Edward Virginius Valentine, Lee Chapel, Lee Chapel and Musuem, Lexington, Virginia

The Chapel That Washington College Had Built During General Robert Edward Lee’s Tenure As President

In 1867, construction on the Lee Chapel, began on the grounds of Washington College. The new chapel was completed in time for the spring semester in 1868. General Robert Edward Lee, who ordered construction of the chapel, began attending Christian services at the building with other students and administrators.

After General Lee’s passing, Washington College was renamed to Washington and Lee College in his honor. General Lee, his wife, his sons, and several of his other family members were buried in a crypt within the basement of the church. In 1875, five years after General Lee’s death, a statue of the “Sleeping General”, that was sculpted by Edward Virginius Valentine, was sent to Washington College.

Author’s Note:

Robert Edward Lee only lived to the age of 63, but he had a multitude of accomplishments during his lifetime, many that occurred both before and after the end of the United States Civil War. Robert Edward Lee was the son of the Revolutionary War hero Harry “Lighthorse” Lee, who was the ninth governor of Virginia, and began his military career at West Point. In 1829, after Robert Edward Lee graduated 2nd in his class at West Point, Brigadier General Charles Gratiot, Chief of Engineers, gave Lieutenant Lee orders to go to Georgia’s Cockspur Island and to report to Major Samuel Babcock of the corps of Engineers. Lieutenant Lee’s work, as assistant engineer, helped establish the foundation of Fort Pulaski.

Portrait of Virginia Governor Henry Lee III.

Robert Edward Lee spent time working as an engineer, up until the outbreak of the Mexican-American War where he was serving as a captain. Before the Battle of Buena Vista, Captain Lee conducted multiple reconnaissance missions on Santa Anna’s army, which helped the United States Army win that battle. After the occupation of Atalaya, Lee’s forces fought the Mexican army, at a mountain nearby, where he rescued a Mexican drummer boy who was trapped under the body of a dead soldier. After the battles of Contreras (Padierna) and Churubusco, Lee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. On September 14th, 1846, Lieutenant Colonel Lee was in Mexico City as General Winfield Scott lead the occupation of Mexico’s capital.

Sketch of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Edward Lee.

After the Mexican-American War, General Winfield Scott led charges against General Gideon Johnson Pillow for taking other military commanders’ credit for victories at Churubusco and Contreras. Lieutenant Colonel Lee served as a witness, supporting General Scott, during the court martial case of General Pillow that was eventually dismissed. From 1852 to 1855, Lieutenant Colonel Lee served as the Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy in New York. Robert Edward Lee then moved from New York to Texas to serve on the frontier.

Robert Edward Lee’s marines seizing the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

In 1859, John Brown’s abolitionist supporters occupied the U.S. Arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia and prevented hundreds of individuals from leaving town. However, after John Brown let a train leave for Maryland, word of the insurrection, quickly spread to Washington, D.C. and to members of the Buchanan Administration. President James Buchanan ordered Lee to led a force of marines, whom traveled by train, to suppress the attempted slave rebellion, that John Brown began. After a brief showdown, Lee and his marines seized the U.S. Arsenal, and John Brown, who had committed several acts of violence during the events of “Bleeding Kanas”, was arrested on the charge of treason.

From October 24th to October 26th, 1859, the case Virginia v. John Brown commenced. Witnesses testified to John Browns various actions against the commonwealth of Virginia. On October 26th, 1859 John Brown was sentenced on three counts of insurrection, treason and murder. Virginia Governor Henry Wise ordered 1,500 troops to guard the execution to prevent any attempts of break John Brown from jail. On December 2nd, 1859, John Brown was executed in the presence of actor John Wilkes Booth, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, who had Virginia Military Institute cadets with him, and many others, in Charlestown, West Virginia. Robert Edward Lee was not present at the execution and his hopes of starting a Civil War vanished with his death. However, over a year after John Brown’s execution Robert Edward Lee would have to choose between defending his state or his country after the attack on Fort Sumter.

John Brown’s execution in Charlestown, West Virginia.

