Monday, June 26, 2017

A Second Conversation with General Robert E Lee

In my last post I told about Brenda and me visiting the Appomattox Courthouse where the end of the US Civil war occurred.  It was a beautiful Saturday PM at Appomattox Courthouse and we absolutely loved seeing the reenactments and chatting with the re-enactors.  We could have stayed MUCH longer, but we had a dinner appointment back in Lynchburg.

I knew our time was growing short, and I wanted to get another chat with Gen. R.E. Lee. He had a free moment, but I knew it wouldn't last long.  So, I picked my #1 question.  "General Lee, why did you go to USMA?"
"Well," said the good General, my family was too poor for me to go anywhere else."

In case you might not know, the US academies are tuition free, plus room and board is free, as are clothes and books.  A pretty good deal, especially when you have no money.  In fact, the General's reason was exactly the same as the reason I went to the US Naval Academy.  My brother had discovered the academy, and my Dad's peak earnings were about $13k, with a wife and 5 kids.  Sooooo, that was my ONLY option.

In retrospect it was TERRIFIC!  They wore us out our plebe (freshman) year, but I got a terrific EDUCATION!!  I was essentially trained as an engineer, but the academic rigors were good for me and I loved learning.  Every night I left the chow hall (we all ate all meals together), and without sitting down in my room gathered my books and went to the library from about 6:30 PM to about 9:30 PM, came back to my room and went to sleep.

It was pretty spartan, but it fit me and my personality.  General Lee was, I believe, first in his class there.  I didn't do nearly that well, but did graduate with honors- which surprised me more than anyone.

General Lee is revered as one of the greatest Americans of his generation.  I think maybe what he learned at USMA had something to do with that.  I am glad I got to teach there in 1997-98.  As a non-historian, I have to admit, I love history.

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