Manvotional: Robert E. Lee’s Chivalry

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 13, 2010 · 95 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

General Robert E. Lee was on his way to Richmond, and was seated in the extreme end of a railroad car, every seat of which was occupied. At one of the stations, an aged woman of humble appearance entered the car, carrying a large basket. She walked the length of the aisle and not a man offered her a seat. When she was opposite General Lee’s seat, he arose promptly and said, “Madam, take this seat.” Instantly a score of men were on their feet, and a chorus of voices said, “General, have my seat.” “No, gentlemen,” he replied, “if there was no seat for this old lady, there is no seat for me.” It was not long before the car was almost empty. It was too warm to be comfortable.

From Success by Orison Swett Marden

{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

1 One Backpack November 13, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Short and to the point. Often that’s enough. Thanks a lot.

2 Nate November 14, 2010 at 12:54 am

If only more were as chivalrous as him. Good read.

3 Yankee November 14, 2010 at 1:44 am

This was because Lee was educated and primed in the North at West Point, before he became a traitor to the Union. “Duty, Honor, Country”.

4 KA November 14, 2010 at 2:28 am

Quotations The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.

Robert Edward Lee

5 ZZ November 14, 2010 at 2:35 am

1. This incident sounds apocryphal.
2. “Yankee”, Lee was not some kind of rube before he went to West Point. He did grow up in a highly respected family, politics or no. Our political structure was not nearly as centralized as it is now and states had more autonomy, so local loyalty first was not some kind of aberration.
3. I like KA’s quote even better.

6 Nick Healy November 14, 2010 at 5:48 am

As a non-American, I don’t know much about Lee (other than the Duke boys named their car after him). But every bit I read about his character I like. Could you post more on him with similar stories?

7 The Hedge Knight November 14, 2010 at 5:55 am

A man who literally marches to battle to defend slavery is not a gentleman.

8 Jack Bouchard November 14, 2010 at 6:12 am

Lee’s first and strongest loyalty was to Virginia.

“I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty.”

Duty, Honor, Country indeed. Lee embodied it more than many of the men who fought for the Union.

9 john November 14, 2010 at 6:26 am

In 1982, I was riding the F train to work in Manhattan. It was crowded and like all experinced strap-hangers I read the paper hoping the ride would not be unbearable. At Jay Street the seat in front of me opened up. Instead to sitting down I asked the young lady standing next to me if she would like the seat. Long story short: that’s how I met my wife!

10 JamesG November 14, 2010 at 6:32 am

You should have heard the disapproving exhalations of air in the first class compartment last week when I gave up my seat to a heavily pregnant woman who could not find a seat elsewhere. Shameful.

11 John November 14, 2010 at 7:25 am

@ James G – I once got scolded for HOLDING A DOOR for a lady who had both hands full of packages. She denounced me for being a “chauvinist pig” and “insinuating that women need a man’s help”. I smiled, nodded, and said “you’re welcome” and walked away.

12 Sean November 14, 2010 at 7:30 am

I really wish women weren’t freaked now adays by me offering them my seat.

13 Jeff November 14, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hedge Knight before you say something to make yourself look like an idiot you should do a little research. Lee freed all of his slaves before he was even approached to be a General in the southern army. Grant on the other hand didn’t give up the slaves his family owned until the passing of the thirteenth ammendment.

14 Scott November 14, 2010 at 9:35 am

While I like many things on this website, I am appalled that you continue to praise General Robert E. Lee – including the day that President Obama was elected. He gave his all to support slavery – one of the most horrible of institutions on the planet, I hope this will be the last post about him.

15 Wayne Carlson November 14, 2010 at 9:35 am

The attacks upon the character of Robert E. Lee stem from a lack of historical knowledge and perspective. The individuals that have stooped to this level tell us far more about themselves than about the Gentleman from Old Virginia. They are much in need of a heavy course in “The Art of Manliness”, as are most in the American Empire today. Deo Vindice

16 Brian November 14, 2010 at 9:38 am

Jeff- thanks for bringing some historical fact into it. I was about to say the same.

President Abraham Lincoln asked Lee to be the general for the North on April 18 1861, 6 days after the attack on Fort Sumpter.
The commanding general of the Union army, Winfield Scott, told Lincoln he wanted Lee for a top command. Lee said he was willing as long as Virginia remained in the Union. Lee was asked by one of his lieutenants if he intended to fight for the Confederacy or the Union, to which he replied, “I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty.” (as someone else already quoted above) After Lincoln’s call for troops to put down the rebellion, it was obvious that Virginia would quickly secede and so Lee turned down the offer on April 18, resigned from the U.S. Army on April 20, and took up command of the Virginia state forces on April 23.

He was doing what he thought was right and when faced with adversity stuck true to what he believed even if he did not believe slavery was correct. Thats an admirable trait and not to romanticize the past but there are things to learn from the men that went before.

Also I don’t want to get into the historical debate about the cause of the civil war but its much more complex than just slavery.

17 Bob November 14, 2010 at 10:24 am

It’s a shame that all some know of the greatest American General of all time is that there was a car named after him on a redneck tv show. General Lee freed all his slaves before it was the cool thing to do. General Lee fought for his state, his home. How is that a traitor ? There was a time, prior to big government, when the states meant something. Ignorant fools.

18 Tracy November 14, 2010 at 10:31 am

@John, I’ve gotten several disapproving glares when I’ve held the door for women (usually younger ones), you handled that situation with real class. I’ll have to remember that the next time someone glowers at me for being polite. :-)

19 Richard F. November 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

I think the short paragraph accurately portrays the character of Lee. I am, however, dismayed at the historical ignorance of some posters; Lee, a traitor; the War Between the States fought over slavery and not States sovereign rights or the North’s economic repression of the Southern States.

Some edification:

There were 5 slave states that remained in the Union; MO, WV, KY, MD, and DE….so much for the North fighting against the evil of slavery.

Lee fought in defense of his home, Virginia….this quote from George Eliot at the beginning of “Gods and Generals” may help the perspective;

“A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one’s own homestead.” (George Eliot, Mary Evans,pseud.).

Finally the correspondence between Lee and Lord Acton should settle the hash about Lee’s “traitorous” motives:

20 Sam McCarthy November 14, 2010 at 11:10 am

God Bless you fine gentleman who have done your reading. Properly educated men know all too well, about what kind of man General Lee was. He, and most of the confederates, fought for their rights to form their own nation, a right of all men, and to fight against a federal government too big for it’s own britches. I may not agree with what they did, but I respect them enough by their actions and values. most of them were good men, just doing their bit, just like the northerners, just like the Greatest generation and just like soldiers today.

