The Editor's Corner
For more than two years, members of the Washington and Lee faculty have promoted and participated in an unbalanced, biased presentation of Robert E. Lee and his legacy. During the past year this has been exemplified by Professor Toni Locey's article on Lee in The Nation magazine and the interview of Ty Seidule, himself a W&L graduate, by the chair of the History Department re. Professor Seidule's recent memoir, Robert E. Lee and Me.
During the past year The Generals Redoubt has made repeated requests to the W&L administration to allow us to present a more balanced appraisal of Lee through official university channels. We have made these requests in the interest of true freedom of speech and greater ideological diversity. We have even offered to participate in a public debate or panel discussion with faculty members or others who have a negative impression of Lee and think his name should be removed from the university. These requests have been ignored or denied.
Therefore, we have produced the attached video as a rebuttal to Professor Seidule's remarks and as a broader response to the anti-Lee bias among several faculty members. We have also attached the Seidule interview for those who wish to make a more in depth comparison.
As you view the website, you may notice some subtle changes to it. These have been made for easier access. For example, you will see that the headings for "Articles" and "Letters" have been removed from the top of the introductory page. They have been replaced by a heading entitled "News". If you scroll down under the "News" heading, you will find "Articles" and "Letters" listed separately. We hope this is helpful.
Editor, The Generals Redoubt website
Please note the new letter in the "Letters" section of our website written by Peter Gadiel, father of James Gadiel, class of 2000. We thank Peter for writing this letter and sharing it with Michael McAlevey and the Board of Trustees. We pray that all of them will read it and ponder the powerful message that James and Peter have delivered. May we all bless the memory of James’ passing and how much Washington and Lee University meant to him. The Generals Redoubt will continue to work for James.
Please also read in our "Articles" section Judge Benton Randolph's speech delivered October 1870 on the steps of the Walker County Courthouse, Huntsville, Texas shortly after Robert E. Lee’s death. Judge Randolph is the great-grandfather of James K. Randolph Class of 1961 and 1963 Law. As Steve Suttle Class of 1962 said, “This is a rare and exquisite slice of eyewitness history.”
Rex H. Wooldridge
Secretary of The Generals Redoubt
In anticipation of the upcoming historical vote by the Board of Trustees on the name of our university, I have attached a piece entitled "George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the Importance of Our Namesakes." The essay makes four essential points:
There are numerous historical ties between the families of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, and both families were involved in the birth of our nation and its ongoing evolution.
Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were interested and involved with education, not only academic instruction, but also practical and moral education.
Both men supported reconciliation after long and divisive wars.
The personal association of George Washington and Robert E. Lee with our university has been a successful "branding" strategy for over 225 years.
In our letter, we felt it was necessary to defend the reputation of George Washington as well as Robert E. Lee since some
younger alums and faculty members have called for the elimination of Washington's name in addition to Lee's. The essay has been signed by members of The Generals Redoubt's Board of Directors and Board of Advisors. It is accompanied by two videos which demonstrate recent examples of successful branding. The first is a video about the 1992 university capital campaign entitled "On the Shoulders of Giants." (https://youtu.be/Tf6xMCuUIRc)
The second is a more recent video from 2010 and entitled "Echoes of the Past, Voices of the Future." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvVxBStKOvY) Both videos proclaim the long and historical connection of Washington and Lee University with its namesakes. The videos are not as strong visually as they were when originally produced, but if individuals will pay attention to the audio, they will know how essential both George Washington and Robert E. Lee have been to our school's success.
On Thursday, January 28th, WSLS, Channel 10, Roanoke interviewed me about who The Generals Redoubt was and why we opposed changing the name of the University. Another alumna, Betsy Green, represented the position of those who favored a name change. Incidentally, Ms. Green is one of those who has expressed the desire to remove the name of George Washington as well as that of Robert E. Lee from our school. Anyone may view the interview by going to the WSLS website link which is https://www.wsls.com/news/local/2021/01/28/debate-continues-over-future-of-washington-and-lees-name/
Editor, The Generals Redoubt website
Editor's Corner- January, 2021
Happy New Year! There is certainly a great deal happening at our university and in our country, not all of it positive. However, we take heart that there is always the possibility of hope and reconciliation within the Washington and Lee community and in our country.
In that vein, we have written an "Open Letter to the Washington and Lee Board and Community" which appears in our Letters Section. This letter was sent privately to the Board of Trustees last week, and we informed them that we would be circulating it more broadly. We believe it is a positive and constructive contribution to the conversation about a change of name to our university. We have tried to make the letter as "data driven" as possible. Of course, we think that Washington and Lee should "maintain the name," and that this is the best way for the university to obtain its goals and be successful in the future.
