavery, and that he freed his slaves following the letter of Custus' will.
I consider Lincoln and Sherman to have been war criminals of the first order, but the description of Sherman's march as "the genocide of the Southern people attempted by Sherman under Lincoln's orders" is obvious and overt POV. The claim that "every other country in the Nineteenth Century that abolished slavery, did so peacefully" is a plain falsehood; cf. Haitian Revolution (slavery was abolished in Santo Domingo by an invasion in 1801 and Napoleon's efforts to reconquer the island and reestablish slavery were not finished until 1804. Cf. History of Jamaica for the direct contribution of the 1831 slave uprising to the Parliamentary abolition of slavery in the British colonies. In any case of Lee had the historical precedent of the British and other colonies in mind, he nowhere mentions it in his letter; the connection is your own invention. The claim that "the record [is] undeniable that he opposed slavery" is empty peacock language; it's also POV editorializing in the extreme. Lee explicitly characterizes slavery it in his letter as a necessary evil for the "instruction" of the African race. Whether that amounts to "opposing" slavery or not is at the least a matter for interpretation. (Jefferson considered the American Revolution a necessary evil; he would have preferred a peaceful separation from Britain. It does not follow from this that Jefferson opposed the American revolution.) The characterization of the slaves under his control as executor of Custis's will as "his" is factually incorrect: the slaves were not in Lee's own name, and were merely under his control as executor of the Custis estate temporarily pursuant to the terms of the will. That Lee did at last manumit them in December 1862 (which was not in compliance with the terms of the will, being a couple months over the deadline of five years set by Custis--although I don't think this point needs to be highlighted) is already expressly stated in the passage above, and (being merely a matter of complying with his express legal obligations) does not bear on the question of Lee's views on the institution of slavery. Radgeek 18:34, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Three points: 1. Regarding the testimony of Lee's former slave, one can hardly consider such testimony from a "neutral point of view", regardless of what source in which it appears. A serious historian will need other sources before such claims can be counted as fact, and prayerfully sources not found in a book three quarters of a century old. Until such sources are found, that Lee supposed whipped and rubbed in brine cannot be presented as a fact. It is also a simple contraction to say that all of Custis' slaves were freed in 1862, and that another escaped slavery in 1863. Given this contradiction, the sources regarding this slave and regarding the circumstances of the execution of the Custis' will, are to be judged falsum in uno, falsum in omnibus.

First, as a personal note, you need to read more carefully if you intend to offer commentary on how the article is written and for that commentary to be taken seriously. There is no contradiction at all: the article expressly states that Lee released Custis's other slaves (pursuant to the terms of the will) at the end of 1862. Norris escaped in January 1863 after years working on the railroad in the Deep South, where Lee had difficulty finding him. [citation needed]
Second, the article does not report Norris's claims about being whipped as fact. It reports as fact what is undisputed even by extremely sympathetic biographers such as Freeman: that the Norrises did run away and were recaptured. As to the whipping, it states (1) that the two letters to the Trib claimed to have heard about it in 1856, and (2) that Norris stated that he'd been whipped and his back rubbed with brine in 1866. In order to present these statements you do not need to verify that they are true; you need only verify that these are, in fact, the statements that were made. Which you can accomplish by looking up the National Anti-Slavery Standard of April 14, 1866 and the New York Tribune of June 19 and June 21, 1856. (These are available on microfilm or microfiche at many libraries; you can find copies of the Trib letters in Freeman and a copy of Norris's testimony in Blassingame's Slave Testimony, ISBN 0807102733).
Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

2. Lee's letter is quoted in such a way as to misconstrue what the letter actually says. The letter with the omitted part restored:

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow, is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years, to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even among Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human Slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences; & with whom two thousand years are but as a Single day. Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others (emphasis added)

By saying "Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity", Lee is disagreeing not with abolition and emancipation, but with the manner of abolition and emancipation. The boldfaced passages clearly show the thought of someone who is opposed to slavery, who is sure that it will come to and end, and who prays for the same. It cannot be said that the letter's main argument is an attack on abolitionism (if for no other reason the letter itself supports slow, but sure, abolition), nor as just an endorsement of a president's views. In short, quote please the letter in its whole, and let readers draw their own conclusions, rather than leading readers by the nose by omitting key text.

Lee explicitly singles out "the Abolitionist" by name, and "the Systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South" by description, as the specific targets of his criticism in the letter. If you want to invent a new, idiosyncratic meaning of the word "abolitionist" which includes people who explicitly considered slavery a necessary evil and opposed all political agitation aimed at bringing about its eventual abolition (a very common view among white slavers in the South earlier in the 19th century, before the rise of Calhoun and then Fitzhugh)[citation needed] then you can count Lee as an "abolitionist" (indeed, the Old South would have been full of such "abolitionists," an unexpectedly happy result for the AAS!). But that's not what Lee would have called himself and it's not what the word "abolitionist" means among those of us speaking the English language.
I have no objection in principle to quoting the letter in full, if its length does not make it clog up the article. I fear, however, that in fact it will.
I do have an objection in principle to any attempt to strike the shorter specific quotations of Lee criticizing abolitionism, that slavery is a worse evil for the slavers than the enslaved, and stating that the continuing enslavement of Blacks is "necessary for their instruction as a race." These passages need to be specifically highlighted because they have been specifically ignored (in the case of some of the references to Northern abolitionists, they were even bowdlerized from 19th century editions of Lee's letters)[citation needed]; the question of which parts of his letter are commonly cited and which are commonly dropped is therefore both interesting and relevant in considering Lee's views on slavery. Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Lee's fears of puritanical intolerance leading to violence were well founded, and such violent intolerance indeed the policy of Sherman and Lincoln.

Whether they were or not is at best a side issue to the topic of the section (Lee's views on slavery, not on "puritanism.") Asserting this very specific and controversial theory about the origins of the Civil War as if it were plain fact is also a clear violation of WP:NPOV.

3. The following societies abolished slavery peacefully: Argentina 1813 Colombia 1814 Chle 1823 Central America 1824 Mexico 1829 Bolivia 1831 Uruguay 1842 French and Danish Colonies 1848 Ecuador 1851 Peru 1854 Venezuela 1854 Dutch colonies 1863 Brazil 1871-1878 Puerto Rico 1873 Cuba 1886.

By 1840, all the slaves in the British Empire had been freed, overwhelming by peaceful means. The only violent slave uprising occured in Haiti in 1794. Source: Thomas DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln (Roseville, CA, Prima Publishing) pp. 47-53. DiLorenzo quotes from Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economic of American Negro Slavery (New York: Norton, 1974) esp. pp. 33-34.

You are mistaken here on three points of detail. First, it is wildly false to claim that the Haitian Revolution was the only violent slave uprising. There were continuous slave uprisings throughout the American South and the Caribbean (and New York as well, prior to the abolition of slavery there), including but not limited to Gabriel Prosser's, Denmark Vesey's, Nat Turner's, the Haitian Revolution, the Jamaican uprising in 1831, a substantial component of the Seminole Wars, etc. Maybe you mean that the Haitian Revolution was the only large-scale successful slave uprising? Second, it is inaccurate to claim that emancipation in the British colonies was accomplished by "peaceful" means. A massive slave uprising in Jamaica, as I mentioned directly above, directly impacted the Parliamentary decision. Third, it is inaccurate to claim that the Haitian Revolution "occurred in 1794." The slave uprising (one of many components in a complicated series of revolutionary movements, counterrevolutionary movements, uprisings, civil war, etc.) began in August 1791 and lasted until years into the 19th century; Napeleon sent forces to try to recapture the island and reinstate race slavery which were not finally defeated until 1804. The uprising also extended to the invasion of neighboring Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) by Toussaint L'Overture in 1801, where they used force to emancipate the slaves in the Spanish colony. Third, the characterization of emancipation in several of the Latin American countries as "peaceful" is inaccurate. Emancipation in South America repeatedly happened in the midst of the wars for independence (e.g. in Mexico, and in South America by Bolivar and O'Higgins) and freed slaves were directly enlisted as military allies against the Spanish colonialists. I intend this as a personal note more than commentary on the best way to edit the article, incidentally; because this material is simply not relevant to the section on Lee's views on slavery. If he has the past example of gradual legislative emancipation where it did happen in mind, he does not mention it in the article, and indeed suggests that the eventual end of slavery would come about only in God's own time, mentioning that "with whom two thousand years are but as a Single day," and specifically opposing all political efforts to hasten its end ("we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who sees the end," meant as an argument against abolitionist agitation). Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

So Lee might have had good reasons for being obtimistic about the eventual and peaceful abolition of slavery.

Lee "might" have had good reasons for any number of things. However, you need a better source than your own speculation for introducing this editorial note. Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

And if this is conjecture and "editorializing", then so is the attempt to present the testimony of Lee's slave as fact.

See above. The testimony of Wesley Norris is presented only as his testimony, not as a fact. Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

By the way. DiLorenzo is quite good on the real reasons for Lincoln's War.

The reasons for Lincoln's war are not at issue. The article is about Lee and the section about the views he expressed on slavery in 1856. Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

DiLorenzo also shows that however wanting Lee's views on slavery may have been, they were a far sight better than Lincoln's.

Friedrich von Hardenberg 18 ii 06 01:01hrs

The merits and demerits of Lincoln's racial politics are not at issue either. Radgeek 10:54, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

............. It is the rejoinder above that is wildly false about the peaceful emancipation of slavey, and, as in the article, he who has made the rejoinder quotes not a single scholar source written by a professional historian (as opposed to a report for a Richmond paper). I have quoted two sources, DiLorenzo and Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman -- none of whom is a reporter for a Richmond paper. The fact remains, there were two -- and only two -- examples of a war as the mode, manner, means, and method to remove slavery: Haiti and Lincoln's war. That a slave uprising may have occasioned legislation is not at doubt. (DiLorenzo discusses this in detail, as well as the slave revolts in Latin America). No such legislation, or an attempt to pay slaveholders, was attempted by Lincoln. What was advocated by the AAS, attempted, and done by Lincoln's, was the extreme violence that certains kinds of "abolitionists" proposed (e.g. John Brown); and this is Lee feared, and this is the purport of his letter.

It is sophistry to argue on one hand that Norris' testimony isn't fact, then on the other to uses it to buttress a case of Lee's not opposing slavery. It is also sophistry to play word games with abolition. Alright, were abolition not the right word, then how about Lee's clearly stated opposition to slavery, his confidence that it would end, and his prayers for the same. And the Almighty, the agent for Lee, works in various ways, some secular and non-supernatural. Lee might be quilty of doing nothing, but not of supporting slavery.

It is also sophistry and name-calling to call what is speculation --granted, but critical and rational speculation, and based on historical fact -- as "editorizing".

Finally, if one wants to avoid editorializing, it is sophistry not support a case with sound evidence: three documents, the authenticity and veracity of which is not demonstrated, and one source ("source" = the critical judgement of professional historicans who can offer bona fides to their person and credentials to there competence) -- a newspaper reporter, and his own editorializing --, doesn't a scholarly article make. Indeed if the article's sections on Lee's views on slavery is scholarship, then I'm a master of American orthography and English diction! A quick check of my local university library's card catalogue shows over 100 works on Lee's life, many of which written long after A.D. 1934, and many after the newspaper reporter Freeman had taken the ferry in A.D. 1953.

Allow an excurse on historical method. One bases historical judgement on (1) documents and (2) critical evaluation of those documents by a professional. As to the first, (1) document must appear in more critical sources than an internet website, which all readers of Wikepedia know, are not particularly trustworthy. (2) If a critical, scholarly source is cited (Blassingame), then some way must be offered to show that the webpage quotes the source correctly. (3) The scholarly sources must state where the document is deposited, so that it might be judged ad oculos by professional historians. Second, documents must be examined, evaluated, and judged by professional historians who have devoted their careers to a particular historical figure.

Now the writer of the article and my opponent offer only three documents (Custis's will, Lee's letter, and Norris' "testimony"). We are told only the place of the depositing of the document for Custis's will. It is asserted that the newspapers in question are on microfilm, without proof. All the rest of the requirements for scholarly historical method are missing. And indeed the three documents are simply a way to refer to the one and single source; and that, my friends, is Douglas Southall Freeman. Readers themselves can judge the bona fides, professional credentials, and professional activity of Freeman, the newspaper reporter, in the Wikepedia article on him.

The fact of the matter is that the writer and my opponent have done no research at all. They have simple parked their posteriors in front of their computer screens and gone Googling. Were the article and my opponent to present what they have said in a term paper, I would have reward them the grade that resembles the shape of an egg. My opponent has decided to remove my red ink markings of the writer's views. Very well, but the paucity of demonstration remains.

The Wikepedia -- a source turned to many humble folk for their first information -- ought to be made of serious and careful scholarship -- or otherwise it's just about as reliable as People Magazine. And it is especially obligatory for an iconoclast, when dealing with an important and controversial figure in American history, to offer serious and manifold substantial of his claims. Until then, Caveat Lector!

Readers should be careful to note that I am not questioning the thesis of the article or of my opponent. Nor I am suggesting the Lee is a plaster saint. The point-of-view presented regarding Lee and slavery may indeed be correct. All I am saying is that we cannot yet write Q.E.D. after what appears in article. And until we can, it would be best that this material be omitted.

Well, "put up or shut up" obliges me as well as others. Turn back to the Lee article come say May 2006, and maybe readers will read some scholarhip found not by Googling the Net.

I ask my opponent to let my statement here stand uninterrupted by his editorializing, as I have his, and to put his rejoinder below, rather than in between. People who interrupt might be partisans pumping a cause, rather than dispassionate searches for truth. Readers can themselves judge who is offering a respectful aid to them.

