Your Opinion: Learn from history, indeed

Published January 15, 2008

Two recent rants from the paper commenting on Charlie Reese’s column on General Robert E. Lee have prompted me to take the time to write a proper response. Before commenting on any subject publicly, it would be wise to know something about which you speak or else run the risk of looking like a fool.

I have studied the War Between the States in great detail since childhood (some 40-plus years) and know a great deal more than the average person about it. Charlie Reese is much older than I and is probably a far greater authority on the subject than I am.

Having said that, let’s get some fundamental facts straight to begin. First of all, the name “Civil War” is incorrect when referring to this conflict. If you indeed know what a dictionary is, please look the term up. It’s defined as “two factions fighting for control of one central government.” This was not the case in the War Between the States.

The plain and simple truth is that the southern states wanted independence from the north in order to form our own country. Freeing slaves as (one person) suggested to avert the war would not have stopped what was to come. The war had been coming for quite some time and was based on many other factors such as the way the south had been treated in terms of modernization, industrialization, jobs, railroad lines, and in general, the prosperity of a new nation not being shared equally. Slavery was not even a consideration in most southern soldiers’ minds when deciding to take up arms against the northern government. Many Confederate soldiers did not indeed own any slaves. Also, many slaves took up arms and fought for the Confederacy.

Unless one takes the time to read volumes on the subject, one cannot pretend to know enough about this great conflict. I have read not only books on the war, but original newspapers from the time, original soldiers’ letters and have even watched old newsreels from the 1930s interviewing surviving soldiers and surviving slaves.

In my humble yet informed opinion, I contend that Robert E. Lee was the greatest military genius the world has ever produced as well as being one of the best-loved human beings in all of history. His men followed him wearing threadbare clothing through the harshest winter weather, many without shoes, all with little food or medicine. These brave men endured unimaginable hardships for a cause they believed in and a leader they dearly loved. When General Lee realized it was pointless to fight on, he made the decision to surrender his army in order to spare the last of his men’s’ lives so that they might return to what was left of their homes and become patriotic and productive citizens of the United States of America.

General Lee was selfless in his decision to surrender, just as his father “Light Horse” Harry Lee had been in fighting for independence for our country from Britain. General Lee’s father, once a wealthy man, had given all his money and fought tirelessly for our independence, only to die a pauper and almost forgotten by his countrymen.

Such sacrifice for others is rarely seen today, with the exception of our soldiers in the Middle East and the police, firemen and EMTs in all our cities.

One thing is for certain, the good name of Robert E. Lee will live on long after many modern selfish individuals who contribute absolutely zero to society will long be forgotten.

H.B. (Dave) Davis

Tifton