Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gary W. Gallagher - Remembering Robert E. Lee

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

These days it seems I am spending more and more time on Youtube. Lots of my old professors from UVA and a host of other historians that I admire find their way there - either on their won accord or through the publication mechanisms of the various groups who invite them to speak. In this case, I have Washington and Lee University's post of Gary W. Gallagher's talk on Robert E. Lee from October, 2009.

Those of you familiar with the (short lived) post-war career of the former Confederate general know that he spent his remaining days as president of the old Washington University in Lexington Virginia. He taught there until his death in 1870 - and there he rests - beneath the Lee Chapel. If you are ever in Lexington, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It has been recently restored to its former glory and is quite the place for a Civil War enthusiast to visit.

Anyway...the video above (which is a tad long..but worth the time) deals with Lee in the wake of defeat. The Lee dealt with the profound degree of uncertainty in the aftermath of war. We have to keep in mind just how altered the southern states were in 1865. The physical landscape was of course shattered - but their social and economic systems were upended as well. The former Confederate chieftain played a central role in the South's coming to terms with these chilling facts.

What I find most interesting is the audience reaction to Gallagher's talk. The group gathered at the Lee Chapel are - shall we say - supporters of the Lee legend. What Gallagher has to say surprises more than a few of those in attendance.  I have to hand it to them though. They take the good and the bad about Marse Robert in stride. So good for them :)

Gallagher is one of the foremost authorities on Lee and the Lost Cause. If you want to have a look at some great books on these subjects, check out -

Lee and His General in War and Memory

The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History (with Alan Nolan)




  1. General Joseph E. Johnston, writing to
    General Beauregard in 1868:

    “We, without the means of purchasing supplies of any kind,
    or procuring or repairing arms, could continue this war only as
    robbers or guerrillas.”

    Hmmm.. How many people realize to what extent the Civil War was a guerrilla war fought by Confederate state militias, as referenced above by Johnston, and referred to by Gallagher in frames 23:00 - 26:00.

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