31 January 2011

Lead By Example

A student in Texas, who recently cursed in her classroom, has been fined $637 by school authorities for her inability to use civil language. Cursing and vulgarity simply demonstrates one's lack of vocabulary and immaturity. Now, if we could just get potty-mouthed school teachers to watch their language on their blogs. After all, shouldn't teachers lead by example?

Story here.

29 January 2011

Metal Detecting Post #19



As most readers of this blog know, 2011 marks the first year in the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War or, the War Between the States - America's epic and defining moment as a nation. 150 years ago this year, plow boys and seminary students from Virginia's storied Shenandoah Valley began to join the ranks for the Southern cause. Most of the battles in which these young men would fight occurred right in their very own and beloved Valley of Virginia - the area which lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghanies to the west, and is bordered at the Northern and Southern points (depending on who you ask), by Harper's Ferry and Natural Bridge.

The Valley still holds on to - both literally and figuratively - much of the history which immortalized many of these young men. Many of their homes still stand - some still owned by their descendants. Each year, farmers turn over the same soil that was being farmed when great battles and bloodshed took place over them those many years ago. Each year, these farmers alternately turn over, and then bury again, Civil War mini-balls, buttons, buckles, breastplates, shell fragments, brass rivets, rifle parts, knapsack hooks and scores of other items left by the soldiers and armies of that horrible war. 

The picture above was taken 29 January 2011 near one of these sites here in the Valley - a Confederate winter camp. My partner, Douglas Hill, and I were scouting out a new site here in the Valley to metal detect. Attempting to metal detect in the snow is quite a challenge, to say the least. But while I was digging in the frozen, snow covered ground, with civilization and all the conveniences of home right behind me, I could not help but think of the men who made this area their "home" almost 150 years ago. Here they wintered in crude cabins, warmed only by a small fire. Bone-chilling cold, hunger, boredom, and anxiety were their constant companions. When would they fight again? Would they be wounded, killed? How were their families faring? When would this war end?

In the coming months, and throughout the Sesquicentennial, I hope to bring you more stories, pictures, and videos of my relic hunting "adventures." And I hope to share with you the passion of pulling one of these relics from the ground that has held it for 150 years - a piece of history recovered and saved for future generations; a piece of history that has a story behind it. Stay tuned.

28 January 2011

Anti-Anti-American Exceptionalism

Link to purchase print
A *number of academic elites, progressives, leftist historians and bloggers, and others have proudly trumpeted their "anti-American Exceptionalism" stance. Affirming American Exceptionalism is sooo passé, don't you know? Many of these types see themselves as taking a "more sophisticated" and "more enlightened" view of American history. (Think Thurston Howell with a Ph.D. in history). They look down with disdain and contempt upon those who hold to a more traditional view of American history (i.e., affirming American Exceptionalism) as "simplistic, nostalgic, Ozzie & Harriet, etc, etc" types. You can literally sense their sneering and loathing.

In their "more enlightened" view, America - due to its history of "oppression" - is "fundamentally flawed" and needs to be "fundamentally changed." Of course, this view is so wrong on so many points, that it is becoming cartoonish and almost something to be laughed at - were it not so corrosive to our well-being as a nation. A concise, but articulate rebuttal of this notion that America, and its leaders, has something for which we must apologize was given with simple, yet profound eloquence by President Ronald Reagan in his 1989 farewell address to the nation. Reagan is at his best in the video below. The video is worth your time. Classic Reagan -
so much profundity in just six minutes. 

Reagan's warning against the trendy, faddish historiography now embraced by so many elites should be heeded by educators and parents. If you are a parent, I would encourage you to look at your child's history books, have a conversation with your child's teacher(s) and the school principal and find out how they approach the teaching of American history in the classroom. This goes for private as well as public schools. Do they affirm American Exceptionalism? If not, why not? Press them on the issue. If you don't like their answers, go over their heads. Ask to sit in on a class - unannounced. They do, after all, work for you. You are either paying their salaries via tuition payments or taxes. The children they teach are yours and you entrust your children to them. Hold them accountable. Anything wrong with that?

Why affirming American Exceptionalism to our children is so important:

This is just the last six minutes of Reagan's farewell address. You can view the whole address here.

*I realize that there are many parents, educators, and administrators who are doing their best and who would agree with President Reagan's remarks about this issue. The rest of you . . . you know who you are.