21 Cwnidog November 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

Like most people, Lee was a mix of conflicting characteristics. In the case of the lady on the train, he was indeed considerate, he also freed his own slaves, and was very loyal to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yet at the after freeing his own slaves, he decided to break an oath to his country and take up arms against it in order to help make sure that other people’s slaves stayed in that condition. I’ll be the first to say that I think that the average mid-19th century American had many core beliefs that we would find repugnant today. Lee and Grant most definitely included. But the past is another country and we can’t judge them ex post facto by our standards

Revisionists in either camp can sugarcoat it all they want, but the South seceded in order to preserve an antiquated economic system that was viable only as long as it could keep millions of people in slavery. And the North fought to keep a source of cheap raw materials and a market for an industrial system that, while it did not involve actual slavery, was every bit as exploitative of the people working in it, paying them the minimum possible and tossing them aside if they became ill or got injured. I doubt that any Northern industrialist gave a rat’s ass about slavery as long as the South kept feeding cotton to their mills. In this case Marx was right – a bayonet is a weapon with a worker at each end.

In short, when it comes to the Civil War, I think that the American primary and secondary schools fed us all a load of regionally appropriate pap, making sure nobody’s myth gets examined too closely. I say this having taken my Junior High American History classes in Massachusetts and my High School-level class in Virginia. You’d be hard pressed to tell that they were talking about the same thing.

22 DaveR November 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

If Lee won the war, we all know who would still be giving up their seats for who.

23 Matthew D Herrmann November 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Another story that shows the chivalry of Robert E Lee:

“A young black man walked into a church to receive communion one Sunday. The white congregation sat stunned, although the man was free and the war was over: old habits and beliefs die hard. The black man walked up to the altar and knelt to receive communion. No one moved. Until an older gentleman stood up, walked down the aisle, stood behind the black man for a moment. The congregation waited to see what would happen next. Then, General Robert E. Lee knelt down beside the man and they broke bread together.”

You can’t fault any man for acting on what they believe is right.

Is slavery wrong? Yes, we know that now, and the bloodiest war in American History reinforces that. What Lee exemplifies is this: When shown he was wrong, Lee recanted, he changed.

He could have joined up with the Klan or other underground dissident groups that sprang up after the war; but he didn’t. He accepted his loss with dignity, examined his life, and made the necessary changes. That is the kind of man we should strive to be: To act on your beliefs, to be a gentleman, to behave with chivalry, and to know when to change.

As an added note: Had Virginia chosen to side with the Union, Lee would have fought for the North, and we’d be singing his praises.

24 Brucifer November 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Chaps, I do weary of the dreary whine of “well, he kept slaves, so he should be totally discredited and discounted.” Whether applied to a great general like Lee or to one of the finest minds of our country, founding father Thomas Jefferson, such pusillanimous accusations ring hollow to anyone who knows anything about history beyond what political-correctness passes for it in today’s schools.

Looking at the world historical record, we ALL kept slaves at one time or another in our past, Africans most certainly included. Based upon where my own ancestors were geographically from, I can say with relative certainty that they kept slaves. These, mostly Irish captured in Viking raids and carried back to Norway. I’d ask those whiners, what is the statute of limitations on generational guilt for slavery? Need I make reparations to the Irish, or can we all just get on with our lives at some point?

But I digress. Two points remain paramount:

One, we are all products of our time. Judging others from our oh-so-enlightened sappy-happy modernity is spurious …. and ultimately useless. I’d instead worry about how future generations will judge us.

Two, one needs sometimes to separate cause from chivalry.

25 Brucifer November 14, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Oh and by the bye, my own great-grandfather was staunchly anti-slavery and fought .. and died … in the Union Army. Yet, by the modern doctrine that ALL white men were responsible for and benefited from slavery, I as the ancestor of a Union veteran am now eyed by the ancestors of black slaves, with the very same contemptuous glance they reserve for the ancestor of a Confederate veteran. So much for gratitude. Perhaps great-grandfather should have minded his own business and stayed on the farm…

And yes, far too many modern women have become suspicious of any form of male courtesy, much less chivalry. Holding doors, etc., I either get looks of shock or of contempt.

26 Wilson Hines November 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Yankee and The Hedge Knight: Your comments portray your ignorance of what was going on at the time. I am a southern born man of North Carolina and after living in Mi and TN for a few years, I reside again in N.C. I am a B.A. history major, as well.
Hopefully, your attitude of me will be generously improved by the fact I am a Civil War re-enactor, but for an artillery group which is solely made up of professional historians – no amateur wannabes; in fact I am the youngest and least educated as an undergraduate. Everybody else holds master degrees in History; one of them has a Ph.D. from CA Berkley in the Civil War. Everybody in my group is, quite frankly, very pro-history, rather than pro-confederate or pro-union. I hold the same constitution. I am embarrassed by my contemporary southern brothers by their ignorance on many of the reasons we fought, the details of the war, and such.
Usually, I don’t see such backward ideology of ignorance spew from the mouth of a “yankee” or union citizen. But, I have seen it today in your words. It is sad for you to say what you said about Gen. Lee. If you think the General was fighting for our right to have slaves or even for VA to have slaves, you are wrong, and that is so well documented you are nothing but such as a hate monger for saying such a thing. Look it up yourself, do your research; or would you rather somebody else do that research for you? Yankee, your “Duty, Honor, Country” was non-existent at the time. We were not the nation as seen through your eyes. We were a nation of states, not a nation state. By the way, DE had to be forced at gun point to give up their slaves.
Sorry, I got taken aback by the comments of such ignorant men. If it had been some southern guys making stupid comments, I probably wouldn’t have written a word; but their’s no excuse for the Northern people here to say what they’ve said.

27 John Wright November 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Thank you for posting this outstanding article on a true gentleman who is often misunderstood.

28 Andrew November 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I think many gentlemen here are reading way too much into this post. This post is not about the Civil War and slavery. It is about character through actions. A man who was largest in stature on that train offered his seat to a lady lower in stature when no other man would. We should all strive for such humble acts daily in life, no matter our lot in life.

29 Matt November 14, 2010 at 2:44 pm

At KA: Dieu et les dames, brother.

30 Chris Kavanaugh November 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Fellow readers may be familiar with the frozen mummy ‘Oetzi’ found on the austran/italian alpine border. Science continues to discover more about this man and his time. But what we will never know are the social circumstances that led to his death.
And yet ironically people on ‘survival’ websites talk of his ‘murder’ and how his ;kit’ is little changed in detail from today. They have formed social bonds and loyalties with a man dead before the first stone of the pyramids were quarried. I postulated online ‘Oetzi’ may have been a first rate SOB deservedly killed by a injured party.
People were ready to kill me in turn. I fear to even discuss Lee in this forum.
Gays in the military;your thoughts?