-- Friedrich von Hardenberg

Friedrich, it's been a while since you posted this and I haven't responded. Partly due to lack of time and partly because it's more important to me to work on the article than it is to respond to your claims of "sophistry" on my part. I will, however, offer a few remarks for the benefit of those looking in.
1. Of course this article, like any other WikiPedia article, should rely on as many credible or relevant sources as possible to ensure NPOV, and where secondary sources are being used up-to-date ones are especially good. As you've noted elsewhere, I've added material from Fellman's recent biography of Lee and I intend to do more work along these lines in the future. However, you have offered absolutely no reasons at all to suggest that Freeman's biography is unreliable on sources of documented detail; all you've done is pointed to the age of it and to the fact that Freeman worked as a newspaper reporter. Neither of these is salient to the question of whether he reliably reprints the contents of various letters or accurately recounts documented facts about Lee's slave-driving. If you have some reason to raise doubts about some particular (e.g. documentary evidence that contradicts Freeman's statements), then you should raise that, but I can't think of any reasonable principled standards you might be holding him to that would justify your attempts to simply write the source off as useless or less than credible. As a personal note, your repeated cracks about going to the library rather than using Google are disrespectful in the extreme to Bill Thayer, who is responsible for many of the citations from Freeman's book in this article, and who personally spent many hours transcribing the printed book by hand so that it would be available to those Google searches that you're making cracks about. He has gone to the library, and the availability of Freeman's book online is a direct result.
2. I'm not particularly interested in debating the history of emancipation with you; I did not cite references because most of what you need to know you can find out just by following the links within WikiPedia and because the primary goal here is not to debate the history of emancipation, but rather to hash out the best way to discuss Robert E. Lee's views on slavery. Lee made no reference at all to the progress of legal emancipation elsewhere in the Americas in his letter, and at least some of his comments indicate that he was actively opposed to agitation for similar schemes in the United States. There is, therefore, no textual basis for suggesting that "maybe" this is what he had in mind in the section on Lee's views on slavery.
3. It is not my job to prove to you that a website reprinting material from Blassingame, or Freeman, or the New York Trib, or anywhere else, accurately reprints the material it claims to. How would I prove it to you? I could send you images of the scanned material, but scanned documents can be forged no less than websites claiming to reprint their contents. The sources from which this material is reprinted are explicitly given, and if you are dubious about their accuracy it is your responsibility to look the material up and check for yourself. Finding Blassingame's or Freeman's book in the library is a basic research skill that you need to possess if you want to participate in the editing process here, and -- I might add -- so is finding a microfilm copy of periodicals such as the New York Daily Tribune. (I can, if you want, produce scanned images of the pages from the Daily Trib; here's how I got them: I went to the local University library, looked up "New York Tribune" in their computer catalog, finding that they had the run from 1859 I went and got it from the Newspapers section of the microfilm drawers, and used the microfilm reader to find and print out the relevant material from the June 24th, 1859 Tribune.) If you do not understand how to find documents like this, then I think you ought to be embarassed to lecture others about "historical method." This is something that you ought to understand well enough to find for yourself without my step-by-step instructions, particularly in the case of a major paper like the Trib.
4. It is not true, incidentally, that all the sources referred back to Freeman before the material from Fellman was added. The verbatim text of Custis's will is linked to and its location of deposit given. The testimony of Wesley Norris is not mentioned by Freeman at all, and is reprinted from John Blassingame's collection of slave testimony; he got it from the Nat'l Anti-Slavery Standard. (There appears ot have been a similar or identical story in the Baltimore American during the same year; when and if I get my hands on it, I'll add some detail about that when I do.) Blassingame is a respected scholar with several books and research projects about the history of slavery and the anti-slavery movement. Having personally done the work of finding and transcribing from Blassingame's book the a full record of Norris's testimony, I don't appreciate the claim that I've done nothing but "Googling" in locating information cited in this article.
5. I am not playing word games with the word "abolition." The word in question is "abolitionism." You claimed that "It cannot be said that the letter's main argument is an attack on abolitionism;" I pointed out that Lee singles out "the Abolitionist" for criticism by name. Thus, it can clearly be said that Lee is attacking abolitionist; Lee himself says that he is. If you want to invent new meanings for "abolitionism" that include views that treat slavery as a "necessary evil" you can do so, but this being the English Wikipedia, and the article on Lee's views, you can't demand that your idiosyncratic usages be used in preference to the standard meaning of the term or Lee's own explicit usage.
6. You claim, without providing examples, that Norris's testimony about his treatment at the hands of Lee is presented as fact while I simultaneously claim that it is being presented only as testimony. You accuse me of "sophistry" for this. But I cannot find anywhere in either the section on "Lee as slave holder" or "Lee's views on slavery" that presents any controversial part of Norris's testimony as fact. Norris is not even mentioned in the latter section. Could you give an example of what you mean?
7. I've been asked for citations for a few of the specific claims I made above. To wit:
  • "Norris escaped in January 1863 after years working on the railroad in the Deep South, where Lee had difficulty finding him." Source: See Norris's testimony. He states that he was sent to work on the railroad in Virginia, then Alabama (far away from where Lee could keep track of him easily), then slipped across Union lines after being returned to Virginia. In Recollections and Letters of General Lee, Lee's son offers some undated excerpts from a letter after the deed of manumission had been filed (thus very late in December 1862 at the earliest) in which Lee refers indirectly to the situation: "I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and returned it to him. I perceived that John Sawyer and James's names, among the Arlington people, had been omitted, and inserted them. I fear there are others among the White House lot which I did not discover. As to the attacks of the Northern papers, I do not mind them, and do not think it wise to make the publication you suggest. If all the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled to their freedom and I wish to give it to them. Those that have been carried away, I hope are free and happy; I cannot get their papers to them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit them" [12] (plain text format; you can find the passage by searching for some representative selection from it). You can find more in Lee's letters home from late 1862 and early 1863 if you have them handy.
  • "... If you want to invent a new, idiosyncratic meaning of the word "abolitionist" which includes people who explicitly considered slavery a necessary evil and opposed all political agitation aimed at bringing about its eventual abolition (a very common view among white slavers in the South earlier in the 19th century, before the rise of Calhoun and then Fitzhugh), ..." Source: The shift from "necessary evil" to "positive good" defenses of slavery in the South is a pretty well-known and well-documented fact about the history of Southern slavery. For some background on the shift, you might see any number of collections of pro-slavery thought; e.g. Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South, A Brief History with Documents (ed. Paul Finkelman, ISBN 0312133278); Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (one of paradigmatic examples of the "necessary evil" defense); and Calhoun's infamous 1837 speech on the Senate floor, "Slavery a Positive Good". Christopher Curtis's "Can These Be The Sons of Their Fathers?" The Defense of Slavery in Virginia, 1831-1832 is a recent thesis on a turning point in the debate in Virginia, and provides a good bibliographic trail that you can follow if you're interested.
  • "I do have an objection in principle to any attempt to strike the shorter specific quotations of Lee criticizing abolitionism, that slavery is a worse evil for the slavers than the enslaved, and stating that the continuing enslavement of Blacks is "necessary for their instruction as a race." These passages need to be specifically highlighted because they have been specifically ignored (in the case of some of the references to Northern abolitionists, they were even bowdlerized from 19th century editions of Lee's letters) ..." Source: See Freeman, Vol. I. Chap. 21, pp. 371-373 and Freeman, Vol. I. Chap. 21, n. 42: "Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 27, 1856; Lee MSS., Library of Congress. A very defective version, from which are omitted Lee's most severe references to Northern abolitionists, appeared in Jones, L. and L., 82‑83." The edition Freeman is referring to is J. William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee, Soldier and Man. If you don't believe Freeman, I guess you'll have to go check it out for yourself from the Library of Congress. I made one mistake here: Life and Letters was published in 1906, not in the 19th century. My mistake.
Radgeek 05:24, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

Caveat Lector[edit]

28ii06 In our debate over Lee and slavery, two events have happened that simply delight me. The first: I received notice, when logging on to the Lee article, that I might be blocked from making contributions because of my ostensible, alleged, and putative “vandalism”. He who has made this charge and this threat is a certain “bill”. This “bill” has made no way to reply to him save in the manner that I am using now, unlike my honourable opponent “Radgeek”, who is to be applauded for being approachable via email.

Point of personal privilege, so to speak. I have a suspicion I'm the "Bill" you refer to; I do remember telling someone quietly, to expect that they would be labeled a vandal for what they were saying. It's hard to say this was you, since your user page is empty, and you have a single contribution (this one) under this particular user name of yours. If it is me being referred to, though, (a) you completely misunderstood what I wrote: I am about 95% in agreement with you and merely warned you that you were rocking the boat, that people are fractious and rude around here, which you yourself promptly proved. I most emphatically did not threaten you with a blessed thing. (b) I'm one of the most transparent people around here, not hiding under absurd aliases like GeekThis or V0nThat: I use my own name, and on my Wikipedia user page, provide links to my website (with my e-mail address).
The stupidity you evinced in writing the preceding is a pity, because your points that follow, in addition to being an entertaining read, are right on target. Bill 12:19, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Well, I am just tickled pink by “bill”, for has proven what I have long suspected: that the Wikipedia, just like the “main-stream” media and our Potemkin villages of higher learning, is nothing more and nothing less than another front organization, masking itself behind “neutral point of view”, for (to rescript Tom Wolfe) holy-roller-foot-washing-slain-in-the-spirit- speaking-in-tongues-bible-thumping-latter-day-primitive Communists – whom we shall call “Cultural Marxists” for short. Such folk call themselves “liberals”. How I wish they were! We don’t have real Liberals anymore – people who believe in free speech, fair play, presenting and listening to both sides, and debate and discussion, before working toward consensus. Sad, really. Anyway, thanks “bill”, for making me happier!

Of course, what I have offered isn’t vandalism. I fact, I haven’t offered anything at all. I am not a politician. I am not supporting a program or crusading for a cause. It might be true that Lee thought slavery the best think since sliced bread and was a brutal thug to boot. What I am doing, instead, is to resist a pretense and to expose a fallacy. The charge against Lee remains unproven by honest scholarship. And until it is, I remains only – to coin a phrase -- “editorializing” speculation.

The second event that delights me is that the honorable gentleman “Radgeek” has begun to back his claims, regarding Lee and slavery, with an attempt to go to the bookshelves and sit in the carrel and offer scholarly substantiation -- this by his using Feldman. Let me be the first to urge the honorable gentleman to continue the work that he has now begun, although not finished, to put an end to what he claims to be a myth. Historical myth dies hard, especially when it is used to prop up a regime, a party, a reputation, and a dogma. That the Maya Indians and the South Sea Islanders were the quintessence of the peaceful loving compassionate noble savage and were only corrupted by vile Europeans, that Simon of Cyrene and Hannibal were black, that founder of the Christian religion married St. Mary Magdalen, that there are enough relics of the True Cross to build a ship, that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, that the Spanish Inquisition toasted the toes of thousands, that Richard III of England was a wicked hunchback, that James II of England was a evil Papist hatching one Popish Plot after another and that the “Glorious Revolution” brought religious and political freedom along with peace and fiscal security, that the same was “Glorious” (i.e. unbloody), that the American War for Secession From the British Empire was a “revolution”, that Africans did not sell Africans into slavery and did not sell them to New England shipmasters, that the US constitution of 1787 stripped the states of all sovereignty and made the Federal Government sole sovereign and sole judge of its own powers, that the Federal Government made the states – and made them to be franchises of the Federal Government – and that states did not make the Federal Government and did not make it as their agent answerable to them, that Hamilton and Nicholas Biddle were really swell economists, that U.S. won the War of 1812, that Lincoln’s War Against Southern Secession was a “Civil War”, that the same was fought over slavery, that Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation free the slaves and had that purpose, that Reconstruction was the ultimate expression of justice & peace & love, that the value of a product is determined by how much labor goes into making it, that the “robber barons” were robbers, that the Spanish sank the Maine, that World War I was a great crusade to make the world safe for democracy, that after 1 Sept 1914 all the working classes would abandon their nations and join the Socialist International under the sage leadership of Comrade Lenin for a world revolution, that the Germans started World War I, that the Germans were “stabbed in the back” by the Social Democratic signatories of the Versailles Treaty, that the Federal Reserve has stabilized the currency in a way that gold didn’t and has actually increased the dollar’s value (in a way gold didn’t), that what happened in 1929 was a “depression”, that the programs of Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt were different and didn’t turn the Recession of 1929 into the Depression of 1931 and didn’t prolonged the same, that the New Deal saved the country from the Great Depression, that Germans – one and all – were and are cold-blooded killers, that Pius XII stoked the ovens at Auschwitz, that the A-bombs are what brought the Japanese to surrender and not the belated promise to protect the Emperor, that Jews invented AIDS to kill blacks, that La Susan Sontag is just as good Homer and Marcel Duchamp’s Great Glass is just as good as the Sistine Chapel and Brittany Spears is certainly a d___ed sight better than Josquin des Prez [to rescript Twain, her music isn’t as bad as it sounds], that The Reverend Farrakhan has talked to The late Reverend Elijah Muhammad on an alien space ship, that one should never wash out a teapot with soap and water, and that if you step on a crack then you’ll break your mother’s back – are all believed by certain souls with the ardent fervor of little children in the Tooth Fairy, are held to be the True and Everlasting Gospel by the Cultural Marxists mountebanks who sit in the chairs of our Potemkin universities, are propagated by the “mainstream” (actually Cultural Marxist) press, – and are not only lacking substantiation, but are patently false.

So, I am willing to lend an ear to the honorable gentleman’s attempt to challenge folklore, here the folklore that Lee was anti-slavery, and gladly await his continued substantiation that it is indeed nothing but folklore, not truth. On the other hand, I am quite unwilling to lend credence to the establishment of a new folklore by the use of anonymous sources and of hearsay evidence and undocumented claims.

And the attempt to denigrate, impugn, and smear an honored historical figure requires very thorough substantiation indeed. That Lincoln was supposedly a homosexual or had syphilis has just about as much substantiation as the case against Lee. At least in Lincoln’s case, the sources are not anonymous (the charges remain unproven). Equally unsubstantiated are the claims for Churchill’s foreknowledge of the Coventry bombing, for Franklin Roosevelt’s foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, for Frederick the Great’s homosexuality, for Adolf the Terrible having serious body odor, for German’s eating Belgian children in 1914 (reported widely in British-America newspapers, and not anonymously), for Marie Antoinette saying “Let them eat cake”, for St. Joan of Arc being a witch, and for Washington’s wrath against cherry trees – all folklore, and all unproven.

So, for the sentinels guarding the camp of truth, the watchword remains Caveat Lector!

