Was Robert E. Lee the paragon of virtue we have been led to know?

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Yes. If one puts aside the fact that he and his wife owned slaves—and this is, of course, difficult to do—it is nearly impossible to find a stain on his character. Regardless of whether he made the right or wrong decision in battle, Lee took responsibility. Regardless of whether his cause prospered or failed, he maintained a formidable belief in God, and that included God’s will as far as the war was concerned. Great leaders are often best evaluated by looking at their relations with subordinates, the people beneath them, and in this regard Lee shines on almost every occasion. He was, with very few exceptions, gracious, courteous, and self-sacrificing. One of the most wonderful true stories is of a Union soldier, wounded and captured at the Battle of Gettysburg. The young man was lying on the ground, in great pain, and when he saw that the Confederate leader was close by, he jumped up, just for a moment, to shout, “Hurrah for the Union!” Lee came close, and the young man feared that he might strike him, but the older one took his hand and said, “My son, I hope you will soon be well.”


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