General Robert Edward Lee was born on this date in 1807. He is honored and remembered as a great statesman, a great military strategist, and a great American. Robert E. Lee is an icon to many of us in the South.
The state of Florida, and several other states, honor General Robert E. Lee by proclaiming January 19th as a legal holiday.
General Lee astride his horse, Traveller
Great men of history have said these words about General Lee:
U.S. Senator Benjamin Hill:
"Robert E. Lee possessed every virtue of other great commanders without their vices. He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile".
United States President Eisenhower:
“General Robert E. Lee was one of the supremely gifted men produced by our nation. From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
"His noble presence and gentle, kindly manner were sustained by religious faith and an exalted character."
President Theodore Roosevelt:
"General Robert E. Lee is the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth."
Stained glass portrayal of the life of Robert E. Lee.
Previously displayed in the National Cathedral, Washington D.C.
Union President Abraham Lincoln offered General Lee command of the Union Army. General Robert E. Lee refused to "...raise my hand against my relatives, my children, and my home". Lee resigned his commission.
General Lee then became Senior Military Advisor to Confederate States of America President Jefferson Finis Davis. General Lee was placed in command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
At West Point, Robert E. Lee was such a model cadet, with great discipline and military bearing, that he was nicknamed, "The Marble Statue".
Robert E. Lee distinguished himself during the Mexican-American War, serving under General Winfield Scott.
General Lee's Statue on Monument Avenue, Richmond Virginia
What was General Lee's position on slavery?
The Washington Times tells us,
"Lee had hoped Virginia would not secede, indeed, hoped that none of the states would. The man who has been called America’s greatest soldier hardly resembles the mean caricature drawn by the politically correct in the strife and tumult of the present day. He had opposed secession, and he had opposed slavery, writing in 1856 that “Slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil.” He would free his own slaves and declare, “I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.”
General Robert E. Lee is ranked among Hannibal, Napoleon, Marcus Aurelius, Alexander the Great, and interestingly enough, Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, as one of the greatest military strategists in world history. General Lee's tactics and battle plans are studied today in war colleges and military schools around the world.
Flag at the Headquarters of General Lee
Quotes from General Robert Edward Lee
"The education of a man or woman is never completed until they die."
"It is better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity."
"We may be annihilated, but we cannot be conquered."
"Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less."
"We failed, but in the good providence of God, apparent failure often proves a blessing."
"My trust is in the mercy and wisdom of a kind Providence, who ordereth all things for our good."
"In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength."
"My chief concern is to try to be a humble, earnest Christian."
Stone Mountain commemorative coin, featuring Generals Lee and Jackson
"These men are not an army - they are citizens defending their country."
"What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world."
"We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters."
"I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself."
"Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted that you mean to do right."
"You can have anything you want - if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, have anything you desire, accomplish anything you set out to accomplish - if you will hold to that desire with singleness of purpose."
Robert E. Lee at age 31
January 19 is the birthday of the great General Robert E. Lee. It is a Legal State Holiday in Florida. Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas also declare this day to be a Legal Holiday. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day. Georgia and Virginia have legal holidays for Robert E. Lee on other dates.