Letter: General Lee’s character misportrayed

Even at 87 years old, I enjoy reading the Advocate’s “Letters to the Editor,” in which I gain information on issues about which I know little.

Occasionally I see a letter with which I know the facts as published are inaccurate or with which I disagree with the opinions, but am not sufficiently motivated to write a rebuttal. But an exception to this is the letter in the Thursday, Sept. 12 Advocate by Thomas Oswald which requires a response. While I agree with his proposal to name a building at LSU for its past president Gen. William T. Sherman, Oswald’s castigation of Robert E. Lee was misinformed, unfounded and unjustified.

Back in the 1940s, I attended a class where the noted history professor Dr. T. Harry Williams declared that his research reflected that most of the historical public figures had “feet of clay.” By that he meant that despite their successes, they had some character deficiencies. The lone exception he noted was Robert E. Lee.

Other authors support his findings. Assertions that Lee was a pro-slavery activist are not supported by any evidence. To the contrary, his sterling reputation and lack of controversy led Gen. Winfield Scott to offer him the command of the Union forces as the Civil War loomed on the horizon. Lee struggled with his decision, but finally cast his lot with his home state, Virginia.

As an indication of the respect in which he was held, the record shows at the surrender at Appomattox, U.S. Gen. Ulysses Grant was very cordial to his former opponent and granted privileges not usual under the circumstances. And after his death, one university, Washington and Lee, added Lee’s name to its title.

Robert E. Lee was a noble man, a great leader and of the finest moral character. The purpose of this letter is to inform the younger generation of the kind of person he was and to set the record straight.

Lewis Doherty III

retired judge

Baton Rouge