To the editor: Robert E. Lee betrayed his uniform and his country in choosing to serve a rebellion whose overriding rationale was the preservation of slavery, as the leaders of that rebellion asserted. Lee's decision to side with Virginia, because that was his home state, is little more than a shameful excuse. Virginians like Winfield Scott, George Henry Thomas and Samuel Phillips Lee (Robert Lee's own cousin) remained loyal to the Union. ("If there's anyone from the Confederacy who deserves a memorial, it's Robert E. Lee," Readers React, May 23)
Soldiers under Lee's command captured free African Americans in Pennsylvania in 1863 and forced them into slavery. Lee made no efforts to halt this practice, which he could not have been unaware of. After the war ended, he advocated expelling former slaves from Virginia, which can be described only as ethnic cleansing.
Lee fought for slavery and white supremacy. He does not deserve honors or recognition — he was simply a prominent traitor who fought for one of the most morally reprehensible causes imaginable.
Caspian Forsyth, Monterey
To the editor: In sarcastically comparing the Lee monument in New Orleans to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, one letter writer praises a traitor and condemns those of us who served our country when called.
While many, if not most, of us regretted the Vietnam War then and now, the only traitors at the time were those in Congress who were too cowardly to do their duty and stop the war. Those who protested were doing their citizens' duty as well, although it was tough on those of us who served to see that at the time.
Lee and his fellow Confederates may have all been nice men (for slaveholders), but they were not doing their duty to the nation and are heroes only to those who continue to espouse their cause.
Sanford Cook, San Luis Obispo