Friedrich von Hardenberg N0va1is

NPOV & NOR[edit]

I have taken a stab at removing all of the annotations regarding NPOV. As I have spent more time looking at the Wikipedia guidelines on No Original Research, I have come to realize that much of the material that was causing controversy is original research based on primary sources, which is not what Wikipedia wants us to use. For example, dissecting Lee's letter to his wife is not in the purview of Wikipedia editors, it must be left to the professional historians (secondary sources). Therefore, I have deleted this analysis and replaced it with the full context of Lee's letter and Douglas Freeman's analysis of it. If there are alternative professional historians in scholarly publications who have alternative views, someone should feel free to include them with the proper citations. I have retained the citations to the Wesley Norris testimony because it is documented in a scholarly publication. I have also retained the citations to the New York Tribune anonymous letters, but balanced them with Freeman's skepticism as to their authenticity. Oh, PS: I have also converted to the newer Wikipedia footnote mechanism, which I believe is a lot easier to use for future citations. Hal Jespersen 01:30, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

West Point Class Rank[edit]

I occasionally read/hear that Lee & MacArthur had the top highest GPAs in the history of West Point. But, of course, Lee graduated 2nd in his class. This article says "When he graduated (second in his class of 46) in 1829, not only had he attained the top academic record, but ..." Am I confused as to what "second in his class" means. I would assume this means the 2nd highest academic record. Are "Academic record" and "class rank" not synonymous? If I am confused, I would be grateful for a clarification. Does anyone know who was 1st Lee's year? It would be interesting if nothing more than an historical footnote to know who that was and how his life turned out. Ryanluck 23:39, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Class rank was based on academic record, as you surmised. The number one cadet that year was Charles Mason, who appears to have no Wikipedia article written about him, so he obviously was a nobody. :-) Hal Jespersen 23:48, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Apologies for catching this so late; class rank is based in part on academic rank, but also folds in conduct rank. The two together (high grades, low demerits) make class rank; I don't know the weighting formula, nor how it might have changed over the years. The reason Lee was #2 is because there was a tie at the top, and cadets were listed alphabetically by last name. Bill 21:58, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
Interesting to know your source. Freeman says Lee received 1966.5 points out of 2000, but doesn't list Mason's. As to strictly the conduct scores, he says "[His conduct score] gave him equal place in conduct with Barnes, Burbank, Harford, Kennedy, and Mason, who had received no demerits during the whole of their four years at the academy. In final class standing Mason was No. 1; Lee was No. 2; Harford, Joseph A. Smith, and James Barnes followed in order." In a footnote he says "But because his initial "L" was fifth among those of the men who had received no demerit during the whole of their cadetship, he appears as No. 5 on the Conduct Roll of 1829 (Register . . . of the United States Military Academy, 1829, p19)." Hal Jespersen 22:40, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, I neglected an aspect of your question. Per Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee received 1966.5 points of 2000 on a scale that included academics and conduct, so I guess my previous answer was incorrect! Lee's points put him "head of the class in artillery and tactics and gave him equal place in conduct with James Barnes, Sideny Burbank, William Harford, St. John P. Kennedy, and Charles Mason, who had received no demerits during the whole of their four years at the academy. In final class standing Mason was No. 1; Lee was No. 2; Harford, Joseph A. Smith, and James Barnes followed in order. Lee finished his fourth year, as he had all the others, with a place on the list of 'distinguished cadets.'" Hal Jespersen 23:59, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Thank you, that's very interesting. I was also under the impression that Lee was the only student in USMA history to have graduated with no demerits. I'm a bit unclear on what you wrote about that. Does what you say mean that Lee, Mason et al. graduated with no demerits or that only Mason graduated with no demerits? May I ask what your source is for that information? It sounds like something I'd want to get my hands on. Ryanluck 02:26, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
Follow up -- Does the MacArthur v. Lee GPA story have any truth? Perhaps their "academic rankings" exclusively are the two strongest? From what you're saying that sounds like a tidbit the History Channel should really stop repeating. Ryanluck 02:31, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
According to Freeman (who goes into quite a lot of academic detail), the 6 named cadets in that class had no demerits. The source is online for you to check out:
Sorry to sound so curmudgeonly, but it's very frustrating to make all this information generally available online, to find that it is not used. Thanks Hal for steering the querier.... And the precise local link for the entire demerits business already appears on this page in response to a previous query: a search for "demerit" would have brought querier to it. Bill 14:25, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
Indeed, thanks, Hal, for being patient and helpful with a student who asked honest questions and made an honest oversight. Ryanluck 13:21, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Recent protection of the article[edit]

It is in fact probably time to start to consider making many articles permanent, with no further editing by anyone. There has not been a change of substance to this article for months: all quibbles, vandalism, revert wars. This is to be expected: if several hundred people work on something for several years, it's normal that it should be finished; especially since Wickypedia frowns on "original research"; understandably since if we were authorities, we'd have written elsewhere. Close off this article and many others. Bill 20:15, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

We just went through a recent exercise in which there were significant modifications made to the sections on slavery. So it is an overstatement to say the article has been reasonably stable for months. I think that the semiprotection is a good idea that should apply to almost every article in Wikipedia, but do not think that this particular article on Lee should be permanently frozen in its current state. It needs additional work in footnoting throughout and should include more thoughtful analyses of Lee as a strategist and tactician. I am generally reluctant to make wholesale changes in an article that has extreme visibility such as this one, which is the reason I have moved slowly. Furthermore, adding more material does not require original research; there are many secondary sources of value that have not been fully tapped by the editors and reviewers in this space. Hal Jespersen 21:50, 25 April 2006 (UTC)


I wish people would stop trying to soil Gen. Lee's good name by trying to lable him with slavery.

Why not - he did hold slaves, didn't he? And he fought in defence of slavery, didn't he? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:25, 1 October 2007 (UTC)


It is getting to be really annoying to see these massive dumps of bibliographic information going into Civil War articles. It is very tempting for me to simply revert them, rather than expending my own effort trying to reformat them to match the rest of the article references and to sort them correctly as to whether they are references or merely suggestions of further reading. We have to remember that Wikipedia is not a series of scholarly journal articles, it is an encyclopedia and that genre is governed by a particular style in which important information is given and less important information is weeded out, so that it does not distract readers. If you look at the Encyclopaedia Britannica, for instance, you will not see dozens of citations for further reading in an article. I recently obtained a copy of the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, edited by the Heidlers, and it is a massive, superbly done encyclopedia that we would be well served by emulating. The excellent, very lengthy article there on Robert E. Lee is written by Gary Gallagher and he sees fit to list only six works for further reading. A good target for us as well. Hal Jespersen 22:21, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

Let's not be sarcastic or simplistic. There was no "dump". I have been studying and writing about Lee for about 16 years (ever since I was a professor at West Point), and I tried to include the most important scholarly studies, as well as a few popular items. Wiki does not have arbitrary formulas like Ency Brit on how many books there should be per 1000 words. A subject with a large bibliography should get proper attention. The American Civil War A Handbook of Literature and Research ed by Steven E. Woodworth, has about 150 books on Lee, which were selected from over 2000. Wiki's goal is to help users, many of whom are interested in specialized topics (Cold Harbor, Gettysburg). Many have to use small libraries that have only a few of the books listed. If anyone does not want to read books they do not have to--they are tucked away at the bottom of the article where they won't bother people who don't like those funny old paper things called books. Rjensen 22:40, 29 April 2006 (UTC)
Just to note that articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica and (even more so) the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War have a degree of inherent credibility which wikipedia simply does not have, and will never have. Wikipedia articles ought to cite sources to a much greater extent than normal encyclopedias because if they don't, there's no way of knowing if anything a wikipedia article says is true. john k 22:58, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

I agree with you, John, on references and footnotes, but the issue here is "further reading," a list of works that were not consulted in creating the article, but are merely recommendations of books people can seek out. When Gary Gallagher signs an article and says "Here are six books I recommend," it has inherently more value than the thirty in the current Wikipedia article, recommended by anonymous authors. As to Rjensen's Woodworth comparison, that's a red herring. Woodworth was writing a bibliographic book, not an encyclopedia article. Hal Jespersen 23:09, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

I think that Lee was an excellent General and a fine gentlemen, leading men who wanted freedom, who just wanted state's rights.The south in the civil war wasn't full of "racial bigots" as somepeople say, and when people say thart it sure makes me mad. -TravisMoody-

it's very easy for people to ignore the books if they want. But for those who want to study Lee it's designed to be a big help. The list was compiled by an expert on the Civil War, I might add. :) Rjensen 12:32, 4 May 2006 (UTC)


This is an article about one of the 2 or three most famous generals in American history and it spends more attention on how he probated his father-in-law's will than on any battle or campaign! I cut the section to its essentials--it already gets more attention in % than any biographer. It does not need names of slaves or Lee's comments on the crops. His comments on Cold Harbor and Antietam are more useful for most users. Rjensen 23:10, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

Probably so, but another way to achieve that balance is to expand sections that you feel are neglected. Sometimes controversial subjects need to be aired in more detail to satisfy the community of reviewers with distinct interest in such matters. I for one do not think Lee's views on slavery are essential to understand the man, but there are certainly others who do and they have had a strong influence on the editing of this article and achieving consensus. Hal Jespersen 23:19, 29 April 2006 (UTC)
Good point about expansion. But the trivia has to go, What Lee did about inherited slaves can be explained quickly. The section violated the No Original research rule and cannot be left alone. Rjensen 23:25, 29 April 2006 (UTC)
As I wrote in the edit comment, a number of the assertions you deleted came from Freeman, which I added to deflect some of the OR that really was there earlier, so please try to prune carefully with deference to the large amount of previous discussion on the topic. Hal Jespersen 00:20, 30 April 2006 (UTC)
I don't have a problem with the content, which seems accurate. Just the disproportionate length. I will try to condense and see if you like that. Rjensen 00:25, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

Several of the edits made in the name of shortening the section on Lee's handling of Custis's slaves are misleading or unacceptably POV. The plain editorial description of the Tribune letters as "falsely accusing him of abusing the slaves" (in the editorial voice, mind you, not in a quote of an external source) is indefensible. The reliance on only one source, a 1934 biography who provides no evidence for his assertions about the "usage" at Arlington or among men of Lee's "station," and whose conclusions are not shared by later biographers, to assess the credibility of the Tribune letters is selective and POV. The deletion of first-hand testimony from the slave himself, Wesley Norris, which goes unmentioned by Freeman in his assessment of the letters, is frankly obscene.

The terms of the will are misrepresented. Lee's wife did not inherit the title to the slaves; the slaves were held by the Custis estate and to be made free once Custis's debts had been paid and the legal and logistical details could be arranged. Lee had control over the slaves as executor of the estate, not as Mary Anna Lee's husband. The will did not stipulate a five year fixed period of enslavement; it specified a five year maximum for their emancipation, stating that the slaves were to be to be "emancipated by my executors in such manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper, the said emancipation to be accomplished in not exceeding five years from the time of my decease" [13].

The Norris's escape and recapture is, further, not the only case of slaves being unhappy with Lee's slave-driving or with asserting their right to freedom, or with Lee using physical violence to punish slaves who did so. Fellman documents the incident with three other slaves who Lee had restrained, jailed (Fellman states that slaves at the time were usually whipped by the jailer as part of their punishment), and then a few months later sent away under lock and key to be jailed until they could be hired out elsewhere. Lee's statements about the need for both "kindness" and "firmness" in driving the slaves are important for making clear his expectations of the Custis slaves, and also his paternalistic attitude toward slavery broadly, which combined some desire for compassion with a strong insistence on physical "discipline."

I sympathize with the feeling that this is a lot of information being devoted to a subject which you may not find important to understanding Lee's life or character. But what you find important is not what everyone else finds important, and given the fact that many people have found Lee's views on slavery and conduct as a slaveholder important to understanding him (this includes people who admire him; many have cited his views on slavery or his conduct as a slaveholder approvingly). Not everyone who might be interested in Lee's life is a Civil War buff or is interested primarily in military history. Perhaps this information would be better off in a subsidiary article ("Robert E. Lee and slavery") or somesuch, with a link to the subsidiary article and a short and NPOV description of the issues in the main article on Lee himself. But simply deleting the information, or reducing it until unsupported assertions from Freeman constitute nearly half of the text, is not the way to do this. Radgeek 19:18, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

I was not the person who did the heavy pruning of this section (check the editing history), but will offer an opinion on one aspect of your posting. WP:RS mandates that Wikipedia articles should be based on secondary sources, not primary, so omitting the first-hand testimony is appropriate, not "obscene." Although you may not agree with Freeman, he is considered Robert E. Lee's biographer of record, so his analyses and judgments have a place in the article. If you have alternative judgments to make, citations of alternative secondary sources should be used and the readers can make up their own minds as to their validity. Hal Jespersen 19:33, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
I call bullshit.
This article repeatedly uses first-hand testimony from Lee's own letters. This has nowhere been objected to; the use of first-hand testimony is objected to only when it comes from a former slave. Citing primary sources is explicitly not prohibited by WP:RS or WP:NOR. WP:RS nowhere states "that WikiPedia articles should be based on secondary sources, not primary" and in fact discusses at great length which sorts of primary sources should be treated as reliable sources and which should not. (There are six paragraphs of discussion about different sorts of sources for historical articles.) WP:NOR states that 'Original research that creates primary sources is not allowed. However, research that consists of collecting and organizing information from existing primary and/or secondary sources is, of course, strongly encouraged. All articles on Wikipedia should be based on information collected from published primary and secondary sources. This is not "original research"; it is "source-based research", and it is fundamental to writing an encyclopedia.'
I have no idea what you mean when you claim that Freeman "is considered Robert E. Lee's biographer of record." Considered by whom, and according to what standards? Freeman's voluminous biography is extremely useful on matters of documented fact; somewhat less so on matters of interpretation. Hundreds of biographies have been written of Lee and new ones are being produced every year; on the issue of Lee's racial views and slavery, newer biographies such as Fellman's devote considerably more space and attention to the issue (due in part to the fact that racial attitudes have changed since 1934 and people have attributed more importance to the issues).
I have no trouble with adding "alternative secondary sources," and in fact restored information that was deleted, and added new information, from them. Although I personally find Freeman's unsubstantiated assertions perfectly ridiculous this POV was nowhere incorporated into the edits that I made. What I do have a problem with is using this exclusively and removing primary sources. If you are going to encourage readers to make up their own minds then you do have an obligation to provide them with primary sources on the matter that are easily available and let them make up their mind about those, as well as the views of prominent secondary sources. You are not letting readers make up their own mind if you limit the information ahead of time to opinions filtered through secondary sources, "of record," "alternative," or otherwise.
Radgeek 20:41, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
original research in primary sources is not allowed. Whoever wrote the section is badly informed: for example a "driver" was a head slave. So let's cut the original research just and summarize historical scholarship. Rjensen 19:48, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
Collection of primary sources is not original research. See above. Selectively removing primary sources has no basis whatever in WikiPedia policy, and here serves only to promote the views of a non-academic biographer in 1934, providing Lee with plenty of space to air his own views and making absolutely no mention of the fact that the slave in question had something to say for himself which was rather different from Lee's version of events.
As a side note, I cannot find any evidence for your claim about the proper use of the term "slave driver." The American Heritage Dictionary gives "An overseer of slaves at work" as the primary definition [14] and the etymological dictionary America in So Many Words records that it was coined in the late 18th century by parallel to drivers of cattle, as a way of referring to those who whipped slaves to their work. It was used repeatedly to refer to white overseers and slaveholders in general throughout the 19th century. [15] Radgeek 20:41, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
Let's try to be civil, Mr. Geek (if that, in fact, is your real name). The WP:RS does in fact say, "In general, Wikipedia articles should not depend on primary sources but rather on reliable secondary sources who have made careful use of the primary-source material. Most primary-source material requires training to use correctly, especially on historical topics. Wikipedia articles may use primary sources only if have been published by a reliable publisher e.g. trial transcripts published by a court stenographer, or historic documents that appear in edited collections." Perhaps you are relying on "in general" or "should not" rather than "shall not" to make your case, but I believe the intent is pretty clear. Quotations from individuals, general or slave, are acceptable when they are presented in a secondary source edited by a reputable historian (and preferably, for a controversial subject, presented in the same way by multiple reputable historians). I do not recall the source of your Norris quotes, but if they were extracted from such a secondary source that agrees with your interpretation of events, then we should consider them. If they come solely from your personal research or from some random web site, you have not met the standard we are attempting to meet.
As to Freeman, I suppose opinions can differ, but I would challenge you to name any work on Lee that is considered more definitive by the majority of historians. I did a little search and found this quote by Alan Nolan: "The paradigm of the historical treatment of Lee and his times is the monumental and highly influential biography written by Douglas Southall Freeman of Virginia and published in four volumes during the 1930s." Here's Gary Gallagher: "Douglas Southall Freeman's massively detailed R. E. Lee: A Biography, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1935 and sold surprisingly well for a work of its bulk, quickly became the most influential study of Lee. ... The impact of Freeman's biography cannot be overestimated; it has remained in print for sixty years, inspiring generations of readers to share its high estimate of Lee as a soldier." Hal Jespersen 00:42, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
I will be glad to be civil when the considerable work that I've put into this section, which did not even exist before I began working on it, is respected rather than treated with a buzzsaw, dismissed as "bad history", and selectively condemned as "original research" in spite of the explicit text of WP:NOR. Civil discussion presupposes civil treatment. I have more objections to Rjensen's edits than I have to your comments on this page, but I have little patience for clearly selective handling of when primary sources are admitted and when they are not.
The Norris testimony is, as the article explicitly states, taken from John W. Blassingame's documentary collection Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, and Interviews, and Autobiographies. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press (ISBN 0807102733). You can find it on pp. 467-468. This is not a secondary source but rather a collection of primary sources prepared by a recognized scholar of slavery in the 19th century. WP:RS does not prohibit or even discourage primary sources from being mentioned or quoted; what it does do is ask that the article not "depend" on them. But the section does not depend on them, and spending a single short paragraph reporting the contents of one of them does not make it depend on them. The article uses, as per WP:RS, a primary source taken from a reliable scholarly collection. WP:NOR strongly encourages articles based on "research" that collects existing primary sources as well as secondary sources and I can see no basis in the policy for deleting all references to it, or for demanding that any mention of it refer to some secondary source, whether it "agrees" or "disagrees" with my "interpretation" of events -- something which I have neither incorporated into the article nor even discussed in this thread. (Remember that what's at issue here is a report of what Norris said, not whether Norris's claims were true or false, which the article does not broach.)
As for Freeman, my aim isn't to remove the discussion of his statements on the Trib letters, nor to claim that his biography was not influential. Of course it was influential, and it is highly useful in many places, and given its influence it's well worth mentioning his views on the Norris controversy. What I dispute is the claim that Freeman's biography is or ought to be widely considered the biography "of record," which implies a pride of place that it does not have in the crowded and ever-changing field of scholarship on Lee. On some issues it has certainly been surpassed by more recent work; one such area is the area of race in general and slavery in particular, to which Freeman devotes comparatively little space (Fellman devotes a full chapter just to a close discussion of Lee's views and actions in the period before the Civil War), and in which Freeman is almost certainly affected by the prevalent views of the 1930s. Later writers do not agree with his blanket dismissal of the claims made against Lee in the Norris controversy, and devote considerably more space than Freeman to discussing other issues concerning Lee's time as a plantation slaveholder and his views on slavery as an institution.
I hope this helps better explain my position. Radgeek 03:07, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

