Amid the furore over Confederate statues in the US, letters from Geoff Clinton and Francis Blake defend the reputation of Robert E Lee, while Barry Butler suggests a way of defusing the anger
While I admire Jason Wilson’s examination of the origins of the current Confederate statues controversy (G2, 17 August), I feel that the opposing arguments have failed to recognise, or give due credit to, Robert E Lee’s actual military reputation. As a brilliant field commander, he often makes it onto military historians’ “top 20 generals of all time” lists, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Napoleon and Alexander the Great. With very limited resources and ill-trained troops, Lee delivered a succession of stunning victories against better-equipped and numerically superior forces. At Gettysburg he came incredibly close to winning the civil war.
Lee, who was personally unsympathetic to slavery, would not have recognised the term “white supremacist”, which – in the way we interpret it today – could equally be applied to many leading figures on both sides, including Abraham Lincoln. In London, we have a statue of Oliver Cromwell in military uniform in the grounds of our Houses of Parliament. Cromwell could, arguably and by the standards of today, have been indicted for war crimes in Ireland. Lee, by comparison, could not remotely be said to have fallen into that category of generalship.
Solihull, West Midlands