Robert E. Lee Topples From His Pedestal

By Kevin M. Levin

Workers began dismantling the Robert E. Lee monument in New Orleans on Friday, and will soon place it in temporary storage with three other such memorials. Once finished, their work will complete the most sweeping change to a major city’s Civil War commemorative landscape since the initial calls to lower Confederate battle flags and remove Confederate monuments in 2015, following the murder of nine black churchgoers by Dylann Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

While calls to extract all four New Orleans monuments have been accompanied by controversy—including heated protest—the removal of the Lee monument may be the most difficult for the core defenders of Confederate heritage to accept. It may also be difficult for others who do not embrace a neo-Confederate agenda. Unlike Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, and other icons similarly honored in stone, only Lee managed to transcend his place in a slaveholders’ rebellion to achieve mythical status on par with other vaunted historical figures.

It should come as no surprise that the general’s popularity achieved its greatest ascendency in the South. Even before the end of the war, Lee became the symbol of the Confederate struggle for independence owing to his impressive string of battlefield victories.

Following his side’s defeat, Lee quickly came to occupy a central place in the Lost Cause explanation of the war—an interpretation that, among other things, deified Confederates as embodying the virtues of bravery, sacrifice, and Christian morality. He epitomized the virtues of the Christian gentleman and appeared almost Christlike in Southern iconography. In the hands of Lost Cause writers, his military record and personal character served as the model of perfection for the next generation of white southerners. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, those writers used Lee to distance the Confederacy from its commitment to preserve slavery and …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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