KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – Saturday marked a little known yet controversial holiday in Tennessee celebrating the 201st birthday of General Robert E. Lee.
Gen. Lee is best remembered as the general who turned down command of the Union Forces during the Civil War on the grounds that he could not take up arms against his native Virginia.
The war officially ended with his surrender to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox in 1865.
Gen. Lee lived another five years, devoting them to binding the wounds of the war.
To celebrate his life, an East Tennessee chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans held its annual Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson dinner Saturday evening in Knoxville.
During the event, those in attendance reflected on what kind of man Gen. Lee was.
"He always prayed for the federal soldiers, every night before he went to bed,” said Thomas Cartwright, director of the Carter House in Franklin. “After the war, destitute federal soldiers were coming to him for help, and he would give them money, clothes and food.”
“His character and morality were so high that he just didn't allow himself to get into any kind of problems," said Ronald Jones, a commander with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The dinner drew around 260 people and also celebrated the life of Gen. Jackson, who would have celebrated his 184th birthday on Monday.