I have several objections to the round of edits made by User:Rjensen.

First, they contain misstatements on matters of fact:

  1. Lee did not, in fact, emancipate the Custis slaves within the time limits determined by the Custis will -- he specified that the time before their release was not to exceed five years from the time of his decease. Custis died in October 1857; Lee emancipated the slaves in December 1862, two months after the deadline. I do not think that is a serious mark on Lee's character (keeping slaves for five years is; but delaying emancipation for another two months under the circumstances of the war is not particularly worse). But given that he did not comply with the deadline, we should not go out of our way to claim that he did.
  2. The "attacks" on Lee in "the abolitionist press" that are dealt with by Freeman (and, for that matter, Fellman) did not occur after the Civil War but rather in summer 1859. The Norris interview was published in 1866 but neither Freeman nor Fellman discusses it.
  3. The phrasing again misrepresents the terms of the will as if Lee were given a fixed five year period, rather than a mandate to arrange for emancipation within not more than five years.

Second, they again delete the discussion of Lee's attempts to hire an overseer and another conflict over slave "discipline," involving three different slaves. I cannot tell whether this is because they are being counted as "propaganda" by Rjensen, or because he does not consider it part of the "essentials." If the former, I cannot see any justification for the claim, even by the standards so far mentioned (the discussion draws only from Fellman's biography and a direct quotation of one of Lee's letters). If the latter, then I am not sure what Rjensen thinks the purpose of the section is. If the purpose of the section were merely to discuss the controversy over the Norrises' treatment, then this would indeed be non-essential (although helpful, since it helps illustrate the situation at Arlington). But I think the purpose of a section on "Lee as slave-holder" is to discuss Lee's career as a slaveholder, not just that one point of controversy, and this incident (as well as the repeated pattern of conflict with the Custis slaves over "discipline") is at least as important to the section as the details of the Norris controversy.

Third, they again delete the neutral reporting of the content of Wesley Norris's first-hand testimony. There is no justification for deleting this while happily citing Lee's own statements in letters. In fact neither Lee's letters nor Norris's statements violate WP:NOR. If the article asserted on the basis of Norris's testimony that he was telling the truth, this would be a violation of WP:NPOV. But it does not; it merely reports what Norris's testimony was (a topic which is not even mentioned by the secondary sources cited), and this is neither objectionable as original research or as POV. Radgeek 02:46, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

I will let you and RJensen duke this out (good luck). I am personally unfamiliar with the sources you are using, but you seem to have a firm grasp on the documentation requirements. My previous edits in this space were an attempt to remove all of the NPOV stickers that were littering the article. Hal Jespersen 15:05, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

Lee/ Jackson Day Mistake?[edit]

I am brand new to this but I was wondering since when Lee/Jackson Day was observed by "fu#$ing a dog" as it states under the Trivia section.


I have semi-protected this article due to daily vandalism by anonymous editors...I will remove the protection after a week or so, or anyone can contact me to do so.--MONGO 20:50, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Recent conflicts over the opening paragraph.[edit]

I strongly object to User:Rjensen's repeated efforts to remove the following clauses from the opening paragraph of this article:

  1. "Moreover, Lee was a slave owner and believed in the superiority of the white race."
  2. "Robert Edward Lee' (January 19, 1807October 12, 1870) was a career army officer, slaveholder, and the most successful general of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War."
  3. "After the war, he opposed Reconstruction and argued against civil rights for freed blacks."

Lee's belief in the natural superiority of the white race is discussed at length in Michael Fellman's study, The Making of Robert E. Lee (see especially Chapter 4, "Race and Slavery", and Chapter 13, "Southern Nationalist"). It is expressed in his letters, in his Congressional testimony after the war, and also in his active participation in the slave system and anti-Reconstruction politics.

That Lee was, in fact, a slaveholder is well-documented, and discussed below in the article.

That Lee opposed Reconstruction, and opposed civil rights for blacks (especially the right of suffrage) is also well-documented, and also discussed below in the article.

So why does User:Rjensen continue to remove this information from the opening paragraph?

Since he has not discussed this issue on the Talk page, here is the dialogue over his decisions from the edit notes:

Rjensen: "Lee actually was freeing slaves as war began; unsourced POV on white supremacy"
Radgeek: "1. Lee did not start freeing the Custis slaves until 1862; 2. he was a large-scale slaveholder for years before that; 3. his embrace of white supremacist politics is documented under "After the War.""
Rjensen: "Wiki should not invent controversies"
Radgeek: "What controversy? Lee *was* a slaveholder and *did* oppose civil rights for freed blacks. Both are discussed in depth elsewhere in the article."
Rjensen: "Grant owned slaves too. Lee did not oppose civil rights; Summary focuses on big issues"
Rjensen: "del false info about opposing civil rights; Lee agreed with most northerners about suffrage"

But Rjensen's justifications are frankly bizarre. There is no reasonable controversy over the fact that Lee was a slaveholder (this is documented in primary and secondary sources; those who have claimed it were misinformed). There is no reasonable controversy over the fact that he embraced the white supremacist politics of the post-War Democrats. And there is no reasonable controversy over the fact that he opposed civil rights for the freed blacks. This is not "unsourced POV." It is documented in this article, and it is drawn from explicitly stated references, including Lee's letters, his political activities after the war, and his own Congressional testimony. We know, for example, that Lee opposed voting rights for blacks because Lee told us that he did when he was asked. Where is the "false info"? Where is even the "controversy"?

I should note also that Rjensen's change of the subject to Grant's slaveholding, and to the racist politics of many Northern whites, are a most stinking red herring. Nobody claimed that Lee's slaveholding made him unique among Civil War generals, or that his embrace of white supremacy or his opposition to black voting rights made him unique in the political climate of the U.S. in the 1860s and 1870s. But why would this be relevant at all? The point is to describe Lee's views and activities accurately, not to make a comparative study with Grant et al.

I can find no justification for the claim that Lee didn't oppose civil rights for blacks. Of course he did: he told us so in his Congressional testimony, explicitly, and then, in case that wasn't enough, he willingly lent his name to a statement in support of the explicitly white supremacist Democratic campaign in 1868. The fact that many whites, Northern and Southern, agreed with his position against civil rights for freed blacks hardly changes the fact that he was against civil rights for freed blacks.

The only issue at hand here, unless Rjensen intends to actually explain his strange assertions about Lee's views, is that Rjensen simply does not consider this important information to include in the opening paragraph; that the "Summary focuses on big issues" and these issues are not among them. But what Rjensen considers the "big issues" may not be what everyone considers to be the big issues. Lee's slaveholding, and his role in the development of Southern politics after the war, is of intense interest to many people; if it were not then we would not see so many articles, in both the historical and the popular press, discussing (either accurately or inaccurately) Lee's views on race and slavery. Those of us who are more interested in social history than military history, and who have more interest in Lee's political legacy than his military reputation, have not tried to mangle the discussion of Lee's military record in order to better highlight the issues we happen to be interested in. I would ask the same courtesy from those who are more interested in discussing his military career.

Radgeek 04:05, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

Let's keep POV out of the opening paragraph. Someone added all sorts of false statements to the effect that Lee's slaveholding affected his career or that he opposed civil rights for blacks. The slave issue was a matter of freeing slaves not holding them. Lee did indeed oppose the election of Grant as president in 1868--it would be very surprising otherwise. Lee was a major voice for reconciliation--he was the one who stopped proposals for a guerilla war in 1865. Lee went far beyond most southerners (1869) & publicly supported civil rights and votes for blacks ("New Departure) as well as actively supporting public schools for blacks. At a time (1866) when Congress had not even allowed blacks to vote in DC Lee agreed with Congress (indeed Lee could not himself vote). This by the way is old-fashioned political history (not social history). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rjensen (talkcontribs)
I saw Nolan's Lee Considered used in a citation. He has a lot of material on Lee's private vs. public attitudes about blacks, slavery, and Reconstruction, which lean more toward Radgeek's direction than RJensen's. However, I do object to an opening sentence that lists Lee's primary attributes as being a general and a slaveholder. See if either George Washington or Thomas Jefferson get that treatment. These issues should be included outside of the first intro paragraph and be couched as part of a controversial legacy or something like that. Lee's views in these matters are interesting, but not part of his fundamental affect on history. Jefferson's treatment seems appropriate. Hal Jespersen 15:53, 5 July 2006 (UTC)
Lee held slaves throughout his entire life until abolition and spent five years as a large-scale slaveholder as executor of his father-in-law's estate. That he then emancipated the slaves under his control shows precisely nothing at all, since the slaves were not in his name and he was legally required to do so by the terms of his father-in-law's will. You may think that the more important fact about his slaveholding is that he complied with his legal obligations and freed the slaves as he was directed to do. You might think that his views on slavery or his active participation in the slave system just don't matter very much from the standpoint of history. However, I think Lee's slaves may have disagreed with you.
The fact that in 1866 many whites, from both North and South, agreed with Lee's white supremacism and his explicit opposition to civil rights for freed blacks, is, again, simply a change of subject. It does not change the fact thta Lee was opposed to civil rights for the freedmen and did actively support political white supremacy after the war. It shows only that his views were popular at the time. Of course, you might claim that popular views that Lee also held are not important or worth mentioning. But Lee's stature as a Virginian aristocrat, and as one of the most revered heroes of Southern whites, made his views very important to other people at the time (who often solicited his support and invoked his name), and to people ever since. I have seen far too many articles trying to explain Lee's views on race and slavery (whether accurately or inaccurately portraying those views) to be convinced that this is some minor or trivial or uninteresting point.
You are also seriously misrepresenting the content of the "New Departure" program, as well as Lee's position with regard to it.
During the turmoil of late 1867, learning of his old commander's attitude about the necessity of participation in political events sponsored by Northern Republicans, James Longstreet, who was living in Louisiana, sensed that he might woo Robert E. Lee to join him in his migration to the Republican Party--an act for which Longstreet was reviled by his fellow Southerners for the rest of his life and long beyond. Lee responded that he did indeed believe that it was "the part of wisdom as well as of duty ... to conform to existing circumstances. ... But, while I think we should act under the law and according to the law imposed upon us, I cannot think the course pursued by the dominant political party the best for the interests of the country, and therefore cannot say so or give it my approval." Lee was unwilling to reconcile with postwar Northern opinion through such a mode of sectional compromise.
Longstreet represented a moderate white alternative to what was becoming the accepted rejection of Reconstruction by Southern white elites. Right in Virginia, by 1867, William Mahone, an ex-Confederate general, had positioned himself as a "conservative Republican," willing to make an alliance with both blacks and moderate white Democrats as a means to create an accommodationist resolution to Reconstruction. Mahone's "New Departure" formed the more moderate minority faction of the Conservative Party--actually a coalition--that accepted black suffrage, citizenship, and legal rights but not black leadership. Mahone, Alexander H. H. Stuart, and others worked through Horace Greeley to convince President U. S. Grant to accept the 1870 election of the Conservative Party as the means to end Reconstruction in Virginia, by accepting black suffrage in exchange for reenfranchising ex-Confederates (which would guarantee unchallenged white domination of the state government). To accommodate Mahone and Grant, Stuart and his majority Conservative faction, Lee's closest allies, also rejected the gubernatorial candidacy of ex-Confederate colonel Robert E. Withers, who wanted to play the race card with brutal clarity right away.
Men like Lee went along with the Mahone coalition only because they believed its biracialist tendencies soon would be rejected for truly conservative white rule. Once back in power, the Democratic Party of Viriginia did indeed squeeze Mahone and his followers from their ranks. In 1877, seven years after Lee's death, arousing the voters over the massive state debts run up for railroad bonds, Mahone's Readjuster Party, composed of black and white Republicans, won a sweeping gubernatorial and legislative victory. While not sharing power with blacks, Mahone abolished the poll tax and the use of whipping posts for them and, as part of his proeducation program, founded a normal school for blacks. This was the sort of Southern moderate alternative to which Lee never truly subscribed.
Far from accepting genuine black political participation or the other tenets of Republicanism, even as rephrased by Mahone, Lee wanted to build the broadest and most legitmate conservative white base so as to reclaim unadulterated power. Lee believed that, given the caste structure of the South, the outside imposition or internal election of any sort of racial democracy could not last long. As early as the spring of 1866, in an interview he gave to the marquess of Lorne, Lee argued that "the blacks must always here be the weaker; the whites are so much stronger that there is no chance for the blacks, if the Radical party passes the laws it wants against us." Thinking about power politics in this way was new to Lee--a real marker of his political emergence from stoic resignation. Lee had developed senses of strategy and tactics in the political realm.
--Fellman, The Making of Robert E. Lee, 284-286
In fact, I cannot find any evidence at present that Lee specifically supported black suffrage, Mahone or his "New Departure" program; Lee supported the Conservative Party but Mahone's coalition was only a minority faction within the Conservative Party that the majority leadership found useful for the purposes of greater Federal favor and a quicker end to Reconstruction. In any case, only one year later, he lent his name in support of the Democratic Party's violently racist presidential campaign. This was not just opposition to his old enemy Grant, as Rjensen suggests: Lee carefully read and signed a letter (prepared, at his request, by his Conservative Party ally Alexander H. H. Stuart) which explained his reasons for supporting the Democratic campaign, which stated straightforwardly:
It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws that would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power.
--Quoted in Douglass Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee: A Biography, 375
The claim that Lee's political activities evinced support for black civil rights is completely unwarranted unless you have some further evidence beyond what I have available to me at the moment. You may as well say that down is up.
As for Washington and Jefferson, I for one would like to see more prominence given to their slaveholding than the articles currently do, so I can't say I'm convinced by these "counter-examples." Slavery was absolutely foundational to the American political and economic system from its establishment until 1865, and the role that large-scale slavemasters such as Washington and Jefferson played in the formation of the country and its early political dynamics are very important to understanding their legacy in American politics, thought, culture, territorial expansion, sectional dynamics, etc. It is of exceeding importance to a lot of people in this country and well worth mentioning. There is, incidentally, absolutely nothing "controversial" about the fact that these men held hundreds of their fellow human beings in chattel slavery. What to make of their slaveholding is "controversial," but that is no reason to exclude any mention of the fact of their slaveholding to a few paragraphs toward the end. However, since I haven't worked much on those articles, I'm not very involved with the editing process for them as of yet. I have worked on this one, wihch is why I'm bringing up the issue here.
Radgeek 18:22, 5 July 2006 (UTC)
One more note. I've removed the following claims from the section on Lee's political activities after the war:
In 1867 Lee supported General William Mahone's successful campaign for governor, the "New Departure" which endorsed black suffrage, citizenship and civil rights for blacks. [1]
As discussed above, this is a misrepresentation of Lee's relationship to the Mahone coalition. Moreover, however, it is factually in error: there was no Mahone campaign for governor in 1867, successful or otherwise. Virginia was under direct military government at the time and the governor from May 1865 to April 1868 was Francis H. Pierpont, who was succeeded by two more military governors in 1869, Henry H. Wells, and Gilbert C. Walker. Radgeek 19:01, 5 July 2006 (UTC)
The controversial aspect is not the fact of owning slaves. There are two competing POVs: (1) slave owning was bad enough to be flagged in a bio regardless of circumstance or its relevance to the person's historical context; (2) slave owning was a fact of life in the South and was completely legal at the time and such ownership had little relevance to Lee's context as a general, college president, and postwar icon. Wiki policy is to provide acknowledgment of both views, and thus the controversy. (Controversy also results because Lee's public and private views differed to degrees that historians still argue about.) My own view is that its relevance is primarily in three spaces: advocating military roles for blacks, capturing slaves during the invasions of the North, and influencing postwar public attitudes. Therefore, listing it nonchalantly in the first sentence or paragraph of the article is inappropriate, IMHO. Hal Jespersen 01:13, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
Hlj makes the good point that arming slaves was a big issue in 1864-65 and Lee was central; I agree that should go in the article in some detail. Grant owned slaves too but that is not especially important in his career. Rjensen 01:29, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
Hal, I disagree that the fact of Lee's slaveowning is not relevant to his historical context. Lee's ownership of slaves and his views on slavery have been a matter over which considerable ink has been spilled, in part because the marble figure of a saintly Lee, uninterested in slavery or white supremacy, became an important part of the Lost Cause mythos that began forming before his death and solidified after the end of Reconstruction. The issue is clearly important in considering Lee's historical legacy and the way that he was taken up by the surrounding culture -- esp. Southern whites. It was also financially important to Lee--given that his family lands and fortunes, which came to him mostly through his wife's family, depended substantially on very large scale slave labor.
Of course, the other issues that you mention are also important and deserve discussion. Radgeek 07:07, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Since you guys are reverting each other wildly, I'll comment here on the recent edit and perhaps you can work on it. The claim that Lee originally opposed the Confederacy and accepted Lincoln's command offer should only be included if: (1) it is explained in the detailed article (don't introduce orphaned concepts in the intro); and (2) cited. I have never heard this claim (particularly the latter part) and Nolan does a pretty good job of documenting that Lee had his resignation and move South well planned in advance. On battles: (1) always link them in first usage; (2) Seven Days and Second Bull Run were also great victories, although costly ones; (3) summarizing battles and omitting 1864-65 is pretty lame. Hal Jespersen 14:49, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Lee speaks against civil rights[edit]