31 johnt November 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm

The Hedge Knight ~”A man who literally marches to battle to defend slavery is not a gentleman”, no but a man who defends the sovereignty of his state and is principles is. If you think the us yanks back then gave a damn about slaves then I envy your Disney like view of history. It was all about states rights and economic power..

32 Anton Roder November 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Maybe because of my experience with the Apratheid system I find it interesting that people can be so naive to believe that any government would fight for an ideal like the abolition of slavery (not that I’m condoning it). If any serious searcher were to scratch just a bit under the surface of every war allegedly fought over ideals, they will find a much more plebian reason – mostly resources and political advantage. Freedom, religious persecution, abolition of slavery and more recently weapons of mass destruction are all just smokescreens to whip the common man into the frenzy of indignation necessary to send him to his death at the command of another, or to justify suspending his rights or taxing him for the waging of that war.

While there may have been wars fought for ideals, I have not read about one.

33 Brandon November 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Hedge Knight – A man who thinks before he acts or speaks is likely a gentleman.

34 Y.T. Wills November 14, 2010 at 5:47 pm


35 Navyman November 14, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Another lesson from a great military man in chivalry: Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

Sometime just before his death in 1966, a group of veterans were in the waiting room for the lab at Naval Hospital Oak Knoll California. The wait was rather long apparently. A young ensign, in uniform, walked in. Seeing a bunch of older men in civilian attire, he took it upon himself to announce that he was “Ensign So and So” and that he wanted to be served immediately.
From a corner seat, an impeccably dressed man of short stature stood up and announced: I’m Chester Nimitz, and if I have to wait Ensign, so do you!

A well deserved lesson that probably served that junior officer the rest of his life…..

36 kelvin adams November 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm

ok then why did he have slves in the first place if he was a man of of honour like some of yuo said .he would have never owned slaves .

37 steven November 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

infiltration of the goverment long before the civil war was established by the jesuit order from europe , the division of the united states into federations of equal force was decided long before the civil war by the high financial powers of europe , these bankers were afraid that the united states , if they remained in one block and as one nation , would obtain economical and financial independence , which would upset their financial domination over europe and the world , thus making the united states easier to control . greed , selfishness and financial gain are used to compromise polititions to pass laws defeating the purpose of the constitution and to take america down a path never intended by our founding forefathers .

38 Thomas November 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm

And so when presented with a story about chivalry which is easily applicable to our daily lives, we decide instead to bicker about a subject whose discussion at the time was made by very different people with very different viewpoints, and while we’re at it we take a few shots at each other’s level of education and general intelligence. It seems that we could use a few more lessons in gentlemanly conduct.

39 Clay November 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

There are many things I could say about what I have read here. I will restrict myself and merely state that I am surprised. I thought that this website attracted a different sort of man. The petty arguements made by men who cannot possibly begin to comprehend the thoughts and worries of the men who had to make that decision, North or South, are completely juvenile. And by the way, the war is over, I am astonished at how personally some people are taking these posts. To Mr. Mckay: I am certain you did not predict this type of response from such a straight forward article. However, I urge you to take care to sensor articles and or posts to avoid this type of immature quibble in the future.

40 Brimstone November 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Properly educated men will not let themselves be fooled by tripe.

“I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. -The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence-” -Robert E Lee, December 27, 1856

“Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; -Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course-. -Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others-”

What kind of slave owner was Lee? Let’s ask one

Custis’s will legally required Lee to emancipate the slaves that passed into his control within five years of Custis’s death. Custis died October 10, 1857 and his will was probated December 7, 1857. Lee kept the slaves as long as he could, and finally filed the deed of manumission with Court of the City of Richmond on December 29, 1862—five years, two months, and nineteen days after Custis’s death. So Lee freed his slaves only because he was bound by law to do so… The law of his dead father-in-law.

Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for ““perpetual union”” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession. Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution.

-Robert E. Lee, letter, 23 January 1861

41 Brimstone November 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

For an accurate look at slave ownership between Lee & Grant, this blog has a great look at the topic

42 Joy November 14, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Good gentlemen,

I seek to address the most unfortunate responses so many good men receive in response to the simple kindness of holding a door or offering a seat.

Please know that not all so-called “modern” women resent the courtesy shown by such simple and gracious gestures. I always smile and say thank you when a door is opened or held, whether the person is male, female, young or elder. Sadly, common courtesy is not at all common anymore.

Please allow me to apologize for the ignorance of women who do not understand that these acts are a sign of respect and honor. I wish I encountered more like all of you in my day to day life. I treasure those men in my life who behave this way.

As an entertainer, singer, and teacher of burlesque, I try to instill the true art of womanliness in the ladies I encounter by teaching them to be truly grateful for any small kindness. A woman can be a strong personality, claim her rights, and still behave like a lady. It is, to me, a sign of a very unpleasant personality when someone reacts to courtesy with rudeness. Whether one is opposed to “gender roles” or not, there is no excuse for nastiness in the face of goodness. It would be just as valid for a woman to hold a door for a man entering or leaving with his hands full of luggage or parcels.

I am no withering flower. I am most confident in my ability to open a door for myself, or stand a bit longer on a bus or train. But my cheerful acceptance of these gestures may prevent a gentleman from being soured on the whole idea… and one day he may offer a seat to an elder, or the infirm, or just a very fatigued and worn individual who would be even more grateful than I am for the respite.

So, gentlemen, true ladies do still exist, just as you exist. Please never stop your pursuit of excellence of self and the world around you, and I promise I will do my part from the female perspective.

Keep opening and holding doors, keep offering seats. I hope that one day you’ll receive a quiet thank you and a genuine smile for your efforts.

No matter WHAT state you’re from.

43 North Carolinian November 15, 2010 at 3:25 am

Regarding Yankee’s statement, you forget that in the South, we are (and were) taught couth and manners. Many Southerners are too nice or too much taken aback to respond to the MANY blows leveled at us on a daily basis by our conquerors, verbal and otherwise. Many Northerners today view us, I’m sorry to report, as “country” rubes. The ignorance and arrogance of the view that somehow Northerners are superior to Southerners is not just inaccurate, but also offensive. And incidentally, the “Union” betrayed its citizens with tyranny–a tyranny that is still in effect today.

