Robert E. Lee’s Greatest Victory

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He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression; and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor 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.

Benjamin H. Hill on Robert E. Lee



“It’s a warm spring Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. As the minister is about to present Holy Communion, a tall well-dressed black man sitting in the section reserved for African Americans unexpectedly advances to the communion rail; unexpectedly because this has never happened here before.

The congregation freezes. Those who have been ready to go forward and kneel at the communion rail remain fixed in their pews. The minister stands in his place stunned and motionless. The black man slowly lowers his body, kneeling at the communion rail.

After what seems an interminable amount of time, an older white man rises. His hair snowy white, head up, and eyes proud, he walks quietly up the isle to the chancel rail.

So with silent dignity and self-possession, the white man kneels down to take communion along the same rail with the black man.

Lee has said that he has rejoiced that slavery is dead. But this action indicates that those were not idle words meant to placate a Northern audience. Here among his people, he leads wordlessly through example. The other communicants slowly move forward to the altar with a mixture of reluctance and fear, hope and awkward expectation. In the end, America would defy the cruel chain of history besetting nations torn apart by Civil War.”

From “April 1865:  the Month that Saved America



“The man was loved, the man was idolized,

The man had every just and noble gift.

He took great burdens and he bore them well,

Believed in God but did not preach too much,

Believed and followed duty first and last

With marvellous consistency and force,

Was a great victor, in defeat as great,

No more, no less, always himself in both,

Could make men die for him but saved his men

Whenever he could save them was most kind

But was not disobeyed was a good father,

A loving husband, a considerate friend. “

Stephen Vincent Benet


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  1. Attempting to mind read Lee a century and a half later Tom is a futile exercise. What we do know is what he did. I would note that Lee lent his support to a successful movement to raise funds to provide public education for the children of former slaves in Virginia, and that as President of Washington College he would repeatedly expel students who engaged in attacks on blacks. Like all of us Lee was a child of his time and place. Unlike many of us he showed an ability to transcend his time and place to some degree when it came to race.

  2. Nice story. Now let us leave that church that Church and walk to the town square and bring our hammers down on the statue of Robert E. Lee.

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