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Congressional commission asks West Point to cancel Robert E. Lee

Take down his portrait and rename buildings

A Congressional commission wants to see the United States Military Academy at West Point strip the name of former Confederate General Robert E. Lee off buildings and remove his items, along with those of two other Civil War leaders.

The Naming Commission, made up of four retired U.S. military veterans and four civilians, submitted the second part of its final report to Congress on August 29.

The commission unanimously agreed that seven different Department of Defense “assets” dedicated to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and William Hardee be renamed.

It also unanimously agreed that a portrait of General Lee in uniform displayed in West Point’s Jefferson Hall library and other unspecified monuments dedicated to the Confederacy be removed. Lee served from 1852 to 1855 as superintendent of the United States Military Academy.

Hardee is a former West Point commandant and “literally wrote the book on infantry movements,” according to the report. Beauregard “briefly served as the superintendent of West Point but was fired after five days and he joined the Confederacy,” according to the commission.

Lee Barracks, Lee Housing Area, Lee Area Child Development Center, Lee Road and Lee Gate should all be renamed, according to the commission.

“The Commission unanimously agrees the following paraphernalia should be relocated or removed: the portrait of Robert E. Lee in Confederate uniform with the rank of general indicated on the plaque, currently displayed in Jefferson Hall,” the August 29 report concluded.

It also wants to see a 2001 “Reconciliation Plaza,” meant to honor soldiers who had died in the Civil War, stripped of mentions of Confederates. That includes a bust of General Lee next to Union General Ulysses Grant.

MORE: ESPN pulls Asian announcer named ‘Robert Lee’ from football game in Virginia

The report denied that removing the names and memorabilia of historical figures amounted to “erasing history.”

The College Fix reached out to the Naming Commission for comment regarding the report, including if it planned to regularly meet to review possible names to cancel.

“The Naming Commission has met regularly since its formation in early 2021 to meet its remit to Congress,” Stephen Baker, spokesman for the group, told The Fix. “Its final report to Congress is due no later than Oct. 1, 2022. The Commission decided to submit its report in three parts.”

“The first two parts have already been submitted and contain a significant amount of details regarding the Commission’s recommendations and activities,” he continued. “Shortly after the submission of its final report is complete, the Commission will cease to exist.”

Historian says Lee was not a proponent of slavery

Historian and former professor Mary Grabar criticized the conclusions made by the report.

“Lee did not fight to protect the institution of slavery,” she told The Fix. “He fought for his state, as was the case with many Southerners who were neither slave owners nor advocates of slavery.”

“When asked by Francis Preston Blair, who had been sent by President Lincoln to ask him to lead the Union Army, he replied, ‘Mr. Blair I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves at the South, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native State?” she said.

In her email to The Fix, Grabar said that Lee opposed Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ desire to continue fighting the Civil War utilizing unconventional means.

“Contrary to the claims of the Lee-haters, monuments to him actually represent reconciliation and healing. It is the statue-topplers who are attempting to stir up bitter feelings that have long receded in the national memory,” Grabar said.

West Point officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the report sent in the past week.

The United States Naval Academy said it is “reviewing the matter for further action.”

The commission’s report recommended some buildings and roads named for other Confederate leaders be renamed at USNA.

MORE: Campus Cancel Culture Database

IMAGE: Library of Congress

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About the Author
William Biagini -- Florida State University