As we believe that the university Board may make a decision on the naming issue in the not too distant future, we shall be making changes to this website and to "The Editor's Corner" more frequently than usual. We suggest that you check the website once a week or so for the foreseeable future in order to learn what is going on and what our positions are on various issues. At the bottom of this page, we will be listing new articles, essays, videos, etc. on a regular basis. On January 19th, we celebrate Robert E. Lee's birthday and his contributions to our university. In Lee's honor, we have commissioned two videos by noted historian, Philip Leigh. The first focuses on Lee's life and character through the Civil War. The second focuses on his service to the country and to Washington College after the war. The videos are accompanied by an essay by W&L alum, Cameron Smith.
1) January 11, 2021- "Open Letter to the Washington and Lee Board and Community"- Letters section
2) January 21, 2021 - first Philip Leigh podcast on Robert E. Lee
3) January 21, 2021 - second Leigh podcast on Robert E. Lee
4) Essay by Washington and Lee alum, Cameron Smith, on "Redemption vs. Revolution at a College in the South."
Editor, The Generals Redoubt website
10 December 2020
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! At this time of year, it is appropriate that we focus on that true, Christian gentleman, Robert E. Lee. In the five and a half years from Appomattox to Lee's death, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant were probably the two most significant figures in America and the leaders of the effort towards reconciliation between North and South. In 1866, Lee stated that "We are all one nation now" and in response to a question from a mother in Virginia, Lee said, "Don't bring up your sons to detest the United States. . . Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans."
Although the term, "The New South", was not invented until later in the century, Lee, along with others like Booker T. Washington, was in the forefront of the effort to modernize Southern society and attitudes, to integrate more fully the South into the U.S., and to reject the economy and traditions of the Old South and the slavery-based plantation system. He called for the economic regeneration of the South with a balance of industry, commerce, and agriculture, sectional reconciliation, and racial harmony. His approach to education was both theoretical and practical, and, under his leadership, Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) became the leading educational institution in the South and one of the leading schools in the country.
In the past, some have accused The Generals Redoubt as promoting a racist agenda. We reject that characterization absolutely. We do wish to preserve the history, values, and traditions of the University, but we do not support the Confederacy, The Lost Cause, nor prejudice or discrimination of any kind. Just as Lee sought to bring about reconciliation between the North and South after the Civil War, we seek dialogue and reconciliation among all the various stakeholders at Washington and Lee. In fact, it is listed as our first goal. In the spirit of the season, we hope that all will consider what we have to say with an open mind and heart.
Attached to this email, you will find two documents emphasizing Lee's leadership and significance, before, during, and, especially, after the Civil War. The first is a letter to the W&L Board of Trustees by Rick Saunders, class of 1965. The second is an article by Christopher Keller, class of 1994 and a Professor of History at the U.S. Army War College. We have also provided a link to a video by Philip Leigh, the author of eight books on history particularly regarding the Civil War and Reconstruction, as to why the University should retain its name and continue to honor its namesakes.
Finally, we would like to remind you again about the importance of contributing to The Generals Redoubt annual fund. When we launched the fund in late September, we set a goal of $500,000 to be achieved by June 30, 2021. I am happy to report that as of December 10th, we have received gifts of approximately $150,000 with additional pledges of $150,000 for a total of more than $300,000. The pledges include a $100,000 matching pledge made this week by an anonymous alum of which we hope many of you will take advantage. At the rate we are going, we will easily surpass our goal by June 30th. I am sending you a reminder now in case you would like to make a year-end gift. Whenever you decide to make a gift, you may do so by going to our website and clicking the "Support Us" button. If you have questions, you may contact our Treasurer, Barry Brown.
Vice President, The Generals Redoubt
Editor's Corner- October, 2020
Since we last updated our website in early August, a number of developments have occurred at Washington and Lee, and The Generals Redoubt has responded to several of them. Not all of these developments were negative. For example, President Dudley announced that the university would open for in person classes in late August, and we applauded him for that decision. We have since learned that 90% or more of students are in Lexington. We recognize that each college or university has to deal with the pandemic in its own way, but we believe that President Dudley made the right decision and we have told him so.
Unfortunately, a number of the developments at W&L have not been so positive, and we have felt the need to respond to these as well. In late July or early August, a group calling itself Not Unmindful sent a letter to the President and Board outlining its reasons for changing the name of the university and omitting the name of Robert E. Lee. We have responded to their letter, demonstrating some poor historical research on their part, particularly with regard to Lee. At the same time, we have said that if the name of the university is not changed, we would be glad to work with members of this group on challenges facing our alma mater. Copies of both of these documents can be found in our "Letters" section.
