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Lee Bicentennial Events Are Planned

Deborah Fitts

- (January 2007) ARLINGTON, Va. - The year 2007 marks the bicentennial of Robert E. Lee's birth, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) are making sure it doesn't go unmarked.

An April seminar on Lee will serve as the SCV's premier national event, while local divisions and camps have their own special celebrations surrounding Lee's birth date Jan. 19

"Almost every camp has a Lee and Jackson dinner in January, but they'll be a little bigger and fancier this year," predicted Chris Sullivan, nationwide commander-in-chief of the SCV.

The national event will be held April 28 at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, not far from Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. A group of speakers including Kent Masterson Brown, Thomas Dilorenzo and Ron Maxwell will tackle the subject, "Robert E. Lee: Hero or Traitor?"

"We are going to try to stir things up," explained Sullivan. "We're going to resolve the question about how he should be regarded."

He suggested the outcome was predictable. "Lee is the preeminent Southerner. He represents the best virtues of the South. It's critical for the SCV and other similar institutions to defend his reputation."

Among the many SCV commemorations in January will be a 200th birthday party in Atlanta, scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 19 in the rotunda of the state capitol.

Charlie Lott, commander of the SCV's Georgia Division, said the annual event will be augmented this year with plenty of speakers, patriotic music, cake and punch. Among the hundreds expected to attend will be representatives of the SCV, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), Children of the Confederacy, and Commander-in-Chief Sullivan himself.

"I've got a saying," said Lott, "that he that lives in the hearts of his friends will never die. I predict that Lee will never die."

In Lexington, Va., the SCV's Stonewall Brigade Camp will sponsor its annual parade through town from the grave of Stonewall Jackson to the Lee Chapel.

"This year will be bigger than usual," said Brag Bowling, former Virginia Division commander. Reenactors and representatives of the SCV and UDC, among others, will participate in the tribute.

Programs will include a speaker portraying Lee's daughter Mildred; a lunch at the 1827 mansion Cole Alto, home of former Gov. James McDowell; and a Robert E. Lee Ball, also at Cole Alto. All events are open to the public.

Virginia also boasts a Robert E. Lee Memorial Commission, chartered by the state legislature especially to commemorate Lee's bicentennial year. Bowling said at the SCV's instigation the commission refurbished the Lee equestrian monument on Monument Avenue in Richmond, with the state providing $500,000 for the job.

The 110-year-old monument "never had anything done to it," said Bowling. "Now it looks good and it's ready for the bicentennial."

Two hundred years after his birth, Lee's reputation appears secure.

"If you compare him to his contemporaries, especially his Union contemporaries, Lee memorabilia far outsells Grant or Sherman memorabilia," said Commander-in-Chief Sullivan. "I'm told it sells well even in the North."

There are always those who delight in tearing down heroes, Sullivan acknowledged, "and I'm sure Lee had his flaws just like any other man. But he certainly tried his best to live a virtuous life, and he succeeded pretty well."

For information about the April 28 Bicentennial Symposium contact Brag Bowling, (804) 389-3620. The symposium is sponsored by the SCV's Stephen Dill Lee Institute, an entity established in 2005 as a forum for historical scholarship in defense of the cause for which the Confederate soldier fought, according to its Web site.

On Jan. 20 the birthdays of Lee and Gen. Thomas Jackson (born 1824) will be observed at the annual ceremony at the Lee/Jackson double equestrian monument in Baltimore at 11 a.m. SCV Col. Harry W. Gilmor Camp #1388 and the Maryland Division of the UDC sponsor the program. For information contact Elliott Cummings, (410) 296-9235, basilduke@comcast.net.

Liberty University's 11th annual Civil War Seminar, on March 23 and 24, will consider "Robert E. Lee in Life and Legend." Speakers for the Lynchburg program include Dr. Steven Woodworth, Gordon Rhea, Richard G. Williams Jr., Robert K. Krick, William Marvell and Jeffry D. Wert. For information go to www.liberty.edu/civilwar.
The Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey is observing Lee's bicentennial with a six-month lecture series starting Jan. 19. The 2 p.m. Saturday lectures by Jay Jorgensen will be held at the Civil War Library & Research Center in Woodbridge. For information e-mail saturdayswithlee@aol.com

Consult the Civil War News calendar for more details about the Baltimore ceremony and the seminars.

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