Monday, September 10, 2012


Under  construction -- come back later.... under construction....

Moving soon to


What would happen if we could study Lee's handwritten slave ledgers?


And why we need to "start all over" about Lee.

Elizabeth Pryor is the only person in US history allowed to actually study Lee's slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters. The Lee family could have made them public any time in the last 150 years.

They still have not allowed the public to see them, much less study them, except for Lee devotee, Elizabeth Pryor. 

If Pryor could have said one thing to Lee, it might have been this:  "Please, please General Lee, burn your slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters."
Facts are stubborn things.  The facts accumulated by Lee himself - his own writings to, or letters from, bounty hunters and others, show a drastically different reality that we have been taught.

Not what someone says about Lee -- what Lee wrote himself. His own letter, for example, justifying torture of slave girls (yes,  he did) is shocking by himself.

Without context -- without knowing, for example, that Lee regularly used bounty hunter to capture escaped slaves, and that Lee hated his slaves, and that Lee's slaves said he "was the worst man we ever seen" -- you could hardly grasp what a slave plantation was like.

Even if Lee had never been active in the Civil War, his torture of slaves, his slave ledgers, his bounty hunter letter, his prices, etc, would be monumentally important to our understanding of that  time.


The hardest job Pryor had to face was this -- how to arrange my words so that torture, rape, and cruelty can go unnoticed?   

Pryor had the actual slave ledgers  in her hands, the actual letters to bounty hunters, and payments for certain slaves, money received for selling certain slaves, money spent capturing and punishing other slaves.

Pryor could have -- and should have, if she wanted to be honest -- call this book "Lee's slave ledgers".  But her goal was quite the opposite. 

Lee did not burn his slave ledgers -- he was not ashamed of them.  Nor did he burn his letters to and from bounty hunters. 

Lee's slave ledgers -- according to Pryor -- validate and confirm the three newspaper reports of Lee's torture of a slave girl.


Lee did not burn his slave ledgers and letters.  

The Union Army had them, and returned them to the family (with all other possessions) after his death.

The Lee family had them, this entire time. 


Even now, the Lee family and Virginia Historical Society refuse to let the public see those documents, or the hundreds of other letters that Elizabeth Pryor was allowed to study.

Smart move. The only information we get is from Pryor. And remember, she wants you to love Lee, too.  She is not out to smear him, but to keep his halo upon his head as much as she can.


You are about to find out why. 


 Remember, nothing stops them from showing the actual slave ledgers  letters to and from bounty hunters.

Remember too that all other Civil War era leaders have had their papers open to the public for about 100 years.

But not Lee. 



If you read Pryor's book, the number one insight might be this -- she wants you to like, if not adore Lee, too.

There are 1000 ways to tell that Lee tortured slave girls, that he bought kidnapped women, and that rape was common at Arlington (rape was common on most slave farms).

Pryor, each time, chose the way to tell you so that it did not force images into your head of Lee at slave auctions, or Lee screaming at slave girls as he had them tortured. She did not create visions of Lee paying bounty hunters for kidnapped women -- women from the North.

Had she and the Lee family let the country see the actual letters and slave ledgers, you would be free to see them how you see fit, based on your own understanding of human nature.

Pryor was not about to let you do that.


 Still Pryor did what no one else before her dared to do.

She told you -- very carefully, very diplomatically, about Lee's tortures. About the rapes. About purchase of kidnapped women. 

What book in US history ever told you that Lee was one of the many slave owners who employed bounty hunters who, quite illegally and immorally - kidnapped freed blacks in the North and took them South for sale.

Yet this happened, especially in border states close to the border, regularly.  

If you insist -- in your own brain -- that God ordained slavery, that slaves are fortunate to be enslaved, that pain is necessary for their instruction (as Lee wrote to his wife), and if you actually have girls tortured  and buy/ sell slave at auctions (Pryor tells us Lee "used auctions")  what on earth is going to prevent you from buying black women from bounty hunters?

Are you going to say "Oh sorry my dear black woman. You were kidnapped by a mean white man. I will make this right. You should not be here. Allow me to return you to the North where you belong"?

Not likely. And remember, Pryor carefully injects that Lee did pay "for others".  As you will see "others"  could only mean other than his own escaped slaves.  He paid for "others".


Lee ran a slave farm.  The euphemism is "plantation".   No matter how well worn, the euphamism of Lee as a "planter" is vile.  Pryor tells us -- the "only thing Lee ever wanted to be was a planter". 

Planter? Lee did not plant.  Lee was in the slave business. Not the plant business.

Lee did not grow vegetables for sale along the road.  He did not raise cotton.  He raised, and profited from, slave flesh and slave labor.  Pryor, and frankly all "historians" use bullshit terms like "Planter".

Pryor -- nor any Lee biographer -- has ever made that clear, that Lee's money, his profit, his status in life before the Civil War, was from slaves. Selling them. Managing them -- managing meant discipline (torture) and selling some, buying others, and making sure they worked as you demanded.


Pryor could have told us much much more.

Pryor could have, if she chose to, tell you all the prices he listed, for which auction, who did he buy, who did he sell?

She could have told us the names of any and all girls Lee bought, from who, and the prices of each.

Lee's slave ledgers were so detailed, Pryor did get amazing information  and occassionally, she drops a bit of that information.  Like the number of slaves that were light skinned. The number of slaves escaped at one time. The name and number of lashes of the whip.   The date Lee installed the whipping post.

She did not dream that information up. Lee kept records, so detailed Pryor can tell us what Lee paid to which bounty hunter, and for what, on which day. 

But Pryor won't even call them "slave ledgers".  She avoids using any term for the records at all, except "monthly account books"  and that only once.


And in those slave ledgers were dates, names, prices, comments, including comments and names of bounty hunters.  

  Technically,  she writes, Lee "may have broken the law. referring to "others"  Lee purchased from the North. No duh.   She even makes Lee the victim, saying in her Orwellian double speak way,  "Lee failed to fill out the time consuming paperwork".  

As if there is paperwork to fill out, and it's "time consuming" for selling "others".  What the hell paperwork is she talking about?   

She had to say something to ameliorate the horror of what Lee was doing.

But is it any more of a  horror to enslave someone else? He had over 200 slaves. Would 201 slaves be any more horrible?  Not to Lee. Remember, Lee insisted slavery was ordained by GOD and GOD would decide when to end slavery -- not man.

See more about Lee's letter, below.

 But give her credit. Pryor did get the information out, in a slick way.  It's almost as if Pryor was writing in a way that the Lee family and Virginia Historical Society approved (remember, she worked with both groups, they chose her, they allowed her access to the papers), but also in a way she could, in her own mind, tell herself she had done her duty as a "historian".   She had reported on the papers.   



It is uncontroverted, a matter of record,  revealed at the time, that Lee ordered his Army to capture all free blacks -- any blacks they could get their hands on -- during his invasion of Pennsylvania.   

He ordered those blacks brought South and sold at auction. Yes, he did.

Pryor of course knows that. We now teach that as "Confederates"  captured escaped slaves, if anyone teaches it at all.

But Lee ordered his soldier to grab all the black skinned people they could find, not escaped slaves. And the reporters at the time simply reported that.  No one thought Confederate soldiers did it without any orders.  Lee was the one in charge.  Lee did it. Not sorta, not kinda.  Lee had those people captured, taken South, and sold as slaves. 

Picture of Lee's soldiers gathering thousands of free blacks in the North during the Civil War-- taking them South for sale.

Lee did the same thing before the war, on much smaller scale, with bounty hunter. Only, Lee himself bought those slaves directly from bounty hunters.

So  Lee -- yes he did -- is the only person in US history to order his soldiers to grab civilians during war and turn them into slaves.  No one else did that. It was not the soldiers idea, it was Lee's idea.

And Lee had already done the same thing, in a smaller way, before the war, with bounty hunters.



Pryor is not out to shame Lee, or shock the nation -- she could have, just by reporting what she found in a candid way. 

Pryor does cover this -- very carefully. 

According to three newspapers at the time, Lee actually had a slave girl -- a small slave girl -- tortured.  The original overseer refused to whip her because she was so small.   Lee paid someone else to whip her.

Nor was this unusual -- torture of slaves for trying to escape was mandatory, according to Pryor. And Lee had dozens of slaves try to escape.  Pryor could have given us number and names, if she chose to, but she chose not to.

You have to give her credit for even admitting he had slaves and they tried to escape, and he had them whipped. No one ever hinted as such things in most Lee biographies.

 When you understand what an overseer does (he whips slaves)  you will understand just how vile this torture was. A man who regularly whipped slaves, refused to whip this girl.  Lee had her whipped anyway. 

By the way -- we will not call torture by euphemistic names such as "discipline"  when we know the exact nature of the torture.  In this case of the girl, Lee used several tortures on her, whipping was one.  But he also taunted her before and during her torture.  And also had her lashes rinsed with salt for extra punishment.

Yes, he did, according to witnesses.  Likely if he had her whipped another 40 lashes, she would not be worth much. It's likely therefore his salt torture was used to increase her pain, but keep her value.

He was not a kind slave owner. He was not a kind man.

Slave owners would have lost all their slaves very quickly if they did not use torture on those who tried to escape.   And many of Lee's slaves tried to escape, according to Pryor.

1) Essentially, what "historians" have told us simply is not based in fact.    

2)  Repeating myths do not make them true.

Alan Nolan said 25 years ago that we should "start over"  on Lee, because what we had was not scholarship, but hagiography  - basically repeating bullshit so often, it became accepted as history.

Nolan could have no idea how right he was. 

 He had not known what was in Lee's slave ledgers -- he did not know Lee's torture of slave girls, purchase of kidnapped women, etc etc.   And he has still not seen them.

Either has anyone else -- that we know of -- other than Pryor, at least not in a way they can be studied as she did.

Why not just make copies and release them to the public?

Because it would shock the hell out everyone who was fooled by the "Lee as against slavery" myth.



The "facts"  cited by Douglas Southall Freeman were not facts, but largely bits of flattery and wishful thinking that came 10 -30 years after his death, by authors who capitalized on Civil War books from 1880-1920.

Freeman's father "served"  with Lee, and Freeman was eager to praise all things Lee.  So he did. 

Freeman looked like a scholar. He wore the best spectacles of the day, the best clothes, and seemed to have unlimited information.   

But Freeman made up stuff, too, as you will see.  He got rid of everything horrible, or even bad, about Lee, and inserted fraudulent information, like the "Mack Lee" book.  See below. 

"Scholars" like Freeman treated these "adorational" authors as absolute truth.   If anything, Freeman added to the nonsense.  


 If someone wrote (idiotically) that Lee would stand silently or kneel with all his officers and pray during battle as bombs blew up around them,  Freeman would accept that nonsense as gospel.