Here is Robert E. Lee speaking against civil rights for freed black people:

My own opinion is that, at this time, they [freed blacks] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarassments in various ways.
--Robert E. Lee before Congress on February 17, 1866. Quoted in Fellman, p. 266.

In his 1866 letter to Lord Acton, Lee stressed that "perfect equality of the rights of all the states" under the Constitution required "the right of each state to prescribe for itself the qualifications of the suffrage" -- objecting to federal efforts by the Republicans to secure voting rights for freed blacks in the former Confederate states. (283)

In an 1866 interview with the marquess of Lorne, Lee argued that "the blacks must always here be the weaker; the whites are so much stronger that there is no chance for the blacks, if the Radical party passes the laws it wants against us." (286)

In 1868, he signed a statement in support of the Democratic presidential campaign (prepared by his ally Alexander H. H. Stuart at his request) which stated: "It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws which would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power." (Freeman Vol. IV. p. 376)

After the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, as black voters were being registered in the South, Lee wrote to his nephew Edward Lee Childe, "the party in power are determined to retain its position even at the risk of destroying the country & of putting an end to republican government. ... The South is to placed under the domination of the negroes. ... The purpose for which the north went to war has been perverted by the radical party. Had their secret policy ben then announced I cannot believe it would have been tolerated by the country." (Qtd. in Fellman, pp. 290-291)

Given that he explicitly said that he opposed giving freed blacks suffrage, before Congress, and then repeatedly spoke out against efforts to enroll black voters and to include blacks in the political life of the Southern states, and given that this is all discussed elsewhere at length in the article, and given that it has been repeatedly pointed out to Rjensen, there are only two possibilities concerning Rjensen's claim that "Lee NEVER spoke against civil rights" [for freed blacks]. Either (a) Rjensen is applying some weird reading of the phrases "civil rights" such that it does not include the right of suffrage (even though that is one of the PARADIGM CASES of civil rights historically denied to black people in America), or else (b) Rjensen is simply lying for polemical purposes that are hard to grasp.

If Rjensen wants to claim that Lee at first opposed civil rights for freed blacks, then changed his mind and supported it, then he should feel free to do so -- provided that he produces evidence for this claim. The one line of evidence he has provided (Fellman's brief discussion of Mahone's "New Departure" program and Lee's support for the Conservative Party of which Mahone's coalition was a minority faction) has been shown not to support the conclusion that Rjensen wants to draw from it. Rjensen has continually refused to discuss these issues on the Talk page, and simply keeps on inserting his black-is-white, up-is-down assertions into the article without providing evidence and without discussing the challenges raised against the one piece of evidence that he did provide; he simply re-asserts his claim with nothing backing it other than dogmatic assurance. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and borders on vandalism.

Radgeek 17:00, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Civil rights in the 1860s were very different from voting rights. For example, women had civil rights but NOT voting rights. The famous civil rights law of 1866 did NOT include voting. Lee like most Northerners opposed voting rights for blacks before 1869 (the 15th amendment only became law six months before Lee's death.) He never opposed civil rights. Fellman points out that Lee supported the Mahone coalition in 1869 which supported black suffrage and civil rights and free public schools (Lee took the lead on the latter). Rjensen 02:47, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
Not all of the quotes that I listed deal specifically with the question of suffrage. However, in the interest of avoiding needless squabbling, let's restrict the issue to the question of suffrage; future edits by me will claim only that Lee opposed suffrage for freed blacks, not that he opposed "civil rights" (since the very extension of that term is in dispute).
That qualification made, you have once again provided absolutely no evidence for your claim that Lee ever supported suffrage for freed blacks. As has been REPEATEDLY pointed out on this talk page the sourec you are citing (Fellman p. 285) does not support your claim that Lee supported voting rights for freed blacks in 1869 or at any other time. You keep asserting this over and over in spite of the discussion of the very pages you are citing above, without making any response to the substantive objections that have been made to your reading of those pages. While Mahone's coalition supported black suffrage (in exchange for re-enfranchisement of white ex-Confederates), and while Mahone's coalition was a part of the Conservative Party in Virginia which served useful to the Conservatives in negotiating with the federal government, the Mahone coalition was a minority faction within the Conservative Party. It was a minority faction accepted only because under Reconstruction it was useful to the majority as a means of bargaining with the Feds. It was a minority faction whose views were distinctly at odds with those of the majority coalition, led by men such as Alexander H. H. Stuart, who did not support black suffrage. Fellman nowhere states that Lee supported either Mahone or his suggested "New Departure" program. Fellman offers no evidence that Mahone's "New Departure" platform was adopted by the Conservative Party at large or supported by Lee in particular. He makes no suggestion that Lee personally supported the platform, or Mahone, or black suffrage in particular. In fact, he explicitly states that Lee and men like him rejected Mahone's ideas and viewed their alliance with his coalition as tactically useful until Reconstruction was ended and conservative white rule could be restored. Fellman explicitly states that Mahone's program "was the sort of Southern moderate alternative to which Lee never truly subscribed" (286).
As a further note, you keep repeating the year 1869. But I can find nowhere at all on page 285 that the year 1869 is so much as mentioned. The only place near p. 285 that this year is mentioned is on p. 284, where Fellman writes that "In 1869, he [Lee] urged that right-minded men should vote for 'the most conservative eligible candidates,' who would vote for 'the excision of the most obnoxious clauses,' which was to say ex-Confederate disenfranchisement." Where did you come up with the claim that Lee not only supported black suffrage, but also that he did so by 1869 specifically?
If Lee changed his mind about black suffrage (in spite of having actively opposed it and spoken out against it from 1866 through 1868), then the article should say so. But you have provided not one whit of evidence to support the claim that he did. The source that you claimed in support of this claim does not support it. Yet you continue to try to insert this unsubstantiated assertion into the article, over and over again, without providing any further evidence and without responding to the specific criticism of your claims on this Talk page. Your conduct in this matter is frankly unacceptable. Until you do provide evidence for this claim I am going to simply regard any further attempts to re-insert the unsubstantiated claim that Lee actually favored black suffrage as nothing better than vandalism, and I will revert any such changes as soon as I become aware of them.
Radgeek 07:33, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
What was Lee's opinion of black suffrage after 1868? The only historian who comments is Fellman who indicates Lee supported the Mahone coalition of "True Republicans" and the coalition supported black suffrage in Virginia. Fellman in his article on Lee says (and is slightly ambiguous):
In Virginia by 1867, William Mahone, an ex-Confederate general, had positioned himself as a "conservative Republican," willing to make an alliance both with blacks and moderate white Democrats as a means to create an accomodationist resolution to Reconstruction. Mahone's "New Departure" which formed the more moderate minority faction of the Conservative Party, accepted black suffrage, citizenship and legal rights, but not black leadership. Mahone, Stuart and others worked with success through Horace Greeley to convince President U. S. Grant to accept the 1870 election of the Conservative Party as the means to end Reconstruction in Virginia through accepting black suffrage in exchange for reenfranchising ex-Confederates (which would guarantee unchallenged white domination of the state government). To accommodate Mahone and Grant, Stuart and his majority Conservative faction--Lee's closest allies--also rejected the gubernatorial candidacy of former Confederate colonel Robert E. Withers, who wanted to play the race card with brutal clarity right away." [quoting Fellman's Civil War History article from 2000]

Fellman goes on, "Men like Lee went along with Mahone's participation" but does not quite say that Lee endorsed Mahone. But Fellman certainly tells readers that Lee is in Mahone's coalition--a biracial coalition that won the 1869 election for governor. Stuart was another colose ally of Lee and Fellman says Stuart worked with Greeley and Grant and supported black suffrage (in return for allowing ex-Confeds to vote). That is, Fellman says Lee's closest political allies supported black suffrage in 1869. There is no document one way or the other on Lee's views on suffrage in 1869, but he clearly had joined the Mahone coalition and spoke out strongly in favor of state funding of public schools for blacks (a position he held in 1866). In Feb 1866 Lee explicitly endorsed president Johnson's reconstruction program (in testimony to congress). It is false to say he opposed Reconstruction--he supported the president's version and opposed the Radical version. Rjensen 17:37, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Lee said that, of course, but I think you're taking his statements out of context. He's explicitly stating that while blacks should have freedom (which is supporting civil rights) he also believes giving them the vote would have some sort of consequences. I don't necessarily think it's a big deal, but if you all want to make it one. After all, he was a Southern, and a native Virginian. And slaves first appeared in Virginia, If I'm right. Aaрон Кинни (t) 15:48, 11 July 2006 (UTC)


Just curious, which denomination was Robert Lee part of?

Several sources indicate that he was an Anglican / Episcopalian, as were many of his ancestors. Once Lee took over as president of Washington College, he had a chapel constructed on campus, and took part in daily worship services with the students. I was just there a couple of weeks ago on vacation - there are some interesting displays on his life. Scott Mingus 23:01, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the info. Maybe we could reference his affiliation if we can find an online source.


Lee County, Georgia was so named in 1826, when Robert E. was a student at West Point. It was named after Lee's collateral ancestor and Declaration of Independence signer Richard Henry Lee. Ellsworth

I have taken the liberty of modifying the Lee County, Georgia article to add the origins of its name. Scott Mingus 22:56, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Kewl. Ellsworth 15:07, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

GA Comments[edit]

I've dropped by to review the article and like what I see. All that is needed for promotion is to add inline citations to the first few sections of the article, which have none at the moment. I'll put the article on hold for these. --CTSWyneken(talk) 19:35, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

GA Failed -- Hold expired[edit]

Please bring the nom back after addressing above concerns. --CTSWyneken(talk) 23:25, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

As far as monuments,,Robert E Lee High School in Baton Rouge, La. is Lee High only and instead of the Rebels as the mascot it is now the Patriots.


Has anybody noticed that the notes written with exponents are linked to one number behind what it says they should be? For instance, when you scroll over number 18, it links to note 17, and so on.