27 January 2011

Elitist Prejudice Against The South

I stumbled across quite an interesting piece from the UK's Guardian recently.

Some choice excerpts . . .

I'm tired of elitist US liberals who ridicule southerners and then profess their love for Nina Simone and crawfish etouffee .
And . . .

I am tired of apologising. I apologised for being Muslim, post-9/11 and more recently for my Pakistani origins. Now, I apologise for being a southerner too. 

And . . . 

Oddly, the same people who disparage us also have love affairs with our culture. They ridicule us and then profess their love for Nina Simone, Austin, Johnny Cash or Louisiana's crawfish etouffee dish when it's trendy. This brings me to my favourite specimens: cocktail party progressives. You know the type – can't converse without referencing the New Yorker. Pretentious, self-congratulatory liberals who applaud their own humanity while mocking the south. Curiously, they feign knowledge of Hank Williams when fashionable, but their intellectual elitism . . . 

The attitude so eloquently exposed by the author is one which I've addressed numerous times before. You can read the rest of the piece here.

26 January 2011

Somethin' I Saw Today - Post #2

The lane to my home - quite beautiful today - and still coming down.

25 January 2011

Jeff Shaara Interview

Reader and fellow blogger, Greg Caggiano, just notified me of his recent interview with Civil War author, Jeff Shaara:

There are people who know their stuff, and then there are people who really know their stuff—Jeff Shaara would fall into the latter category. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to interview the author of Civil War novels Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, both of which have reached the New York Times Bestseller List. Jeff Shaara has been lauded by readers and historians alike who appreciate his epic style of storytelling, that has included nine novels spanning the American Revolution, Mexican-American War, Civil War, World War I, and World War II, with the fourth part of his WWII series coming out in May.

You may read the rest of Greg's interview with Mr. Shaara here.

21 January 2011

The Left & The Tea Party

It has been interesting to listen to the usual talking heads, leftist commentators, and misinformed bloggers critique and condemn the Tea Party movement. As I've noted before, I've never attended a TP meeting, nor am I a "member", though I do subscribe to many of their philosophical principles. Those criticizing and condemning the movement generally fall into one of two categories:

  • They are embarrassingly ignorant of the movement's genesis and true make up. (Without excuse, I might add.)
  • They are political hacks who are intentionally misleading others for political gain.
I believe most informed Americans understand this and, due to the fact that the mainstream media no longer controls the flow of information, most of us don't open wide and swallow when the predictable, rehearsed conformity of propaganda begins to flow. Much of the credit for a more informed American public goes to the explosion of new media outlets - the internet and alternate news/information outlets like talk radio and Fox. Talking heads like Glenn Beck - a frequent target of criticism from those on the left - who are actually learning and teaching American history are passing on what they learn to a huge audience. And this is having a huge impact. Yes, I know, Beck doesn't always get some of the finer details of history correct. But, as I've pointed out before, even the pros in academia and publishing make mistakes. Attempting to totally discredit Beck for his mistakes is an obvious red herring.

The real root of much of the criticism of the Tea Party and their philosophical soulmates was revealed recently in an opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal's website. The piece was written by Daniel Henninger, the WSJ's deputy editorial page director.

Henninger writes:

The divide between this strain of the American left and its conservative opponents is about more than politics and policy. It goes back a long way, it is deep, and it will never be bridged. It is cultural, and it explains more than anything the "intensity" that exists now between these two competing camps. (The independent laments: "Can't we all just get along?" Answer: No.)

Henninger's piece is specifically about the left's ridiculous and intellectually dishonest attempt to tie the Tuscon tragedy to the Tea Party. You can read the full piece here.

Nullification Making A Comeback?

After leading the nation last year in passing a law to sue the federal government over the health care overhaul, Idaho's Republican-dominated Legislature now plans to use an obscure 18th century doctrine to declare President Barack Obama's signature bill null and void. Lawmakers in six other states — Maine, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming — are also mulling "nullification" bills, which contend states, not the U.S. Supreme Court, are the ultimate arbiter of when Congress and the president run amok.

And . . .

Sen. Monty Pearce, an Idaho GOP lawmaker who plans to introduce a nullification bill early next week, wanted to be the first one to give Otter a recently published book on the subject, "Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century." But Otter beat him to the punch. "I took that copy and tried to give it to the governor," he said, pointing to a copy on his desk. "He already had a copy."