No one during the war ever hinted that Lee knelt in silent prayer with all his officers doing the same, as bombs blew up around him.    But that is exactly the kind of thing that showed up 30  years later.  And Freeman used those kinds of books as gospel about Lee.

And he knew better.


Freeman knew damn well about Lee's torture of slave girls -- not an occasional torture (torture is the right word, go somewhere else for euphanisms).  As Pryor shows, in her gentle deceptive way, torture was common.  Several places Pryor tries to imply -- suggest -- torture was rare and Lee was not involved.   But she apparently had no way out in some paragraphs and actually validated by Lee's own hand written records that yes, he DID have slaves tortured and he used torture (she calls it discipline)  regularly.

As did his father. Lee's father had a slave girl actually hung when Lee was a child. Probably more than one - Pryor always gives a very cryptic version of events, like a good defense attorney.   Lee's father had her hung because she knocked down the man beating her.

Get this in your head.  Someone (probably Lee's own overseer, the man who whips slaves)  was beating this girl, and she knocked him down.

Lee had her hung.  

That is how Lee was raised. Remember that. He probably saw torture of the girls as a kindness.


Lee had slave girls whipped during peace time.

Lee also was in charge of thousands of slaves early in the Civil War, building earth works around Richmond. His life depended on getting these massive earth works finished quickly.

If you have small slave girls (she was very small) whipped during peace time....... what the hell do you think Lee had done to male slaves in wartime?

Pryor does not even hint at that -- but it's a fact. Lee regularly used torture (yes he did). Even on girls.  As you will see Lee wrote that pain "was necessary for their instruction"

 Why would he be kinder to male slaves in war time?


Freeman ignored Lee's dirty letters (yes, Lee wrote sexually explicit letters).   Freeman ignore Lee's torture of slave girls. He ignored every thing he cared to ignore, and worse, inserted fraudulent material he knew was fraudulent.

When you ignore all the vile things -- as Freeman did -- and insert your own BS -- as Freeman did, there is no other possible result. You necessarily create a God like figure.

Pryor never says that bluntly, but there is no way the "facts" presented by Freeman and others are remotely accurate. 

Either Lee had slave girls tortured- - while he taunted them -- or he did not.

Either Lee used other tortures on slave girls (and men) or he did not. 

 Either he bought and sold slaves, or he did not.  

Either he owned white looking slave girls, or he did not. 

Either slave rape was common, or it was not.

Pryor, though she wrote in a very careful way, tells us that Lee owned white looking girls. She tells us that rape was common.  She tells us that Lee used bounty hunters and paid them to capture women from the North.  She tells us that Lee's slaves said he was "the worst man" they  ever saw.  She tells us Lee justified the pain he inflicted upon slave girls as "necessary for their instruction".

Now, where would she get that information?

From Lee's own papers- that is what she was studying, his own papers.  His own words in his own handwriting, his own slave ledgers, and his own bounty hunter communications.


                                   YES YOU CAN 

 If Lee's own handwritten papers mean anything -- it means we need to start over on Lee.  And use his papers and own personal letters as the basis, not bs written later....

The amazing thing about Pryor is -- how well she danced. She danced all around the tortures. She danced around the kidnapped women.  She danced around the white looking slaves. Not just mulatto -- remember this -- Lee had slaves, including female slaves, that apparently passed for white.

Pryor mentions that as if it was a trivial detail -- hardly worth mention.  She could have showed up the slave girls name -- the white looking one.  She could have given us the name of the slave's mother. 

She could have showed us what Lee did to the mother. 

Did he keep the mother and child together?  But whatever the facts were -- tell us. 


Mostly, release the papers to the public.  Members of the public were killed by Lee, others were tortured, others were enslaved, by and because of Robert E Lee.  Stop the bullshit, release the papers.

Do not wait another 150 years. Do not keep the public stupid another 150 years. The people Lee tortured, the men Lee had killed, the women he bought from bounty hunters, deserve the truth.

Lee did not deserve to be adored. The truth deserves to be told. 


Though Lee's sex life is not so different from other men's, "historians" have claimed Lee was not only "chaste"  but he was "the most chaste". 

In fact, Lee's "definitive" biographer listed 4 column's of qualities, like chase, tidy, kind, punctual, faithful, etc etc.  Then sought to "prove" Lee was the most amazing human at each of those qualities.

Chaste? Uh -- not so much.

Lee' letters -- how do I put this -- he wrote dirty letters. And he did it for decades.  To women that were not his wife.  Not x rated, but Lee would, Pryor artfully tells us "joked" about sexual things. He even bragged to a woman about his son's sexual ability.

Do you write to women (or men) over decades and include information about sex tricks?    It defies common sense to insist Lee had no sexual connection to these women, to be that suggestive in his correspondence.

Pryor says "there is no evidence"  Lee did more than write such thing -- and for the white men who fathered white looking children from slave rape, there is "no evidence"  Pryor insists, that Lee would do such a thing.  

What kind of evidence does she need?  Someone white at Arlington was raping slave women. Slave rape, Pryor tells us (as others have told us) was common, even at Arlington.

Where do we think the white looking children came from?  Casper?


Lee was in a vile, and cruel business.  What's more, Lee was an especially cruel -- not a kind -- slave owner. He had seen his father hang a slave girl in his youth, or knew about it, and he was raised to see the torture of slaves as something that was their fault.

Slavery, Lee wrote, was Godly, a "spiritual" blessing to slaves.  Pain is "necessary for their instruction". 

Lee used pain - and used it often, if his papers are any indication.  Pryor does her best to soften the blow.  She writes, for example, that Lee had whipping posts installed "as a silent reminder" to the slaves.

Silent?  Really?  A lot of screaming and crying went on -- and Lee ordered every slave tortured, to be tortured, (torture is the right word, go somewhere else for euphamisms).  And we know Lee even taunted slaves before they were tortured, and screamed at them during their torture.

Yes -- Lee.



We have always known about the tortures at Arlington.

People alive at the time, even whites at Arlington, would be astonished if they saw history books 100 years hence claiming Lee did not own slaves, or was kind to his "servants".

As Pryor shows, Lee was a cruel slaver, and his slaves said he "was the worst man we ever seen".

Think about that -- the worst man we ever seen (sic).

We know from newspaper accounts at the time that Lee yelled at a slave girl as he had her tortured. Yes, he did.  And Pryor, though she bends over backwards to defend Lee, and insists Lee had "every right"  to "protect his property."

Pryor did what no one else dared do -- other historians have long known about the overlapping reports of Lee's tortures - his torture of slave girls.  But Pryor, to her everlasting credit, has documented that those newspapers were filled with details -- details that line up nearly perfectly with Lee's own details in his own slave ledgers.




Pryor was not about to show us the slave ledgers -- she called them "monthly account books".  

Nor would she show the letters to and from bounty hunters.  She had his slave ledgers, she had the letters to and from bounty hunters, she even had in her hands some of this sexually explicit letters he wrote to various women for decades, even after marriage.  

Pryor should have, and could have showed the slave ledgers and actual letters to and from bounty hunters.


Instead, Pryor takes a peak at the awful documents, then tells us,  in language cleaned up, all the horrors and tortures nicely described cleverly as she can clean them up.   But give her everlasting credit -- she did do what no one else dared, no one else even hinted at. Lee's torture of slave girls, his purchase of kidnapped women,  his almost unbelievable personal cruelty.



 Readers of "Reading the Man"  are at the mercy of Pryor's narrative, in which she actually blames the slaves and portrays Lee the victim of slavery.   And she must.  She had to come to a "fork in the road" and decide how to handle this material.  She handled it by taking Lee's side -- probably a wise move, since would the Lee family and Virgnia Historical Society (they gave her permission and access to the actual documents)  no doubt would frown on showing Lee in a horrible light.  

Lee himself used that narrative-- that he was doing God's will, and the slaves should have been more grateful. 




To be fair to Lee, this was standard operating procedure. Slave owners widely, if not universally, claimed to each other and to themselves, they were doing the will of God. 

 God "knew and intended"  slaves to feel "painful discipline"   Slaves MUST endure painful discipline, wrote Lee. 

The Lee's, like all slave owners, like everyone in human history who commits vile acts,  must rationalize it in their own minds.  So they did, it's human nature.

Not only did Lee and others rationalize it, Pryor adopts essentially the same cognitive dissonance in her treatment of Lee's tortures.  It wasn't torture, it was "a silent whipping post"  or "discipline"  and then Pryor quickly suggests Lee had "every right to protect his property".

Yes, torturing slave girls was his way to protect his property according to Pryor. And in his mind, it was.  In Pryor's artful prose, she side steps bluntly saying the girls deserve to be whipped, but essentially that woven is her narrative.

She never blames Lee.


 We can not be smug today about slave owners then.  For one thing, if you were raised as Lee was -- and if your wealth and status came from slaves, you would likely do just as he did, if not worse.

Virtually everyone rich, everyone with high status in the South when Lee was born, up to the Civil War, had something to do with slavery.

The fact the South culture rewarded slave owners -- the more slaves you had, the more status you had -- doomed the South.   Slavery was all about violence. No matter what you might have heard, slavery was violence made normal.  Slaves who rebelled were not only tortured, but burned to death at times.

Slaves who dared even touch a white person in anger could be, and were hung. Lee's father had a girl hung for beating her.   She dared to knock down the man beating her, and for that, she was hung.

Slavery required that kind of violence. No, you did not have to be violent to every slave.   But if a slave tried to escape, or resisted working, torture was the remedy.  The torture included gouging out eyes, taking your children, hanging you upside down for days and be whipped, tied in hot boxes, the list is endless.

That is the "culture" of slavery.   By sanitizing Lee, we sanitized slavery itself.

So called "historians"  will readily admit slavery was wrong, but they sure as hell won't tell the detail of men like Lee, and their tortures, and just how vile they were.

Lee's family was no exception.  His father was actually more of a con artist -- he would sell slaves, help them escape, then sell them again, for example.

Lee's father was beaten almost to death, wax poured in his eyes by men he had cheated. He lost all his "fortune"  -- fortune gained by foul means.

Lee after that was desperate to regain the family status. And slavery was how you did that, in Lee's world.  

Southern leaders boasted, Southern writers boasted, of how slavery was "of God" because it was slave owners who were prosperous, wealthy.   See James Debow boasting that the wealth of slave owners, and rapid way slavery made men wealthy, was a sure sign of God's approval of slavery. 

Slave power -- the wealthy -- controlled everything. And Lee, after marrying into the Custis family and getting control of the largest slave plantation in  the South (and therefore, in the US)  instantly became wealthy. 


Lee took repeated leaves from the military to "manage affairs" at the "plantation"

Pryor claims Lee did so by "growing crops" and planting this or that crop. She adds, as if it's a trivial thing, Lee had to manage the slaves.