After General Robert Edward Lee’s official surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House in Appomattox, the former Confederate General stayed with his family in Richmond, Virginia, in a house that “The Family Foundation of Virginia” currently uses as their office. Many job offers were given, from New York and other states, but Lee rejected them. Washington College offered Lee the presidency of their college, but Lee rejected that offer too, because he did not feel that he should be given a position of leadership after being on the losing side of a war. However, the board members of Washington College were persistent and convinced Lee to change his mind after securing a place for him and his family to live in Lexington. On October 1865, Robert Edward Lee took an oath at the Lexington Courthouse and officially became the President of Washington College.

In conclusion, the “Lee Chapel”, which has recently been renamed to “University Chapel”, was originally named after Robert Edward Lee to honor the entirety of his life which included 22 years of service to the United States Army, 4 years with the Confederacy and 5 years working to reconcile the wounds between northerns and southerners after the end of the “War Between The States”. Despite the efforts to tarnish the legacy of Robert Edward Lee, as a racist that defended the institution of slavery, historians will remember his many contributions to his country, which included the construction of many forts, helping the United States Army defeat Santa Anna’s forces, training cadets at West Point, defending the Texan frontier, his willingness to defend the people of his state from federal invasion, after being offered command of the Union Army, and his willingness to discipline students who spoke ill of “Grant’s friends” after the United States Civil War ended.

Painting of President Robert Edward Lee at Washington College (Washington and Lee University Archives).
Edward Virginius Valentine, General Robert Edward Lee, Lexington, Virginia

The Transportation Of Edward Virginius Valentine’s “Sleeping” General Robert Edward Lee Statue To The Washington And Lee College

In 1875, two Richmond College literary societies, Mu Sigma Rho and Philologian, paid for the expenses related to transporting the General Robert Edward Lee statue, created by sculptor Edward Virginius Valentine, to the Washington and Lee College in Lexington, Virginia.

In return for paying for the travel expenses, associated with transporting the General Lee statue via rail to Lynchburg and via canal boat to Lexington, the members of both literary societies requested that the students, within their organizations, be the escorts for the General Lee statue that was being transported to the North Dormitory of the Washington and Lee College.

At the time General Robert Edward Lee’s son Custis Lee was president of the Washington and Lee College, and the statue of the “Sleeping General” was kept at the North Dormitory until a mausoleum could be constructed at the Lee Chapel.

“My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them nor indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future.

The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we only see the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope”.

– General Robert Edward Lee

Antonio López de Santa Anna, Battle of Gonzales, Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Battle of San Jacinto, Lexington, Virginia, San Felipe de Austin

The Birthplace Of Sam Houston – A War of 1812 Veteran Who Was A General In The Texas Revolution, President Of The Republic Of Texas, Member Of Congress, and Former Governor of Tennessee and Texas

Texas Governor Sam Houston in 1861.

On March 3rd, 1793, on a hilltop next to the present day Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, American Pioneer Sam Houston was born to Elizabeth and Samuel Houston in Lexington, Virginia. When Sam Houston reached the age of fourteen, Elizabeth and Samuel Houston relocated their family to Maryville, Tennessee. As a teenager Sam Houston regularly left his home to spend time with Cherokee Indians and he learned through language during his companionship. As a teenager, Sam Houston established the first schoolhouse in Tennesse, which is currently known as the Sam Houston Schoolhouse.

Sketch of Sam Houston injured by an Native American arrow during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

In 1813, during the War of 1812, Sam Houston enlisted in the United States Army. Andrew Jackson and him bought faught alongside one another in Alabama during the Creek War, which included the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, against Native Americans that were supporting the British empire. In 1818, Sam Houston resigned from the United States Army to study law and to take the bar exam in Lebanon, Tennessee. In 1819, Sam Houston became a district attorney in Tennessee. A year later he became an adjunct general of the state and a year after that a major general. In 1923, Sam Houston continued his government service in the United States House of Representatives. While in Congress, Sam Houston was a consistent supporter of United States President Andrew Jackson’s populist policies.