A practical example of why history matters. More here.

Happy 187th General Jackson

20 January 2011

The Crispus Attucks Tea Party

New Tea Party group forms in Texas:

"The Crispus Attucks Tea Party promotes and fights for the founding principles originally defined by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our core principles include personal responsibility, education, a constrained and transparent government, a balanced budget, self sufficiency, full assimilation and the development of viable Black businesses …. that create jobs."

"The Crispus Attucks Tea Party is named after Crispus Attucks (1723-1770), an African-American who died during the Boston Massacre and is known as the first martyr of the American Revolution."

Are You An "Excessive Christian?"

This is a practical example of the "enlightened despotism" that many American statists, elitists, and progressives would impose on all of us. Unfortunately, various degrees of this are supported in certain corners of academia. (See here and here.)

"We were told we're 'excessive Christians' by our therapeutic supervisor," a DYFS contractor, said John Jackson. . . "They've been ridiculed for praying before their meals, their Bibles have been taken away from them. I made up books of pictures for the kids. They took away pictures of all their parents, brothers and sisters, stripped them of any memory of home.

Read the rest about this outrageous abuse of power here. Please pray for the Jackson family.

Ruling Class Elites Are Not Public Servants

Merriam-Webster defines "servant" as: one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employee. 

I've had about a gut full of fat-cat, rich, elitist, entrenched government members (of both parties) of the ruling class referring to themselves as "public servants." While they surround themselves with security, maids, servants, bodyguards, and personal escorts, they have the audacity to refer to themselves as servants?! Who do they think they're fooling? These politicians and elites are not public servants. Public servants are the law-enforcement officers, firemen, first-aid workers, etc, risking their lives and keeping our streets safe on a daily basis for a fraction of what these politicians make and the perks they receive.These politicians are more like public parasites - living off of the sweat and labor of average American citizens - and producing nothing. 

Ruling class elites dining on lobster, drinking $200 a bottle wine, indulging themselves in self-delusional, and exaggerated self importance are NOT public servants. The only ones fooled are themselves. Case in point, the recent state dinner for Chinese Communist dictator, Hu Jintao:

Action star Jackie Chan and pop diva Barbra Streisand topped a guest list including three presidents and political and media elites at a US state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday.

Rant complete. Regular programming will resume.

Anecdotal Evidence Number . . .

Gee, I've lost count. No, there's no liberal bias in academia. 

". . . what I do think this case disclosed is a kind of endemic, almost knee-jerk reaction in academia towards people, especially scientists, of a strong religious faith.
More here.

19 January 2011

Happy 204th General Lee

"General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history. From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained."  ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Gov. McDonnell's Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation

WHEREAS,  Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson are native Virginians, having served our great nation and Commonwealth as educators, leaders, and military strategists; and . . . 

You  may read the rest here.

(Today is Robert E. Lee's 204th birthday.)

17 January 2011

The Bill Of Rights & The Great Omission

David Zanotti of The American Policy Roundtable, and Dr. George Grant of Franklin Classical School, sit down to discuss one of the greatest omissions of American history - The Preamble to the Bill of Rights. As you'll hear Dr. Grant mention - and an interesting factoid that I've not heard anyone else mention - the recent reading of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives (and which has been so predictably mocked by those on the left), was the first public reading of the document on the floor of the House since the Civil War.

15 January 2011

Academic Snobs & The Tea Party

Fellow history blogger, Chris Wehner, beat me to the punch on a post about how some historians and those on the left are either intentionally misleading others about the Tea Party movement or, are embarrassingly ignorant about this political phenomenon. Chris takes his cue from historian Gordon S. Wood's review of Jill Lepore’s The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History:

It is very easy for academic historians to mock this special need, and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, as a staff writer for The New Yorker, is an expert at mocking. Her new book, which mingles discussions of the present-day Tea Party movement with scattershot accounts of the Revolution, makes fun of the Tea Party people who are trying to use the history of the Revolution to promote their political cause. From her point of view, “What would the founders do?” is an “ill-considered” and “pointless” question. ~ Professor Gordon Wood

Whoa. That sounds like something I would have written. As I commented on Chris's blog . . . "I already had something in the works along this same line. Not a review specifically of LePore's book (I would not waste my Amazon gift card on that), but some observations on how many on the left (and in the history related blogosphere) are either woefully ignorant of the TP movement or, more likely, intentionally slandering it. I have to admit, I'm a bit taken aback at the intensity and tone of Wood's criticism, but nonetheless find it quite refreshing!"

