Summary of “The Myth of the Kindly General Lee”

The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.
Then there are those whose reverence for Lee relies on replacing the actual Lee with a mythical figure who never truly existed.
In the Richmond Times Dispatch, R. David Cox wrote that “For white supremacist protesters to invoke his name violates Lee’s most fundamental convictions.” In the conservative publication Townhall, Jack Kerwick concluded that Lee was “Among the finest human beings that has ever walked the Earth.” John Daniel Davidson, in an essay for The Federalist, opposed the removal of the Lee statute in part on the grounds that Lee “Arguably did more than anyone to unite the country after the war and bind up its wounds.” Praise for Lee of this sort has flowed forth from past historians and presidents alike.
Lee was a slaveowner-his own views on slavery were explicated in an 1856 letter that it often misquoted to give the impression that Lee was some kind of an abolitionist.
When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “Lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “Not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”
As the historian James McPherson recounts in Battle Cry of Freedom, in October of that same year, Lee proposed an exchange of prisoners with the Union general Ulysses S. Grant.
Lee told Congress that blacks lacked the intellectual capacity of whites and “Could not vote intelligently,” and that granting them suffrage would “Excite unfriendly feelings between the two races.” Lee explained that “The negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power.” To the extent that Lee believed in reconciliation, it was between white people, and only on the precondition that black people would be denied political power and therefore the ability to shape their own fate.
As one Union veteran angrily put it in 1903 when Pennsylvania was considering placing a statute to Lee at Gettysburg, “If you want historical accuracy as your excuse, then place upon this field a statue of Lee holding in his hand the banner under which he fought, bearing the legend: ‘We wage this war against a government conceived in liberty and dedicated to humanity.'” The most fitting monument to Lee is the national military cemetery the federal government placed on the grounds of his former home in Arlington.

The orginal article.