One of the most frustrating issues that I (and my peers) encounter as “Southern” Civil War historians are the periodic accusations that we receive by special-interest groups charging us with practicing racism - preaching anti-U.S. politics - forcing our religious beliefs on the public – and a few “other things” that are far too mean or explicit to quote here. As a Christian, and as a writer, I am always open to receiving other people's comments, critiques, and criticisms. Ultimately the best editor that any writer can have is his/her reader, and I truly value each and everyone's inputs. I always try to answer my email in an expeditious manner and I word my replies with grace, gratitude, and patience. I love to discuss and debate “hot-button” topics with other like- (and unlike) minded people. I always try to take their feelings into consideration, but at the same time, I am not willing to submit to “political correctness” at the expense of accurate history.
Those of us that focus our attentions on the religious fortitude of the Confederate States of America and the role of the Christian Church during the Civil War tend to be the target for anti-Confederate, anti-religious, and anti-southern preservationist groups. Often, the individuals that “blast” us are terribly misinformed and/or uneducated on the subject(s) of their anger. Here is an example of the comments that I am referring to (quoted from a book review): "One of the enduring myths that members of the neo-Confederate movement rely on is that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was a moral and admirable person. Many members of the neo-Confederate movement continue to promote claims about the general that are based more in fantasy than reality. It seems apparent that only people who are willing to ignore Lee's support of and participation in America's greatest wrong -- chattel slavery -- can believe that he was a person worthy of admiration."
If I may have your permission to vent… I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF THIS. If recognizing a man of devout Christian character and tributizing his contribution to our country makes me a neo-Confederate – then so be it. I have never thought of myself in such regard, but I am not ashamed to be referred to in this manner as I (and my peers) do NOT have a racist agenda – we have a RELIGIOUS agenda. We strive to preserve the true history of our nation - while spreading the glory of our Lord and Savior. (The second goal being of the utmost importance.)
In response to the above criticism, I say Robert E. Lee was a great American and a great Christian soldier who did NOT endorse slavery. In fact, Lee clearly stated his objection with the institution on many different occasions. In one letter (quoted below in a previous post) he chastised the Confederate government and exposed the moral contradiction that they practiced during the fight for Southern Independence. He went so far as to openly voice his own moral dilemma in supporting a country that was still practicing the institution of slavery. He wrote, “Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom have always proved the most intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?” Sounds like a man with a conscience doesn't it?
I firmly believe that men of this caliber are most certainly worthy of our continued admiration and I will make NO apologies for doing so. If that means I am part of a so-called “neo-Confederate movement”, then I guess I am guilty as charged.