I love this comment by Wood and his words should be reflected upon by other historians and bloggers who've made similar inaccurate and slanderous comments about the TP'rs:

The Tea Partiers are certainly not scholars, but their emotional instincts about the Revolution they are trying to remember on behalf of their cause may be more accurate than Lepore is willing to grant. (Emphasis mine)

A breath of fresh air. Nor does Professor Wood appear to think too much of the cute little phrase "historical fundamentalism" used by LePore - a phrase other academic snobs have also used in an attempt to marginalize historians and others who take a more traditional view of our Nation's history. Chris closes his own post with this rhetorical question:

. . . perhaps, for Academic snobs such as Lepore the only good movement is a Liberal movement?
Stay tuned, I'll be adding my thoughts in a more detailed post soon. I think I'll title it: Historical Progressivism.

14 January 2011

Happy Lee-Jackson Day!

Main Street - Lexington, Virginia 2011 with Virginia Military Institute in the background.
Lee-Jackson Day is a celebration of the lives of two great heroes and most noteworthy citizens of Lexington, Virginia.  Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson were both born near this date which became a longstanding state holiday across the South.  While neither man was born here, both spent the final years of their lives as residents of Lexington.  'Stonewall' Jackson arrived here prior to the War Between the States and became an integral part of the community as a church leader and professor at the Virginia Military Institute.  Robert E. Lee arrived in Lexington following the war and rescued a destitute college that was later renamed Washington and Lee in his honor.  Both men are buried here which makes the town a fitting venue to commemorate their lives.  We welcome you to join us as we honor not only their military genius, but their personal lives, faith, and character.  We also encourage you to walk the streets and explore the town upon which both men left their permanent mark and legacy.

2011 Event

Kenny G. Rowlette, Associate Professor of English at Liberty University has been selected as our featured speaker for the 2011 Memorial Services to be held January 15th.   Professor Rowlette is the Director of the National Civil War Chaplains Research Center and Museum in Lynchburg, Virginia and the Co-Chair of the Liberty University Civil War Seminar.  For additional information about our speaker please Click Here.

*Some time next week, I'll post some comments as to why fewer people are celebrating Lee-Jackson Day. It's not really what some would have you think. As a tease, how many people still celebrate Washington's birthday? Lincoln's birthday? 

13 January 2011

Why The Government Cannot Possibly Control The Flow Of Information

This is a bit off topic for this blog but, on the other hand, not so much. The internet and advances in communication technology have given abilities and powers, which once only belonged to centralized media conglomerates like newspapers and TV networks, to a single blogger - a person sitting in his basement with a $400 laptop and a $20 per month internet connection. The transformation is quite breathtaking. 

During high school, I worked for my local newspaper. The room where the presses were located took up over 1000 square feet and required a 2 story structure to house them. I can, for all practical purposes, accomplish what those presses accomplished in a 4 x 4 closet. All the blather you are now hearing coming from the idiots in Congress about controlling the internet, talk radio and restricting free speech is just that - blather. Oh sure, they might have some short term "success" in their heavy-handed, thuggish, statist efforts, but any entity that thinks it can control the tsunami of information technology headed our way is either embarrassingly ignorant or so egocentric as to be living in a parallel universe. Certainly, there are dangers and pitfalls ahead - and for those of you who don't believe in God, I'm not sure how you sleep at night. I don't agree with everything that the speaker in this video says (and he is leaving God out of his computations), but this video is, nonetheless, well worth your while to watch. You'll understand why after you view it.

12 January 2011

Fetishism or Perversion? Choose Wisely

With all the hand-wringing from the leftists concerned over the "fetish" the new Congress (and by extension, their supporters) has with the Constitution (you know, the document they all swore an oath to uphold), the American people seem to still prefer the fetish majority to the previous Constitution perverting majority. While nothing to write home about, Congressional approval is now at 20%, up from Queen Pelosi's 13%. A 35% upward bump - at least its headed in the right direction. Maybe the American people also have a fetish for the Constitution. As usual, the left is out of step with most Americans.

