View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 04:23 am
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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I am currently in the process of reading "Reading the Man," by historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor. It is a collection of previously unpublished letters and documents of Robert E. Lee, with commentary by Pryor.

I just finished the chapter on Lee resigning his commission. Lee, as we all know, struggled with his decision and did not take it lightly.

Here is the last graph of the chapter:

"That pensive, disciplined Robert E. Lee made an emotional decision affects each of us every day. One of the most trenchant 'what-ifs' of the Civil War is the question of how Lee's stance shaped the course of the nation. We sense that history would have been altered if the options presented to Lee — resignation; leadership of the Union troops; acceptance of high command in Virginia — had been decided differently. We do not know exactly how this would have developed, but intuitively we know it to be true. Lee's dilemma was not simply a historic wrestling match between right and wrong, patriotism or treachery. It stands as a critical moment in our nation's pageant because it forces us to consider some very basic questions. What is patriotism? Who commands our first loyalty? Can loyalty be divided and still be true? And who decides truth anyway? It is the excructiating gray area that makes these questions universal. Lee tells us that the answer to each is highly subjective. By taking a stand and never turning back, Lee also teaches us that they must be faced by every individual at the moment they are summoned, no matter how unsure or unprepared, and that the grandest theories in the world fall away at the moment of heightened instinct. And then his decision tells us something more: that following the heart's truth may lead to censure, or agonizing defeat — and yet may be honored in itself.'

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