Last May, The American Legion Magazine asked its readers, website visitors and social media followers to select from a list of 100 beloved U.S. veterans. More than 70,000 votes were cast. The choices span our nation’s lifetime.First place honor goes to a Southerner: Native Texan Audie Murphy. Coming in at number 2 is a Virginian and a Southerner, George Washington. Teddy Roosevelt is ranked #3. Alvin York, another Southerner hailing from the great state of Tennessee claimed the #4 slot. Rounding out the top 5 is none other than the grandson of a Confederate soldier, George S. Patton.
Ranking #8 is General Robert E. Lee.
Yankee General Ulysses S. Grant made #10.
Stonewall Jackson is ranked #25.
No other Union officers made the top 25, though William Tecumseh Sherman made #39, followed by Joshua Chamberlain at #40.
The survey results made the following observations of General Lee:
During the Civil War, Lee organized his Army of Northern Virginia from a mixed tapestry of troops into one of the most formidable and effective fighting forces ever known. He did this despite a severe disparity of numbers and chronic shortages of basic supplies, such as food, clothing and medical supplies. Always considerate of his men, he surrendered at Appomattox rather than expose them to more bloodshed when he faced the inevitable.And had this to say about Stonewall Jackson:
Early in his adult life, Lee became the consummate Christian soldier. He thanked the Almighty for his numerous victories and often took defeat as a rebuke from above. Throughout his military career, his family – especially his invalided wife – remained his foremost concern.
Lee considered that his most important work was done during reconstruction as he sought to instill among Southerners a lack of bitterness and a sense of union with the reunited country. He worked diligently as president of Washington College to prepare young men of the South for a productive future while instilling in each one of them his own gentlemanly and Christian attributes.
. . . Jackson was a gentleman and a Christian and a decent person, certainly, in spite of his role in killing and maiming tens of thousands of young Northern men. But it also said that he was, fundamentally, an American. He had, after all, fought heroically for his country in the Mexican War. In Whittier’s poem, it was his Americanness that had stirred in him and redeemed him.I'm sure all this must come as a real disappointment to those who would like to see Lee-Jackson Day relegated to the dust bin of history.
What happened after Jackson’s death was the first great national outpouring of grief for a fallen leader in the country’s history. Though it was overshadowed by Lincoln’s death two years later, Jackson’s death touched the hearts of every household in the South, and prompted many admiring testimonials in the North. “I rejoice at Stonewall Jackson’s death as a gain to our cause,” wrote Union Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, “and yet in my soldier’s heart I cannot but see him as the best soldier in all of this war, and grieve at his untimely end.”