Removing the Robert E. Lee statue would dishonor the countless sacrifices made by Texans during the Civil War
Patricia M. Patterson, Contributor
People who want to erase every trace of the Confederacy in Dallas are trying to rewrite history. Understandably, they wish that slavery had never existed and that the Civil War were never fought. But that’s not what happened. The Civil War and Texas’s participation in it are historical facts, and that remains significant even today.
Texas sent almost 90,000 men to fight in the Civil War for the Confederacy. Texas regiments fought in every major battle—Antietam, Gettysburg and Shiloh, among others. Texas sent 45 regiments of cavalry, 23 regiments of infantry, 12 battalions of cavalry, four battalions of infantry and five regiments of heavy artillery to the Confederacy. The number of Texans who died is staggering.
The equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee was erected not as a tribute to slavery, as some now claim. Rather, like hundreds of other monuments across the state, it is a visible reminder of the valor, strength, hope and sacrifice of the Texans who fought in the Civil War. Almost every family in Texas lost someone — husband, father, son, close friend. Those who survived grieved for decades. The monuments memorialize those who participated in the war.
President Lincoln thought so highly of Lee that he offered him command of the Union Army. If not for Lee’s loyalty to his home state of Virginia, he probably would have been the victorious general and won the war for the Union. The South had no one else like him, and Lincoln had a terrible time finding a Union replacement for him, going through general after general before he settled on Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant and Lee both attended West Point; Lee graduated second in his class, and Grant finished near the bottom of his. Lee joined the U.S. Army as a member of the Corps of Engineers and fought with distinction, notably in the Mexican-American War. He was the head of West Point for a number of years, and his career with the U.S. Army spanned more than 30 years before he accepted the appointment as general of the Army of Northern Virginia, the fighting force of the Confederacy. Lee was considered one of the most admirable figures of his generation by those from the North and the South alike.
Suppose we tear down all artistic and historic references to the Civil War and remove the Confederate flag from the historical society in Fair Park as was suggested in the Sunday edition of The Dallas Morning News? Where do we stop? Should we block all references to the Confederacy from our textbooks on Texas history? Should the name of the amusement park be changed to Texas Under Five Flags?
If we take down all Dallas monuments that can be interpreted as inciting slavery, then we should remove images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers who owned slaves. Because these slave owners figured so prominently in our early history, maybe the textbooks should be excised to eliminate the Revolutionary War. Americans owned slaves at that time; the British didn’t.
Let’s leave the Lee statue up in Lee Park. It has historical and artistic significance way beyond any reference to slavery. It commemorates the thousands of Texans who died in the Civil War, and the grief felt by those they left behind.
If others want to erect statues to their heroes, they should do it. I’m sure the city would be happy to give them space in Lee Park and other public venues.