In early September, we learned of a course being taught to freshmen this fall and entitled "How to Overthrow the State." We learned of this through various national media outlets. How these outlets discovered that this course was being offered we do not know. We wrote our own letter about the course to President Dudley. We did not question the content of the course or state that it should not be taught. We did say that we questioned the common sense and good judgement of those who allowed the course to be taught under this title. Our letter to President Dudley on this subject can also be found in the "Letters" section of the website.
Not long after the controversy over "How to Overthrow the State" erupted, a conservative freshman decided to run for the Executive Committee. He posted a campaign ad on his Instagram account. Shortly thereafter he began to receive uncivil remarks from some of his fellow students, calling him and his supporters "racists" and using vulgar and profane remarks. We have placed all of this exchange in an article on our "Articles" section. Around the same time, another freshman student posted a video which was widely distributed. In this video, the student expressed her opinion about some of the developments at Washington and Lee. We must warn you that the video contained profane words and gestures. The Generals Redoubt has not taken a position on the video, and we certainly believe in complete freedom of speech and expression both with regard to this student and the students mentioned above. However, some individuals have contacted us to state that the manner in which the student expresses herself violates the Washington and Lee tradition of civil discourse. We have included one of these responses to the video in the "Letters" section.
Despite some of these negative developments, The Generals Redoubt remains optimistic about the university's future. We are hopeful that the Board will maintain the name of our university and will continue to honor our namesakes. We are hopeful that we can continue to work with the Board and university to preserve our history, values, and traditions. We remain optimistic that the university will recruit students and faculty who also honor our namesakes. Finally, we look forward to working with all groups to meet current and future challenges to our beloved alma mater. It is because of our hopefulness and optimism that we have launched our second annual fund. We have attached our annual fund appeal letter under the "Support Us" section of our website.
Editor, The Generals Redoubt
July 8, 2020 (Updated August 23, 2020)
So much has happened in the last month or so, both at the national level and at our university, that it is difficult to keep up with all of it, much less comprehend and respond to everything.We will be focusing here on developments at Washington and Lee, and posting items which pertain to the ever changing environment there. Most of you are aware of the various petitions and actions by the majority of the faculty and some alumni and students calling for a change to the name of Washington and Lee. Below you will find a copy of our response to all of this. We think that our position represents that of a vast majority of alumni, parents, and students taken together.
Under the "Letters" section of the website, we have posted a very strong letter from the vast majority of the emeritus trustees of Washington and Lee to the current Board of Trustees opposing a name change to the University. In addition, there are four extraordinary letters sent to the Board by other individuals regarding the importance of maintaining the name of Washington and Lee and preserving the history, values, and traditions of the university.
Under the "Articles" section, there is an essay by Garland Tucker, class of 1969, which was recently published in The National Review. There is also an article "Defending Lee" by Al Eckes, W&L class of 1964, accompanied by an addendum by Neely Young, class of 1966. Dr. Eckes has also produced a YouTube video on maintaining the name of the university which is available at the following link.
We have provided a link to a balanced analysis of the issues at hand which was recently published in the student newspaper, The Ring Tum Phi. The authors merely ask for a balanced and civil discussion of the issue of a name change. Despite this, some of the proponents of a name change have stated that civility must be done away with, and no discussion can be had on this issue.
We have also provided a link to a brief, inspiring video produced by the University about seven years ago. The video reminds us that we should always honor and respect the namesakes of our beloved university
Editor, The Generals Redoubt
June 27, 2020
To the Board of Trustees and Alumni:
The Generals Redoubt unequivocally opposes the changing of the name, in any form, of Washington and Lee University; it opposes the removal of the Founders’ portraits from the diploma of any student, graduate or undergraduate; it believes a recent resolution by tenured faculty calling for removal of Robert E. Lee’s name from that of the university poses a serious challenge of financial and reputational sustainability; and it notes the lack of serious and believable scholarship in Toni Locy’s article ‘Letting Go of Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee University’ published recently in The Nation. We believe the Honor System at Washington and Lee should be mandatory for students as well as for its faculty. The Generals Redoubt is preparing definitive responses on a number of matters to be published in the near future. These include President Dudley's most recent letter on racial issues and observations of younger alumni on their current and active petition.
The Redoubt is most appreciative of the overwhelming support expressed by our alumni and friends for our efforts of the past year, and those we ardently pursue now to save the traditions and values bestowed on the University by our revered Founders.
The Generals Redoubt