LEE AND JACKSON IN THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
Colossal portraits of Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson hung in the elementary school I attended, near an image of Mary and baby Jesus. Once, these would maintain the highest degree of legacy as long as the world lasted but times have changed.
Coinciding with the month of their birth, local historic organizations will honor the memory of Lee (January 19) and Jackson (January 21). The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has memorial stained-glass niches and inscriptions, honoring these men. Jackson is described therein as walking “humbly before his Creator, whose Word was his guide" and Lee as a “servant of God, leader of men, general-in-chief of Confederate Armies, whose compelling sense of duty, serene faith and unfailing courtesy mark him for all ages as a Christian soldier without fear or reproach.” Absent are hints that they fought for a controversial Cause. The window honoring Stonewall Jackson depicts him reading the Bible under the Confederate battle flag.
The niches were proposed in 1931 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated in 1953, when Americans had almost stopped thinking of these men as Southerners. Lee and Jackson seemed absolved of sectional politics, ensconced into the American political landscape and wrapped in a spiritual mantle. They were honored in the cathedral not because they were soldiers, but because they were Christian soldiers. Now, it’s easy to pass judgment on the past. That is not constructive, fair to historical personages, nor useful to us. History should include all.