The Real Robert E. Lee

Today is the 150th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of ‎Gettysburg, and with that in mind, it’s worth remembering the particular actions of Confederate soldiers a week earlier, as they marched north into Pennsylvania.

In the movement that culminated in Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s men kidnapped free blacks by the hundreds—men, women, and children. Up to a thousand were captured and forced into labor with the Confederate Army. And during the eventual retreat from Pennsylvania, they were sent South. Once in Virginia, they were returned to their former owners, or if born free, sold into slavery.

What's key is that this wasn’t the work of bad apples or isolated units. It won approval from field commanders and leaders at the top of the chain. It was so widespread, in fact, that you could legitimately describe these raids as an objective of the campaign, especially given the time and manpower required to carry them out.

So yeah, as we commemorate the lives lost at the battle of Gettysburg, remember this: The same Robert E. Lee who is praised as a reluctant warrior who only fought in defense of his native land was also in command of an army that made kidnapping—and enslavement—a matter of policy.

So They Say

“[Expletive] the White House Correspondents’ Dinner"

Hillary Clinton

Daily Meme: A Confluence of Historic Events

  • Happy almost Fourth of July! Thanks to this week also marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, there's been a lot of musing about historical memory here on the Internets.
  • #realtalk about John Hancock and John Adams, for example.
  • Or imagining American history as a TV show: "Airing from the 1776-77 season through today, America focuses on a small ensemble of white people using things in the ground to become rich or kill brown people."
  • Or just remembering those who made a living fabricating American history.
  • Most of the discussion has revolved around the Civil War's bloodiest battle, understandable given its important anniversary. 
  • Thousands of visitors have flocked to the small Pennsylvania town, which has lost a lot of its tourist kitsch (although not all) and amped up the history in the years leading up to this one.
  • Expect lots of re-enactments. (Re-enactments: "a mash-up of camping, American history, Halloween and playing war.")
  • But it's important to remember that the things that the soldiers in Gettysburg were fighting over are battles we're still waging today. Which is why it's so important to keep telling these stories.

What We're Writing

  • After the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, what’s next for progressives? Scott Lemieux tackles a to-do list of achievable next steps.
  • Voting rights issues in the U.S. are old hat. Jamelle Bouie writes about how partisan politics makes voting rights less of a march forward and more of a stream that ebbs and flows. 

What We're Reading

Poll of the Day

An ABC News poll shows that 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court's decision to dismantle Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. On its same-sex marriage decisions, however, 56 percent approve of the high court.

Comments

They also committed acts of reprisal against unionists and abolitionists in the area, such as Radical Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (whose farm and mill were destroyed by Confederate soliders) and the local Mennonites and Amish, who were anti-war but also anti-slavery. A year later, during a different invasion of Pennsylvania, General Early demanded ransom from the nearby town of Chambersburg, and burned it to the ground when he was refused. This is an interesting thing to point out to Southerners who talk about the destruction left in the wake of Sherman's march to the sea.

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