For some reason the Notes section is blank (at least in my browser). After a little experimentation, I found that removing the picture gallery in the Monuments section restores the notes. Does anyone know the methodology for troubleshooting this problem? Hal Jespersen 16:08, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

I too see nothing in the Notes: that's from IE6 and Windows. I tried a fix and it did no good. If it is the 'Monuments', then it would be sensible to move it to a new section. It is already large. --GwydionM 17:06, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

My experiments (which were not exhaustive) showed that deleting the gallery worked, but moving it did not. I assume that we have some sort of transitory bug in the system that is causing this interaction. Hal Jespersen 17:13, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

I have commented-out the picture gallery to restore the Notes, which I consider more important than the photos. If someone can diagnose and fix what the problem is with this interaction, go ahead and restore the gallery. Hal Jespersen 15:23, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Huge chunk of 'early life' has gone missing[edit]

A great deal of material on Lee's early life seems to have gone missing during the fixes for vandalism. --GwydionM 17:08, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

Seems fine now. --GwydionM 16:55, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Do we need more info on his early childhood? I can get more from a that is very accurate. --User:Cocobombo 14:44, 15 May 2007

Final Illness and Death[edit]

The weird thing about this is that it says he suffered a stroke that made speech impossible. So how could he say his final words...? Someone answer or fix please. Sometimes1must 02:01, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Again, early life section now gone[edit]

Well, the section on Lee's early life is gone again [16]. Personally, a brief overview of the slavery issue is needed but it doesn't need to be longer than sections on his military career of course. Can someone with a better knowledge of this person's history clean this up and get the early life section put back in?--MONGO 13:11, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Lee as a popular general[edit]

Though i haven't read every line about Lee here, it strikes me that more could be said about his abilities as a leader. It is fairly well advocated (Shelby foote is a good example) that Lee's brilliance was due in part to his charisma and respect given to him by his men. The only other general who seemed to command similar respect was General George B. McClellan. In an era where success was, to a great extent, dependent upon troops trusting their generals enough to follow orders, it was Lee's leadership abilities that held his army together and allowed it to function effectively.

Ben 2:56, 01 November 2006

revisionist history[edit]

Thus continues the attack on the history of the southern soldier. Lee did not "almost accept" command of the union forces. He refused on the grounds that he would not lead an "invasion force" within his own country.

All history books agree: Lee was in serious negotiations on command of Union army. He made it clear he WOULD accept if virginia did not secede. Rjensen 14:44, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

Primary Source[edit]

I am an 8th grade student from St. Louis and I was wondering if you know of any websites where i could go to find primary sources about robert E. Lee?

I need this by tonight so if anyone can help it would be much appreciated.

Thank You

for some of the letters Lee wrote goto Robert E. Lee Papers good luck! Rjensen 03:11, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

Academic record[edit]

The article says that Lee graduated second in his class at West Point, but also that he had the top academic record. Can these both be true? I would assume that rank in class at the Point is determined entirely by grades, but I don't know for sure.
--Tex 03:02, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Scroll back to the Talk section on West Point Class Rank to see a lengthy discussion. Hal Jespersen 14:58, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks very much, I missed that.
--Tex 19:00, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

Lee Bicentennial[edit]

I notice that this January 19th will be the 200th anniversary of Robert E. Lee's birth. I hope you will join me in looking forward to seeing it commemorated on the Wikipedia Main Page on that day!
--Tex 03:26, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

Happy Birthday[edit]

Happy 200th Birthday to R.E. Lee! Hal Jespersen 15:04, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

White Southerners?[edit]

Why is it written under legacy that Lee was revered by WHITE southerners after his surrender, as a BLACK man I find this offensive because I revere Lee and I am not white. Please change this by removing the word WHITE and just saying SOUTHERNERS. If you do not then you will be hearing back from me and others like me. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 22:09, 3 February 2007 (UTC).

If you're black... or for that matter an American patriot of any color, and you revere the man who tried to rip the country apart, who commited treason, in order to propogate the most aweful systm of opression this country has ever known, you, sir, are an idiot. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:48, 25 September 2007 (UTC)


I am not qualified to write about this historic man, though I would like to read about him without having to wade through randomly inserted rubbish. Can someone fix this please?

Thank you. 04:42, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Trivia Section[edit]

It is stated in the Trivia Section that R.E. Lee is a grandfather to Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. No source was given. It is not mentioned in the Wiki article on Harper Lee and can not be confirmed by reference to a Harper Lee bio on the web at A Family Tree of Lee's descendants at makes no reference to novelist Harper Lee being a direct descendant of General Lee. I removed the sentence from the Trivia Section of the article.

Dawziecat 17:18, 21 February 2007 (UTC)dawziecat

+I grew up with Harper Lee's cousin and he made no claim to be related to R. E. Lee


The "Awards" Part of the Article Simply says R. any real awards for this guy? Downatball5432 13:42, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

I proposed at WP:RM to drop the disambiguator here, moving it back to Robert E. Lee. This is primary usage. The competition for this name are the coauthor of Auntie Mame and a two-term congressman, chairman of the Mileage subcommittee; oh yes - and a bunch of high schools (see Robert E. Lee (disambiguation); we seem to have missed the steamship).



Despite the consensus, this article got moved anyway. I have put it and the related talk page back as they should be. WP admin Vaoverland 22:23, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

In fact, I think this move proposal was a response to the previous move, which had been made without discussion, and could probably have been reversed by anyone. -- Beardo 22:59, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Robert E. Lee and ROTC[edit]

In the trivia section, it states, "...he also promoted new subjects such as engineering, and introduced the first Reserve Officers Training Corps (or ROTC). Up until then they were only held at the military service academies." This is not true. ROTC first started in 1819 at the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy at Norwich, Vermont. This is now Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. Norwich produced many famous officers who served throughout the period leading up to the Civil War, including Civil War Medal of Honor winners Brigadier General Edward Bancroft Williston and Brigadier General Edmund Rice, as well as Major General Grenville Dodge, later Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad. The history can be verified by contacting the university and confirming with the Wikipedia entry on ROTC.Ipoc1 17:08, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

New biography[edit]

I'm no expert on Robert E. Lee or the Civil War, and I haven't read this book, but: A new biography by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, published this year, apparently refutes the image of Lee as a secret or would-be Abolitionist. I saw a program featuring the author on "History on Book TV" and thought it was very interesting.

Pryor's biography is Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. She said she had examined some 10,000 pages of Lee letters and papers at the Virginia Historical Society. In the program, she described Lee as very much a white supremacist, who indeed had three recaptured slaves whipped, and said the postwar effort to portray Lee as a nascent Abolitionist did not jibe with the reality of his racist views.

From a review in Booklist: “Although Lee had his doubts about the utility of slavery as an institution, his views on race relations were hardly enlightened.”

Sca 19:17, 12 August 2007 (UTC)


In early life & career: "Lee's father "bit the shit" when Lee was twelve years old, leaving the family deeply in semen." Can somebody revert that? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:30, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Early Life-Educatioln[edit]

Took out part that said "received education in Greek, Latin, algebra, and geometry", and replaced with "classical education along the lines of quadrivium". If anyone has a better wording for that section, go ahead, it just seemed that mine was a bit more "encyclopedia-like" Cronos2546 19:49, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Lee's Daughters[edit]

Does anyone besides me find it odd that NONE of Lee's daughters ever got married? He had several, and two lived into the 20th century. None got married. I don't mean to imply anything inappropriate, it just seems odd to me. Does anyone have more information on this? Bigmac31 19:29, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Deleting References[edit]

User: do you have a reason for twice deleting the References section? Please explain your reasoning before reverting a third time. --Storm Rider (talk) 19:34, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

I can't think of any possible legitimate reason for deleting the references (hence my revert). This page is a pretty big target for vandals, though, so I wouldn't be too surprised if this is nothing more than simple vandalism. ----Folic_Acid talk tome 19:49, 4 October 2007 (UTC)


I set up MiszaBot to archive this page. Gtstricky 16:28, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Most pre 2007 discussion moved to the archive page. Gtstricky 21:47, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

GA Status[edit]

The article has passed Sections : 3), 5) and 6). Corrections are needed on sections 1), 2) and 4).

Overall, the assessment is : ON HOLD

The assessment is,as follows :

1) Written Quality - Overall - Well written. Good use of quotes but Engineering section - remove "see below Marriage and family", a clumsy, redundant note.

2) Factual accuracy

*After the War section - Cartersville is a non-existent link.

  • Postwar politics section - Give a reference for the claim that William H Seward had "assumed" that someone else had dealt with Lee's application for an amnesty.

*Geographic features section - Lee Avenue and Grant Avenue are non-existent links.

*Memorials section - William Sievers is a non-existent link.

3) Coverage - Article is broad in scope and stays focused on the topic

4) Neutrality -

  • Legacy section - Given Lee's previous ownership of slaves, as stated in the article, expand this section to include an account of African American views of Lee. Consider this article and the views of noted African American writer W.E.B.Dubois [17] or this article here [18]. An African American perspective of Robert E. Lee must be included for balance.

5) Stability - No major edit wars that would prevent the granting of GA Status but I note you have suffered acts of vandalism by unregistered ISP users and that the article is semi-protected.

6) Photos - Free public domain photos are used, including one Featured photo. No Fair Use photos. Good use of photos.

Corrections must be carried out within seven days. Contact me when they have been done and I shall re-assess.

Tovojolo 01:11, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Corrected bad links. Article still needs Neutrality (section 4) addressed and one item under

section 2. Gtstricky 17:27, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

More than seven days has passed and not all the corrections have been done nor has anyone contacted me if they wished to raise any issues about the assessment. I have no alternative but to declare that the article has now been assessed as a Fail.

Tovojolo (talk) 01:15, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

slavery is off topic!![edit]

Most of this article is about slavery which is off topic of Lee. Please fix thisTrevor 16:40, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

The topic of the article is Lee's life. His career as a slaveholder and his views on the subject of slavery are relevant information about that topic. You may not be as interested in this stuff as you are in other facts about Lee's life, but some of us are, and there's no reason why you can't put your effort into expanding sections that deal with topics you find more interesting.
Radgeek 12:12, 11 February 2007 (UTC)
Lee's views about slavery are relevent, but it seems like no one here can AGREE on them, and it seems like the article is spending waaay too much time trying to address them. A simpler summary would be sufficient, instead of a huge article which is basically trying to drag General Lee's good name through the dirt just because he is associated with the Confederacy.
ArkSoutherner 00:25, 13 April 2007 (UTC)
I agree that being a slaveholder is not something that should consume most of the article. I know I tend to use the WP:OTHERSTUFF argument a lot, and this is a slight alteration, but...Jimi Hendrix played guitar. Is most of that article about Hendrix owning a guitar, as it is one thing that became a basis for his career? In this same case, Lee fought for the CSA, which was a majority slaveowners. However, his entire military career wasn't even based on the ownership of slaves. And it's understood that he once had his slaves whipped for running away, but if I backtalked by parents when I was younder, I got beaten with a stick. Still, there's no reason the article should focus on slavery, since Lee was a Confederate General. Had he been known as a slavetrader, it would be different. Zchris87v 02:40, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
I agree. The emphasis on Lee's slave holdings at the expense of other aspects of his life shows undo bias. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:20, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
Again, Lee's views on slavery and his career as a slaveholder are relevant topics for an article about his life. These are issues that both Lee's fans and his detractors have shown considerable interest in. If you feel that other aspects of his life are underrepresented in this article -- such as his career as a Confederate general, which was in fact shorter than his career as a large-scale slaveholder -- then the best way for you to address this issue is to make productive contributions to the sections on topics that interest you, rather than by trying to oversimplify the section on a topic that interests other people.
Zchris87's statement that whipping slaves for seeking their freedom is on a moral par with parents' efforts to punish their children, besides being plainly outrageous, also has no bearing at all on the question of how to edit the article. Many people do not agree that black slaves should have been treated on a par with unruly children, and removing salient information in order to enforce your view of what's relevant or interesting is a violation of WP:NPOV. Radgeek (talk) 02:09, 29 November 2007 (UTC)


Can someone look at this revert and make sure I didn't revert any good edits? Especially the november/december thing and the woman's quote. Thanks, delldot talk 04:27, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

New Robert E. Lee Monument to add to your list.[edit]

--Skulley (talk) 03:32, 12 December 2007 (UTC) Greetings. I am a proud card-carrying member of the Robert E. Lee Society, located in Lee County, Sanford North Carolina. Lee County was named for General Lee and formed in 1907. We began our project in April 2002 setting a target date for the dedication early in the year of 2007. This target "date" would be the centennial of Lee County and the bi-centennial of General Lee's birth.

Sculptor Gary Casteel was commissioned to do the bas-relief of the general along with a chronological plaque on the reverse side. Mr. Casteel is probably best known for his sculpting of the Lt. General James E. Longstreet equestrian monument located at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Members of the Robert E. Lee Society also had a hand in the Longstreet project and have adopted "Old Pete" as part of the Park's adopt-a-site program.

On January 10, 2007 we had the honor and privilege of having "The Pied Piper of History", historian emeritus, National Park Service Ed Bearss speak about the life and times of Robert Edward Lee. We were hoping to have Mr. Bearss speak on the General's birthday, but, schedules conflicted. Mr. Bearss expressed much desire to be the keynote speaker for the dedication, but, was already scheduled to be in the Phillipines for a World War II tour.

On Saturday April 14, 2007, five years after its conception, General Lee's monument was dedicated. Our keynote speaker was Mr. Danny Moody, official historian for the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The monument was constructed from brick. The plaques are bronze, with the General's left profile on the front and as mentioned earlier a chronological plaque on the reverse. Two smaller bronze informational plaques adorn the monument along the bottom contours. The General's monument resides between the old and new Lee County courthouses in the brick courtyard. The memorial stands some seven feet tall, nine feet in length and two feet in depth. The General faces east so he can see and feel the sun as she rises each morning.

I am sorry to say I do not have the means or knowledge to place a picture of the General's memorial here. Also please excuse the all caps, I am not shouting, I am just a poor typist.

With warmest regards, I remain,

Russell McGhee, Parliamentarian, Robert E. Lee SocietySkulley (talk) 03:32, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Russell, I have taken the liberty of editing your comment (especially removing the "all caps" difficulty) for better legibility. Perhaps I shall visit the memorial soon and get a picture, which I might put in an appropriate place in Wikipedia. I, too, am a resident of Lee County, NC. Also, although I am one of those dratted "dumnyankees" I am a fan of that esteemed gentleman, General Lee.
Snezzy (talk) 05:06, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Ongoing minor vands[edit]

Cannot this article be somewhat protected from the almost daily minor edits attributed to vandalism? Kresock (talk) 02:54, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Certainly that could be done, but the General serves as sort of a lightning rod, taking blows that would otherwise hit articles that are not as well defended. One might say that the article, or even the General himself, stands in testimony to the possibilities of Wikipedia. If he can retain his integrity (with the able help of you, me, and a host of others) then so can the entire project. Snezzy (talk) 05:12, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Record at West Point[edit]

The claim, supported by a quote from a book by Larry Tagg, that Lee was the only cadet in West Point history to receive no demerits, appears to me to be entirely false. D. S. Freeman's 1934 biography of Lee meticulously documents Lee's record as a cadet and finds that five other members of the 46-strong class of 1829 graduated with a perfect conduct record (see here). This was discussed a while back in the now-archived talk page. See also the article on the head of the class of '29, Charles Mason, who tied Lee in Artillery, Tactics, and Conduct and bested him in all other subjects, with an overall lead of 29 points out of 2000 (see here). Please don't reintroduce claims to the contrary without good documentary evidence. -- Eb.hoop (talk) 08:00, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

James Longstreet should be mentioned[edit]

I see mentions of Stonewall Jackson in the article but nothing of James Longstreet the only Corps commander he could really trust to do a good job during much of the war after Jacksons death. Theis plays into the whole problem of him finding good leaders for his army somethign that plauged him for much of the war. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Darkwand (talkcontribs) 04:16, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Links neatened 3 Feb 08[edit]

One link had decayed to a spam site, out. The Recollections need not figure twice, and the Gutenberg version is in a much less manageable format than the other. The Florida letter is a very minor squib; if we added links to every similar item scattered thru the Web, we'd have a huge link directory of trvia. Bill (talk) 12:28, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

Lee's Statues[edit]

Your article states that the statue of Lee in New orleans faces North because it should face the enemy. The magnificent equestrian statue of Lee in Richmond on Monument Avenue faces South, while those of JEB Stuart and Jackson, also on horseback and on Monument, face North, because the latter two "died in the face of the enemy", or so I was taught. Jefferson Davis' and Matthew Fountain Maury's Monument Avenue statues, sans horses, face East. (talk) 23:57, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Robert E. Lee in Pennsylvania[edit]

From a correspondent:

By modern standards, Robert E. Lee would be considered a war criminal. When he invaded Pennsylvania, Robert E. Lee had his troops round up Negro citizens [not fugitives from the South, but people who had lived their whole lives in freedom], load them into boxcars, and ship them to slave auctions in the South.

