Myth of kindly General Robert E. Lee

From Adam Serwer at the Atlantic:

Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

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.”More.

Reality check: It’s fascinating how some people get picked as heroes and others as villains. I still don’t think statues should be removed. Rather, use them as a teaching tool. If we would not remove a statue of Caligula, why should we remove one of Lee?

See also: What is fake news? Do we believe it?

  • Millie_Woods

    Funny I never heard this before and I’m a bit of a Civil War buff. I’m not saying it’s true or false, but I take anything printed in the Atlantic with a grain of salt.

  • mauser 98

    ‘The Atlantic’
    …total croc ..David Frum asshole bullshit tripe Trump haters non stop bullshit Hillary propaganda..i’ve read their your time

  • You cannot judge the past by today’s standards. Plus, Lee believed that freeing the slaves (gradually) was the right thing to do.

    I grew up in Richmond, Va – a city with a ‘little bit’ of Civil War history. I’ve never heard any story like this before.

    • mauser 98

      Lincoln hated blacks
      Jefferson owned slaves and hated doing so
      blacks owned slaves..etc
      a different world snowflakes always offended

    • mauser 98

      visited Charleston SC, Savannah Ga in March..tremendous
      southern folk calmer.. more polite the South
      Florida is international..all types there
      I75 Fl. border north to Georgia a giant Rebel flag flying…yippee

    • If Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” is accurate, then Lee was a contrary man. He wasn’t cruel yet did have slaves.

      • bob e

        I can’t wait to watch the latest Ken Burns Doc-u-novel.
        The poor blacks, the protestors & the cowards who went to Canada won the Vietnam War ..

        Not the guys who volunteered to serve their country.
        The USA killed 3 million gooners in that war & I am
        happy about every one.
        And screw Ken Burns ..

        • I’ll judge that when I see it.

          • shasta

            It is usually better not to prejudge, but hard to do when someone has a track record.

          • Indeed, but I’ll still wait and see.

    • bob e

      Thanks Nightmouse ..

  • bob e

    It’s a pile of shit. what sorces are mentioned ??
    Look at the accompanying articles that
    accompany this rag ..

    Anything to foment hatred against whitey. I am sick of it.

    • shasta

      The sources are stated in the article.
      I found the main problem was the authors judging Lee using present day standards instead of the standards of the time and place that he lived.
      I also found Lee’s observation on the differences between poor whites and freed blacks in his society interesting as they echo an argument that I have seen used for the countries of former colonial Africa. In fact I have made the same argument at times (that Africa was doing better under colonial rule than it is now).
      Lee, at least as portrayed in the article, also appears to have been quite blind to the faults of his own people; a not uncommon fault.

  • I’d take anything I read in the Atlantic with a bucket of salt but I HAVE heard these kinds of stories before. Owning people changes people. All the more reason not to remove the statue because somewhere a snowflake is melting.

  • tom_billesley

    Salt is antiseptic. It could save the slave from dying of an infection