Thursday, September 17, 2020

What Lee Said About Monuments in 1869

 From the Abbeville Institute:

A frequent argument against Confederate monuments is a “sound bite” of a quote from General Robert E. Lee in 1869 in some variation to “I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war.”   The time of the event and the Monument Movement is significant.  Understanding this connection changes the meaning of the “sound bite” entirety.  Here’s the context.

The letter cited is Lee’s decline to attend a reunion of Gettysburg veterans from the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association.  The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on 13 April 1864, to preserve the Gettysburg Battlefield.[1]  David McConaughy was the president.[2]  

Lee wrote on 4 August 1869 his reply to David McConaughy’s invitation to participate in the  “reunion of Gettysburg veterans, who identified specific, historic battlefield sites, and offered personal accounts of the engagement.”[3]  Many letters in the Gettysburg College, Gett Digital collection of these letters are responses to David McConaughy’s invitation. They declined to attend for a variety of reasons, some even naming others to consider inviting for the desired information.[4]  Lee was not alone in his absence from the event.  The entirely of Lee’s letter is:

“Absence from Lexington has prevented my receiving until to-day your letter of the 26th [July 1869], inclosing (sic) an invitation from the Gettysburg Battle-field (sic) Memorial Association, to attend a meeting of the officers engaged in that battle at Gettysburg, for the purpose of marking upon the ground by enduring memorials of granite the positions and movements of the armies on the field. My engagements will not permit me to be present.  I believe if there, I could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject.  I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”[5]

(Read more.)



julygirl said...

Sadly his home at Arlington was confiscated by the Federal Government and turned into a cemetery leaving him homeless. Even at that, his kind and generous spirit shone through. (And, by the way, he is accused of being a war criminal but the Constitution allows a State to secede.)

elena maria vidal said...

Interesting! Thanks!