He Lost a War and Won Immortality
by Louis Redmond
Even among the free, it is not always easy to live together. There came a time, less than a hundred
years ago, when the people of this country disagreed so bitterly among themselves that some of
them felt they could not go on living with the rest.
A test of arms was made to decide whether Americans should remain one nation or become two.
The armies of those who believed in two nations were led by a man named Robert E. Lee.
What about Lee? What kind of man was he who nearly split the history of the United States down
the middle and made two separate books of it?
They say you had to see him to believe that a man so fine could exist. He was handsome. He was
clever. He was brave. He was gentle. He was generous and charming, noble and modst, admired
and beloved. He had never failed at anything in his upright soldier's life. He was a born winner, this
Robert E. Lee. Except for once. In the greatest contest of his life, in the war beween the South and
the North, Robert E. Lee lost.
Now there were men who came with smouldering eyes to Lee and said: "Let's not accept this
result as final. Let's keep our anger alive. Let's be grim and unconvinced, and wear our bitterness
like a medal. You can be our leader in this."
But Lee shook his head at those men. "Abandon your animosities," he said, "and make your sons
And what did he do himself when his war was lost? He took a job as president of a tiny college,
with forty students and four profes- sors, at a salary of $1500 a year. He had commanded
thousands of young men in battle. Now he wanted to prepare a few hun- dred of them for the
duties of peace. So the countrymen of Robert E. Lee saw how a born winner loses, and it seemed
to them that in defeat he won his most lasting victory.
There is an art of losing, and Robert E. Lee is its finest teacher. In a democracy, where opposing
viewpoints regularly meet for a test of ballots, it is good for all of us to know how to lose
occasionally, how to yield peacefully, for the sake of freedom. Lee is our master in this. The man
who fought against the Union showed us what unity means.