44 Mark Douglas November 15, 2010 at 5:50 am

Lee kept, in his own handwriting, in his own account book, a “Hunting List” — he wrote HUNTING LIST — of slaves he most wanted to capture, and he paid almost obsessive attention to the young slave girls he wanted to capture.

Lee kept track of what city they might be in, what street, what time of day, and mostly, what shade of skin their infant children had. Lee was very focused on paying to get the mothers back who had very light colored skin, who could pass for white, is what he wrote.

He paid six times the normal bounty to get one 14 year old girl back. When she was caught and the bounty hunter returned her, Lee immediately had her tortured. He screamed at her during her torture.

Then Lee had sold the infant, and rented the mother out.

Lee sold every infant born to the slaves his wife inherited — he could not sell those slaves, by terms of the will, but Lee tried repeatedly to break the will, going into Virginia Courts three times DURING the Civil War. Yes, Lee took time out of the CIvil War to take this matter to Virginia Courts, which turned his request down three times.

BUt while he was doing that, he was also sellilng the infants from these young girls.

Now, why was Lee so obsessed with getting these slave girls back? And who fathered their children? We don’t know who fathered their children, but the girls themselves apparently were light skinned, and their infants even more so.

We know that girls who were light skinned, especially if they had smooth hair and could pass for white, sold for very good sums, and were usually bought for the whore house trade in the deep south, where they were forced to work as sex slaves.

If you think Lee was anything like the Myths the South has pumped up for 150 years, think again. Let’s look at the REAL LEE.

Lee regularly tortured his slaves, and sold their infants. Far from being loved by his slaves, they detested him, and most ran away. They ran away despite the death and torture that were pomised them.

Lee’s slaves said “he was the meanest man I ever saw”.

Lee was also a coward, contrary to the lunatic myth of his bravery. Longstreet reported that Lee always got as far away from battle as he possibly could. Longstreet also wrote about Lee often complaining about his health, and trying to get relieved of command, so he could get out of the Army, the last six months of the war. Davis turned him down.

Lee ran from Richmond on the false rumor of a breach in the line (the line being the massive earth works Lee had over 100,000 slaves build). Lee did not even check if the rumor of a breach was true, he just fled, and ordered the warehouses burned as he dashed off.

The fires Lee ordered set spread, nearly burning the whole town down, because no males were around to put it out. The mayor of RIchmond , 80 years old, had to ride out to the Union troops the next morning under a white flat, and ASK the Union soldiers to come in and help put out the fires.

Lee kept running, despite his aides appeals to stand somewhere and fight. Lee tried to find someplace to surrender for several days, and once he found it, he snuck off from his aides, put on an immaculate uniform, and went to surrernder.

Lee was ordered NOT to surrender by Davis, but Lee did anyway. He would look like the coward he was, if he just surrendered himself personally. So he surrendered his whole army — against orders.

Lee was not only a pussy in war, he was a pussy around Davis. Lee knew the war was futile and the longer it dragged out, the more men died needlessly. But Lee had often sent his men to die needlessly, he reallyl didn’t care.

For six months AFTER Lee had told others it was futile, he was still sending others to die, and kill, knowing it was over. But he was afraid to confront Davis. Davis was a guy Lee had brownnosed for years, and Lee never once in his life stood up to Davis. Rather than tell Davis the truth, Lee did what Nazi generals did — tell Davis (Hitler) what he wanted to hear.

Lee was simply too afraid to tell Davis the truth, so he kept ordering men to their death. But when Lee personally got near danger, he ran, and then ran off, to surrender.

Lee was nothing like you folks have been told.

45 DH November 15, 2010 at 6:15 am

Ok, I’m slightly dense here…why did it get so warm? It was too warm to be comfortable? What happened exactly? Everyone in the carriage stood up or something?

46 Stephen Clay McGehee November 15, 2010 at 9:07 am

How sad that there are folks filled with such dark, wicked, hateful hearts that they would devote their time and resources to tear down and destroy a great man like Robert E. Lee. One poster here maintains a blog devoted entirely to trashing The South – not building up anyone, not bragging on Northern culture and heritage – nothing but tearing down a great Southern gentleman and icon of all that is good.

It was not enough for the North to destroy The South militarily and economically. They had to instill a desire to destroy Southern culture and obliterate Southern heritage. For those who do not understand why we in The South appear to still be fighting the war – this is the reason.

“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevents their history or denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of their own destruction.”
Sir William Wallace, 1281

47 Jeff Davis November 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

Lee was and is the greatest American ever born.
He educated, manumiteed andfreed every slave he inherited. During the war, his personal servant was a slave he had freed but refused to leave him. He described Lee as being ” the best man ever born of a woman ..”

This yankee propaganda making Lee look like a racist makes me sick. Please, put your effort and brains to better use. The war was not about the bull crap you have been taught to believe and perpetuate.

Most of our founding fathers had slaves after the first war of independance and they dont get a bad wrap for fighting for slavery. The 13th amendment was the greatest abuse black people ever received because they could not compete in post war white industry and thus became empoverished and many died of disease and starvation.

48 Jeff Davis November 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

I’ll also add that I think Mr. Douglas’s comments are lies. I have studied Lee for years and have never read anything he is saying about Lee. In fact I have read the complete opposite.

49 Jeff Davis November 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

* His comments are lies in reference to Lee on slavery and racism etc. He is outright foolish in his slants that Lee was not brave. I guarantee Mr. Douglas would not tell Lee that to his face and I’m pretty sure he’ll never get the opportunity too.

50 Carl November 15, 2010 at 11:11 am

First, this article is not about General Lee’s politics. It’s about chivalrous acts and how your manners as a gentleman reflect on you and your family. Second, I continuously remember a story my mom told me. I don’t know if she heard it firsthand or from another source. In any case here it is, a gentleman held a door open for a lady. She replied to him, “I don’t need a man to hold the door open for me.” His response was (priceless in my opinion), “I am not holding the door open for you because you are a lady. I’m holding it open because I’m a gentleman.” Acts of chivalry are not about the character of the lady, it’s about your character.

51 John Graham November 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Carl; I like that story, and will indeed use it next time I hold a door open for an ungrateful lady. Although not sure how I will crowbar it in if I get the usual embittered reaction, a sullen silence.

52 Chris Kavanaugh November 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm

At this futile point of the melee I can only quote another southerner, Captain Rhett Butler of Charleston “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

53 John Rose November 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

A lot of people need to read about the civil war and everything that it was about. Slavery was one thing, but it was more about federalists and non-federalists. State power of federal power. Then read Lee’s bio. Then comment on this page. As someone who is surrounded by civil war history wherever I drive (I lived around Atlanta my whole life), I’m glad to know a lot about this topic. But although I can’t agree fully with the south and their endeavors, I must say that I did like Lee.

