Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If Robert E. Lee had a Facebook Page

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Today, just for fun, let's see if the impossible can actually shed a little light on something. I mean...why not? I am home sick with a cold and it is pouring down rain outside.

This past summer, when I was attending the Civil War Institute 2011 conference in Gettysburg, historian Peter Carmichael wondered what Robert E. Lee's Facebook page would have looked like. After stating to the audience (correctly) that they probably were somewhat unfamiliar with the medium, he went on to discuss how on Facebook, you live your life for all the world to see - and that it is all about approval and affirmation.You make a statement...and people can "like" it.

Now - Lee understood that military policy needed the support of the Confederate populace. Without it, the efforts to secure independence would surely fail. So in this regard, a Facebook page would have been entirely helpful. "Should I invade Pennsylvania?" he could ask...and wait a minute or so to see how many of his friends clicked the little thumbs up button.

Of course, this is an utterly ridiculous proposition - but it does make one think about the connections between military policy and the homefront in a democratic republic. Lee understood that his army was the physical manifestation of the will of the Confederate people...and that so long as his army could continue the fight, his country's citizens could hold on to their dreams of independence.

Hey! Guess what. Lee actually does have a Facebook page (in case you were wondering, he has a Twitter account as well). I sent him a friend request - not because I support his efforts, but because I want to click the like button should he ever post anything about surrendering at Appomattox. He has not accepted just yet...maybe he thinks I am a Yankee spy.




  1. Employers: United States Army 1825-1861, Confederate States Army 1861-1865, Washington and Lee College 1865-"Present."

    Education: United States Military Academy Class of 1829, Class Ranking: 2 (Darn Charles Mason!). Demerits: None

    Religious Values: Episcopalian
    Political Views: Moderate (for an Upper South planter and Army officer, that means discomfort with slavery but willing to defend it with the cream of white Confederate manhood.)

    Favorite Quotes: Many, but bound to be taken out of context.

  2. Good post, but what Robert E Lee: The Blog?

    Regarding the point about the homefront and the military in such a nation. Lincoln was very much interested in keeping an eye on the public mood and opinion, and that may have been one of the reasons he delayed Emancipation so long, at least regarding public opinion in the border states.

    His famous summer 1864 memo about likely to lose the upcoming election reflected his observations about public sentiment too

  3. Would he or others in his generation have unfriended those who chose a different side in the war?

  4. Ha! Probably....but I'll bet they would have "refriended" after the war - as a reconciliatory gesture perhaps. Thanks for the comment!

  5. No doubt, Richard - Lincoln was very astute in this regard. Thanks for the comment!

  6. I am quite certain he would be annoyed by his quotes being taken out of context - he was kind of an irritable guy. Thanks for the comment, Scott!