Arlington was increasingly unprofitable, and Lee changed that -- by what he did to SLAVES.  Sell this one, torture that one, separate this mother from that child, and the rest get the picture.  You don't "manage" slaves by increasing their wages and giving them a 401K.

You manage slaves by violence, and the threat of it.

Lee did that, with all the ability he had, knowing, as he did, that violence was a way to get slaves into line. Pain was necessary, he wrote, for their instruction.


Pryor does defend or excuse Lee in every way possible, she bends every page, if not every paragraph and sentence, to deflect blame.  Mostly she does this by euphemism, but she also is coy. Coy - and deliberately so -- to write in a way that you often do not realize she is talking about Lee himself.

See below. Pryor did claim that "WHITES were increasingly enslaving other whites".  

She means LEE. Lee increasingly enslaved whites, or light skinned blacks.  See more below.

That means Lee enslaved white looking women.

That means Lee enslaved whites.

And from his own hand written records and comments, some of those could pass for white.

If you can pass for white, you are white.   And Pryor of course knew that.  She passed for white. 


Did Lee have the girl whipped if she displayed too much grief or did not work fast enough?  As you will see, Lee's prefered method of "discipline" (we call it torture) was the whip.  But he had other physical tortures, too.

Think about that. Lee has various physical tortures he used on slave girls. 

And one of the tortures (punishment), used by Lee and other slave owners, was to sell or otherwise separate the mother from her child.  Pryor even mentions, as carefully as she can, that Lee would do that more than others, not less.

Think about this, too. Pryor had to have information in her own hands -- in Lee's personal hand written papers - that gave her that impression.

How do we know?  Because her book is about Lee's personal papers.   

Pryor's favorite "trick" to tell of a Lee "horror"  is to seem to indicate something (like rape or brutal torture) was something other slave owners did. But she was writing about Lee.   She was not writing about slavery in general.  She seemed to bend over backwards to misdirect her reader in various ways, so she did not make it clear.  Lee's tortures, Lee's bounty hunters, Lee's dirty letters.  She had the evidence or the documents in her own hand, that Lee himself created or at least saw, and read.



"Whites were increasingly enslaving other whites"  Elizabeth Pryor....  she was talking about Lee. 

Long forgotten as a matter of interest, but quite the topic at the time -- refered to in the Lincoln Douglas debates, and in numerous writings at the time, including Lee's own letters.

What to do with the white looking women?


Pryor is, above all, a Lee apologist.   But unlike all others before her, Pryor did not completely omit the horrors.  Instead, she used double speak and euphemism so deftly, if there were an Orwellian prize, or an Understatement prize,she would win it.

Her purpose was not to slay Lee -- but to keep his halo upon  his head.  


But most astonishing of all -- what was Lee's relationship with the light skinned girls. We know from overlapping first hand reports that light skinned girls sold for higher prices, and ended up at times in New Orleans whore houses.

Pryor does not imply that Lee did sell girls to whore houses.  But when you sell slave girls at auction, the girls leave with whoever paid the most for them. Rape was "common"  even at Arlington, Pryor deftly posits.  Indeed, it had to be, because the slave's in Lee's posession were mostly mulatto.  Let that sink in.

Lee, according to Pryor who had the records in her hands, had over 50% light or lighter skinned slaves.  No one ever even hinted anything like this.  But Pryor puts it out there, as cleverly as she could.

It's time we got to see those slave ledgers. 


Obviously, there is no way to see Lee at a slave auction.

But we could read Lee's letters to his bounty hunters.

And we could read Lee's slave ledgers.   In fact the Lee family recently allowed one person, Elizabeth Pryor, to study Lee's letters to bounty hunters, Lee's slave ledgers, and dozens of other documents that have been carefully kept from public view.

Pryor was allowed to actually study Lee's documents, in his own hand, at length.  But she can not allow us access.   She died on April 15,  2015, in a car accident in Richmond.

Only the Lee family can present them to the public.  There is a reason the Lee family won't just release the documents, like so many other documents from other Civil War leaders were published. Lee's papers were not.

It might take the Lee family  another 150 years to let anyone else see them, in total, for an extended period of time, as Pryor was allowed.

You are about to find out why. 


You can, and many have, read Pryor's book and not been shocked at what Pryor found.   She writes in a "careful"  and precise way.  Her goal was not to shock anyone.  

Pryor was a "Lee devotee" - and while no doubt she was stunned at some of the letters and Lee's instructions and purchases, she worked with and for both the Lee family and Virginia Historical Society.   

Both of the those groups exists largely to praise Robert E Lee and further the myths about him.   It is not surprising that Pryor was deliberate and gentle with some of the information -- such as white looking slave girls, and tortures that Lee not only ordered, but watched as the girls were whipped.

The surprising thing - that she mentioned these things at all.


According to Robert E. Lee's own slave ledgers, in his own hand writing, Lee paid drastically higher prices to his bounty hunters to capture girls about 14 years old. 

 Six hundred percent higher.

Now, why would Lee do such a thing?  


Things may  get very very interesting.

Elizabeth Pryor wrote an amazing book about Lee's "private papers". 

Historians were aware of the two trunks of Lee papers that the Lee family still held, but did not let the public see for over 150 years.

 Those same historians assumed (wrongly) that the papers would simply validate the "scholarship" of those who adored Lee, and claimed he not only had no slaves, but was against slavery.

Uh -- not so much.


Make no mistake -- Pryor is on Lee's side. In every torture, every purchase of kidnapped women, every bounty hunter, Pryor is firmly, resolutely on Lee's side.

She is not out to trash Lee. Quite the opposite.  Her skill is this -- to tell us the "horrors" (and she calls them horrors)   but tell us in a way that essentially removes as much clarity and as much blame as she can.


Pryor  does so with sometimes laughably absurd prose, like this

 "The slaves did not completely agree with Lee's theory of labor management". 

   You can't beat that one.  Go ahead, try.  The slaves did not completely agree with Lee's theory of labor management.  As if the slaves were in a Union and Lee was the agent for the business employing them.

  Lee's theory of labor management, was simple. Violence - as you will see. 

This is especially once you learn Lee's slaves said he was "the worst man we ever seen."   Pryor tells you that, carefully,  that Lee's slaves hated and feared him, and dozens, perhaps over 100, tried to escape. 

Pryor even showed this picture of one of Lee's slave girls.  But she did not make it a "big deal"  that Lee owner her and other white looking slaves.  She could have named the chapter "Lee owned white looking girls" -- but that was not her style.

She did write this clever sentence -- "Whites were increasingly enslaving other whites"   She did not make it clear in that paragraph, and that page, that she was talking about Robert E Lee -- but read her entire chapter in context.  That is exactly who she was talking about, because she admitted elsewhere that Lee had drastically higher percentage of mulatto slaves.  She also artfully mentioned, as if it were a trivial detail, that white looking girls tried to escape -- because of the seven slaves one bounty hunter was looking for, at least one was white enough to pass for white.

By the way, if you look white, you ARE white.   So Lee literally had white slaves, you can play word games all you like, but he did. 

Pryor could have -- and should have - given us a list of escaped slaves, the dates, and the prices Lee paid to get each one back, if he did get them back.

She should have -- could have -- also given us a list of light or white looking slaves.  

Here is a news article during the Civil War -- not about Lee, but about white girls being slaves, freed from slavery when someone bought them at auction in order to free the white girls.  This was in Harper's Weekly, 1863.

In fact, white slave girls were "a thing" -- and documented cases where white slaves were sold, almost always they were the children of darker slave women, raped by someone, often the owner.


No one told you this -- but the "complexion" of slave girls was actually an issue in the Lincoln Douglas debates.   White children born from black women -- mulatto.   Some mulattoes were so light skinned, they passed for white.

In fact, light skinned women, who could pass for white but were born to slave women, sold well.   And they were sold to men who put them to work -- as slaves -- in whore houses.  No one told you that, either.

Pryor could have told and your teacher should have told you these ugly things -- but no one is surprised to hear that black women were sold to men running whore houses.   Why is it more vile that white looking women were sold, too.

You did not just look at a slave baby, white or light skinned color, and go "Okay, they are too light skinned to be slaves, let them go".

Douglas insisted one reason Lincoln was dangerous is that he "wanted your daughters to sleep with Niggers" .  

Race mixing -- white women sleeping with "Niggers" (Yes Douglas used term "Nigger" and with special venom in his voice) was a major issue not just in the Lincoln Douglas debates, but in the US generally.

Lincoln spoke too, of the vile logic of skin color to enslave. What if you met someone with lighter skin than you, is it okay to enslave you?


Lincoln responded to Douglas charge that Lincoln wanted your daughter to sleep with "Niggers"  and for race mixing in various ways.

Lincoln responded, essentially, that if race mixing is so awful, then that is an argument against slavery because race mixing was much more common in slave states.  Douglas would never bother to respond to that, there was no response. Douglas would just pump up the idea your daughters will "sleep with Niggers". 

And "race mixing"  -- a euphemism for rape of slave women -- happened at Lee's slave plantation.  And apparently it was rather common, since over half of the slaves there were mulatto. 

No one ever told you that, did they? Pryor did, but in a very unalarming way that she was so practiced at doing.

Pryor even tells us an astonishing fact, in her usual disarming way. Over half -- over 50% -- of Lee's slaves were mulatto.  Mulatto means less than very dark skinned.  How light were they? How many light skinned were women?

Of course, enslaving, torturing, and raping black women is no more vile and evil than doing the same to white women.   Pryor's only outrage apparent in her entire book was the sentence "Whites were increasingly enslaving other whites"

What do you do with such babies?   Such young women?  Free them? No, that did not happen. You kept them as slaves or sold them. In fact, very light skinned slaves could be and were sold to whore houses, by way of auctions.   Whoever bid the highest, got the girl, regardless of complexion.

The "problem"

 Lee owned her.  And he owned other light skinned girls.  This was not that uncommon by 1860, because slaves (as Pryor admits) were raped.   Those rapes sometimes resulted in birth of white looking slave girls, and those girls were raped.

They were not released, they were kept as slaves.

Pryor could have detailed all that,  and in a way, she did, but her way of telling you that was very clever. Never blame Lee.  Never put his name in that paragraph, or that page even, when discussing such things. You can easily assume Lee was above all that.

Pryor says "there is no evidence"  that Lee ever participated in such things.  Clever.  There is plenty of evidence Lee paid far higher prices for certain girls, and that he had them tortured.  

Consider this,  a man who would pay so much extra for certain girls, who would torture them, who would actually scream and taunt the slaves as they were whipped, what on earth would this man NOT do. By enslaving and torturing and terrorizing the girls, he had already transgressed far beyond rape.

In other words, Lee did what he wanted with those girls. 