Sam Houston as Governor of Tennesse.

Tennessee voters, who approved of Andrew Jackson policies, in turn supported Sam Houston’s populist platform, which helped him win his 1827 campaign for governor of Tennessee at the age of 41. While campaigning for a second term as Tennessee Governor, Sam Houston married Eliza Allen after a brief courtship.

Drawling of Eliza Allen in her wedding dress in 1829.

However, Eliza Allen claimed that she only married Governor Houston to satisfy her family. On April 11th, 1829, after only eighty days of marriage, Governor Houston left Eliza Allen estranged. Eliza Allen never attempted to get a divorce, however Sam Houston would later try to get a divorce in the Mexican State of Coahuilla de Zaragoza and in the Republic of Texas. This divorce was finally granted in Texas in April 1837.

Sketch of Sam Houston’s Cherokee wife Tiana Rogers Gentry.

Ashamed of his failed marriage, Sam Houston resigned from office, during his second term as Tennessee Governor, and he left, in disguise, with his Cherokee friends to the Arkansas Territory on April 23, 1829. In 1830, Sam Houston entered into a Cherokee marriage with Tiana Rogers Gentry. While this marriage lasted longer than his first, Sam Houston left Tiana Rogers Gentry in December 1832 so that he could eventually move to Texas.

In 1832, after Sam Houston relocated to Mexican Texas, he continued his involvement in politics by plotting a rebellion against Mexico after joining the convention held that year at San Felipe de Austin, the capital of the Anglo colonies in Mexican Texas. A second convention was held in 1833, at San Felipe de Austin, continuing the discussion of Texan independence due to the inadequate protections of the Mexican military from Native American attacks. On October 2nd, 1835, the Battle of Gonzales, began after Texans refused to give the Mexican military, whom were sent by General Antonio López de Santa Anna to retrieve a cannon loaned to the town of Gonzalez for protection against Native Americans, the cannon that they were supposed to send back to Mexico City. The 100 Mexican soldiers were outnumbered and were unable to retrieve the cannon, in an event known as the start of the Texas Revolution, also known as the Texas War of Independence.

Painting of the Battle of Gonzales.

From February 23rd to March 6th, Texans fought against Mexican military at the Alamo. After Texan losses as the Alamo and Goliad, Sam Houston, along with fellow Virginian Stephen Fuller Austin whom founded the Texas Rangers, joined the fight against Mexico. To prevent another defeat in battle, Sam Houston, as general, sought to recruit enough volunteers to so that they could not be overrun by the Mexican military.

General Sam Houston during the Texas Revolution.

On April 21st, 1836, during the Battle of San Jacinto General Houston’s soldiers shouted, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” The battle only lasted 18 minutes, but it became a decisive victory for the Texans, after their two previous loses against the Mexican military, and the last battle of the Texas Revolution.

Painting of the Battle of San Jacinto.

After Texas won it’s independence, Sam Houston became the first and the third President of the Republic of Texas. On May 9th, 1840, a year before Sam Houston’s election as the third President of the Republic of Texas, he married Margaret Lea, whom he had eight children with. After serving as President, Sam Houston served as a U.S. Senator, representing Texas, and as a Governor of Texas from 1860 to 1861.

During the outbreak of the “War Between The States”, Sam Houston was a slave owning Unionist Governor whom called for a special session of the General Assembly, before the convention of secession, to convince delegates to stay in the Union. However, on January 28th, 1861, delegates passed the secession ordinance in a vote of 166 to 8. Governor Houston stated that he would agree to Texas becoming its own independent country, as it had been during his his two terms as President of the Republic of Texas, if the people in the state would ratify secession. However, he would not agree to Texas joining the Confederacy.

On February 23rd, 1861, the people of Texas ratified the ordinance of secession in a vote of 44,317 to 13,020. On March 16th, 1861, Governor Houston stayed, “”Fellow citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath (to the Confederate Government)”. Governor Houston stepped down from office as Texas became the last state to join the Confederacy before the Battle of Fort Sumter.

