Lee and Davis Opposed Post-Civil War Memorials and Flags

Robert Lee was the senior general of the Rebellion. Jefferson Davis was the president of the CSA. Both men opposed any use of the Confederate flag after the war ended, and Lee opposed any memorials or preservation of battlefields from that war. When Lee presided over Washington College (now Washington and Lee), that flag was not flown, and at his funeral, he forbade the wearing of military uniforms.

In their letters, these men wrote:

“I think it wisest not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.” (Lee’s letter to Gettysburg identification committee, 1865)

“My pride is that that flag shall not set between contending brothers; and that, when it shall no longer be the common flag of the country, it shall be folded up and laid away like a vesture no longer used.” (Davis, in his book, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” 1881)

Obviously, quite a few people — North and South — ignored the wisdom of these comments, which leads us to the current, absurd situation.¬† Both men wanted to heal the country, and felt that memorials and showing the flag would encourage continued hatred and strife. In that, they were right.


  1. C. E. Miller, “Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis Wanted The Confederate Flag To Come Down In The 1800’s, According To These Books,” Bustle, https://www.bustle.com/articles/96114-robert-e-lee-and-jefferson-davis-wanted-the-confederate-flag-to-come-down-in-the-1800s
  2. Daniel Brown, “Here’s what Robert E. Lee thought about Confederate monuments,” Business Insider, 16 August 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-e-lee-opposed-confederate-monuments-2017-8
  3. Jonathan Horn, “What Robert E. Lee can teach us about Confederate memorials,” CNN, 11 June 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/11/opinions/confederate-symbols-opinion-horn/index.html
  4. Smithsonian Special Report, “Making Sense of Robert E. Lee,” July 2003. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/making-sense-of-robert-e-lee-85017563/

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