Turning free people into black slaves

During the Civil War, Lee's men -- on Lee's order - rounded up IN THE NORTH, hundreds  of free blacks, beat them, chained them, and took them South to be sold as slaves.   This is not even in dispute whatsoever.

It was reported candidly at the time.  However over the years, Lee's name was removed, and the false idea inserted that these were escaped slaves.   No,it did not matter one iota to Lee or his soldiers if the blacks they captured had once been slaves or not.   Any black person they could find, they violently kidnapped and took to the South. 

Pryor could very likely tell you if Lee got the money for those blacks sold at auction.

As you will find out, Lee did this before the war, too, only he used bounty hunters.   Bounty hunters caught free blacks in the North, too.  Including black children, blacks born in the North that had never been slaves until they were captured and taken South.   Lee was one of the men that bought such humans.   Remember this -- they WERE NOT SLAVES until Lee got his hands on them




Pryor does admit he had many escaped slaves- - why not give us a number?  She does carefully and casually admit that seven slaves escaped at one time, and one was a light skinned girl.  How light skinned- - one of his white looking slave girls?

Yes, Lee had white looking slaves.

and that Lee regularly used torture -- and various kinds of torture. Not just the whip, but chemical torture (salt on wounds)  and psychological terror-- selling the child away from the mother as punishment.

Lee's biggest problem was run away slaves.  You will see that if you read Pryor's words carefully.  Lee had multiple slave escapes regularly.  Why?  Pryor cleverly suggest it was because of the dispute over the will that gave them their freedom.  But Lee was a cruel man, and slave women were raped there.  Rape was "common"  at Arlington, and Pryor tells us that, too.

Rape common. Torture -- common. Lee the "worst man they ever saw."

Lee hope sick slaves would "die quickly".

 Chemical torture. Psychological terror.   Pryor wont put that in one page, not even in one chapter.  But it's there, and it was at Arlington, and it was done at Lee's order.

Lee was not a noble or caring man -- and he was his father's son.  Lee's father, as you will see, had slave girl hung for knocking down a man who was beating her.

Did Lee's father have her whipped first?  Lee had slave girls whipped.  What did Lee's father to the girl before he hung her?

Pryor could have told us much more of the details -- she had them in her hand.



Pryor  would not even call the slave ledgers by name -- slave ledgers.  She named them only once, dancing around candid facts and using her significant rhetorical skills to make you unaware, at most times, she was talking about Lee's slave ledgers and dirty letters, and letters to and from bounty hunters.

But she got the information from those documents -- why not candidly say so?  That would be too caustic, too much truth. Too much candor. 

 She called the slave ledgers "Monthly Account books".

Uh, they were slave ledgers, and she damn well knew it.

Rape was common, and she damn well knew it.

Lee was cruel, and she damn well knew it.   But it was her job, her goal, her task, to tell you as much as she dared, without scaring the living hell out of Virginia Historical Society. Pryor worked with, and got the approval of, Virginia Historical Society.   The only way she could do that was by euphemism. Not just euphemism but with heavy doses of misdirection and obfuscation.

But tell us, she did, like no one before.



The Union Army made a huge mistake at the end of the Civil War.  They gave back to the Lee family all the possessions taken from Arlington -- that they had carefully packed away four  years before.

And the US government paid the Lee family for the estate -- never mind that slaves built it, slaves were tortured to work there, and Lee didn't own it anyway -- his wife did. Lee's family got the money.  The slaves got nothing. 


In the possessions was Lee's slave ledgers. Also, letters to and from bounty hunters.

Bounty hunter letters?   Slave ledgers?

Yes, and more. Including sexually explicit letters Lee wrote to and from women for decades -- even after his marriage, and even after the Civil War- - Lee wrote to various women in a sexually explicit way.   He wrote about sexual tricks and boasted of his son's sexual ability.

How often have you wrote such letters to anyone, much less to someone you had not be sexual with?    Lee wrote these letters to WOMEN after he was married.

Yet we are told by Lee's famous biographers he was "the most chaste"  man.   Bullshit.  Total bullshit. 



Had the Union Army kept the slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters, and put them on display, US history since then might have been much different.

But if anyone did read Lee's ledgers then, it would not have been a surprise at all. Very typical stuff, other than the torture of Lee's slaves so young and small, the regular overseer refused. So Lee hired a nearby bounty hunter to whip her -- that was unusual.

  Lee never claimed to be against slavery (see below).  Buying and selling slave children was what slave owners did.  Whipping slaves was how you kept slaves from disobeying. Lee defended the torture (pain) inflicted on slaves. He claimed God "knew and intended"  slaves endure "painful discipline".

Pain was "necessary for their instruction"  he wrote to his wife. 

 Lee's men, during the Civil War, rounding up thousands of blacks
from the North,

He ordered them captured, taken South, and sold slaves. This was reported at the time, and is not in doubt. Lee was not ashamed. 



When you know of his torture (that's the right word, torture) Lee's defense of torture as a Godly thing is all the more sinister. 

 Lee was by no means unique, the torture of slaves was biblical, and people were taught that then.  

That is how he was raised. Pryor tells of Lee's dad having a slave girl hung for knocking down a white man. The white man was beating her -- she knocked him down.

Lee's father had the girl hung.

Let me repeat that. Lee's father had her hung.

And Lee's "religious"  belief was very much into slavery and torture. See the Southern book "Slavery Ordained by God"  by Pastor Ross, boasting that torture is biblical and proving it to be so by repeated biblical quotes. 

Why not capture blacks in the North?  God ordained it, right? What's the difference scripturally?   If you can tie girls up to be whipped that you owned, and God ordains that, there is no logical reason  the same authority for the torture applies to blacks your bounty hunter captures, where ever that may be.

As the story is retold and white washed, the story was changed - to "Confederates" did this, with no mention of Lee, the guy who ordered it.  Then they added "escaped slaves" were captured, and no mention that they were sold as slaves in the South.

No mention now that these were blacks living in the North  -- free people, as free as you and I. They were captured, and chained, taken South, and sold.

On order of Robert E Lee.

Lee did the same thing -- before the war -- using bounty hunters.

Pryor artfully tells us this, in a way that she painstakingly writes so that you never know exactly that it's Lee doing it, Lee causing it, Lee paying folks to do this.   There are a thousand ways to tell you things -- Pryor uses the way least likely to make you aware of what Lee actually did.

But still, Pryor  at least mentions things, in however clever and euphemistic way, that others would not dare mention, even if they knew.  


Not only was Pryor allowed to see, hold and study the slave ledgers and dirty letters, and the bounty hunter letters, she was able to study them  at lenght, for weeks on end.

No doubt Pryor was able to get large banquet tables, and spread out Lee's slave ledgers, get other documents like his letters to bounty hunters next to the slave ledgers, and then compare known newspaper accounts about Lee's tortures. 

In other words, she put together all the information she could from Lee's own handwritten documents, they relayed it to the public, but is ways that did not shock, did not assign blame.

In fact, Pryor was quite on Lee's side. She even blamed the slaves for trying to escape. Lee had, she wrote "every right to protect his property".   Apparently the slave girls -- no matter what happened- - had no right to try to escape.





There are books - sold not long after the Civil War -- filled with stuff like this below.  Utter nonsense -- completely false.   Praying during battle, all officers off their horses, remove hats, and pray silently with Lee.

In the midst of exploding bombs,  they stood at attention, and prayed???

Now - get this -- the author of that bullshit, Cooke, is so accepted today, that they give "Cooke Awards"  for those who find crap in such books and publish them again now. 

No one is stupid enough to day to believe Lee and all his officers got off horses as bombs blew up around them and stood in silent prayer.  No one said such shit at the time, either, and Lee was never IN the middle of explosions anyway, he was "well in the rear" according to Longstreet.

But the other things found in these books -- equally as valid, make up by the same liars, is for some reason accepted as gospel.

WHy not believe Lee's own letters about torture? Why not believe his own slave ledgers? Instead we rely for information from people making up pure bullshit 10 -40 years after his death.

That is how valid Lee scholarship is. 

No one said such shit at the time -- yet 10 and 20 years later, this kind of nonsense sold millions of copies.

And we use many of those bullshit books as the basis for what we teach about Lee and Southern leaders.

Lee during battle, with all his officers, as bombs burst around him,  take a knee and silently pray.

Now, nothing like this ever happened, at least was never reported during the war, for several reasons 

    1) It's insane.  
   2) Lee was always "well in the rear" said Longstreet, never in battle.  
    3) Lee never said such nonsense, nor did anyone else say it then, or even make up such goofy things, till after Lee's death.

Yet these books -- goofy as hell, page after page of nonsense, are what we use now to PROVE how great Lee was.

One author, trying to outdo all others, insisted Lee "now sits at the right hand of Christ his Lord".  

No, the outlandishly goofy stuff like Lee sits next to Christ is not taught in schools.  But much of the same nonsense is in books from 1870-1930, and we now teach much of that, just not the obviously bullshit ones. The same authors made the stuff up.

It was not some conspiracy -- it's natural to flatter the men you are told were heroic.  And the books sold well.  There is even RIGHT NOW an award given, the Cooke Award, for any author that makes up or finds more crazy made up stuff in these old books.

Remember, it's book like these that give us so much of the "proof" that Lee was some kind of religious zealot (he was not) and against slavery (he was pro slavery) and kind to his servants (Lee was an especially cruel man).


Pryor could -- and did -- compare the slave ledgers for dates, amounts of money Lee paid, to who he paid, to other documents, like letters Lee wrote about the slave girls, and to/from Lee's wife or bounty hunters. 

She could get about as clear a picture as possible -- but she was not about to give you that clear picture.  That was never her goal.

No one ever did that before -- no one even guessed that Lee regularly (yes, regularly) had slave girls tortured for trying to escape.

No one ever -- before Pryor -- had evidence in Lee's own handwriting that he paid bounty hunters to capture women in the North that were not slaves until Lee bought them.

Let me repeat that -- Lee bought women from bounty hunters that were not slaves until Lee bought them.  Women who lived in the North and were black.   See how cleverly Pryor tells us of the "others" that Lee paid for. His  bounty hunters brought captured slaves back, and "others". 

Very clever.  Pryor would have to see the names in the Lee's hand writing, something very clear in his ledgers. Women's names and prices paid for "others"  that were not anyone's slaves until he bought them. 

Lee, therefore, is the only person in US military history to create slaves from the women his men captured, and that too happened, during the Civil War. Lee ordered his men to capture all available blacks, men women and children, in the North during his Pennsylvania campaign.   He did not care if they were former slaves or not. Those humans were chained, taken South, and sold into slavery. That is not even in dispute, it is just not taught anywhere.

Very little of what Lee was really like is taught anywh


To me this is far more important than Lee's actions at Gettysburg. We should teach that Lee ordered the capture of free blacks and turned them into slaves- - because he did.

