Donald Trump used a questionable figure to hype up the crowd at his Ohio rally: Robert E. Lee. Yes, the Confederate States Army commander in the 1800s. Here’s a history crash course.
Of all America’s war heroes, President Donald Trump, 72, heralded Confederate general Robert E. Lee at his Ohio rally on Oct. 12. You know, the military leader of the Confederate States of America, which banded together after former President Abraham Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery. “So Robert E. Lee was a great general and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia, he couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee,” Trump said at the podium in Ohio. “He was going crazy…but Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle and Abraham Lincoln came home and he said ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee.'” Here’s what you need to know about the late general, who passed away from pneumonia in 1870.
1. The Confederate general surrendered to the Union in April of 1865. After the Confederacy’s secession from the United States in 1860, Lee surrendered roughly 28,000 of his Confederate troops after The Battle of Appomattox Court House five years later. Many mark that turning point as the end of the Civil War.
2. He was beloved by the South. The general, who led 11 states to battle, was celebrated as a great war hero by many, which escaped slave turned abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass poked fun at. “We can scarcely take up a newspaper…that is not filled with nauseating flatteries [of Lee],” Douglass wrote after Lee’s death. He pointed out the tragic irony in this, continuing, “It would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.” Gift shops and gas stations still sell souvenirs of Lee, “accompanied by quotes of honor,” according to The Washington Post.
3. Lee owned slaves. And he believed it was to their benefit. “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically,” he wrote in a letter in 1856, which The Atlantic posted. “The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”
4. He presided over many Civil War battles. He led his soldiers in the Battle of Cheat Mountain, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Battle of Gettsyburg, and Battle of Deep Bottom, just to name a few.
5. The general turned down Abraham Lincoln’s offer to command the Union army in 1861. Lee is from Virginia, and didn’t want to betray his Southern state, according to the American Battlefield Trust. Lee had an accomplished resume by then, which included the rank as superintendent of West Point.