Robert E. Lee has been attacked by revisionist historians who have argued that the Confederate commander’s reputation was a “postwar mythical creation,” a Civil War historian said at a weekend conference in Arlington.
“A wretched flood of Lee biographies” has been published in recent years, Robert K. Krick told more than 200 attendees at Saturday’s Lee Bicentennial Symposium at the Key Bridge Marriott hotel.
“These kinds of books … offer no new evidence,” said Mr. Krick, author of 16 books on the war. The revisionist arguments, he said, consist mainly of “counterfactual blathering.”
Revisionists have asserted that Lee’s reputation was inflated after the war as part of a “Lost Cause myth,” said Mr. Krick, who spent three decades as chief historian of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.
However, there is abundant evidence that “during the war, the men [in the Confederate army] adored Lee,” said Mr. Krick, who was joined in the symposium by Emory University professor Donald Livingston, Loyola College professor Thomas DiLorenzo, historians John J. Dwyer and Kent Masterson Brown, and author Thomas Moore.
Lee “was a man of duty” who “bore defeat with grace and dignity,” Mr. Moore said, citing the Virginia general’s postwar letter to a former aide: “The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
Saturday’s symposium was the first sponsored by the Stephen D. Lee Institute, an academic program of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The event drew 215 registered attendees from across the United States, as well as from Canada, England and Germany, SCV official Brag Bowling said.
“I would call it a grand success,” he said, adding that the Arlington symposium would be a “blueprint for future events” by the institute.
“We had a lot of Yankees in that audience,” said Mr. Bowling, explaining that the attacks on Lee’s reputation are part of a trend toward political correctness that is “a broader problem with our whole nation’s history. It’s not just a Confederate thing.”