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  • Writer's pictureThe Naming Commission Facts

Robert E. Lee & the Seven other "Virginia" Colonels

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

In one of the biggest bombshells, The Naming Commission, tries to argue that Lee, unlike 7 other colonels, allegedly from VA, chose to fight against the United States because of his family's ownership of slaves. As documented in another post, Lee's immediate family owned 0 slaves. What is the difference between Lee and the other 7 colonels? Not all of those other colonels are actually "Virginians."

The Report states on page 47:

In “staying with his state,” Lee proved the exception rather than the rule: of the eight Virginians who were West Point graduates and Army colonels at the outbreak of the Civil War, only Lee chose to fight against the United States

Like the rest of the report, footnotes and sources are not directly provided, so readers must assume that the commission, with many resources, a Yale historian, and knowledgeable experts would not make such a claim unless it was a well-documented fact. But in truth, few of these men were "Virginians." Rather, all of them were merely registered from the state of VA while at West Point. As these men were at the rank of colonel, they were older, and a career in the military often took them other places. While Lee was somewhat similar, what is different is that Lee's family were in VA for almost 200 years, as was his wife's family. All seven of Lee's children were born on Virginia soil. Lee's immediate family also stayed with Virginia, including his sons (one a West Point Graduate) and his brothers. Can we say the same for the other "Virginia" colonel West Point Graduates? Lets analyze a couple.

Rene De Russy (pictured above) was born in 1789 to an ethnic French family in present day Haiti, not Virginia. He spent his entire life in the Military, mostly in New York, and did not appear to raise his family in Virginia. In fact, his first wife, Elizabeth Harriet Tayler was born in New Jersey and died in New York. The oldest son, John Allen De Russy, was born in NY and eventually graduated from West Point. De Russy's other children Emily Caroline De Russy and Clara Louise De Russy also appear to be born in NY. Other than the few years in his childhood spent in VA, we do not see any deep historical connections or family ties. His father appears to have fought for the French Navy until France aligned with the colonies in the Revolutionary War.

Also, Rene had a younger brother, Louis Gustave De Russy, who was born in NYC in 1795. Louis's life after graduation from West Point took him to Louisiana, where he raised a family. It just so happens that he served in the Confederate Army! Earlier we saw that the report stated Hood had an "adopted" State of Texas--so why didn't Rene De Russy have an adopted state of New York? A few short years as a child in Virginia makes you a "Virginian" for life, but only if it is to try to make Robert E. Lee's eventual service in the Confederacy appear unique.

Dennis Hart Mahan (pictured above) is also likely in the list. But like De Russy, he hardly fits the description of a "Virginian." Mahan was born in New York but grew up in Virginia, which is why he was registered at West Point from the state. After graduation in 1824, Mahan became a professor at West Point and remained on the faculty until his death. His wife, Mary Helena O'kill, was born in NYC and her mother was the niece of John Jay, who was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and had deep roots in New York. Naturally, Mahan's children were all New Yorkers, as that is where he raised his family. How would he even "fight" for the South, even if he wanted to do so?

The Naming Commission clearly did not evaluate these type of details despite the incredible amount of time, resources and money the Congress provided them. This entire discussion is to distract from the primary objective: did Robert E. Lee voluntarily serve in the Confederacy? In the next post I will provide some compelling facts regarding the core issue.

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