He did this before the CiviL War with bounty hunters.

He did it with his soldiers during the Civil War.

Still think Lee was against slavery?  Really? 

We need to see Lee's actual slave ledgers to get the details.  Now you see why Lee family only let one person see the slave ledgers to study them, and why Pryor had to be very artful in how she related that information in her book.


No one at the time claimed Lee was anti- slavery. In fact newspapers reported Lee was especially cruel, and had slave girls tortured. Lee's own handwritten slave ledgers and letters confirm those newspaper reports.

Pryor herself -- remember, she adores Lee-- studied the actual slave ledgers that Lee himself wrote.   If you want one take away from Pryor's very cleverly written book, it is that Pryor confirms the newspaper reports of Lee's amazing cruelty (far more cruel than most wealthy slave owners) by what Lee himself wrote.

He wrote it in letters to bounty hunters.

He wrote it in his own slave ledgers.

In his own handwriting. 

That's pretty reliable information. 


 If you are like me, you believed all you ever read about Robert E Lee.  In fact, my grandfather, James Edward Lee, came from Virginia and was in the "Lee family"  though there were so many James Edward Lee's running around, no one could tell for sure how connected we were to the man. 

We are related to Lee, like most people. Half of Virginia (even blacks, with reason) can claim to be genetically connected to Lee. 

 So as a young and stupid man, I thought it was nice to learn the Lee (myth) of honor and bravery in our family.  Why would historians lie about that?

  But honor and bravery might not be the best, or even honest, way to describe Lee.  To find the right "narrative" of Lee -- you need the facts.

And so far, we do not have them in a clear way.

We might have enough facts to create a valid narrative for Lee -- if the Lee family would release the slave ledgers, bounty hunters and letters they let Pryor study for months.   Why on earth not just release them?   



Did not our teachers insist Southern leaders were men of principle?  Do they not have state holidays and schools named after him?

 More people know the name of Lee's pet chicken (Pearl) than know the names of any of the slave girls he bought. And buying slaves was one of the least vile things Lee did.

It's time we learned the facts of Lee's letters, slave ledgers, and what they really show about him, and the world he lived in. 

 You can always take a few words here, and there, and make cruel men sound lovely, and lovely men sound cruel.  We all know that, or should.

So just because Lee wrote that  blacks must endure painful discipline, and just because  he wrote that pain is necessary for their instruction, does NOT mean he screamed at slave girls as he had them tortured. 

But combine the eye witness accounts, statements by slaves and ex slaves, and add those to Lee's amazing defense of slave torture --  and it's only cult members or fools that can still insist Lee had no slaves, or was against slavery, or was not a cruel man. 

So -- how did all these present day "scholars" get to the point of declaring Lee a man of uncommon kindness, who was against slavery, etc etc?

Not that confusing.  After Lee's death, writers glorified Southern leaders -- it was big business to sell such books. They actually competed to be more "adorational" of men like Lee.  It is largely in these books, written by men who never met Lee, but were the "Fake news" of the 1880's- to 1930's. 

Many of the quotes supposedly by Lee that we believe today, are from those books.  

The actual physical record of Lee's life - particularly his own sexually explicit letters, his letters to and from bounty hunters, and his slave ledgers show a drastically different man.  He hated his slaves, tortured (torture is the right word, we won't use euphemism)  and grew rich not on selling plants -- he did not have a vegitable garden. Lee's product was human flesh.  That is the biggest single thing "historians" refuse to state clearly. Lee sold and rented out human beings.

He sold children. He separated mothers from their children, and did so, apparently, as punishment on top of the torture.



Lee wrote dozens of letters to his wife, but idiotically  one is used to "prove" Lee was against slavery.

Read that letter more closely.  

Lee had to explain -- so he did -- why he had the slave girls whipped (tortured is the right word).  He responded that it was "Divine Providence" (God) that put slaves in our hands, and pain is "necessary for their instructions". 

Lee -- and the other slave owners -- were justified to torture the slaves because of the bible. And Lee was right, there is ample and repeated biblical passages about torture of slaves, including torturing them for no apparent reason, and to torture them to death, if they do not die right away, but die later. 

One reason we dare not teach the truth about men like Lee and other slavers, is that they defended it all by the bible. To expose Lee and others, you have to deal with their defense of torture and slavery in the bible.

That's not going to be taught, certainly not in the bible belt. 

More details about the girls (plural) that Lee had whipped.  And much more, below.....


 You are about to learn why they did not let the public see them.


Some of the letters and "account books" might seem to validate what we already thought we know about Lee.

But others-- not so much.

Those letters, as you will see, include slave ledgers,  letters to and from bounty hunters, and even sexually explicit letters Lee wrote to various women for decades,  even after the Civil War. 

Pryor won't show us the papers -- she should, but clearly her job was this:  to tell us "kinda sorta"  what is in there, without causing traffic jams and and riots in and around Richmond.  

Pryor worked literally side by side with the Lee family, and Virginia Historical society, and apparently they decided how blunt she could be -- and that she not show any thing, and quote very carefully if at all.

Pryor refuses to, as you will see, even mention the term "slave ledger".  She refers exactly once to a document as a "monthly account book" -- but they are monthly slave ledgers, in Lee's own fine hand. He recorded much, in great detail, because Pryor can, if she chooses, tell us what prices he paid for or received for which slave.  How much he paid which bounty hunter, and for which slaves (or others) the bounty hunters brought to Lee, and which they could not catch.

It's not surprising Pryor  was very careful how candid she was, and what terms she used.  She was, after all, a devotee of Lee, and of course worked with the Lee family.

What is surprising is -- given the horrors (and she called them horrors) in Lee's letters, that she was able to be as forthcoming factually as she was.   Yes, she used Orwellian double speak and almost comical euphemism, but still she included information about torture, rape, Lee's sexual letters, and the stunning brutality and psychological terror Lee not only used personally, but paid others to use, as he watched.

Pryor could have written any of these facts in 1000 or more ways..... she chose, almost every time, to write them in a way that excused Lee, minimized his blame, and made it difficult for the reader (but not impossible) to know what she was actually talking about.

But -- at least she got the information in. Now, we need to see those slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters with her and the Lee family filter of a stunningly clever diplomat and writer, the now diseased Elizabeth Brown Pryor.



"What we have here, is a failure to communicate."

Lee was not mean, he just had "poor cross-cultural communication skills" 

This would be hilarious way to excuse Lee, if the topic was not torture of girls so small (yes so small) the regular overseer refused to whip one of Lee's slave girls, so Lee paid a bounty hunter nearby to whip the girls (see below.) 

Pryor called it discipline and actually blamed the slaves, much as Lee himself did (and every slave owner, of course, blamed the slaves).  


Pryor has passed on now, in a traffic accident not far from  Arlington, so it's impossible to know if she ever saw the film "Cool Hand Luke"  where Paul Newman is tortured for making a small mistake on a chain gang.   

Only, of course Paul never was whipped, but the slave girls were.  And Newman was struck exactly twice -- the young girl, according to reports,was whipped with 20 lashes, and Lee yelled to "hit her harder"  according to reports.

Then, Lee had other tortures applied to her.   She was not the only one whipped -- Lee had perhaps over 50 slaves try to escape, as you will see.  

Lee's records were so detailed that, if Pryor wanted to, she could have told us the names of every escaped slave, the price Lee paid to have them caught, and all expenses associated with the capture.  She knew, for example, which jail houses Lee had to pay to store the slaves in while they awaited transfer, and which bounty hunter he paid, and how much.

Why not show us the pages?  Why not make a list -- as Lee did in the papers Pryor held in her own hands -- for the the names and prices?

The answer is -- Pryor was not out to trash Lee, not out to even remove the halo from his head.  Her goal -- the title reveals it - is to give a "Portrait" of Lee. A portrait is a flattering as possible likeness. 


In the famous letter to his wife, often idiotically used by "history teachers"  to prove Lee was against slavery, is actually a profound defense on not just slavery, but torture and pain for blacks. But you would need to read the entire letter, and know factually what Lee was doing to slaves.

Lee wrote that pain is "necessary for their instruction" and that slaves must endure painful discipline. It was not up for us to question God -- it might take him 2000 years to "instruct" the slaves to make them worthy of freedom.

Lee was very much typical -- he used the same excuses others did.  Humans must excuse and justify their cruelty, and using GOD as the excuse is a time honored and effective way, because it fools stupid people better than anything else.


Pryor tries so hard to give Lee cover -- he was raised that way, and the slaves, she suggested, did not appreciate all Lee did for them (you can't make this up)  Lee gave them his old clothes, she said.  What more could they want?

She did not want to paint Lee as vengful or hateful, but the was, if his actions matter. He not only had slave girls whipped, she hows in clever prose that Lee would separate mothers from children as punishment.   Not just torture, but if you were not up to Lee's demands, you could lose your mother or child.   

But Pryor wants you to think Lee just had "poor cross cultural communication skills"  As if he had just spoken in ebonics and convinced the slaves not to escape, they would not have been tortured.  



Pryor consistently minimizes, glosses over, normalizes and takes Lee side in everything that  happene -- the bounty hunters, the capture of free women living in the North, the tortures -- except the rapes.   Pryor seemed geniuenly upset at times, about the rapes.

Yes, rapes. Rapes were common.  Pryor seems almost physically ill when she had to tell her readers about the white looking slave girls (yes, there were slave girls that were very light skinned).

Pyror honestly never seemed upset if dark skinned girls were tied up, whipped, or sold.  Seriously, she had no problem with that, it was fine.


But on the light skinned slaves - -especially light skinned girls -- Pryor had a hard time.   She wrote that "increasingly, whites were enslaving other whites".

Whites enslaving whites -- did you ever hear that was a growing problem, as the rapes (yes rapes) made many children lighter and lighter skinned through three or four generations -- especially at Arlington where Pryor shows there were drastically higher numbers, and drastically higher percentages of mulatto (lighter skinned) slaves.

Including light skinned girls that tried to escape.

This was actually an issue in the Lincoln Douglas debates -- as Douglas insisted if slavery ended, there would be race mixing.  Lincoln responded there is more race mixing in the slave states than in the North, and he was exactly correct.  Lee's own slave plantation was prove of that.

But if you can enslave blacks, or dark skinned whites, where does it end? And Lincoln exposed that too.  By that logic -- if skin color is what you judge a slave by, then you can be enslaved by someone lighter complected than you.

Yet no matter how much Pryor  uses euphemism, even Orwellian double speak (see below), no one to date has dared offer such information.  At times Pryor is almost candid - confirming as reliable Lee's torture of slave girls, and the fact Lee did not have a few slaves tortured, whipping was common at Arlington when slaves did things Lee did not tolerate   And that, as you will see, happened a lot.

