On this day in 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appotomax Courthouse in Virginia, marking the de facto defeat of the Confederacy and the beginning of its ultimate dissolution.
Such a day offers us a chance to reflect on the lives that were sacrificed to defeat that vile secessionist alliance as well as a chance to recognize the unfortunate reality that the legacy of slavery endures, made manifest in this country’s myriad forms of interpersonal and institutional racism. We have come far and we have far left to go.
The defeat of the Confederate States of America also carries a particular poignancy right now, in this our fourth year under a white-nationalist sympathizing president. Tellingly, Donald Trump has praised the brutal Robert E. Lee in the past, lest anyone misunderstand where his true sympathies lie.
Trump—an avowed sexual predator and washed-up reality TV star with no qualifications for political office—would have never been able to reach the Oval Office without harnessing the racism still deeply embedded in many parts of this country.
April 9th is a potent reminder that these forces, regardless of their current ascendant power, can and must be defeated. With that in mind, countless Americans took to Twitter today to dance upon the grave of the Confederacy. Some offered sincere, sober-minded opinions on the Civil War and its participants.
On this day in 1865, American traitor Robert E Lee surrendered his treasonous Confederate army to General Ulysses S Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, ending the South's attempt break away from the US because they wanted to keep the right to enslave other human beings. pic.twitter.com/UjEkCy5VYD
— Davis (@DLT2140) April 9, 2020
The best defense that even many of Robert E. Lee's supporters can offer of him is that he disavowed the damage he had done in later life and advocated bringing the country back together, and even then they severely overestimate the extent to which he did that. https://t.co/O6aYlzJkJB
— Matthew Chapman (@fawfulfan) April 9, 2020
I have more than once called Robert E. Lee a traitorous racist pig. I’ve even had some so-called liberals say that I was being too harsh on Lee. Please take a moment and read about the “great” Robert E Lee and what a pig he truly was! Its the words of One of his slaves! @AP pic.twitter.com/6Drdh1Hu9N
— Mr. Reynolds (@melreynoldsU) April 9, 2020
During the Civil War, the Federal Government seized Arlington, Robert E. Lee's Plantation, and turned it into a graveyard.
New York should seize Trump's and Kushner's various properties and turn them into mourges.#TrumpOwnsEveryDeath
— Karl W. Lewis (@TheKarlWLewis) April 3, 2020
Robert E. Lee should have been hanged for treason.
— Eric Hanke (@Eric_Hanke) April 9, 2020
Others chose to mock the defeated Confederates and their primary military leader Robert E. Lee, employing everything from hilariously crude personal insults to fake quotes.
The vanquished in this case deserve neither our respect nor our civility. They were men engaged in the pursuit and defense of a truly evil cause. Reducing them to jokes (while still recognizing the severity of their crimes) is a great way to fight back against the admiration for these individuals that persists within certain vestiges of the nation that still flirt with the “Lost Cause” myth.
In a letter to his wife, Robert E Lee once stated, "I love losing and these idiots will never know. This is all a big joke to me. I can't even read a map."
— Robert E. Lee Facts (@thickyrubio) April 9, 2020
Saw Robert E. Lee trending.
He's still a dead racist. pic.twitter.com/83GTY2blF3
— Aurelio, an Essential Employee (@Aurelio1869) April 9, 2020
— Sam Crain (@samjcrain2) April 9, 2020
Was Robert E. Lee a military genius? No. But was he a man who joined and fought for the confederacy out of a love of his home state rather than his love of slavery and racism? Also no.
— Robert E. Lee Facts (@thickyrubio) April 12, 2019
An important thing to remember about Robert E. Lee is that the Union’s best general was crosseyed drunk for most of the war and still outsmarted him.
— Robert E. Lee Facts (@thickyrubio) April 9, 2020
On this day Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox and they gave him a swirly and pantsed him and took his lunch money. He took the mocking with good grace. "I deserve it for I am a piss baby. May future generations remember that my cause was that of piss babies."
— Streetwise, The Charlottesville Safety Cat (@averysafecat) April 9, 2020
The first time Robert E. Lee saw the confederate battle flag he is said to have stated “Wow. That flag looks like shit. You’d have to be a real dumbass to keep flying it after we lose this war.”
— Robert E. Lee Facts (@thickyrubio) April 9, 2019
Say what you want about Robert E. Lee, because he's a dead racist and was a colossal failure.
— Frankie Bacon and the Screaming Popes (@PanasonicDX4500) April 9, 2020
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.