Lee-Jackson Day

From “Lee and Jackson Last Meeting” by Everett B.D. Fabrino Julio (1843 – 1879)

Over the last year, there has been a great deal said, a great deal of controversy, and sadly, a great deal of violence over the issue of Confederate monuments and the history of the Civil War.

Richmond, Virginia has long been known as the Capitol of the Confederacy, and the city with its large African American population still struggles with that.

Some say tear the monuments down. Some say they must stay.

There’s a lot to be said about the tourism dollars that come to the city and the state because of the history.

There’s no easy answer.

That’s why, in part, back in the 1990s, a compromise was born.

For years, Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson Day on the third Monday of January.

When that day became the federal day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., for a while, Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day.

Then Governor Jim Gilmore signed legislation designating the preceding Friday as Lee-Jackson Day while maintaining the third Monday as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

State employees got a four-day weekend, just two weeks after the New Year’s Holiday.

History is complicated. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.

But, it’s always fascinating.

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Today is Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia

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Since 1889 Virginia has celebrated the birthday of Robert E. Lee. In 1904 Stonewall Jackson’s name was added. Both men had birthdays in January. The day was celebrated on the third Monday of the month.

But in 1983 the third Monday of January became the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For a time Virginia celebrated the day as Lee-Jackson-King Day.

In 2000 that was changed and now Virginia Celebrates Lee-Jackson Day on the Friday before Martin Luther King. Jr. Day.

Not all localities celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, but state offices are close on both Friday and Monday of that weekend.

Robert E. Lee (January 19, 1807 – october 12, 1870) was the commanding general of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia until such time as he surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865. Following the war, Lee served as President of what is now Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) was perhaps the best known Confederate general after Robert E. Lee. Jackson was accidentally shot by Confederate troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. He lost an arm to amputation and died eight days later from complications of pneumonia.

Both Lee and Jackson are honored with statues along Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.

History isn’t always pretty, but it’s always worth remembering.

Abraham Lincoln’s Visit to Richmond

This drawing by L. Hollis was engraved by J.C. Buttre and depicts Lincoln’s visit to Richmond.

This drawing by L. Hollis was engraved by J.C. Buttre and depicts Lincoln’s visit to Richmond.

It was two days after Confederate forces evacuated the City of Richmond. On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and son Tad visited the City. Former slaves greeted them enthusiastically.

Admiral David D. Porter landed with Lincoln and said, “No electric wire could have carried the news of the President’s arrival sooner than it was circulated through Richmond. As far as the eye could see the streets were alive with negroes and poor whites rushing in our direction, and the crowds increased so fast that I had to surround the President with the sailors with fixed bayonets to keep them off…They all wanted to shake hand with Mr. Lincoln or his coat tail or even to kneel down and kiss his boots.!”

Crowds made Lincoln’s short journey to the U.S. military headquarters, the former Confederate White House nearly impossible. There he found a delegation of Southerner seeking to have a discussion with him about ending the war in a swift and peaceful manner.

Lincoln left Richmond the next day never to return. Four days later General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. Less than a week later, Lincoln was assassinated. Events at the end of the war and Lincoln’s death drew attention away from the visit.

In April, 2003 the National Park Service rekindled that interest when they unveiled a statue Lincoln and his son Tad depicting the 1865 visit. The sculpture by Louis Frech resides at the Historic Tredegar Iron Works. The words “To Bind up the Nation’s Wounds” from Lincoln’s second inaugural address are displayed behind the sculpture.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. He died on April 15, 1865.

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