54 The Counselor November 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm

While it is true that slavery was the principal cause célèbre of the Civil War, to say that General Lee fought exclusively to promote it is a significant oversimplification and a disservice to his otherwise exemplary career. General Lee and his cohorts fought to maintain what they (and a significant portion of America’s political minds) then viewed as the correct, well-defined constitutional relationship between the States and the Federal government—a relationship in which the Union’s powers were more limited.

Although the determination of who would regulate slavery was certainly contentious, this was simply one of many issues of disagreement going back to the early 1800s (taxation and tariffs being others) relating to which group was more powerful—the States which had created the Union or the Union itself. Slavery might have evoked a more impassioned rallying cry than whiskey taxes or cotton tariffs, but it was simply one of many issues upon which the Southern leadership felt that the federal government had overstepped its bounds—a theme which continues to reverberate even now.

It would be more correct (although less inflammatory) to say that General Lee fought to maintain a constitutional system which favoured the States’ power to regulate slavery over the Federal government’s power to regulate slavery. It would also be prudent to view historical figures in the light of their times rather than attempting to measure them by modern and “enlightened” standards. It may come to pass that in future generations we will all be condemned for eating meat from animals or using environmentally-unfriendly energy sources, for instance.

55 charles gallo November 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

when a woman gives me a hard time about holding a door, offering a seat, etc (or even says “Oh, you didn’t have to”, I’ll reply “Oh, I’m doing it for my own safety – you don’t want an earthquake, do you?”

That usually gets a puzzled look that says “Huh? Explain”

Then I’ll say “There would be an earthquake if I didn’t, from my ancestors spinning in their graves, and I wouldn’t want that”

56 Andrew S. November 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

@Y.T. Wills
I’m afraid you have a grievous misunderstanding of skin color. Humanity, to the best of our knowledge, originated from north western Africa. At that early date, ALL humans were black-skinned. As homo sapiens spread, skin color began to diversify. The branch that moved northward lightened in color, as high melanin concentrations in the skin were not advantageous in the higher latitudes. There is a gradual lightening of skin color along the way. While you are correct that an offspring of a dark skinned man and a light skinned woman (and vice versa) will indeed produce an intermediate skin tone, such parentage is not a prerequisite. For example, I am half-Italian and half-Hungarian. I am fairly tan despite not having a drop of negro blood in me.

57 Christopher November 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I personally find it disappointing at the volume of ladies who are pleasantly surprised when I hold a door, or offer a seat. It should be expected of us, to show honour and respect to them. I have a friend who held a glass door for a young lady once who had her arms full, and she immediately berated him for it. So he closed the door. She then glared at him because she could not open it and needed help. So he held it open again and asked her to please make up her mind did she want the door held or not. I’m not saying he was entirely in the right, but I do enjoy his pointing out her contradiction and her having to think some.

58 Mark Douglas November 15, 2010 at 5:25 pm

History is often the battle of myths, which last so much longer than battles of guns.

The reality of slavery and the horrors of the Civil War are no exception. For 150 years we have been fed fundamentally deceptive notions about slavery, and about the Southern leaders. Most of us believed them. After all they were in all our text books. Most of our movies. Didn’t famous historians say lovely things about Lee and Davis? Were they not wonderful men, who freed their slaves, taught them to read, and even prayed with black people?

But the truth was drastically different than the myth created afterwards. As Alan Nolan, author of “Lee Considered” said, virtually everything we think we know about Lee, we don’t really know. Let’s start over, seems to be his motto.

One writer who started over, sorta, is historian and Southerner Elizabeth Pryor, author of “Reading the Man” about Lee.

There is really no question that Lee tortured slaves, including slaves girls as young as 13. There is no question that he sold the infant children of those slave girls, hardly old enough even to have children. These children produced children, which Lee sold.

Slavery was not a sweet endeavor, no matter how many times you watch Gone with the Wind. Lee was indifferent to the suffering of the mothers, when he sold their infants. Lee lived just a short walk to the biggest slave auction house in Virginia — and he sent his “overflow” there.

We can’t know everything about Lee, but there was enough in his own account books — specifically the “Hunting List” Lee kept in his own handwriting, to show the real Lee, and a side of him that the South naturally wanted to pretend never existed. If Lee had not kept these account books, he could slip by, his actions unknowable, covered by the darkness of time.

Lee kept meticulous notes on his slaves, and expenses. If he had not done this, we would not know some astonishing things.

Slaves came forward after the Civil War, and told how Lee had tortured them. The myth of Lee, of course, maintained that Lee didn’t even own slaves, that he freed all his slaves, and that his slaves SO loved him, they stayed with him rather than Lee. Take your pick on which myth you like to believe — all are nonsense.

See the book “Reading the Man” about Lee’s own papers and letters. Elizabeth Pryor adores Lee. She tries so hard to cover up for Lee — to excuse him, to minimize the blame to him. But she is the one that shows he did keep a Hunting List. She shows he did pay six times the normal bounty to capture one young girl, who he then had tortured.

If Lee’s papers did NOTHING but show he was capable of torture of a young girl, it would be enough to cast doubt on the whole Lee myth. But the papers show much more.

She shows that Lee did keep obsessive track of run away slave girls, and fixate on the color of their infant child. Why was Lee paying six times the normal fee to get certain slave girls back? And why was he so focused on the color of the infant?

Lee wrote which child could pass for white. Now, why would he do that? There had to be some reason –what was that reason? You tell me. Was he just curious? Or was their some financial gain to be made if the infant could pass for white?

But whatever reason Lee had for fixating on the slave girls, and their infants, he fixated on them. He tortured the mother. Fine. Runaways got tortured. But left unanswered –what did Lee do with the child?

Pryor never shows what Lee did with the infant – we know he sent the mother away, after he had her tortured. Would he give the child back to mother? Hardly. He was personally furious at her to the point he tortured her. He then rented her out. Is he going to say –”oh take the child back, no hard feelings”? Hardly A man like that would not own slaves to begin with.

Plus, you don’t rent infants out. When Lee rented slave girls out, he got paid for their work. That is how renting worked. There was no work the infant could do. In fact a woman with a small child was not easily rented out — the person getting the woman wanted a worker (or a breeder)

We only know the infant was so light colored, that Lee himself wrote it could pass for white. So what did Lee do with that white looking child? Its clear to me that Pryor knows exactly what he did with the light skinned infants, but that’s my opinion. Maybe future scholars, with access to Lee’s papers, will tell us what happened to those light skinned babies. Its very possible the great great great great grandchildren of those babies are among us today.

