Robert E. Lee: Honor and Adjusting to Defeat

Here’s Professor Gary Gallagher dispelling myths about Robert E. Lee.

From the video’s description:  “Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including ‘The Confederate War’ (Harvard, 1997), ‘Lee and His Generals in War and Memory’ (LSU, 1998), ‘Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War’ (UNC, 2008), ‘The Union War’ (Harvard, 2011), and ‘Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty’ (Georgia, 2013). He serves as editor of two book series at the University of North Carolina Press (‘Civil War America,’ with more than 100 titles date, and ‘Military Campaigns of the Civil War,’ with 10 titles) and has participated in more than forty television projects in the field. Professor Gallagher was the Times-Mirror Foundation Distinguished Fellow at the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, California, in 2001-2002, recipient of the Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professorship for 2010-2012 (the highest teaching award conveyed by the University of Virginia), and the Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in 2013. Active in the field of historic preservation, he was president from 1987 to mid-1994 of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (an organization with a membership of more than 12,500 representing all 50 states). He also served as a member of the Board of the Civil War Trust and has given testimony about preservation before Congressional committees on several occasions.

He delivered this lecture at Washington & Lee University.


  1. Rosemary · · Reply

    Elizabeth Varon is far more perceptive about Lee.

    It is a shame Gallagher doesn’t fully appreciate Lee’s passive aggressiveness. He likes liking Lee. Hard to give that up, seems like.

    Don’t get me wrong, it is important Gallagher speaks out on Lee and civil rights (civil rights being what the post war south had to grapple with) as he does in this video.Still… he doesn’t hit the mark. He makes progress but it will be for future historicans to go the distance. Varon’s work is out there but clearly the important historican Gallagher is not calling it definitive.

    Maybe as a woman, Varon has the background to understand Lee’s definite if nonverbal opposition to civil rights. If discrimination even once stopped you cold, you know it when you see it other places. It’s got an ugly, creepy feel to it.

    Do you see what I mean? Look at history, at adoption of the 13th Amendment. Even Frederick Douglas was for it as written and adopted. Black MEN got the vote. Heck with any and all women.

    Women see/are aware of society’s preference for men over women to fill important roles because discrimination at least a couple several times is part of the exerpience of being a woman in the USA. —– Fact. Not crying about it… no point in that. Don’t believe me? Hmmm…. I felt Obama would beat Clinton for the Dem party nomination a few years back. Clinton repeatedly told voters regarding Obama, “He can’t win.” In reality, she couldn’t win.( I dont know if she could win now (BTW I am not a Hilliary fan)).

    Thanks for posting this, Al. I was hoping for new material from GG. I love his Gettysburg classes at UV business school which are online. But, come to think of it, Gallagher sometimes does get stuck on an idea that is not all the way thought through, For example, he said many times in lectures posted on cspan and youtube that he did not see the value in the Union putting effort intio getting Vicksburg.

    Lee was a schmuck.

    1. Well, I have to disagree, Rosemary. Lee was no schmuck, and I think Gallagher and Varon are a lot closer on Lee than you say. I think you mean the 15th Amendment above, not the 13th. If you look at the video, Gallagher stresses that it was black men who got the vote. He does see the value in putting effort into getting Vicksburg, but he believes its overall effect has been overplayed, and I agree with him. The victory at Vicksburg was more symbolic than anything else, and symbolic victories have their place as well. The Trans-Mississippi was already denied to the confederacy, and the confederacy had already been cut in two before Vicksburg fell. But it was great for Union morale, and the morale factor itself made the effort worthwhile.

  2. Rosemary · · Reply

    Awk! I do mean 15th amendment. I hate to get it wrong.
    Otherwise, we will disagree again on your wonderful blog, I bet. 🙂

    1. Disagreement is fine. If we all agreed on everything, there would only be one flavor of ice cream. 🙂

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