Although many monuments to the Confederacy in the United States bear his name, image or both, Robert E. Lee was not in favor of Confederate monuments.
According to documents from the University of Virginia, Lee declined andinvitation to join officers at the site of the battle of Gettysburg to mark memorials, saying he “could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject.”
“I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered,” he said.
But it does not mean Lee opposed slavery. Lee simply thought it was best not to create monuments to remind the country of a time in which there was nationwide conflict.
Robert E. Lee V, Lee’s great-great grandson, told CNN Wednesday removing the Confederate statues and placing them in a museum may be an option.
“Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that's the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine,” the 54-year-old, who lives in Washington, D.C., said. “Maybe it’s appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard.”
In an 1856 letter to his wife, Mary Anna Lee, he said of slavery, “I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things.”
Lee died of heart disease in 1870 in Lexington, Virginia, five years after the end of the Civil War.