Pryor shows just the tip of the iceberg of what Lee did. And she uses euphemisms for his vile conduct. For example she mentions “discipline” of slaves, and even tells that his slaves hated him, and called him “the meanest man they ever saw”. She shows that Lee had “an epidemic” of run away slaves.

But she sluffs this off as caused by “Lee’s poor cross cultural communication”. As if Lee had just spoken differently, his slaves might have not run away?

Pryor writes that Lee “never appreciated his slave’s desire to be free”. How did he NOT know they wanted to be free? They kept running away, despite the torture Lee inflicted when they were caught. It’s not like they were caught, and brought back to run away again. They were caught, tortured, then rented out, and their children sold.

In fact, Lee knew very WELL that his slaves wanted to be free, that is why he tortured them and rented them out, so they would be scared to death to do it again. He rented them out to get them further away from freedom, while he could make the wages. Slave OWNERS like Lee were paid for the work slaves did. That was the whole point.

Lee could not sell the slaves he inherited, because of terms of the will. So he rented them out, and sold their children.

But he tried very hard to sell them anyway. He went into court three times, DURING the civil war no less, to get permission to sell these slaves. Virginia Courts denied Lee the right to sell the slaves.

But there was nothing in the will about the babies born to the slaves. Those children are the ones Lee sold. It’s very likely the slaves detested him precisely because he sold their children — no matter who fathered the child (and Lee could have) the slave women did not want to give up their infants.

Pryor say (again using euphemisms) that Lee “separated every family unit but one” of the inherited slaves. What does THAT MEAN? Separated the family unit? Here is what it really means — he sold the babies. Pryor knows what her euphemisms mean, which is why she used them. While she deserves great respect for admitting as much as she did, she knew more than she was making clear.

She did mention that no young slave girls were on Lee’s plantation after a certain date. We know they were there before. So where did they go?

She also shows, amazingly, how Lee would place sharpshooters BEHIND his own troops to shoot his own troops who ran during battle. This is very Stalin like, very much like the Nazis too. She excuses even that, saying Lee stopped that order after a while. (Page 410)

The point is not to trash Lee. Lee was a man, a man who owned slaves and like most slave owners, he ruled by terror and the threat of torture. God ordained slavery, God even ordained the TORTURE of slaves, even extreme torture leading to death —-yes, check out the bible. Lee did what many others did — power went to his head.

Lee claimed God INTENDED slavery to be painful and cruel for the slave’s “instruction”. The letter that Lee wrote — which many try to say shows Lee hated slavery — is one of the strongest defenses of slavery ever written. It not only defends slavery as a “spiritual liberty” but even defends the pain and cruelty of slavery.

The letter the South often uses to show how great Lee was, is a vile piece of work. Not only that, but Lee stole the language.

The language you see Lee using was stolen from a letter written four years earlier by Webster, almost verbatim in parts. Lee was writing to his wife, to justify slavery. Apparently she had been doubting this “Slave is from God” nonsense that slave owners like Lee would spout at the drop of a hat.

Lee’s letter to her is a calculated attempt to pacify his wife, that slavery was from God, and that even the torture of slaves, while regrettable perhaps, was intended by God. God knew what he was doing, he says in effect. We are helping these slaves — in 2000 years, God might even free them. Meanwhile the “painful instruction” must continue.

Keep in mind that the same period Lee is defending slavery and the cruelty of it, in soft velvety language, he is NOT using velvet on the slaves. He is using terror and torture. He is stringing up girls naked, and screaming at them while he has them tortured. He is selling their infants.

So the sweet sounding language –while vile enough – does not even compare to what he is doing.

Since Lee would torture young girls during peace time, imagine the horrors and pain, and death, he would inflict on slaves during war time. Lee had over 100,000 slaves working on building the earth works around Richmond and Petersburg, very early in the war. These works had to be built quickly or Richmond could be overrun, and the war would be over. Fantastic numbers of slaves were used.

We don’t know how many of those men were tortured, or killed, or fought back. It was all just another day of slavery to Lee. But since he would torture girls who had infant children in the sweet day of peace, what on earth did this man do to other men, in the rush and horrors of war? You figure that out too.

59 JR November 15, 2010 at 6:33 pm

We can argue the civil war, and speak of the evil’s of slavery all day, but I will respond simply to the story.

It’s amazing how rare scenes like this are today. I wouldn’t just give up my seat for a lady, but for any elderly as well. Our society has transformed most people today into nothing more than a pack of wolves.

60 Jeff November 15, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Future ideas for Art of Manliness updates:

Timothy McVeigh held the door open for ladies.
Osama bin Ladin didn’t let anyone speak poorly of his mother.

There is not a single person who is not a white Southerner who has an ounce of respect for Robert E. Lee.

61 Stephen Clay McGehee November 15, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Jeff said, “There is not a single person who is not a white Southerner who has an ounce of respect for Robert E. Lee.”

Here are just a few quote about Robert E. Lee by those who are not White Southerners (try using Google to find plenty more if you’re interested). Of course, I expect these to be dismissed as irrelevant or a hoax or inaccurate, or however South-haters dismiss anything that does not fit their view of the world.

“His noble presence and gentle, kindly manner were sustained by religious faith and an exalted character.”
Winston Churchill on the character of Robert E. Lee

“I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.”
William Mack Lee (Robert E. Lee’s black servant)

Dr. Edward C. Smith, respected African-American Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C., told the audience in Atlanta, Ga. during a 1995 Robert E. Lee birthday event: “Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee were individuals worthy of emulation because they understood history.”

Booker T. Washington, America’s great African-American Educator, wrote in 1910: “The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday-school were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”

The original post was about Robert E. Lee – the chivalrous Southern gentleman. It was about how we can learn from a great man. It was completely trashed by those who take great delight in mocking and slandering Southern heritage. What a shame.

62 Tim November 15, 2010 at 11:17 pm

He wasn’t marching to defend slavery any more than Lincoln was willing to free his personal slaves before he had too. Perhaps you should something other than words on a page and realize that there is a lot of information between stories that should be reasoned, not read.

63 Tim November 15, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Yankees on here seem to understand chivalry as well as they understand history. The War of Northern Aggression wasn’t fought over slavery. New York had the largest population of slaves in the country. Lincoln owned slaves. Can anyone up north add two and two? Wars are fought for economic reasons…whoever has money or lifestyle endangered will declare war on anyone they perceive as threatening it.

We made products cheaper than they could and they wanted it to stop so they picked a good way to spin it…..

