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Remembering The Contributions Of Lee And The Massachusetts 54th

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Remembering the Contributions of Lee and the Massachusetts 54th

In examining the history related to the American Civil War, there are two significant entities that are worth remembering: General Robert E. Lee, commanding officer of the Confederate Army, and the 54th Massachusetts regiment. These two entities are commemorated in different ways, to assure their remembrance. Through The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration, Thomas J. Brown explains that their memories will continue to be preserved through a variety of different ways because their contribution to their respective sides of the Civil War was extremely important.

General Robert E. Lee is, and will continue to be, one of the most prominent figures of the Civil War. Brown refers to him as "the most important figure in postwar imagination of the Confederacy." (Brown 79) Both Southerners and Northerners view him as one of the most outstanding figures that is studied from the war. One of the main commemorations of General Lee is his enduring perception by Southerners as a "representative of the social order of the Old South" (Brown 79), a Southern hero in other words. For a even a century after the war had ended, Lee was not considered to have been a significant figure to blame for the Confederate defeat, by neither Southerners nor Northerners alike. He instead continued to be revered in the South and also by Northern writers and even British figures as well. "Former British prime minister Winston Churchill summarized the overwhelming verdict almost a century after Appomattox when he declared Lee 'one of the greatest captains known to the annals of war.'" (Brown 83) Also prevalent in Lee's remembrance is his personality and reserve during the actual war. For example, "Confederate veteran and author John Esten Cooke wrote that no feature of Lee's personality was more striking than his 'habit of preserving his calmness and equanimity under all circumstances.'" In addition to his memory being preserved through oral tradition, plans succeeded to erect the Lee Monument in Richmond, VA. The equestrian statue, which depicts Lee atop his horse, Traveller, is seen as an appropriate model to remember Lee by and drew much national attention upon its completion. "No Civil War monument dedication of the nineteenth century drew more national press coverage than the Richmond ceremonies for Lee." (Brown 96) Although this event spurred controversy between northern Republicans and Southerners alike, it continues to be preserved as a national symbol of Lee's greatness as a war hero. (Brown 95-96) Also, Congress went a step further in attempting to preserve Lee's memory by establishing Robert E. Lee memorial in Arlington, VA in 1925 and funded the restoration of his mansion as well. Finally, although Lee's views on race and slavery clearly affected his reputation during the entire 19th century, he will continue to be "revered by white southerners and widely admired by white northerners as well." (Brown 105)

While Lee continues to be a symbol of Southern reverence and admiration, the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment has become a popular symbol of racial advancement for Northerners and generally any socially progressive American. Its contribution to the Northern effort in the Civil War is so unique because it was the first regiment of African Americans fighting in a war in which they were a significant issue as to why the war was being fought. "The 54th Massachusetts was from its inception a showcase for the shift in a policy that would eventually bring about 180,000 African Americans into the Union ranks." (Brown 109) Commemoration of the 54th Massachusetts, in the beginning, usually circled around the burial of Colonel Robert



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