IT IS IRONIC THAT LEE was so respected as a national hero when the wounds of war were still fresh, but now, a century and a half later, he is considered discredited because of the cause for which he fought. Yet his cause, if anything, is another reason to admire him.
If that last statement sounds controversial, consider, without prejudice, the cause for which Lee sacrificed everything — his life, his family, his career. It was a simple and eloquent one that every humane man should be able to rally round: “With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty as an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.” In another letter, he wrote, “a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets has no charm for me. If the Union is dissolved and government disrupted, I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people, and save in defense will draw my sword on none.”