U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower believed that Confederate General Robert E. Lee should be a Role Model for American youth and they should emulate his qualities.
Robert Edward Lee was born January 19, 1807 to Revolutionary War hero Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee III and Anne Carter Lee at Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County Virginia. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point where he graduated 2nd in the class of 1829 without a single demerit. Lee served in the U.S. Army for nearly 32 years.
At the beginning of the War Between the States (Civil War) he was offered command of the U.S. Army by Abraham Lincoln. He knew that Lincoln's invasion of the Southern States was unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, and criminal. He had to make a choice to either defend the Constitution or the Union. He made the correct decision to defend the Constitution.
Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia on June 1,1862 and the command of all 3 Confederate Armies in early 1865. After the collapse of the nation Confederate States of America he told his soldiers "Go Home And Be Good Americans". He accepted the position of President of Washington College in Lexington Virginia. At a time when he desperately needed money a Northern Insurance Company offered him $50,000 for the use of his name. He declined saying "my name and heritage is about all I have left and it is not for sale". Robert Edward Lee died on October 12, 1870.
No finer example of a Southern gentleman and leader exists whose positive impact was so great during and after the war. His superb character as a Christian gentleman stood out in his life as a man, husband, father, citizen, soldier, and a leader. These qualities greatly impressed many notable men.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated that "Lee was one of the noblest Americans that ever lived and that his noble presence and gentle kindly manner were sustained by Christian faith and an exalted character. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt described General Robert E. Lee as "the very greatest of all the great captains that the English speaking peoples have brought forth".
War-era Georgia Senator Benjamin Harvey Hill eloquently expressed a lasting Lee tribute: "He 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. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness; and Washington without his reward. He was obedient to authority as a servant, and loyal in authority as a true King. He was gentle as a woman in life; modest and pure as a virgin in thought; watchful as a Roman Vital in duty; submissive to law as Socrates; and grand in battle as Achilles"
On Aug.1,1960 Dr. Leon Scott of New York wrote U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower a letter stating " at the Republican Convention you said that you have the pictures of 4 great Americans on your office wall and one is Robert E. Lee. Please explain why you hold him in such high esteem. Eisenhower's response, written on White House letterhead on August 9, 1960 reads as follows: Dear Dr. Scott, Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War Between the States the issue of Secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our nation. He believed in the Constitutional validity of the Confederate cause. From deep conviction I simply say this "A nation of men of Lee's caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed to the degree that present day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, we in our own time of danger in a divided world will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained". Such are the reasons I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall. Sincerely, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Article Written 2011 by James W. King—Albany Georgia SCV Camp Commander