Monday, February 04, 2008

A Hero of Mine

I love history, but it’s not just because I like to know trivia. I love history because it is a valuable thing to know. I enjoy all history and find that there are nuggets of value in most any time in history.

American history is one of my favourites. I especially enjoy era just before, during and after the War for Independence. I find our history of the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution fascinating as well. The Constitution, its history and the growth development of the United States under the Constitution also intrigue me.

I have many heroes from the past. I have biblical heroes, I have heroes in Church history and I have secular heroes as well. Some of my greatest heroes are Americans. I hold Patrick Henry, George Washington, Sam Adams, etc… all in high regard and count them as American’s worthy of hero status, but the American I hold in the highest regard is not among the giants of America’s founding Fathers.

The American that I regard as the greatest American is Robert E. Lee. Lee was the son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who was one of George Washington’s best cavalry officers during the War for Independence. Henry was also served as governor of Virginia and was a strong proponent of the Constitution during ratification. He also served as a U.S. Congressman. It was Congressman Lee, who had known George Washington since childhood, who gave the Eulogy at Washington’s funeral. It was Henry Lee who said that George Washington was “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Robert E. Lee’s father was a hero of the Revolution and loomed large in many respects, but he was barely known by Robert. Robert was born when his father was old and Harry did when the boy was only 11, but even then Harry had been away for many years before than. He had gone to the Caribbean for health reasons four years earlier and was on his way home to Virginia but died in Georgia and never made it back home.

Robert did not grow up with great wealth. The family’s wealth had been lost in land speculation by his father, so Robert knew want as a child. He did have a famous father and important family connections and these did benefit.

At WestPoint he was the first cadet to graduate without ever receiving a single demerit and finished second in his class. Lee spent from then until Virginia seceded from the Union as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Before the commencement of hostilities between North and South, the head of the Army, Winfield Scott, said that Lee had the greatest military mind in the Army and Lincoln offered him the job as Commander of U.S. forces. Lee declined the job, resigned his commission in the Army and returned to Arlington, his home just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

Lee knew the score when he decided to defend Virginia and the South against the United States. The North had overwhelming superiority in manufacturing and man power. He was not deluded as so many braggarts and hot heads tend to be. Lee knew the odds for victory against the North were slim, but he did what he believed was his duty to the Constitution, his “country” Virginia and for his family.

Lee through his lot in with the Confederacy, which he knew to be greatly inferior to the North. Because it was, in his mind, the only right and honourable thing for him to do. The War cost him his home and the lives of many dear friends.

After the War he had nothing, but he was very famous. An Insurance company approached with an offer. They offered him a pile of money that would make him a very rich man. He told them that he could not do anything for them that was worth so much. They told him that he would not have to do anything. The money was his if he would allow them to use his name to promote their product.

Lee gave them a flat NO. He was willing to live in poverty and work hard but his good name was all that he had left and it was not for sale or lease. Lee did get a job as president of Washington College. Today that college is known as Washington and Lee University.

Lee was a great general and even more importantly he was a humble Christian.

Coram Deo,


James H said...

On a unrelated Historical note I thought you would be interested in this

Cajun Huguenot said...

Thanks James,

It looks interesting.