It's amazing to read and listen to pseudo-historians criticize this renewed interest in our founding document. What are they afraid of? Or, do these PH's think that only they are qualified to read and interpret our Constitution? Elitism on display.

Civil War Preservation Trust

New year, new name, new logo. Great idea.

I'll have to order a new hat. If you're not already a member, you should consider joining this great organization.

11 January 2011

I Agree With Hillary Clinton

Now This Is Historic

When U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R–Wash.) was sworn in for her freshman term on January 3 (my birthday), she became the first home schooler in modern history to be elected to Congress. I'm confident that she will not be the last.

09 January 2011

Family Mystery And A Lesson

Click on image to enlarge.
A recent discovery and personal experience highlight the importance of recording one's family history. Going back to my very early childhood, I can recall a very old (1849) Episcopal Common Prayer book in a desk drawer at my grandmother's home which was located in the Tree Streets area of Waynesboro, Virginia. I looked at it many times. After my grandparents passed away, this book came into my possession. I also recalled there was an inscription on the flyleaf but, until very recently, had never really taken the time to read it. I discovered the inscription reads:

Capt. H.H. Robertson with the kind regards of [unreadable] Baltimore, April 19, 1862

Click on image to enlarge.
A quick internet search revealed that this Captain Robertson was very likely the same one who fought for the Confederacy, serving with Company B of the 27th Virginia Infantry. I emailed an inquiry to fellow CW blogger Robert Moore as I know Robert is quite knowledgeable and a great resource on this type of thing. Robert did not disappoint me. He replied with the following:

Henry H. Robertson was a captain in Co. B, 27th Virginia Infantry. He enlisted in Alleghany Co., 5/15/61 at the age of 35. By occupation, was a lawyer. Present until absent on leave for 30 days 6/15/61, and then present again until captured at Kernstown, 3/23/62. He was sent to Ft. Delaware.

In the weeks following his capture, a friend, Col. William H. Harman of the 5th Virginia Infantry, pleaded earnestly with George W. Randolph, the new secretary of war, that all efforts be made to arrange an exchange for the Alleghany County lawyer. Citing Robertson's "gallantry and intrepidity", Harman wrote: "I do not know a single man who can and will do more for the Confederacy than Capt R, & therefore, I presume to ask you to make an exception in his favor & have him exchanged."

Exchanged 8/5/62. No re-elected to captain. Member of the Va Legislature 1872-1873 from Alleghany Co. Died near Swoope's Depot, 4/28/74. He was buried in Thornrose Cemetery... see the following link... [Here]

Looks like he was also a Freemason.

If the inscription is April 19, 1862, this must have occurred while he was en route to Ft. Delaware. Considering his status as an officer, and that it was early war, he may have been held loosely on certain conditions in the city until arrangements were made for transportation to POW camp.

As I explained to Robert, my grandparents likely knew the story behind this prayer book, but it was my misfortune, or stupidity, to have never asked them about it. My father may also have known, but I never asked him either. All are now passed on and the story of how this prayer book and the connection that Captain Robertson and the giver may or may not have had to my family passed with them.

This experience brought home a lesson I've been reminded of time and time again. If your grandparents and/or parents are still with you, ask them questions about your family history. Record or write down their answers. Ask them questions about specific mementos or old items that may be in their homes. Again, record or write down their answers. So much history that could be saved and shared passes every day simply because we fail to ask questions. I wish I'd asked more when I had the opportunity.

Interestingly enough, this discovery came just a day after I finally started shooting a video entitled "A Tour Of My Office." I've been talking about doing this for well over a year now and finally shot the introduction over the weekend. In the video, which is largely for the benefit of my children and grandchildren, I'll be discussing various aspects of our family history and some of my own "family mementos" as I give a tour of my office.

If anyone can make out/identify the name of the person who signed the flyleaf picture in this post, I would be most appreciative. Thanks to Robert Moore for shedding some light on this family history mystery. 

08 January 2011

Gods & Generals - The Director's Cut

Fans of Gods & Generals (like me) have long wondered when (and if) the 6 hour director's cut of Gods & Geneerals was ever going to be released. The long wait is over. The world premier of the director's cut will be shown at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia July 22 & 23, 2011. You can read more here and here.

We can all exect the oh so predictable sneering criticism from the community organizers of the Civil War and entertainment blogosphere. Ignore them and see this longer version if you can.

05 January 2011

Somethin' I Saw Today - Post #1

As I travel extensively in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, I'm often presented opportunities in rather rural areas to snap some interesting photos. So today begins another series - "Somethin' I Saw Today." These will simply be pictures of things I find interesting here in the Valley - many will be history related, some will not. Today's shot is of the swinging footbridge in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia. The bridge spans the Maury River - so named after Confederate officer, Matthew Fontaine Maury, the "Pathfinder of the Seas." You can click on image to enlarge.

04 January 2011

Better Than American Experience's Robert E. Lee

As I promised, and as a follow up to yesterday's post, I wanted to recommend a few of my favorite titles on Robert E. Lee. This is by no means my complete library on Lee but, again, some of my favorite titles. They are all older biographies, but very good. I do not accept the silly premise that "more recent" scholarship is necessarily "better" or more "accurate" scholarship. To suggest that is the epitome of arrogance and ignorance. But I digress. Here are the books I would recommend for understanding Lee and his perspective after the WBTS:

Lee - The Last Years by Charles Bracelen Flood This excellent book follows Lee's life from Appomattox until his death and funeral. It is one of my favorites and is not only an accurate, but also a fascinating look at Lee's life after the war. Here are a couple of choice excerpts:

Although the Northern and Midwestern states had sent their sons to shed blood to preserve the Union and end slavery, many of them had their own state laws that prohibited blacks from voting or severely qualified their right to do so. These were not old laws that Northern state legislatures had forgotten to repeal; on the same day that Lee was sworn in as president of Washington College, Connecticut's voters cast their ballots to reject a measure that would have given the vote to the two thousand blacks living within their state. A month later, Michigan and Wisconsin did the same thing.

On Lee declining Lincoln's offer of command and why he fought:

Lee explained his decision simply. "After listening to his remarks, I declined the offer he made me, to take command of the army that was to be brought into the field; stating, as candidly and courteously as I could, that, though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern States.
Lee After the War - The Greatest Period in the Life of a Great Man by Marshall W. Fishwick (and my personal favorite) This is another delightful biography of Lee's life in Lexington and was written by a native Virginian and highly respected historian who earned his Ph.D from Yale and later taught at Washington & Lee University. Fishwick makes no attempt to hide his admiration of Lee in this book, but that fact does not diminish the book's value. You can still pick a used copy up at Amazon for around $10. An excerpt, as I noted in yesterday's post, reveals why Lee is still the most popular single figure of the WBTS:

    Lee's appeal, like his strength, exists on multiple levels. To those who only catch a glance of him riding across the pages of American history, he is the general on the beautiful horse, fighting bravely as did the knights of old. To Southerners, he is the chief patriot, defending his homeland with the last ounce of his strength. To the historian, he is a pivotal figure of the nineteenth century, a symbol of the revolt that almost wrecked the Ship of State. To the philosopher, he is the last major spokesman of the agrarian way of life which made the eighteenth century physiocrats the founding fathers of the nation. To the sociologist, he is the flower of the semi-feudalistic society built on caste and class.
   To the poet, he is the silent enigma, the peerless Cavalier who made poetry out of action. To the educator, he is an early advocate of pragmatism and technical training in American universities. To the churchman, he is the fully committed Christian who put trust in God above all earthly things. To the genealogist, he is the epitome of one of the greatest American families, and the best proof that blood will tell. To the soldier, he is the man without a demerit who said that duty is the sublimest word in the English languge. To the tourist, he is the man whose name seems to be on every road, every battlefield, and every victory south of the Potomac.
Genearl Robert E. Lee After Appomattox by Franklin L. Riley This too, is a delightful and interesting book and was recently republished by Washington & Lee. The book is a collection of personal anecdotes and stories contributed by W & L professors, alumni, and contemporaries of Lee. It also includes a chapter entitled What General Lee Read After The War. This compilation provides some great insight into what Lee was thinking and what his intersests were after the war. One excerpt from this book should put to rest the ridiculous notion that Lee was bitter over--or regretted--his service in the Confederate Army or that he would have made a different choice--given the same options (a notion that was suggested in the American Experience film). The following is from a former student at Washington College and soldier in Lee's army:

Just once it was my lot to receive a severe rebuke from General Lee. While I was an undergraduate my health seemed to become impaired, and he had a conversation with me about it, in which he expressed the opinion that I was working too hard. I replied: "I am so impatient to make up for the time I lost in the army--" I got no further. Lee flushed and exclaimed in an almost angry tone: "Mr. Humphreys! However long you live and whatever you accomplish, you will find that the time you spent in the Confederate army was the most profitably spent portion of your life. Never again speak of having lost time in the army." And I never did again.

And for understanding Lee's Christiain faith:

And One Was a Soldier: The Spiritual Pilgrimage of Robert E. Lee by Bishop Robert R. Brown This concise biography of Lee focuses on Lee's Christian faith and spiritual journey. I believe it is indispensable in understanding the genesis of Lee's faith:

But it was from his mother that Robert learned of God. The Carters had a tradition--instill into each child a loyalty, not only to family, but also to church and Creator. Family worship became a daily order, as was scripture reading. Sunday found the family pew fully occupied at nearby Westover Church, with the younger children often sitting out of sight on the floor. Those were duties every Carter owed the Creator, and Ann Lee was a Carter. As a consequence, she brought these principles into the Lee household, making family prayer a custom, instilling the basic elements of Christianity, and seeing that each young Lee attended Christ Church in Alexandria every Sunday.

Bishop Brown also discusses other early influential persons in young Robert's life--all which pushed him toward what would ultimately become an all-encompassing faith in Christ. But this faith was evident in his youth and as a young man. The notion that it did not become central to Lee's character until "late in life" is more ridiculous fiction. 

These lesser known titles, off the beaten path of "more recent scholarship", will provide the reader with some great insight into the character and beliefs of Robert E. Lee as they were all written prior to academia's obsession with politically correct orthodoxy and hero-bashing. Of course, there are a number of other titles one could mention-- J. W. Jones's "Life & Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee" and Douglas Southall Freeman's definitive, R.E. Lee. I would assume most readers of this blog are familiar with those titles. If not, put them on your list as well.

03 January 2011

A Review - Robert E. Lee On American Experience

Some time ago, I was sent a review copy of a new documentary titled "Robert E. Lee", which will air in many markets on PBS tonight, and asked to review it. I must apologize for being tardy in posting my short review so close to the airing of this film, but family and business affairs took priority. In any event, and for what it’s worth, here is my brief review and thoughts about the film.

That PBS chose Robert E. Lee to kick off its take on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War speaks to Lee’s never-ending universal appeal and our collective interest in this Southern icon. This alone is testimony to America's fascination with Lee and the bad boys of the Confederacy. No subject concerning the WBTS seems to be able to come even close to competing. (PBS will also air, next week, a documentary on Grant - interesting that Lee airs ahead of Grant.) The airing of this documentary on PBS’s popular history series, American Experience, however, reveals moderns’ revisionist portrayal of Lee. While acknowledging Lee’s manly qualities, his imposing presence, strict adherence to duty, devotion to family, and legendary military capabilities and leadership, the viewer is, nonetheless, left with the revisionist, PC fantasy impression that Lee wasted his favored position and gifts, betrayed his oath, fought for “white supremacy” and died a bitter old man; even questioning his faith in the providence of God. I sensed in the film what historian Robert Krick has referred to as an “anti-Confederate” bias, as the narrative does not stray too far from current PC orthodoxy. 

While the film features some prominent and respected historians (Gary Gallagher, Peter Carmichael, and Emory Thomas, to name just a few) and, at times, offers some interesting commentary, it is seriously lacking of anything in-depth about Lee or, anything truthfully new. Admittedly, that would be a difficult assignment for anyone--few persons in American history have received more attention than the South’s beloved General Lee. There’s simply not much left to say about this great man.

But what was most obvious to this viewer was what the film largely ignored--Lee’s Christian faith. While the film touches on this aspect of Lee's character, it is brief and shallow and not given the consideration it deserves. As many historians have previously noted, it is impossible to understand or explain Lee absent an understanding of Lee’s faith in God. As biographer and former Washington and Lee University professor, Marshall Fishwick noted in his wonderful little biography about Lee:

Lee’s genius was essentially military; but his greatness was essentially religious. He cannot be understood against a background of politics, philosophy or polemics. All efforts to find Lee’s “secret” have failed because they have followed the wrong leads.

Bottom line: This film follows the wrong leads and, in doing so, it fails.