Lee would not tolerate, most of all, anyone trying to escape.
And try to escape they did-  even though they knew to be captured meant to be tortured.  Escaped slaves, Pryor reveals in her artful way, was Lee's biggest problem.

Lee had nothing but contempt for the slaves -- and they returned the feeling. According to Lee's own papers (remember this, its a BFD) Lee was "the worst man we ever saw".

Worst. Man. We. Ever. Saw.   They saw bounty hunters, they saw overseers (men who whip slaves were called overseers). They saw slave traders.   And Lee was the worst man we ever saw.

Can't be true?  Well, Pryor does all she humanly can to make it seem it can't be true.  But read her words carefully-- these facts are too big to hide, even for her. Pryor was obviously tugged between covering things up completely -- or saying things as carefully as she could.

She was not going to cover things up completely -- so she wrote things as carefully as she could. 


Now, why on earth would Lee's slaves try to escape?  We were told he didn't even own them - some have insisted the "servants"  as they are artfully called in some books, refused to leave when Lee granted them freedom.  

Uh -- not so much.


Even her title  is artful, clever,  "Reading The Man - A Portrait of Robert E Lee Through His Personal Letters".

A "portrait" is, of course, a deliberately flattering glimpse of a person.  Given what Pryor had to work with (Lee's own slave ledgers and letters to bounty hunters most of all) Pryor's biggest problem seems to be --how to show Lee as a man of honor and principle, when his own letters and slave ledgers show a cruel man, who did in fact have girls tortured (tortured is the right word, go elsewhere if you insist on euphemisms)  and sold children, and turned women his bounty hunters captured (that were never slaves before) into slaves.

 There had to be a reason, he was not a foolish or trivial man.  He was extremely frugal, business minded, profit minded, about slaves.  He sold them, he rented them out.  

It might come as a shock to people know, but Lee's cash crop was on veggies. Not rice. Not cotton. His cash crop was flesh -- flesh and labor. Not sorta, not kind of, not in a way.

That's how Lee' operated. When you hear Lee left the army several times to "manage the plantation" -- that means, in candid terms, he went home to get more money of of the slaves. To sell the unprofitable ones, to punish those who caused trouble, and to scare the slaves into more obedience.

It's time we didn't pretend slave farms (remember, the product at Lee's slave farm was flesh and labor)  were some kind of "Gone With The Wind".  Women who lived there, white women, later said it was a horrible life for slaves. And Pryor herself reports that rape -- yes rape -- was common.

Common - rape was common. 

Pryor used another word. Brutal.  She did not highlight that word, she used it only after heaping praise and adoration on Lee for various reasons. And Pryor never says anything like "Lee was brutal"  though of course, he was.  Having slave girls tortured as you yell at them (which he did) is brutal. 

Lee also apparently had children sold or the mother sold as punishment and warnings to the others.

That's brutal.  Those are the actions of a sociopath, no matter how you dress them up and no matter which pew they supposed sat in on Sunday.

You need to read Pryor's words closely, because within her very careful narrative in which she tries very hard to absolve Lee of horrible crimes against women,  she does use amazing words at times. Brutal - rape -  are just two such words.

Pryor could have written a chapter just on the rapes -- if she chose too. She had the information -- there are reasons she said rape was common, and reasons she said the rapes could be brutal.   She did not show the papers -- ever -- of any such events.  She should have made it clear, and just shown the paperwork, his letters perhaps. Letters to him, letters from him.  Letters to his bounty hunters, whatever it was, she could have, and should have, shown that.

But she did not.Her goal was not to stun the world with blunt admissions of rape and torture (torture is the right word). 

And yes, Lee not only had slaves, he bought and sold slaves, he did not just "manage" his wife's slaves.

 No, he was not anti slavery.   You don't buy and sell slaves, and send bounty hunters out routinely and often (as Lee did) if you are against slavery. 



Pryor admits Lee had slave girls tortured, though she calls it "discipline" and insisted Lee "had every right"  to "protect his property".  Yes, torture is the right word.   He had her tied up, according to newspapers at the time, and taunted her before, during at after he torture.

During her torture, Lee screamed at her.

Not one, not two, but three newspapers reported this at the time.




Whipping slaves -- even young ones -- was not a newsworthy event.  So, why was this girl's torture reported?

Because Lee's regular overseer refused to whip her. She was too small, and he refused.  Lee  hired a bounty hunter standing nearby to whip her.

That's why it made the papers -- she was too small, and the regular guy who tortured (torture is the right word, use whichever word you like) slaves refused.

Let that sink in.


To her eternal credit, Pryor did validate as unquestionably authentic reports of Lee's torture- - though of course she calls it "discipline" and she takes the side of the torturer, and Lee.

Lee had "every right" to protect his property, she claims, and it was a law (she claims) that run away slaves had to be whipped.    But as you will see, Lee broke other laws about slaves as he saw fit, including creating them.  Lee bought not only escaped slaves, but Pryor shows that Lee paid not only for escaped slaves, he paid for "others"  who she would not identify.  

Lee, she coyly said at that point "may have technically broken the law".  She called the law "time consuming"   and tried to make Lee seem the victim. The law she was talking about was Fugitive Slave Act,. It required the bounty hunters to establish the fact the black woman (and men) they captured were in fact escaped slaves.  But Lee bought "others".

A constant source of hatred -- on both sides -- was the Fugitive Slave Act.  And people like Lee-- very close to the border of Virginia, did buy blacks caught by bounty hunters who had never been slaves, or had been freed. 

Pryor was coy about this, more than any other aspect of her book. 


 Pryor is exceedingly clever at double speak -- like the sentence about Lee's slaves "did not completely agree with Lee's theory of labor management."  Seriously, they did not completely agree -- with his theory -- of labor management?

How long do you have to stay up, without laughing, to come up with that?

Still what she says at times -- shred of it's goofy euphamism - is amazing. Like Lee had slave girls tortured while he screamed at them.

Like Lee bought women his hunters found in the North that were never slaves -- yes he did.  When Lee's bounty hunters went North, as you will see, Pryor artfully speaks about Lee "might have technically broken the law"   and "did not fill out the time consuming paperwork".   

Time consuming paperwork? Hilarious.  The hunters brought back some escape slaves....but also "others".  Who could "others" be?  Chinese acrobats?  No they were blacks, and Lee bought them too. That was not uncommon, especially where Lee lived-- a few miles from Washington DC.  Grabbing free blacks was profitable, and if you bought black flesh anyway -- as Lee did, and if you insisted God wanted you to own slaves for the slave's benefit -- as Lee did, then it was not much of a step to give money to the bounty hunters for those unlucky souls, too.

Of course Pryor could have shown us what she was talking about clearly, on any page. She never did. And she was not about to show us clearly about Lee buying blacks that were not slaves till his hunters brought them to him. 


   Pryor is nearly candid a time or two on small details -- let's give her credit.

She did admit that three newspapers reported on Lee's horrific tortures.   The newspapers (she does not show them, but she could have)  showed that Lee had a slave girl tortured (it's the right word -- torture)  after the regular overseeer refused to whip her.

Let me make this clear -  Lee's torture of slave girls was not a news item. Slaves were whipped often in the South, particularly in large plantations, where whipping two or three slaves sent a clear message to the other 120.  It was wise to whip a few slaves, and make it theater, as Lee did.

The newspapers ONLY carried the story that the girl was too small to be whipped --let that sink in. And Lee had her whipped anyway.


As everyone knows- or should know -- slave owners were human, and as humans, they had to do their own mind tricks, their own justifications for slavery and torture. 

Lee sure did. Lee's justification of slavery was that GOD ordained it. and it was for the slaves own good.  Paid, wrote Lee, was "necessary for their instruction".

Lee's own father was an especially cruel slaver -- he had a girl hung, to her death, because she knocked down a white man.  It did not matter why he knocked her down.

Even if a slave woman knocked a white man down because he was raping her, or taking her child, it did not matter. Knocking down a white man was a capital crime.   Worse, if you let one slave do it, the others might. She had to die, and she did. She was 15 years old and pregnant.



The amazing thing about Lee's torture of this girl --he confirmed it himself, in his own writings. Pryor says simply that the records show the names mentioned in the newspapers, with payments to the jails mentioned, and payment to the bounty hunters mentioned.  She does not show whether -- or not -- Lee wrote other indications, like the number of lashes, or some comments on the girls.

But Pryor does assert that it's certain through the records there was a girl whipped that day and that Lee paid to have it done.  Given her penchant for minimizing the horrors, whatever was in his slave ledgers in his own hand had to be undeniable and extreme for Pryor to come out almost candid on this incident. 

Pryor never would show any page from his slave ledgers, or even call them "slave ledgers".  She referred to them only once, and that as "account books".

Very carefully, Pryor admits the overseer refused to whip the girl because she was so small.  The overseer was almost certainly black -- and may have been tortured himself for refusing to whip the girl. 

Lee paid someone else to have her whipped, that is incontrovertible. Pryor also tells us -- deftly - that Lee regularly had slaves whipped.  No wonder slaves said, according to Lee's own papers -- Lee was the worst man we ever saw.

Let that sink in.


Fact -- more people know the name of Lee's pet chicken, than know the names of girls he had tied to posts and tortured.

In fact, cruelly, we not only teach Lee did not have slaves -- "historians" like Pryor who admit he mostly certainly did own slaves, insist Lee "had every right" to disipline the escaped slaves.

Lee had the girl in questions lashed so many times, blood pooled at her feet, according to newspapers.

He then had salt put on her wounds.


The story of Lee torturing a slave girl  was not newsworthy - slave torture (discipline) was common.  In fact, Pryor tells us it was a law that slaves had to be tortured if they tried to escape.  (No, there was no such law Lee  had to obey, but Pryor wants you to think he had to do it.)

The story made the paper - - three different papers at the time -- because  the first overseer (the overseer did the whipping) refused to torture her.

Let me repeat that, Lee's regular overseer refused to whip her.

So Lee hired a bounty hunter standing nearby to whip her.  

That's why it made the papers. 

See-- Lee did not burn  his slave ledgers -- or Pryor could not have reluctantly admitted he did, in fact, pay a bounty hunter for whipping that girl that day.   

And Lee regularly used torture -- torture is the right word -- on slaves, including slave girls.

Lee's poor "cross cultural communication skills" 

Pryor claimed Lee's torture of slave girls -- seriously -- 
was because of   his "poor cross cultural communication skills." 

He was not mean or cruel, he just couldn't seem to explain to these slave girls that they couldn't run off like that. 

As you will see, Pryor is not out to trash Lee in any respect -- quite the opposite.

She could have -- she could have shown the slave ledgers, for example, or even any page from any ledger.

She could have show the sexually explicit letters she held in her hands.

