The actual battle ground was acquired by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and donated to the U. S. Park Service in 1938 as a gift to the American people in honor of the soldiers of both armies that fought in the historic battle which was won by the Confederates. The donation of 130 acres include the Henry Farm and the site of the Visitors Center. A plaque at the visitors Center describes the donation and land transfer for thousands of visitors annually.
Included in the transfer agreement is the following: "the strictest observance of the accuracy and fairness of the markers and monuments and there will be no development or markers or inscriptions which detract in any way from the glory due Confederate heroes."
Though the SCV-- as well as the UDC--are often malignied by the High Priests of Political Correctness, the legacy of America's greatest war would be lacking were it not for these two patriotic civic organizations. As a matter of fact, many of the historic sites that Americans enjoy today would not even exist.
Take Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia for example. The Chapel had been in Robert E. Lee’s mind almost since accepting the presidency of the beleaguered school in 1865. When General Lee reported to the board of trustees in June of 1866, he wrote: “A larger chapel is much needed. The room used is too small and badly adapted to the purpose. It is moreover required for additional lecture rooms, into which it could be conveniently converted.” This would be Lee’s pet project and construction began in 1867. It was his first major undertaking as President of Washington College. One year later, in Lee’s 1868 report, he wrote: “The completion of the new chapel, which has recently been dedicated to the service of Almighty God, is a pleasing as well as useful addition to the College buildings.”
The Chapel remains, to this day, a fitting memorial to Lee. As Douglas Southall Freeman wrote of Lee: “What he seemed, he was—a wholly human gentleman, the essential elements of whose positive character were two and only two, simplicity and spirituality." As President of Washington College, Lee often expressed his sense of spirituality and its connection with the Chapel. Lee was often visibly moved during Chapel services. Upon one of these occasions, as Lee was leaving the building, a friend inquired of Lee if something was wrong. Lee replied, “I was thinking of my responsibility to Almighty God for these hundreds of young men.”
But Lee Chapel was actually almost torn down in the early 1920's. Then President Dr. Henry Louis Smith thought the structure was "unattractive" and not "architecturally compatible" with the other building at W & L. Fortunately, the brave ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy mounted a spirited public relations campaign that saved the grand old building. Thank God for the UDC.
Visiting Lee Chapel today is well worth the effort. There is no admission charge and the museum in the basement houses an wonderful collection of Lee family heirlooms and historical artifacts. The museum shop has an excellent selection of books, framed art, and souvenirs. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Lexington.
How poorer we all would be were it not for the preservation efforts of these two Southern heritage groups.