64 Chris November 16, 2010 at 10:15 am

We cannot judge history through contemporary eyes; therefore we cannot judge or understand the actions of individuals during the 1860s based upon 21st century ideas of virtue, morality, or values. You have to study history in its own context, and focus on “what does this mean?” instead of “this was wrong (or right)”. You could bicker back and forth about “Lee was this” or “Lee was that” and not get any closer to the “truth” about Robert E. Lee (or anyone else) than where you started.

Sorry to get all post-modern, but I’m a professional historian; it’s what we do.

65 Jeff Davis November 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Mark Douglas- to look up the definition for “demonize”. We can look back and blow the bad things of anyones life out of proportion and make them look terrible. Your pretty good at it..perhaps you should be a lawyer( or are you?)

Jeff- ” There is not a single person who is not a white Southerner who has an ounce of respect for Robert E. Lee.”

really? You know everyone in the entire world? amazing! LOL.

All you brainwashed white yankee’s should stop pretending to be passionate about black people and the end to slavery when discussing the civil war. They weren’t your people and you dont give a just use black people and slavery as a arm twist to make people feel like the government had a legitimate right to wage genocide on southern americans. Shame on all of you! Stop being a Northern robot and start thinking for youself. Geez.

66 JHL November 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Thank you for posting this anecdote. One of the marks of a gentleman is being able to acknowledge (and respect) the value and validity in viewpoints different from one’s own. This is obviously a trait many of us need to hone. Please do not compromise your mission on this website by bending to pressure to censor the well rounded and thoughtful material you contribute here. The opportunity to be provoked into meaningful thought and self reflection is one of the primary reasons for my regular visits to this font of manliness.

All men, from generals to CEO’s to plain old dad, have flaws. It is the ability of these men to instill in their soldiers, employees and sons a sense of purpose–to have them learn from their personal mistakes–that make them men to be admired and emmulated.


James H. Leftwich

To my fellow KA brothers–

Fratres usque ad aram fidelis

67 Daniel Gardner November 17, 2010 at 8:30 am

I used to assume the Civil War pivoted around the issue of slavery. Until some polite friends took the time to suggest I read up on my history. I was embarrassed when I discovered the truth.

The South would not have formed a perfect union but they had the right to form a separate union nonetheless. If you believe General Lee fought for the right to “keep and bare slaves,” may I politely recommend you read up on your history?

68 Jeff November 17, 2010 at 8:54 am


I wish only that you become more informed before you post your rhetoric about General Lee.

It was about a state’s rights, not slavery.

69 Scott G. F. November 17, 2010 at 9:10 am

The point of the entry is chivalry. An act that was the purely the right thing to do. Robert E. Lee showed this chivalry when the entire train car had an opportunity to show it first but did not.

Consider your life from this point on and wonder if, in that situation would you perform the act of chivalry or not? Without question I would have been out of my seat. It is not very often when I am presented with this opportunity and I would have jumped at the chance. In the presense of Robert E. Lee or not. If I had known he was present I would have done the same just to prove that I was better then he as an afterthought.

70 Ted November 17, 2010 at 11:29 am

Although History declares that the Civil War was about slavery, it was more about economics than anything else. If you want to look critically at a general’s character, take a look at Sherman.

71 M L November 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I have only one comment, and I hope you don’t flame me because it is not my opinion, just a fact we all know no matter how offensive it is.
Slaves, people from Africa, were back then thought of as animals, more valuable than horses. Their breeding and coloring were kept as log books or breeding ledgers to keep from inbreeding and to help to breed better and better stock. Today we have the finest race horses the world has ever known because of these breeding books. Books were kept on slaves for the same reasons.
I’m sure I’ve offended some and for this I apologize. I am only the messenger.

72 BG November 18, 2010 at 1:50 am

Mark Douglass^
To think that Lee spent his time brown-nosing Davis and being somehow intimidated by Davis is laughable. Davis literally had no power and to compare him to Hitler is irresponsible. The Southern states viewed the war as necessary to defend their rights as states (despite what modern day views may be). To think that any Southerner would be willing to trade a strong Federal government with a Confederacy led by a powerful executive in Davis is a non-sequiter.

73 Bob Loblaw November 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

@ The Hedge_Knight
Lee didn’t own slaves. His home was usurped and taken as a cemetery for soldiers. Maybe you’ve heard of it:

74 A Wise Scholar November 18, 2010 at 12:54 pm

As an African American, and with a BA in American History, I feel my comments here may have some merit. The WEB site is called ‘The art of Manliness’, which by its nature suggest that topics posted are in that vein.
I am also from the American (USA) South, so I look at this debate with eyes of sadness. Yes, I think the comments on the Civil War (Or the War of Northern Aggression, if you prefer) are not warranted nor should they be presented here. On this issue, neither side has presented coherent arguments as to the cause, nor to General Lee’s relationship to that cause. These arguments are not relevant and should be taken to another venue.
Therefore, I shall comment on the relevant subject presented here. The chivalrous Act by General Lee on that rail car can only show that he was a true Gentleman and worthy of that title. Again, I will not comment on the nature of one of the wars he was in, but to the nature of this article. It is truly sad to know that people discount that in the Mexican-American War of 1846, a then Capt Robert E. Lee was a company commander, with Lt Ulysses S. Grant, and Lt Thomas J. Jackson fighting side by side for the United States of America.

75 Gitano November 19, 2010 at 1:24 pm

After “A Wise Scholar” so brillantly expressed…..I would say that this post should be concluded. For truly it is all about a man’s it Gen. R. Lee or any of us reading these posts for that matter….Let us all just Selah=Pause and Silently think on these things! Good Day Gentlemen.

76 MIke November 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

In one of Robert E. Lee’s biographies, there is a story of him in church. It was after the war. A black worshipper, at his church, knelt at the altar to pray. The congregation was appalled. Robert E. Lee went to the altar and knelt beside him and prayed.

77 Shadowe November 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Animal cruelty was outlawed by Hitler because he loved dogs. Anyone care to suggest that it wasn’t a good idea just because one of the most horrible human beings on the face of the earth came up with it?


Ok how about we all grow up and realise that we can learn as much from our enemies as we can from our allies and ourselves.

78 Richard F. November 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Alas, the Godwin law went into effect viz. the Shadowe post.

Much thanks to Brett and Kate for Gen’l Lee’s manvotional.

79 Scott November 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

It seems that my earlier comments triggered a fair number of “Lost Cause” supporters. For those who want some evidence that the Civil War was fought about slavery, they might enjoy this reasoned article:

Given that General Lee had all of the fine qualities that have been attributed to him, it is particularly tragic that he not only chose the wrong side in this great moment in history, but that he led the wrong side as well.

