Question of the Week: 1/18-1/24/16


January 20 has traditionally been “Lee-Jackson Day” in Virginia and throughout other parts of the South. The dates falls between the birthdays of Robert E. Lee (January 19) and Stonewall Jackson (January 21). In light of events from the past summer and the controversies about Confederate heritage that have ensued, is there still a place for a Lee-Jackson Day? Why/why not?

13 Responses to Question of the Week: 1/18-1/24/16

  1. Without question, yes. One of the criticisms often directed at Southern heritage organizations and those associated with them is that they should not fall into the trap of defining the South simply in the context of the Confederacy’s four years. I agree. However, the same principle would apply to Lee and Jackson as individuals. Jackson fought for the Confederacy for 2 years. But his service to the United States and Virgina were much longer: hero in the Mexican War, professor at VMI, etc. And he spent 3 times as many years teaching a Sunday school for slaves and free blacks in Lexington as he did fighting for the Confederacy.

    This contrast is even more defined in Lee’s life, both before and after the Civil War. Lee fought with honor and distinction in the Mexican War, served as Superintendent of West Point, quelled a domestic insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, and was a highly respected officer and engineer. Lee’s military prowess was well recognized. General Winfield Scott credited the United States’ victory over Mexico to the “skill, valor and undaunted energy of Robert E. Lee” and once referred to him as, “the greatest military genius in America.”

    And then there was Lee’s service at Washington College. His contributions there are well-documented and his spirit and attitude after the war were instrumental in reuniting North and South. And it should be remembered that Lee and Jackson’s service to the Confederacy was, in their mind, as much as a defense of their native Virginia as it was anything else. The ties to one’s state (especially Lee) were much more meaningful in those days than they are to our very mobile society. Virginia had been a political entity for more than two hundred years, and Lee’s roots in Virginia could be traced to the year 1640. The United States had only been a reality for about 80 years. Regardless, both men were strong Unionists prior to President Lincoln’s call for troops to quell the rebellion of the Southern states. Their motivations were complicated.

    So yes, I believe there is now, and should always be, a place for Lee Jackson Day.

  2. My girlfriend, who works for the state, will fight anyone who tries to get rid of her four day weekend.

    1. That would be the only reason I could think of to continue this holiday. No matter how complicated their motives, both men turned their backs on their country. I just do not think that is something to be celebrated.To each his own–I do not care to argue.

      1. I think they defined “their country” differently than what we do today. Lee would have, at the very least, been sympathetic with the perspective manifested in his father’s statement: “Virginia is my country; her will I obey, however lamentable the fate to which it may subject me.”

      2. Regarding Richard’s response, and to Robert’s credit, he actually had a different view of what was his “country” than did his father. From the oft-quoted letter to one of his sons dated January 23, 1861:

        “Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never
        exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and
        surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be
        broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for
        “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a
        government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the
        consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession.
        Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington,
        Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution.…Still a
        Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife
        and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm
        for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of
        mankind. If the Union is dissolved, and the Government disrupted, I shall
        return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and save in
        defense will draw my sword on none”

        There’s a big difference between stating that a Union preserved by force “has no charm for me” and stating that Virginia “is my country”. I also am unaware that Harry swore an oath of loyalty to the United States.

  3. There should be a remembrance of Lee and Jackson but always in the full context of American history as stated. However, the services of Lee and Jackson which you listed contributed to America in their individual capacities as leaders was also duplicated by many other men of this same time period. These good men did not chose to commit treason regardless of any personal motivations they had within them. Only Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia chose to recognize Lee and Jackson with a special day. That says it all.

  4. If you are a Southerner, there is Always, a place for Lee, and Jackson. But, if you are a historian, you must also see they deserve a place in Our continued memories .
    How we remember, and treat the memory of those who served the cause of rebellion seccesion has always fascinated me . I want you to check your history, and you will discover that the reputations of The losers in a Civil War Always suffer an indignant fate .. But in America, we preserve, and honor, the Men that attempted to dissolve the UNION . History says, Their fate should have been death. ( Davis, Lee, Longstreet, and All of the High command )
    America, handled the Worst moment in it’s History, in the best way possible, and in America, allegiances, and memories,,, Die Hard .

  5. If we have Mickey Mouse Day on November 18, I don’t see any issue remembering some courageous American men. Seems like a good education opportunity to me – I just don’t think the generals would be too impressed by all the long-winded unpleasant debates, flag waving, and “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitudes which are sometimes displayed in their “honor.”
    Just my thoughts…

  6. Not really sure if there’s a place for Lee-Jackson Day, but I am sure there is absolutely no place for Lee-Jackson-King Day. It’s thoughtless,lazy, and misses the point.

  7. John – I believe that comment by Lee was in early 1861. His views seem to have evolved as time went on. After the war: “I did only what my duty demanded. I could have taken no other course without dishonour. And if it all were to be done over again, I should act in precisely the same manner.”

    And then, in April of 1861, Lee wrote the following to a relative: “With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.”

    That last quote would seem to indicate to me that Lee held his duty to Virginia higher than that of the Union.

  8. Folks:
    Let’s not forget that Lee and Jackson fought to maintain an evil and brutal economic systems, one that condoned widespread torture, rape and other forms of barbarianism toward 4 million Americans held in bondage.

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