There are a thousand ways to show us how Lee had slave girls tortured.  And to  tell us that torture (torture is the right word) was Lee's go to reaction to slave problems.

In fact, Pryor does tell us -- in ways that seem mild in her artful prose -- that Lee's "preferred" discipline was the whip.   She forgets to make it clear Lee h ad other tortures -- tortures on top of, and in addition to the whip.  Specifically he had girls whipped, then had other tortures applied,  other  physical and psychological tortures.

Psychological torture like selling the woman's children, or otherwise separating mother and child. 




Pryor starts off with a glorious letter from Lee to his children -- not with instructions to slave hunters, and not with one of his dirty letters.   She was no fool.

Pryor writes so artfully that you may not notice she is referring to his slave ledgers- - she can look up the prices he pays for which girl, she can look up auction records, she can look up who Lee paid for which torture (yes, he paid to have slaves whipped).

You don't get that information from one of his shoes (size 8).  You get that kind of detailed information from slave ledgers.

Pryor called them "account books"  -- and I suppose they were.  She sure didn't call them slave ledgers, or people might want to, you know, see them for themselves.



Pryor  could have shown the letters (and prices, and instructions) Lee wrote to his bounty hunters.   But that would be odd, to show one horrible thing and not the other.

 Apparently Lee was exceedingly involved emotionally and financially to get get the slave girls back -- the ones that risked their lives to escape.   Why go to such lengths to capture escaped girls -- if you do not believe in slavery?

 Lee paid only 10 dollars for capture of older male slaves, but 600 or more for the capture and return of 14 year old girls.

Lee had -- at one time -- over 12 slaves his hunters were tracking.  And Lee kept in close contact with the hunters.  Lee's hunters went North  and not only caught some escaped slaves -- as happened at the time, bounty hunters would also grab other blacks, perhaps blacks who had helped the runaway,   It was of course illegal to grab free people in the North-- white or black -- and take them South to sell as slaves.   But  as you will see, Pryor dances around Lee's actions because apparently that is precisely what Lee's bounty hunters did, return "others"  as Pryor calls them. 

Technically, Pryor posits in Orwellian double speak, Lee "might have even broken the law".  

She makes Lee the victim -- of course- - by saying absurding "Lee failed to fill out the time consuming paperwork". 

She knows well there was not paper work -- time consuming or otherwise -- to grab free blacks and make slaves of them, for his own profit.

  Once you know what Lee did -- and recorded in his own paperwork -- Pryor actually works hard on every single page to excuse, minimize, and obfuscate his actions.  Such as Lee's torture of slave girls - which is verified by his own slave ledgers.

Lee regularly had wayward or escaped slaves tortured-  and torture is the right word.  Pryor defends Lee's actions, saying he had "every right to protect his property".    She even seems to adopt Lee's absurd (but widely held justification) at the time that he (Lee) was the one who suffered from slavery, the slaves were fortunate to have men like Lee bring them to Christ.

God "knew and intended"  slaves feel pain, Lee wrote. Paid is "necessary for their instruction".


We all know the story -- in fact it's stupidly repeated in every school in the USA -- Robert E Lee didn't own slaves and was against slavery.

Uh- not really.

Thanks to Lee's own slave ledgers and hundreds of his letters (such as letters to and from bounty hunters)  Elizabeth Pryor was able to write a fascinating book -- all about his "personal papers."

Pryor wrote carefully - she did not wish to alarm her readers, nor the Lee family, nor the Virginia Historical Society.  Her job was clearly to keep Lee's halo upon his head, and just admit maybe the halo was not as straight and bright as some had thought.


Contrary to myth, he was not against slavery at all, in fact, he had slaves all through the Civil War.  Furthermore, his own records  show he continued to own slaves and try to make money on them during the war.  Also, Lee never freed his slaves (and yes, he owned slaves) that he got through his wife, until repeated court orders to do so.  By the time Lee "freed"  anyone, they were worthless to him anyway.

And it's all in his own handwriting, in his own papers.

YES, Lee had white looking slaves.   Children born to slave women (some of whom where lighter skinned) and raped by a white man, could turn out as white looking as you are me.  And some did.

In fact, Lee himself commented on the light skinned children he owned.  Pryor won't tell us exactly what he said about them -- nor show what he did with the white looking slave girls. 



Pryor writes carefully about Lee's slave ledger.

 She was not out to trash him,  or infuriate the South or the Lee family.  And she refused to show us any of the papers with any of the "odd information"  like Lee's letters to and from bounty hunters, or his slave ledgers, which listed the prices he paid or received for slaves,

Yes, Lee sold and bought slaves. 

Why not show them?   She does get the prices, and all the information, from his letters.  There is a good reason she did not, and will not, show the papers themselves.  She nor the Lee family nor the Virginia Historical Society want that information every to come out -- except in a very sanitized way.

Like Pryor's book is sanitized.

Pryor relates amazing things -- amazing in that no one told us before, we were all fed essential nonsense, repeated endlessly. So give her credit  for that, she is unique even in releasing this information, sanitized or not.

But Pryor had in her hands Lee's papers, including slave ledgers, his letters to and from bounty hunters, letters to him, from him. Most amazing to me -- Lee also wrote sexually charged letters to various women for decades, even after the Civil War, and long after he was married.

Pryor is on Lee's side. You will not be offended, she writes like a loving great granddaughter might write, after spending a few months with her ancestor's dirty diary.  

There are 1000 ways you can relate the information about Lee's cruelties, his slave ledgers, his torture of slave girls (yes he had slave girls tortured -- and torture is the right word).    Pryor wrote her pages in a way that skillfully did NOT let you get foul images in your head.   Lee didn't torture -- he "disciplined"  and he had "every right to do so".  

Only by close reading do you see-- Lee had these girls tortured with a whip -- and he screamed at them as he had them tortured.

Why not say it plainly, he validated it in his own handwriting. 

Pryor relates facts in such a gentle, even delicate way way.   She could given the name of a chapter "LEE'S TORTURE METHODS" -- because he actually had various methods of torture.


Instead Pryor gives you some gentle words about "discipline".   At one point she cleverly says a whipping post is a "silent reminder"  Lee had installed.

Well the post was silent, yes, but the human beings tied to it, including the girl you will learn about, was not silent as they were being tortured.

So why call it "silent"?

Because Pryor had in her hands the information about that whipping post -- Lee ordered in installed not long after he took over discipline of the slaves.

How could she tell us that?  Here are her choices.

  • Show us the letter or order for the whipping post she had in her hands
  • Tell us Lee ordered the whipping post installed.
  • Tell us the names of the slaves Lee had attached to that whipping post
  • Write some very disarming and clever words about a "silent reminder"
Read her book. You will see which one she chose.

That's how it is on every page, every subject.  She tells us about Lee's light skinned slaves, but it as gentle way as possible.

Here were her choices on that one
  • Tell us the names of the light skinned girls -
  • Tell us the prices he paid or received for them
  • Tell us why Lee was commenting on the light skinned girls
  • Show us the sales figures and the names side by side
  • Write some disarming words about a light skinned girl


In fact, according to Pryor's careful prose in "Reading the Man" Lee might have owned the most white looking, or mulatto, slaves in US history.  

She told us that cleverly, too.    

Pryor reports that over 50% of his slaves were mulatto -- but  you have to flip back and forth in the pages to notice something -- Lee had Laves that were so light skinned, Lee himself mentioned they could pass for white. 

So Lee owned a drastically (almost half) high percentages of light skinned slaves.  And he had the biggest slave farm in Virginia.  It's logical to assume, therefore, that he owned the biggest number of while looking slaves in US history.


You can not have sex with a slave, by definition it is rape. Did you know that?

 And in case you harbor under the delusion that maybe these slave women just wanted to have sex with the white men,  as at one point Pyror seemed to hint, consider this. Pryor later claimed cleverly  "coercion was used in those situations"

Think of those words.  "Coercion was used in those situations" .


Pryor had to see something in the papers that told her that. She was not looking at the clouds to get this information.  What inside his papers gave her the idea that slave girls were forcibly raped?   "Coercion was used"   "in those situations.  

 What could it be?  Would Lee write "Well Dear Wife, I was riding behind the barn and saw coercion used in rape situations".

No, someone almost had to write to Lee to complain about the forcable rapes going on, those Pryor is not about to tell us. Whatever it was,it was brutal enough for Pryor to write "coersion was used in those situations".


There is only skin color to be white. If you look white, you are white.

  Lee had girls he owned that looked white. By definition then, he owned white slaves.

Pryor did seem upset about THAT.    But not at all upset when darker pigmented women were treated as slaves -- including sexually.

COMMON.   That's amazing, Pryor herself showed (remember, Pryor adores Lee, as you will see) rape was common, even at Arlington.   t is any worse to rape, enslave, torture a white looking slave girl, that a dark skinned girl? 

Pryor sure felt so.  The only time Pryor seemed irate in her prose -- was when she was writing about the white looking slave girls. She never seemed whatsoever concerned with the dark skinned girls.  She even wrote that Lee had "every right to protect his property"  when discussing the "discipline" of escaped slave girls.

And the "discipline" included torture -- whipping, and other physical horrors.  Pryor does not want to report this to us -- she does so as gently as possible.  But read her facts closely. 



Hang on to your hats, Lee lovers.

It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Facts are stubborn things 



This all sounds bizarre to folks raised to think Lee was against slavery, kind, brave, etc,. 

Pryor wont show us the letters and slave ledgers -- she should.   But she will not, nor will the Lee family.

Pryor's main job seemed to be to tell us about the horrors, but not make them horrific. Blame others. Blame the slaves.  Or write cleverly, as if she were writing about slave owners generally (such as about the rapes) -- and not mention Lee's name in that page.  

But she was writing about Lee -- his slave girls, his slave ledgers.

Pryor refused to even call them slave ledgers -- but called them "account books".   She artfullly does the same all through the book, but yet she reveals things no one even imagined before. Tortures? Rapes?   Purchase of kidnapped women?


Yes.  Slavery was not Sunday school. It was torture based -- you were tortured if you tried to escape or resisted.  Including women -- and yes, women were raped, sold to whore houses, and purchased by how attractive, sexually attractive, they were.   Lighter skinned women were considered worth more money -- the "Negroid"  features like wide nose and dark skin, did not bring the prices of the light skinned mulatto girls.  

There is a REASON -- though Pryor wont tell us what that is -- that Lee paid so much higher prices for girls about 14  years old.  Do you suppose he paid more because they could recite poetry? Or maybe for their knowledge of bridge building?

No, he paid more, 600% more, because they were young with perky big breasts and had to do what Lee and other white men told them to do,. Lee would only pay a few dollars for an older male slave bounty. 