On June 11th, 1927, a monument was erected near the site of Sam Houston’s birthplace in an area known as the “Sam Houston Wayside”. In 1929, a Virginia Historical Marker was placed, next to the original memorial, detailing Sam Houston’s life. On September 11th, 1986, the original monument was replaced with a plaque bearing the seal of the Cherokee Nation and the State of Texas.

Author’s Note:

Sam Houston is the only former governor, within the United States of America, to represent two different states in his lifetime.

Lexington, Virginia

December 7, 2020 – The Virginia Military Institute Removed The Stonewall Jackson Statute On The Anniversary Of Pearl Harbor

Crane removing the statute of Stonewall Jackson from the grounds of the Virginia Military Institute on Monday December 7, 2020.

On October 4, 2020, I visited the George C. Marshall Center, the Stonewall Jackson House, the Virginia Military Institute, the chapel where General Robert Edward Lee used to attend within the Washington and Lee University, in addition to the gravesite of Stonewall Jackson in Lexington, Virginia.

On December 7, 2020, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Stonewall Jackson statute in front of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), which was sculpted by a former VMI Cadet Moses Jacob Ezekiel, was removed and relocated the the Virginia Museum of the Civil War at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park. Members of the public, at large, seem to have forgotten that Stonewall Jackson was a unionist before the war began and that he stopped cadets at the institute from firing their weapons on pro-Union protestors within the town of Lexington. Union colonel Robert Edward Lee was offered, by President Abraham Lincoln, to have control of the entire Union army after the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. However, Robert Edward Lee declined that position, before resigning his commission with the U.S. Army because, because he believed, as thousands of others did, that his state was his “country”. Members of the public tend to forget that those who were pro-Union, before Virginia’s vote to secede, took arms against the union because they did not want to take arms against their fellow friends, family and neighbors within their own state.

We need to remember that history was not so black and white and the removal of historical statutes in public spaces is a huge disservice to that discussion, that could be had, with future generations of individuals seeking to learn the, “good, the bad and the ugly” within our national history.

Philip Andrew Hamilton by the Stonewall Jackson on October 4, 2020.

Author’s Note:

The board at VMI is considering realigning the George C. Meade statute to the center front, of the barracks, where the Stonewall Jackson statute used to stand.

Lexington, Virginia, Moses Jacob Ezekiel

Virginia Military Institute Cadet Moses Jacob Ezekiel’s Statute Of Stonewall Jackson

In 1903, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, whom graduated as a cadet of the Virginia Military Institute in 1866, created the sculpture “Virginia Mourning Her Dead” as a dedication to the VMI cadets who died at the Battle of New Market. In 1912, Mose Ezekiel created another sculpture of the former VMI Engineer professor Stonewall Jackson, which he donated to VMI. The General Stonewall Jackson statute was placed at the front entrance of the barracks within the walls of the institute.

Photograph of sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel.

The Stonewall Jackson statute stands in front of the barracks at the Virginia Military Institute and is next to cannons that are painted red. VMI cadets would parade with these red cannons to distinguish them from enlisted military and officers.

Near the statute of Stonewall Jackson is the statute of George C. Marshall, which is next to the George C. Marshall Institute.

Lexington, Virginia

Washington And Lee College

In 1749, The Augusta Hall Academy for higher education was founded near Greenville. In 1776, the academy moved to Lexington and was renamed the Liberty Hall Academy.

Towards the end of George Washington’s life he gave an endowment of $20,000 to the academy, which helped the academy recover from financial difficulties. After the Civil War, General Robert Edward Lee taught at the college. Hence the academy’s name was changed to the Washington and Lee University.

Battle of Lexington, Lexington, Virginia, Rockbridge County, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia – A Town Named After The American Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington

In the 1730, English settlers began to occupy the areas in the western central part of Virginia, near Lynchburg. The Battle of Lexington, was one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War made the area of Lexington famous among the American Colonies. In 1777, the Virginia State Legislature founded the town of Lexington, Virginia, which they named after the Battle of Lexington.