Reported source: The PBS series "The Civil War", produced by Ken Burns.

If anyone has a transcript of the program or the accompanying book, can you check this?

WoodenBooks (talk) 19:42, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

I have the Civil War DVD set. It doesn't say this at all. Lee's subordinates did press gang locals into digging fortifications on occasion, though this was not reported at Gettysburg. Lee may not have been aware of it in any event. Poor health during the time of his Gettysburg Campaign allowed for little attention to detail beyond the immediate troop dispositions. On the other hand Union Generals Hooker and Sherman were almost certainly aware and actively encouraging the actions of their troops in the destrction og Fredericksburg and the South Carolina Countryside. I guess those would be considered War Crimes as well. Or we could listen to Ben Franklin when he advised against drawing hast judgements when view the past thru the lens of the present. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:17, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
But that is the question. When Robert E. Lee acted in his times, this was all right. Perhaps this is why one studies history, to know from a historical perspective, what was right or wrong at _these_ times. :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:11, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

American Civil War[edit]

- I would like to point out that, other than the "American Civil War" being the most common title for this "War between the States," Abraham Lincoln never recognized the Confederacy. During the whole war, the Confederate states were considered as the Rebelling States. This is just one key note, and of course history is always arguable, but many other factors make titling the war as the "American Civil War" more appropriate than "The War for Southern Independence," though I do believe that "The War Between the States" is an interesting angle... but it essentially means "Civil War." I don't believe that "The War of Northern Aggression" is a plausible title, as it was known that if Abe had become president, a few states promised they would succeed. Plus, it was the southern states that fired the first rounds at Fort Sumter. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:44, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

It says he fought in the American Civil war.

But, the definition of a civil war is "a war between political factions or regions within the same country." It was a war between the union and the confederacy.

We should use a different term, because it was two separate countries fighting each other. We should say, "The War between the states" or "The War for Southern Independence".

(Personally, I wouild prefer it to be called the War of Northern Aggression, but that would be to non-neutral for the wikipedia)

What say ye? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:14, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

This issue has been discussed exhaustively in conjunction with the article Naming the American Civil War and the consensus of Wikipedia editors is that American Civil War is by far the most common term for the conflict. Hal Jespersen (talk) 16:44, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Lee as a slaveholder Section[edit]

Am I the only one that reads this section as trying to excuse he's large use of slaves because he found himself needing money? Just reading this is quite clear there are weasel words all over the place providing reasons for his time using slaves and even renting them out. Thanks.

It is a generally accepted fact that Robert Lee sought to free his slaves, that he never personally owned more than 30 slaves in his life, and that he believed slavery to be an evil. Is this ever addressed? And what credibility can we give to the report that Lee ordered the whipped slaves to be tortured with the brine? I have researched Lee quite well, I think, and have come across nothing of this like. (talk) 03:49, 3 November 2008 (UTC)Alatariel Dashwood, November 2, 2008.
Give zero credibility to the was propaganda when it was written. The notion of adding "balance" to an article sometimes means that people add any controversial thing no matter how far down the chain of credibility it lies.
⋙–Berean–Hunter—► ((⊕)) 04:06, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

There is a problem in the article in regards to citations from Alan T. Nolan's book Lee Reconsidered which I just finished reading minutes ago - literally. These are citations #22 and #23. For example, #23 seeks to provide a reference for this statement reported to have been made by Lee to the Reverend John Leyburn while in Baltimore during April 1869:

"So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South."

Nolan does not question in his book that Lee made such a statement but he prefaces the introduction of this remark with "Leyburn then quoted the general as saying..."

The problem is that Nolan spends a considerable amount of pages within the book showing that this statement (whether Lee made it or not) did not accurately reflect Lee's view regarding blacks and slavery. In fact, Nolan quotes numerous letters written by Lee (as opposed to someone else "repeating" what Lee is suppose to have said) showing that Lee did not feel this way before or during the War, and perhaps after too. In fact, Nolan shows, by quoting Lee's letters, that Lee felt just the opposite.

For #22, Nolan has Lee's complete letter about using slaves as soldiers as a separate appendix which, when read completely, does not depict Lee as someone feeling kindly toward the slaves.

As a result, the citations from Nolan's book are taken out of context and should be removed. Nolan's book does not seek to demonize Lee. In fact, Nolan often praises Lee and shows how racism existed in both the northern and southern states. But Nolan does seek to portray the real Lee, not the "Man of Marble" that southern mythologists created. And the real Lee was a product of his time and area of birth - a man who believed that blacks belonged under the domination of the white race. Thomas R. Fasulo (talk) 22:05, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

Regardless of one's position on Lee, I find that the current text takes great pain to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century political standards. If that approach is fair, then I'll expect to see the same treatment in the biographies of other 19th Century leaders... Abraham Lincoln perhaps, who held nearly identical views on the inferiority of the black race as did Lee. ```` —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:10, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Time for an upgrade on Lee?[edit]

New letters have emerged and have recently and researched by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, a highly decorated and credible diplomat and historian. As a historian of the civil war, Pryor has written the quintessential biography on Clara Barton, which is considered the authoritative work by historians. Her fairly recent book, "Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through his Private Letters," analyzes these overlooked letters and provides a great deal of information on Robert E. Lee, some of which negate some of what we thought to be correct, and illuminating that which we already know or don't know. I have just started reading the book, and I hope others will too, especially if your a college prof. cause that would be cool, and I believe that it would be of much benefit to the people, and to Wiki, if some of the information was reviewed (I.E. Lee's stance on slavery, and underscoring the idea that joining the Confederacy was not instinctive). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:53, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Robert E Lee also had a desendant named Christopher Lee which was after his children —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hellborg666 (talkcontribs) 11:38, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Auction of letters[edit]

I edited the section on the auction of a few of Lee's war-era letters because the prose made no sense. However, it doesn't seem to me that this section even belongs in the article. Documents and artifacts of historical figures, including Lee's, are bought and sold at auction all the time, and the prices will rise and fall with the sentiment of the market. Nothing about this sales seems at all noteworthy. It seems likely that this case piqued minor interest because the seller carried these particular letters around in his auto for a while before realizing what he inherited, but that's insignificant trivia that has no bearing on the subject of this article. It might be otherwise if evidence was presented that these particular letters had an impact on our understanding of Lee and his times. --Kbh3rdtalk 18:06, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Agree GtstrickyTalk or C 16:47, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Adding external link[edit]

Lee's Retreat Driving tour is a road tour that "follows the course of that critical action on roads that were used April 2–9, 1865."

Here is an external link to the information regarding this tour:

It would be great if this information could be included somewhere in this article. Stephensjl1 (talk) 21:12, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

That would be much more appropriate in Appomattox Campaign than Lee's bio. Hal Jespersen (talk) 22:33, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

King of Spades[edit]

Early in the war, Lee was nicknamed 'King of Spades' by Southern troops for his widespread digging of trenches around Richmond. This would be a valuable addition if properly cited.

I cited it all. Someone might want to check it out though, just in case.

Palantini (talk) 17:17, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Helen Keller[edit]

Helen Keller should be set up as a link in the last line of the "Marriage and Family" section —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:20, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

Restoration of citizenship[edit]

Sorry if I am not formating this correctly, but I think there may be an error in a potion of this article. In the section "citizenship" under "after the war" in the second paragraph, it is stated "In 1975 after a five-year campaign by Senator Harry F. Byrd, a resolution to posthumously restore Lee's full rights of citizenship passed by a unanimous April U.S. Senate vote and a 407-10..." yet in the Harry Byrd article that Harry Byrd redirects to it is stated that Byrd died in '66. I am just uncertain how he could have campaigned for Lee's citizenship after being dead for 9 years.( (talk) 03:37, 12 January 2009 (UTC))

Harry Byrd Sr. His son Harry Byrd Jr. was also a Senator and indeed he is still alive. Hope that helps clear tings out.--Robert Waalk (talk) 02:14, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I found a spot that might need a bit of clarification. Two sentences above that, the article states: "(Lee's right to vote was restored in 1888.)[40]" Given that Lee died in 1870, how is it that his right to vote was restored 18 years later? I don't believe there is a posthumous right to vote. Location (talk) 18:26, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Neutrality of Films/Documentaries Subsection[edit]

Both documentaries, though more prominently the first, seem to be soliciting themselves by not only providing irrelevant details of the productions themselves, but also using peacock terms such as "brilliant" and "excellent". I suggest either rewriting these entries or deleting this subsection altogether. (talk) 08:42, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

I have removed that section -- it does appear to add nothing to the article. Tom (North Shoreman) (talk) 11:03, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

First sentence, etc.[edit]

I think that almost any American would say that Lee is notable as the commander of the Confederate forces in the Civil War, not as a United States Army officer. Steve Dufour (talk) 16:35, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

Relationship with Robert Hall Chilton[edit]

Mention could be made that the painful loneliness of REL in Texas was ameliorated by off duty association with paymaster R. H. Chilton, particulalrly with daughters Laura and Emily. Post war correspondence shows Laura begging the depressed REL to attend her wedding.

When in Richmond, REL spent time with cousins Robert Hall Chilton and Montgomery Ala Rep. William Parish Chilton, the latter partly due to his committee assignmments. REL knew that the Chilton family seat on the Potomac was Currioman, walking distance to Stratford and that their roots were intertwined.

At some point, the three had to discuss Andersonville. Wm. P. Chilton knew Capt. Henry Wirz from his time spent in Montgomery. Robert H. Chilton probably dispatched the photographer to the Andersonville parapets in response to reports coming across his desk, threatening "the judgment of history". -- Ed Chilton, 19 July 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:21, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Lee Grant tank[edit]

Didn't the British name the Medium Tank M3 after General Lee? --Kiern Moran (talk) 01:26, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Geographic Features[edit]

Omissions Leesburg, VA U.S Route 7 through Fairfax County, VA is named Leesburg Pike (talk) 17:15, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

Balance in discussion of Lee's performance in the Civil War[edit]

The discussion of the Civil War battles seems unbalanced; there is a strong tendency to make excuses for Lee's losses. This is particularly evident in the section "Ulysses S. Grant and the Union offensive" which does not give adequate credit to Grant's generalship or explain his strategy, and makes it sound as if Grant was stymied by Lee during the Overland Campaign. Lee's performance as a general was, without a doubt, strong enough to permit of a discussion of his strengths and weaknesses without appearing to deprecate him. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:04, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

Although REL was a good general, as well as a very good man (in spite of what George B. McClellan thought of him; GBM considered REL cautious and weak and wanting in moral firmness), his greatest strength was knowing his opponent and what his opponent would do next. Bill the Cat 7 (talk) 19:22, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree, the article is slanted and not objective. According to Catton's 3rd volumn of Grant's biography, Grant's full intent was to attach his army to Lee's and essentially wear it out until it did not exist. But first, he tried for an early victory by maneuvering Lee out of his trench warfare mode. Grant's constant movement in the beginning of the campaign put Lee on the defensive, and confused the Confederate forces. Indeed, Grant withdrew his entire army from the face of the enemy, stole a march on the Army of Northern Virginia by crossing the James and coming up to the crucial city of Petersburg. If Baldy Smith had not quailed before the empty trenches at Petersburg, the war would have ended a year earlier. The idea that Grant's army was solely in a battle of attrition is not accurate. Someone should recast this discussion to better reflect historic fact. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:30, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Catton points out the Grant utilized the Railroads when attacking Confederate forces. Grant knew that attacking the Southern Railroads would severly weaken the Confederate Army. Also Grant had Sheridan close the pathway to the North, the Shenandoah Valley.{Cmguy777 (talk) 21:32, 22 September 2009 (UTC)}

Grant did want a war of attrition. That is a fact. However, it has been misinterpreted. Lee knew that Grant wanted a war of attrition and Lee did everything to prevent it. Had Grant gotten his war of attrition the South would have been defeated very quickly. This is why Lee took defensive positions with trenches and in the wilderness during Grant's Virginia campaign, in order to prevent heavy losses.{Cmguy777 (talk) 21:32, 22 September 2009 (UTC)}

Lee as slave holder[edit]

Lee was not a slave holder or slave owner of the Arlington slaves. As executor of the will, Lee was suppose to get the Custis estate in financial order and release the slaves, not run a slave plantation. What Lee did was against the Custis will. Lee had no right to punish the slaves that ran away because he was not their owner! Lee was pretending to be the owner. Nothing in the will said Lee was the owner of the slaves or could lease the slaves to other slave owners. Lee ran Arlington like a slave plantation. The wordings need to be changed. I propose to put the actual will to show that Lee was not the owner of the slaves. Lee did emancipate the slaves, yet he acted as if he owned the slaves. {Cmguy777 (talk) 06:42, 20 September 2009 (UTC)}

Lee's civil war battle summary[edit]

I added this summary to give a quick glance of what Lee was doing and the major battles he fought. It gives troop strengths and casualties (exception for the Confederates on the Union's Appomatox Campaign) and the generals whom Lee was fighting. {Cmguy777 (talk) 05:38, 24 September 2009 (UTC)}

There seems to be far too much OR in the section on the civil war battles, as none of the sources given seem to suggest a victory or defeat; it appears as though the outcome is being put to arbitrary decision without proper sourcing. Mrathel (talk) 18:13, 8 December 2009 (UTC)


Did Lee's course of study really consist of Arithmetic, Geometry, Harmonics and Astronomy? I know this is picky-picky but when I see unusual words not commonly associated with American education it just jumps out. I thought those were the days of reading, writing, and arithmetic (and for some French and possibly Latin and Greek).Nitpyck (talk) 04:57, 27 September 2009 (UTC) Robert E. Lee's Childhood(Taken From Robert E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman, Chapter II. I have edited for length and style) Accordingly, by 1820, possibly before that year, Robert entered the Alexandria academy. ... the school was made free to all Alexandria boys after January, 1821. ... For approximately three years Robert studied the rudiments of a classical education under Mr. Leary. He read Homer and Longinus in Greek. From Tacitus and Cicero he became so well-grounded in Latin that he never quite forgot the language, though he did not study it after he was seventeen. ... In mathematics he shone, for his mind was already of the type that delighted in the precise reasoning of algebra and geometry.