A post that wrestles with this might be worth our examination.

80 Morgan November 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

It is extremely unfortunate that the issue of slavery ever became part of what the south was fighting for. It is virtually the only thing that the majority of Americans know about the war of secession though it was a lesser issue to most in the south at the time. So much so that only about one in six southern families owned slaves. The other five most certainly didn’t go to war so that someone else could own a slave,

None of this takes away in the slightest from the high ideals of manhood and the virtuous example of gentlemanly conduct displayed by Robert E. Lee thoughout his life. Yet there still remain a few who petulantly think that by disparging him they can somehow acquire virtue themselves.

“If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission, and offer my sword to the other side.” –Ulysses S. Grant

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery.” In a letter from Abraham Lincoln 1862

“Surrender means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the War; will be impressed by all the influences of history and to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision.” Gen. Pat Cleburne CSA

81 Sommelier November 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm

In reply to John: Good for you! It reminded me of a time in college, in the early 1960s. I was leaving the student union building and held the door for a young woman who was on her way in. She stopped and said, quite rudely, “You don’t have to hold the door for me because I’m a lady.” I replied, “I held the door for you because I’m a gentleman.”

82 OldWiseGuy November 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I’m 64 right now, and I was raised to be a gentleman to women.

A gentleman. To women.

On this site we talk all about how to be a man, to grow up from being a boy. Being born a male doesn’t by default make us a man.

But the same thing goes for women. Being born as a female shouldn’t give you the societal benefits of being a woman.

Long story short, I wouldn’t hold the door open or offer my seat to half of the “women” out there.

83 BigPop November 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm


Sorry, but General Lee didn’t learn manners and chivalry at West Point. He learned them in Virginia, from his family and friends-to whom he remained loyal.

84 P T December 4, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Jeff said,
“There is not a single person who is not a white Southerner who has an ounce of respect for Robert E. Lee.”

I’m an American Indian (Muscogee Creek) and a Southerner who respects Lee. Don’t think you speak for all non-Whites. I was also a member of Sons of Confederate veterans, and in my camp there was a non-white Hispanic and a black gentleman. All descendants of Confederate solders.

Sounds like some here in their zeal to demonize the South like to forget about the blacks, and Indians who owned slaves, or the Northern officers. Course that doesn’t fit in to the agenda, does it?

Lincoln on slavery,
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”.

All people have oppressed and been oppressed at one time or another. It is not race or culturally exclusive. It is human.

85 M. Radhakrishnan December 6, 2010 at 8:42 am

Heh – I spent a great deal of time reading things written by women at the time, not for publication (except in Alcott’s case, to some extent), and therefore not with an eye to how others would see their views (very little self-censorship in a private diary). Several of the northern women, especially Louisa May Alcott, fully believed the war to be greatly about slavery, and believed that even years before the war started (Alcott’s father was a noted abolitionist, so she was familiar with that concept). (A few, of course, saw it mainly as an inconvenience to their international shopping trips!) Almost no southern women seemed to be aware that that was even a major topic of discussion until quite late in the war. Get them together, I sometimes think, and you’d think there were two fully disparate wars being fought. Many of them (including Alcott) from both sides were impressed by the relative chivalry of southern soldiers over northern ones, and I doubt any of them would have a problem with the anecdote that started this entire discussion.

86 Steve November 22, 2012 at 5:11 am

Robert E. Lee is a blood relative of mine and I’ve heard this story from family several times. Maybe chivalry is inherited or as I tell people “my momma raised me right”..

87 Rosemary November 22, 2012 at 5:28 am

As a lady, I for one am always grateful when a gentleman opens a door for me, offers to help me with heavy packages, or offers me a seat when there is no other. Please know there are many of us who still appreciate this. The mentality that these actions are show how belittling to women is puzzling at best–actually, ridiculous in my humble opinion.

88 Campbell Sproul November 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I’m just happy to see the number of people on this site who haven’t been completely brainwashed by the “history” they’re taught in the statist schools these days. The south had every right to secede, for the sake of better localized government, which is what the constitution is all about (I carry around a pocket copy with me, I know my stuff). Was slavery a terrible evil? Absolutely. It was just as evil in the northern states that practiced it after the war as it was in the southern states that practiced it during the war. Both sides had serious issues that they failed on, but to vilify the south is silly. Anybody ever hear of Sherman’s march, the rape, burn, and kill fest that went through most of the state of Georgia? Yea, the north was obviously the righteous liberators you were told about by your federally funded schools. Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton….

89 Cody November 24, 2012 at 1:09 am


There’s a bigger issue here, and I pray you listen to me. We talk about all of the slaves that lived in the United States 150 years ago, but there are more slaves now in the world than there ever have been. That’s not a fairytale, it’s not my opinion, it’s a FACT.

Children (male and female) are being captured and sold as sex slaves. This happens all around the world, even here in America. Educate yourself:

This website is about being a gentleman, a real man. Can we ignore this? I think not.

90 Gary November 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Great story. whether anything i read from the comments are true or not. the lesson of this story is manners. I like it.

And fellow commenters, you either know a lot or are great liars. either way, go get a job. There is too much happy stuff in life to write a 2 hour long essay on why you are right and someone else isn’t.

91 Shane November 26, 2012 at 12:27 am

By the looks of some of the posts today, Id like to see an article: Appreciating what someone is capable of accomplishing or sacrificing without having to agree with everything they represent. No one is perfect. I should write it myself.

92 Brett McKay November 26, 2012 at 12:33 am

Already written, Shane:

Haven’t looked at this post is a long time….wow, the discussion got rather crazy, didn’t it?

93 Shane November 26, 2012 at 1:42 am

Thanks for the tip on the article. It was a relief to read, and I definitely couldn’t have put it better myself.

94 j d radcliffe December 10, 2012 at 3:41 am

How does a discussion of R E Lee’s manliness degenerate into an argument over negro slavery? Negro slavery was an established condition, one that Lee wished to be rid of. Lee chose to fight for the tottering Southern aristocracy rather than the burgeoning Northern kleptocracy purely on moral grounds: the South obviously had the edge. Negro slavery had its deficits, but the South at least built colonization societies and worked to rid itself of the burden…something the other side never did (preferring to transfer ownership of the slaves from the southern owners to a new mass, the Federal Government, which still owns them).

95 Neelotpal February 22, 2013 at 2:19 am

Instead of commentng on General Lee’s political affliations we should just compliment his chivalry and leave it at that. Every soldier is to be respected irrespective of his side.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter