The American Civil War (1861-1865) resulted in over 1 million casualties. The General’s from that war most talked about today are Ulysses S. Grant (Union) and Robert E. Lee (Confederate).
After the war, Lee was loved and hated at the same time. Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs proposed that 200 acres of Arlington, Lee’s family property, be confiscated for a cemetery (Arlington cemetery) and serve as a reminder for the price that was paid for Lee’s disloyalty. Yet, after the war, Lee wasn’t court-martialed, executed, or punished, but became president of what is now known as Washington and Lee University.
“Every one should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in hope that it may find a place in history, and descend to posterity” ~ General Robert E. Lee to General Beauregard, 3 October 1865.
I was watching the movie Gettysburg with my two boys the other day and was struck by the profound wisdom embedded in the dialogue. After you get over the fake beards, and get use to the Southern accents, a beautiful, yet tragic, story emerges on the battlefields of the Civil War. Both sides fighting for what they believed was right. Men left home in pursuit of honor through courageous acts of bravery on the battlefield.
If you study the history of the leadership from both sides of the war, you’ll find the best and the worst of all human qualities. But General Robert E. Lee stands out above the rest. Volumes have been written about his war strategy and genius. His leadership accolades are unquestionable, but the quality that stands out the most to me – his Character.
I’ve been reading a book with my 2 boys authored by Richard Williams titled The Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen. Williams captures Lee’s thoughts and writings in almost devotional form. I have to admit, reading Gen. Lee’s prose was challenging. Lee thought, spoke and wrote at such a high level I need to sit with a dictionary with my two boys and frequently stop to dissect Lee’s message and translate it into today’s vernacular. The outcome of our study together is accomplishing same as thing as I’m sure it did 150 yrs ago when Lee penned his words: Growth in our thinking. Williams captures many different areas of Lee: Humility, Education, Christian Faith, Duty, Wisdom and others. I want to share one character trait, duty, that Williams shares when Gen. Lee was called upon to testify at Jefferson Davis’ preliminary hearing for treason after the Civil War.
…The attorney was baiting Lee in order to exonerate himself and make it appear that [Jefferson] Davis was primarily responsible for the war and its outcome. General Lee….stated: “I am responsible for what I did; and I cannot now recall any important movement I made which I would not have made had I acted on my own responsibility.” Gentlemen must be willing to take responsibility for their failures, as well as their successes – regardless of the potential costs.
Lee could have “passed the buck” and let Jefferson Davis take the responsibility for the war, yet, Lee took responsibility for his actions. His decision to command the Northern Army of Virginia forever changed the lives of so many families as the flower of their youth were lost on the battlefield. How would you have responded knowing you were one of the biggest reasons for the loss? Would the country you fought against allow you to come back and live a relatively normal life, or, would you have been run out of dodge. Would your legacy be of a criminal, or, revered as one of the greatest men in history?
“Amazing what one honest man can do with …. with a cause.” Gen. Beauregard regarding Gen. Lee
Lee disseminated truth and a cause which earned him an honorable place in history. Today, I have the privilege to work alongside men with “Lee-like” qualities. Orrin Woodward, George Guzzardo, Dan Hawkins, Chris Brady, Bill Lewis, Claude Hamilton and Tim Marks are creating a legacy as they have stood in the gap for truth and integrity exhibiting all the qualities Gen. Lee did 150 years ago. Their cause is to develop over 1 million leaders for our future seeking truth and the pursuit of principle-based living. Men, women and children are being impacted by the thousands because of their teaching and wisdom through the LIFE business. It is such a relief to know that courageous men and women do exist in today’s predominately leaderless world.
Now more than ever, we need to take action to develop our “Lee-like” character and follow others to change and create a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps, like Lee, if we pursue a principled based life, our cause will find its place in history. Start your journey with LIFE and Godspeed.