From the BBC:
The “Unite the Right” march was called to protest against plans to remove a statue of a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.
The statue in question, located in Charlottesville, VA, is of General Robert E. Lee. Whilst the BBC’s description is technically accurate, the description is misleading, probably deliberately so: their coverage of Charlottesville is a litany of innuendo and smears, including Trump being a white supremacist. One wouldn’t expect anything else from the BBC of course, but it’s worth looking closer at Robert E. Lee and the reasons why he fought for the Confederacy.
When I was in Nigeria I read James McPherson’s excellent Battle Cry of Freedom, which tells us (pages 280-81):
Lee had made clear his dislike of slavery, which he described in 1856 as “a moral and political evil.” Until the day Virginia left the Union he had also spoken against secession.
But with Virginia’s decision, everything changed. “I must side either with or against my section,” Lee told a northern friend. His choice was foreordained by birth and blood: “I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children.” On the very day he learned of Virginia’s secession, April 18, Lee also received the offer of Union command. He told his friend General Scott regretfully that he must not only decline, but must also resign from the army. “Save in defense of my native State,” said Lee, “I never desire again to draw my sword.”
Most officers from the upper South made a similar decision to go with their states, some without hesitation, others with the same bodeful presentiments that Lee expressed on May 5: “I foresee that the country will have to pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation perhaps for our national sins.”
In other words, Lee didn’t fight for slavery and secession – and actually opposed both – but regretfully resigned from the United States army in order to defend his native Virginia – the same State that now wants to tear down his statue. I found the reasons various people gave for choosing sides in the American Civil War fascinating, but the complexities of each choice have largely been ignored in contemporary discussions on the subject. I guess the BBC and their ilk prefer to stoke the flames of a race war by implying Lee was fighting to preserve slavery.
Well, they’re getting what they wanted, aren’t they?