The death of Robert E. Lee
Date published: 10/12/2006

KENNESAW, Ga.–Americans love a good story of their nation’s past. Please share this story with your family that I dedicate to our American servicemen and women defending this nation.

Robert E. Lee, who died on Oct. 12, 1870, is honored throughout this great nation. The world-famous carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee is just a short drive from Atlanta, Ga., at Stone Mountain Park.

A statue of Lee and his war horse, Traveller, also stands tall on Monument Avenue in Richmond.

Do your children know who Robert E. Lee was?

A yearly tribute to Lee is held at Statuary Hall, site of the Old Congressional Building, in Washington. There are also events planned in Virginia, Georgia, and other states in commemoration of the 200th birthday of Robert E. Lee on Jan. 19, 2007.

President Dwight Eisenhower knew and appreciated the proud history of our nation. During his time in office, Eisenhower was criticized for displaying a portrait of Lee in his office.

The president’s response to the critic was kind but honest, and here is a part of what he said: "General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by this nation."

Lee served in the United States Army for nearly 32 years.

Lee also believed in the education of the young folks. He helped save the financially troubled Washington College in Lexington.

Returning home from a church meeting, Lee sat at the supper table and was about to say grace. The general could not say a word and slumped down in his chair. It is believed that he had a stroke.

It has been written that Lee’s grief for the Southern people, some of whom were made poor by the War Between the States, may have contributed to his failing health.

His condition seemed hopeless when a doctor told him, "General, you must make haste and get well–Traveller has been standing too long in his stable and needs exercise."

Lee could only shake his head, as he knew he would never again ride his beloved horse.

It is written that Robert E. Lee stayed in the same condition until Wednesday –Oct. 12–when, at 9:30 a.m., in the presence of his family, the general quietly passed away.

Church bells rang as the sad news passed through Washington College, Virginia Military Institute, and the town of Lexington. School cadets carried the remains of the old soldier to Washington Chapel, where he lay in state. Most buildings were covered in black for mourning.

Memorial meetings were also held throughout the South, and as far north as New York. At Washington College in Lexington, eulogies were delivered by the Rev. Pemberton, the Rev. W.S. White–Stonewall Jackson’s pastor –and the Rev. J. William Jones. Jeffer- son Davis brought the eulogy in Richmond.

When all settled down, Mrs. Lee said, "If he had succeeded in gaining by the sword all the South expected and hoped for, he could not have been more honored and lamented."

A funeral procession for Lee marched through the town of Lexington and an artillery salute was fired as his hearse was driven to the school’s chapel.

After Lee’s death, Washington College became known as Washington & Lee College. The trustees of the school also tendered Mrs. Lee a deed to the president’s house and an annuity of $3,000, but she declined both.

The coming year, 2007, is being called "The Year of Lee," as Lee’s 200th birthday will be remembered Jan. 19.

What is your state, city, county, or civic organization planning to commemorate this great American’s birthday? This was an American who deserves to be remembered.

Robert E. Lee’s last words were, "Strike the tent."

Lest we forget!

Copyright 2006, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co.

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