01 January 2007

Preparing for the Year of Lee

19 January 2007 marks the 200th birthday of one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived—Robert Edward Lee. He is, perhaps, the greatest Christian gentleman America ever produced. The image shown here is one drawn by my father in 1947 when he was but a boy of 12. When my father passed away in 2000, this pencil sketch was given to me and, today, it claims a place of honor on my home-office wall. Thus I am reminded daily not only of Lee’s greatness, but of the fact Lee should remain a hero to American boys in 2007.

My father’s ancestral home was located on what served as the last major Civil War battle that occurred in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. There in his bedroom he drew this crude, but recognizable, image of General Lee. Having been born in 1958 in a hospital that was built upon that same ground that had served as the Battle of Waynesboro in March 1865, I grew up with a natural admiration for my ancestors who willingly sacrificed all they possessed to defend hearth and home. My great-great-grandfather, John W. McGann, fought with the Fifty-first Virginia Infantry and defended this very land during the Battle of Waynesboro. His son, Charles L. McGann, my great-grandfather, came to own much of that battlefield that had become apple orchards and, later, a residential area known today as the Tree Streets. My father would often walk up the hill from his home to current Pine Avenue where he would help his grandfather—who was known as “Mr. Charlie”—help feed a horse known as “Bird.”

The old steed belonged to Colonel C. H. Withrow. Withrow was a Confederate Veteran who taught at nearby Fishburne Military School. My great-grandfather’s home would eventually pass to my grandmother, then to my father, and then to my brother and me. Like my father before me, I spent many hours playing and roaming the ground that held the blood of those brave soldiers. Swimming and fishing the South River that flows through this land and hearing of the stories of heroes’ sacrifice endeared me to this ground and its history.

Most who have never experienced this type of connection to history, heritage, and their native-sod often misunderstand the connection native Southerners’ have to their past. Narrow minded, they accuse many us of maintaining “Lost Cause” sentiments or, more sinister, of being “racists” simply because we admire our ancestors’ sacrifice. They refuse to consider and understand what the eminent Virginia historian, Philip Alexander Bruce, wrote of this connection to our homes and our heritage:

It was this love of home, with its thronging recollections of the past both near and far . . . that nerved many a Southern soldier. . . . Love of the South was inextricably mixed up with this love of the family hearth. . . . Love of one particular spot, of one neighborhood, of one State, was the foundation stone of the love of the entire region which entered so deeply into the spirit of the Confederate soldier.”

I can trace my ancestors to Jamestown. I have, from both sides of my family, 3 great-great grandfathers who defended Virginia by fighting for the Confederacy. Two of them sleep in unmarked graves. None of them owned slaves—all were Scots-Irish dirt farmers and died penniless. All were wounded in the war and spilled their blood in Virginia’s soil. One died from his wounds. My connection to Virginia and its history is more than “academic.” And, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found that I neither have the patience nor the time to suffer fools (especially non-Southern fools) who have no idea what they’re talking about when cynically criticizing Southerners’ honor and respect for their heritage and then who hide their ignorance and bigotry towards Southerners behind claims of being a “professional historian.” Southerners despise condescension.

2007 will be an eventful year, historically speaking, for Virginia. We will celebrate not only General Lee’s birthday, but also the founding of Jamestown. These celebrations, no doubt, will be criticized by the cultural Marxists as glorifying a past that would best be forgotten, or if that can’t be accomplished, “re-interpreted” by “professional historians.” Traditionalists who love the truth should prepare for the battle. (Second image is of Colonel Withrow)


Lawrence Underwood said...

Brother Richard,
What a marvelous post. I actually am misty eyed from reading your sentiments. I, too, am a man of Southern Sod. I, too tire of the unceasing assault upon the wonderful history and men who have begat us. Thank you for you words. May God grant us mercy and strength to perhaps strengthen that which remains until the family and state become that which he desires.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Lawrence. Please visit often.