Today North Carolina Recognizes the Birth Date of General Robert E. Lee — 19 January 1807
A Legal Holiday in the State Since 1894
President Dwight Eisenhower said of Lee in 1960:
“General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause . . . was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God.
Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history. From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul.”
British General Viscount Garnet Wolseley said of Lee:
“I believe he will be regarded not only as the most prominent figure of the Confederacy, but as the Great American of the nineteenth century, whose statue is well worthy to stand on an equal pedestal with that of Washington, and whose memory is equally worthy to be enshrined in the hearts of all his countrymen. This estimate is based upon a criticism of his character as a man, a soldier, and a Christian citizen. As a thinker and man of intellectual powers little has been said of him, and yet, intellectual power, associated with moral purity, are the true spring of greatness.”
At the annual observance of Lee’s birth date in 1892, Richmond’s Mayor Ellyson said:
[Today we] honor to the memory of one of Virginia’s noble sons. Robert E. Lee is forever enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen, and as we contemplate his virtues and heroism we are made better and purer men, [and] whose noblest aspiration in life found its [most complete] realization in the doing of his duty to his God, and his fellow man.
There is no danger, comrades, that the men who wore the grey will ever prove recreant to the principles that actuated them in time of war, but there is danger that our children may, and so we wish on these recurring anniversaries to tell of the chivalrous deeds of such leaders as Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Pickett, and to teach coming generations that the soldiers of the Southern Confederacy were not rebels, but were Americans who loved liberty as something dearer than life itself."