Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Friday, July 22, 2011

General Charles Lee's Legacy

General Charles Lee
Major General Charles Lee
Quick, how much do you remember about the Revolutionary War General, Charles Lee? I'm guessing, not very much. Yet, until he managed to get himself captured by the British, he was second in command to Washington. And thereby hangs a tale, and a moral to boot.

Lee very much wanted to be first in command, thought that he should be, and some other people thought so as well.

I recently read the book The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara, author of the better known Gods and Generals. Being something of a Revolutionary War buff, I really enjoyed it. But this is not a book report.

I'll repeat the original question: Do you remember anything about Charles Lee? He was a very important person in the late 18th century. He had much more European military experience than Washington. He was probably the only American general who did. He thought Washington was a poor leader, and wasn't afraid to say so. The early retreats of the Continental army from New York, Brandywine, and across New Jersey to the banks of the Delaware River, across from Trenton, had left Washington looking as if he couldn't win a battle.

Lee sent many letters to the Continental Congress denigrating Washington. He was continually blaming him for the ragged condition of the troops, when this was actually the fault of Congress itself, which body would not send funds for food and uniforms and boots.

General George Washington
General George Washington
Lee wrote things like "Washington is not fit enough to command a Sergeant's Guard." Washington continually heard of letters like this from Lee (and some other American officers as well). He usually accepted them with little rancor, and patiently agreed that the early successes of his army were few.

At the Battle of Monmouth, later, after Lee was released by the British, Washington trusted Lee to lead one of the assaults. Instead, Lee disobeyed direct orders and retreated, leading to the collapse of that entire front. He was later court-martailed. There was some thought that he might have acted treasonously; perhaps he had been turned while a prisoner.

Even after the war, when Washington had proved himself more than able, Lee skulked around trying to get the court-martial overturned, and making disparaging remarks about the hero Commander-In-Chief.

By now, you may be wondering what my point is on a blog about spiritual topics. Let's assume that Lee was actually more qualified militarily than Washington. Now we have the classic modern situation where someone who seemingly deserves a role/position is passed over in favor of someone else. The person not selected can now choose how he or she will respond. Lee spent the rest of his life in bitter and angry strife, trying to tear down the man who had been chosen instead of himself.

And here we are 230+ years later. Do we remember Charles Lee, military strategist and qualified leader? Nope, we remember George Washington, the man who was not only General, but served with integrity, sacrifice, patience, loyalty, and always with humility. It is no accident that we say of him "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Although there is some debate as to whether Washington was a Christian, or only a Deist, he certainly lived his life by Christian principles. Lee did not. Which one is your hero? Which one is mine?


vanilla said...

There is not doubt that we all make choices as to how we will respond to slights, real or perceived. To make the right choice is to live abundantly; to make the wrong one, to live miserably.

Thanks for the story.

Jeshurun said...

Since Washington was A Freemason, we can definitely rule out Christian....
The Freemasons are Satanists.