Based on this I'm taking out Quadrivium. Nitpyck (talk) 05:59, 30 September 2009 (UTC)


I haven't been involved in editing this page and have no history about decisions made regarding what to/not to include on it, including whether the list of statues /memorials is intended to be a complete list.

In case you guys aren't aware of it, there's a statue of REL on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Here's a link to a picture of the statue:

Best, Rosmoran (talk) 07:16, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

Positioning of a Washington and Lee Presidency succession box[edit]

I'm just beginning the process of updating/creating wikis related to every President of Washington and Lee University. Not adding additional bibliographic materials to this page, but I am planning to add a W&L President succession box, which currently is only included in George Washington Custis Lee's wiki. I thought a good place to put it on REL's page would be under the military succession box and above the Gettysburg figures. Just for purposes of clarity, I want to mention that it would be a separate succession box from the military one. Does anyone have any thoughts/criticisms/better ideas? Rdxtion (talk) 00:33, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Battle History Section in need of better sources[edit]

The section on the battle summary fails to meet with the sourcing guidelines, mainly WP:verifiable. The cites listed as sources for this section in no way conclude the outcome of the battles or support the reasons given for the outcome listed. This, this, this, and this do not constitute a credible source for an encyclopedia article and should be replaced with books or peer reviewed journals on the subject. Civil War historians have provided ample research on the subject, so there is no need for an independent website to be used as a source in this article. Mrathel (talk) 18:23, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

Barely escaping defeat at the Battle of Antietam in 1862[edit]

Antietam is generally considered a defeat. Lee abandoned his northern offensive and Maryland, and retreated back to Virginia. Is there some technical reason to claim it was not a defeat? Nitpyck (talk) 06:50, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

It was tactically inconclusive because both sides sustained about similar casualties, but it's been noted as a strategic Union victory due to it stopping Lee's invasion of the North. IMO it's inconclusive because both sides retreated from the battlefield at about the same time.--McBuHoMeGr (talk) 17:40, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville[edit]

I noticed that the Second Bull Run and Antietam both have reasonably sized paragraphs dedicated to them in the article, but the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville are both squeezed into one pretty small paragraph. I understand that there are large articles dedicated to both battles, but would it really be that much work to make two more paragraphs dedicated to those battles?--McBuHoMeGr (talk) 17:46, 25 January 2010 (UTC) Robert e lee got his horse shot in this battle —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:39, 16 March 2010 (UTC) Robert E. Lee is probably the most beloved person in history. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Muscle car9 (talkcontribs) 14:57, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

Last words?[edit]

Im not quite sure these were the last words of Robert E. Lee because they sound suspiciously like Stonewall Jackson's. It is my recommendation it be removed.

His last words are the actual last words of Stonewall Jackson and not Lee's. Andman0121 (talk) 01:52, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

This article is correct. Read Stonewall Jackson to see that general's last words. Hal Jespersen (talk) 18:45, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from Historygeek92, 19 May 2010[edit]

{{editsemiprotected}} I'd like to edit the death of Robert E. Lee. While some of the information is correct, some is not. Physicians believed the generla had laryngitus and made his lie down while his wife fed him chicken soup. His health began to deteriorate and finally died. In the twentyith century, physicians proclaimed the gerneal hada stroke of the lyranx. The larynx did not allow Lee to swallow so he slowly died while his wife filled his lungs with chicken soup, unknowing she was hurting him. Moments before he died, it is reported he sat up and stated, "Strike the tent," and died, but this is disproved as the larynx was damaged from the stroke and would not have allowed him talk.

Historygeek92 (talk) 20:47, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

Not done: please provide reliable sources that support the change you want to be made. fetch·comms 21:09, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

Doubled word in Robert E Lee quote[edit]

"All this has been MY my fault." Can't fix as the article is semi protected and I don't have an account —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:33, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

Slavery coverage[edit]

I expanded the section on slavery by adding new details and new cites, and reduced the excessively long section on the Curtis estate issue. --it was 10 times longer than the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville combined! Curtis estate still gets more % space than is allocated in the major books by Freeman, Thomas, Feldman etc. Rjensen (talk) 23:07, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

Claim that Lee lost Vicksburg[edit]

I noticed in the first couple of paragraphs that it refers to Lee's tactics or strategy that lost Vicksburg. In July of 1863, Lee was at Gettysburg and had no bearing on the loss of Vicksburg. Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863, one day after Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:38, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Pending changes[edit]

This article is one of a number (about 100) selected for the early stage of the trial of the Wikipedia:Pending Changes system on the English language Wikipedia. All the articles listed at Wikipedia:Pending changes/Queue are being considered for level 1 pending changes protection.

The following request appears on that page:

Comments on the suitability of theis page for "Penfding changes" would be appreciated.

Please update the Queue page as appropriate.

Note that I am not involved in this project any much more than any other editor, just posting these notes since it is quite a big change, potentially

Regards, Rich Farmbrough, 23:46, 16 June 2010 (UTC).

downloading Robert E Lee article-- certain photos missing[edit]

In downloading this aricle on General Lee, certain photos do NOT appear in the download, specifically the Currier & Ives painting of the BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG (left hand side), the photo of LEE, his son Fitzhugh(aka Rooney) and aide Walter Taylor (also left hand side), and LEE's Amnesty Oath pledge (right hand side). Anyone else having this problem, and any ideas on a remedy? (talk) 07:08, 18 June 2010 (UTC)Carl Howe

I believe that the problem is on your end...I don't have any problem seeing the images.
⋙–Berean–Hunter—► ((⊕)) 18:34, 18 June 2010 (UTC)


It is question here about Lee´s lacking of proper "Strategic Vision", as opposed to his undoubted tactical skill, in that Lee advanced into the North in spite of being inferior in strength, hoping to bring the war to a quick conclusion. It may legitimately be asked what else he could have done. Stay where he was, allow time for the Union armies to form, and be defeated? What sort of vision should he have had? In war, you do what is necessary with the means at hand. Lee constantly generated 500 % output where 100 % is pretty good, and the only real problem was that he got his field command so late, or we would have a very different U.S. today.

Traveller45 (talk) 11:34, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

every time the Confed invaded the North they met disaster (Lee in West Va, KY-Perryville, MD=Antietam, PA=Gettysburg, Tenn=Nashville) and Richmond never learned. His "strategy" (ie "the North will demand peace if we invade") was totally fallacious. Meanwhile he was desperately needed at Vicksburg and did not go there.Rjensen (talk) 22:23, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

Article improvement[edit]

It's likely that towards the end of the summer, other editors and myself may start work on this article as part of trying to get it to FA prior to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (and perhaps to the main page next April). It's a decent article but rather disorganized and there's a lot of cleanup to be done, and references added and the like. I hope that people who monitor this article will join in.--Wehwalt (talk) 01:41, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Did he come second or third?[edit]

Article now says:

In his class of 46, he ranked second overall, surpassed by only Mason due to the latter's better performance in other disciplines.

It links to as a source:*.html which says:

From their presence, in his regular turn, Robert emerged the third man in his class. Charles Mason led and William Harford was second.

Does that not mean he was ranked third overall, surpassed by Mason and Harford? --SJK (talk) 23:52, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

That's referring to an earlier class year. On page 81, Freeman says "In final class standing Mason was No. 1; Lee was No. 2; Harford, Joseph A. Smith, and James Barnes followed in order." Hal Jespersen (talk) 00:41, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

SJK: Thanks for your assumption of good faith re: my edit. As for the response you requested, I don't have much beyond what Hal Jespersen said, except to add that the WP article "Charles Mason (attorney)" corroborates the text as it stands now. (talk) 20:43, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

President Johnson's pardons[edit]

President Johnson gave two pardons on June 13, 1865 and one on December 25, 1868. The one in 1865 seems to be a full pardon, while the one in 1868 seems to be a pardon with restrictions. Can anyone clear this up? Cmguy777 (talk) 00:20, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Is this in the article?--Jojhutton (talk) 00:26, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
It says Johnson's pardon was unconditional in 1868. This pardon is put before the first pardon in 1865. The pardons should be explained in chronological order and cleared up. I had read the 1868 pardon first and assumed that was the first pardon, then the next mentioned was in 1865. Did the 1868 pardon overide the 1865 pardon? Cmguy777 (talk) 00:19, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

Edit war over ancestry[edit]

User:Thesouthernhistorian45 keeps insisting on edit warring over Lee's ancestry but hasn't opened a dialog on this page, and so I'm opening it for him. Please note that he has used IPs to avoid being cited for three revert rule.

This is your chance to state your case and attempt to build consensus here...but continued reversions on your part will be considered disruptive. I'm neutral about your point but very unimpressed with your methods so far.

State your case, please
⋙–Berean–Hunter—► ((⊕)) 15:21, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

Although I don't find the obsession with ancestry to be very interesting, unless it can be shown to have some material effect on the character or conduct of a historical figure, in the case of Lee, it would be better to use one of the noted secondary source biographies rather than various unstated online databases. Here's the gold standard bio, available online:
I personally found no objection to the ancestry information. I would, however, feel more comfortable with a reliable secondary source rather than the data base being used as a source now. I also find it very trivial as to why it keeps getting removed. The information is far from dubious, and if the only objections would be the sourcing, I'm sure a more reliable source from the vast amount of resources on the subject could be drudged up if need be, but I wouldn't remove it for the problem alone.Jojhutton (talk) 17:56, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
There is no objection to Lee's ancestry as long as it is accurate and to the point. A valid Lee biography should have that information somewhere. There is no need for an edit war. Cmguy777 (talk) 23:13, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Lee's ancestry, and that of his family of Westmoreland County, Virginia, is adequately covered in the Lee family entry on wikipedia. I can't see that there's much to add to that, nor should discussion of his ancestry take up much room in his biography here, in my opinion. (Full disclosure: I personally have reverted several of Thesouthernhistorian's attempts to insert this information.) MarmadukePercy (talk) 01:57, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Well the amount of information provided here about the Lee family is scarce, and unless one went looking for information about the Lee family as a whole, rather than about Robert E Lee, they wouldn't know Robert E Lee was from a prominent, old family, one of Virginia's first families. Furthermore, on Abraham Lincoln's page it mentions when his family first got to the new world, why is Lee undeserving of the same notion? Is it because he's a Southerner? Also, the little family tree provided on Lee's page is incomplete, and I don't see the point of mentioning it if it's not full. Lastly, the one of his ancestors who is mentioned seems like a random choice, why him and not the others? Thesouthernhistorian45 (talk) 19:10, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Anybody?Thesouthernhistorian45 (talk) 20:47, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

I've re-added this information with the suggested reference. - Burpelson AFB 17:50, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Overland Campaign Results[edit]

I argue that it is incorrect to state that the battles of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor were "inconclusive" simply because Grant did not retreat.

I believe battles should be examined in a vacuum in terms of wins or losses; otherwise, any victory by the eventual defeated army could be argued away. Of course, this does not preculde discussion of how the particular battle's outcome fit into the larger picture of the war. My opinion holds for any war, but I find the discussion of the Overland Campaign, at Wikipedia and elsewhere, to be particularly rampant with battle descriptions and outcomes being unduly colored by the eventual end of the war.

I will accept that the outcome of Spotsylvania was inconclusive due to the partial breakthrough of the Southern lines, but I fail to see how anyone could call the Wilderness or especially Cold Harbor inconclusive: that Grant's forces were nearly routed at the Wilderness and completely thrown back at Cold Harbor should not be ignored merely because he attempted to flank Lee after.

Grant was surprised in the Wilderness and did not want to fight the battle at all, very nearly lost a significant portion of his army.

At Cold Harbor, the very fact that Grant made the attacks and then attempted to flank Lee after demonstrates that this battle was a Union defeat: Grant attempted to flank the Army of Northern Virginia only after being defeated in his main attmpt at Cold Harbor. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:35, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Most historians argue that the Overland Campaign was a smashing success for Grant, because it permanently destroyed the effectiveness of Lee's army. By the end all Lee could do would be retreat into trenches defending Petersburg (and Richmond). In other words, the individual battles (which Lee indeed did win) were not especially significant, but the overall campaign was decisive to winning the war, primarily because Lee could not replace his losses, and Grant could replace his losses. Rjensen (talk) 20:42, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't disagree, but to say that Grant's campaign was a "smashing success" seems to ignore the cost and assumes that Grant had no alternative but to slaughter tens of thousands of his men by being defeated by Lee at every turn. Grant was not seeking to weaken or bleed Lee's army at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania or Cold Harbor, he was seeking to destroy it then and there, and he failed spectacularly. To paint those terrific losses as part of some grand plan by Grant is to ignore reality and glorify a general who is, in my opinion, greatly over-rated as is. True, Grant "faced the arithmetic" better than anyone before, but he did not out-general Lee; rather he simply refused to be dissuaded, which no one else up to that point had. But were the losses he ignored necessary?

In other words, your point, that the overall sucess of the campaign renders the individual battle results "not especially significant" paints an unfairly flattering portrait of Grant the strategist at the expense of Lee. It basically assums that there was no way for Grant to succeed but the way he did which was the most costly and bloody way possible. I am arguing that Grant's plan was not to be defeated time and time again while weakening Lee's army, but rather that every time he attempted to win, he lost, but, thankfully, he could never truly "lose" thanks to the arithmetic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:38, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

Lee's "Strategic Vision"[edit]

The last part of the second paragraph is problematic.  

Whether his decision not to "protect Vicksburg" was a "major strategic blunder" depends on, among other things, whether Lee, the General of the Army of Northern Virginia, had the ability[[Media:Example.ogg#REDIRECT Target page name]]  to protect Vicksburg in the first place.  Vicksburg was over a thousand miles away, and it would have taken much time for the Army of Northern Virginia to get there.  Moreover, transporting them would have left Richmond undefended.  Even had Lee been able to move his troops to Vicksburg quickly enough to make a difference (presumably without losing Richmond) there's no guarantee they could have, or would have, won a battle there.  It's purely speculative.

The idea that Lee invaded the North because he thought morale was weak, or that he could defeat the North with a "handful of victories" is unsupported.  In terms of the 1963 campaign Lee himself offered a number of justifications, including a desire to stay on the offensive, a desire to spare Virginia the ravages of war during the harvest season (food was always scarce in the Confederacy), and the hope that a victory on Northern soil might help the South win international recognition.  Nothing he said ever indicated he questioned the North's will to win.  — Preceding unsigned comment added by LinusK (talkcontribs) 06:09, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

what historians say is NOT that Lee's army was needed at Vicksburg but that HE was needed to give overall supervision to a divided command. Grant beat each separate army one after the other. Lee's biographers emphasize his desire to weaken northern morale by a successful very large raid into Pennsy. Rjensen (talk) 07:50, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

I don't know what you mean.  Lee was the general of the ANV; he did not have overall authority over Confederate armies.  The only person who could have exercised that kind of control at that time was Jefferson Davis.  Johnston was the general in charge in the West during the Siege of Vicksburg.  

In any event the article is getting worse rather than better.  LinusK (talk) 04:48, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Do you have sources which illustrate your point?
⋙–Berean–Hunter—► ((⊕)) 13:28, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Which one? That Lee's army was the ANV? That Davis was President?

That Johnston was in charge in the West? 

  1. ^ Fellman p. 285