Lee's personal handwritten letters and slave ledgers show Lee hated his slaves, and they hated him. Lee was "the worst man we ever saw" -- and the facts in Lee's letters show why. Lee had slaves tortured for infraction, including slave girls too small to be whipped by the regular overseer.

In fact as Lee's papers show, one of the first things he did taking over the torture (torture is the right word, we won't call it by any euphemism) was to have the slaves build their own whipping post. See more about that, below.



In some ways, Lee was not unusual, for slave owners, he just had control of far more slaves than anyone else in Virginia after marrying into the Custis family.

Like all humans, Lee had to justify his cruelty to others.

He did so, as all slaver owners did, by the bible.

Lee wrote slaves "must endure painful discipline" and "pain is necessary for their instruction.

Lee's father had a slave girl hung -- a pregnant girl -- for knocking down a white man. No one even reported why the girl knocked down the man, it did not matter! Was he raping h er? Was he selling her child? Her mother?

No one knows, and no one cared enough to record why this girl knocked down a white man, and Lee's father had her hung.

See- - facts are important, and these facts never seem to be important enough to be candidly included in any standard Lee biography -- in fact, you get quit the opposite narrative about Lee, because those "historians" just ignore the tortures, rapes, cruelties Lee allowed, or worse, at Arlington.

Nothing shows Lee's barbarity better than the documented (in his own slave ledgers) torture of a young slave girl, who almost escaped his torture because the regular overseer refused --she was TOO SMALL for him to whip.

Lee hired a bounty hunter -- the hunter that brought the slave to him-- and had him whip the girl, while Lee taunted (really, he did) the girl as she was tortured, according to three overlapping newspapers of the time.

And remember, Lee's own slave ledgers confirm these events.

Against slavery? Seriously?



Elizabeth Pryor, who studied Lee's slave ledgers and other personal papers for over a year, said over 50% of Lee's slaves were mulatto.

And --she gives us amazing hints to who fathered those white looking slave girls.

One hint, it was not a black man. Someone white at Arlington fathered dozens of slave children. Did Lee free them? Let them go?

Not so much. In fact, Lee was "obsessed" about capturing escaped slave girls, paid 600% higher prices for them. Wonder why-- help me think a minute-- Lee would pay drastically higher prices for girls, about 12-14 years old.

Take your time. It will come to you. Think real hard.

Oh you didn't know Lee had slave ledgers? Well...he had a lot of them. Pryor deftly calls them "monthly account books". She can't quite make herself say slave ledgers.

But in those 'monthly account books' Pryor found names, dates, and prices paid. Not only prices paid, but amounts received for slaves.

And you thought Lee didn't have slaves, right?




Pryor is not out to trash Lee, but to keep his halo upon his head, as much as she possibly can.

She worked for, and with, the Lee family and Virginia Historical society. The Virginia Historical society essentially exists to keep people from learning what a violent and cruel man Robert E Lee actually was, as proven by his own writings.


Lee had "every right" to torture his slaves, Pryor writes.

She blames the slave girls, right along with Lee blaming them, for not appreciating all Lee did for them and their "salvation".

Just like Lee, Pryor writes as if slaves were fortunate, and the slave owner the one who had to suffer for slavery. Lee actually wrote slaves were fortunate -- a common Orwellian justification for slavery. Jefferson Davis said slaves "were the most contented laborers on earth" and Lee insisted slaves would be happy if not for "abolitionist" stirring up trouble.

Yes, Lee tortured slave girls in barbaric ways, sold children as punishment, and did things no Lee biographer dared mention before. Their crime? They tried to escape.

Lee did not merely torture them, the tortures were barbaric, as you will see. But he also taunted them during their torture. He had bounty hunter chase the girls for weeks, months. In fact, as you wll see, Lee bought FREE blacks -- blacks that lived in the North and were never slaves in their lives - who were captured by Lee's bounty hunters.

Let me repeat that. Pryor reports (very carefully, in almost funny Orwellian double speak) that Lee bought "others". He paid the hunters for the captured slaves, but also paid them for "others". Lee also paid for the jail boarding of slaves, until he personally could get back to the plantation and he personally met captured women as they were brought into his slave farm.

Pryor, meanwhile, likes to describe Lee as a "Planter". Part of the ubiquitous and ever present linguistic dishonesty used then to obfuscate the horrors and cruelty of men like Lee, and used to this day.

Lee never planted anything. The profit on his slave farm was not from plants -- it was from slaves and slave labor. He sold slaves at auction, bought slaves at auctions, and bought humans from bounty hunters.




Pryor is human, a "Lee devotee" and works (worked RIP) for the Lee family. It would have been stunning, and contrary to human nature, had she laid out the blunt horrors of what Lee did, to the Lee family.

Pryor never uses the word torture -- just like she refuses to use the words "slave ledgers" or "purchase".

In fact Pryor is hard at work on every page, deftly understating the amazing cruelties Lee used -- but no one else ever revealed these facts a all.

Lee bought more slaves? Who knew that?

Lee used bounty hunters -- regularly? Who knew that?

Lee bought "others" from kidnappers (bounty hunters) and had his hunters go into the North to capture not just escaped slaves, but others? Who knew that?

Rape was common -- yes common- - at Arlington? Who knew that?


Pryor is not going to scare you to death. You are not going to read her words and see in your head, Lee screaming at a girl as she was being tortured.

The story is there - Pryor does tell the story. But in terms you will find comforting.

She posits Lee's tortures as "discipline" . And if you read close, you will notice Lee used various types of phyical "discipline" or torture, not just the whip.

Lee kept slave ledgers -- records of his payments to bounty hunters, records of prices he paid out, and income he received, for slave flesh. Why not show us the damn ledgers?

That is too much for Pryor to do, and likely, the Lee family would never allow her to do that,


How did Pryor get that into a book that, on the surface, seems mild.

One reviewer said the book shows Lee "warts and all"

Wrong. If she showed Lee warts and all, she would show his slave ledgers. The way Pryor writes, this is not even warts, his tortures and the rapes, etc, are a mere, and justified, skin rash.



It sounds so bizarre -- until you know, Lee indeed seemed obsessed with the capture of run away slaves, in fact he was in continual communication with bounty hunters, and his overwhelming problem was escaped slaves. Lee paid 600 % higher prices for slave GIRLS. While Pryor does not say this, there had to be a reason Lee paid so much higher prices for young girls. Lee made sure he was at home when the bounty hunters brought this girl, and immediately had her tortured.

Long dismissed as so unlike anything in the Lee myth, "historians" would not even mention the newspapers, though they knew of them.

But because we have (or Pryor did have) Lee's hand written slave ledgers, Lee wrote down so many things that confirmed the tortures, that Pryor admits -- very reluctantly -- that the overlapping newspaper reports of Lee's amazing torture (torture is the right word) of slave girls were undoubtedly based on fact -- because Lee confirmed it, in his own handwritten slave ledgers.

The tortures were confirmed AGAIN, after the war, by reporters talking to freed slaves at Arlington. So

1) newspapers reported it at the time,

2) Lee's handwritten slave ledgers confirm it

3) interviews after the war's end confirm it, too.



Just in case someone thinks this torture was a aberration by Lee-- perhaps the girl (and others, others were tortured right after the girl was tortured) had done something horrible? No.

Lee's father had a girl about 15 hung to death, when Lee was a youngster -- because she knocked down a white man. No one even bothered to mention why she knocked down a white man. Was he whipping her? Raping her? Taking her baby?

It literally did not matter. She could be tortured and or hung. She was hung.

If you (a black) used violence against a white person, the penalty could be death. Some were whipped to death -- as Frederick Douglass wrote in his autobiography, his master tortured a slave woman to death, while shouting bible verses, until the woman died.

If you don't know that slavery was, at it's base, a most violent enterprise, you have been fooled entirely by US text books and movies. Slavery was entirely about violence, both spreading slavery, and keeping the slaves in line.

Lee, by the way, apparently had everyone watch the torture of slaves, though Pryor never mentioned that, but the story of the girl Lee had tortured, had a crowd around. There is little use torturing your slaves, if they others don't see it, and get the message.

Pryor COULD have told us much more details -- how many slaves did Lee get from bounty hunters? How much did they cost? Did he have them tortured if they resisted being a slave?

Pryor is very careful NOT to give us more than a whitewashed sketch - certainly the slaves being tortured, and the women Lee bought from bounty hunters that were captured in the North, would not be polite or demure or use Orwellian double speak, as Pryor does.

But Pryor gave us more information, whitewashed or not, than anyone before. And she had his slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters.

Pryor writes that essentially, the first thing Lee did when he took over the torture (discipline?) of the slaves, was to have the SLAVES install a whipping post. Pryor cleverly states the whipping post was a "silent reminder" to the slaves of their fate if they disobeyd. But there was nothing silent about that whipping post area. Men and women were tied up and tortured on that post, and Lee took part personally -- he did not whip them himself, apparently but did stand by and scream -- yes scream - at slaves, including slave girls, as they were tortured.

Pryor wrote all that in a very delicate way. But no one else dared ever to come that candid about Lee.

As for Lee's purchase of kidnapped women (yes Lee paid for "other" women his bounty hunters caught IN THE NORTH" Pryor writes that "technically [Lee] may have broken the law. He "failed" to fill out the "time consuming paperwork".


The author -- Elizabeth Pryor -- third from left in this picture. She adores Lee, and did her best not to knock the halo from his head. Only problem, Lee tortured slaves, sold children, and bought kidnapped women from bounty hunters (yes he did).

How was Pryor going to pretend Lee was honorable, against slavery, and or kind to his "servants"? The answer is -- "very carefully".

These are the trunks that stored Lee's slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters.

ELIZABETH PRYOR -- the only scholar ever allowed to see Lee's slave ledgers, dirty letters, bounty hunter letters, and the two trunks of personal papers, kept by the Lee family -- for 150 years.


Most people assume we know so much about Lee, it would be almost impossible to squeeze out another trivial detail, much less a basic fact.

Most people would be wrong.

More people know the name of Lee's pet chicken (Pearl) than know Lee, according to multiple newspapers at the time, and confirmed in his own handwriting, in his own slave ledgers, had slave girls tortured (torture is the right word) for trying to escape.

Lee did much more than torture slaves for trying to escape. He had women kidnapped from the North, that were not slaves at all, never were. But Lee's bounty hunters caught them, anyway.

And why not? Slavery was ordained by God, was it not? (Lee said it was). Blacks were "fortunate" to be slaves, right? (Lee said they were). Lee was in the slave business to get wealthy, right (yes).

Then why not pay for women caught in the North, by bounty hunters?

Pryor was doubly careful how she relayed this information to her readers. Lee, she claimed "failed to fill out the time consuming paperwork" and technically he "may have broken the law".

Only, there was paperwork, time consuming or otherwise, to capture free women.

Another thing -- during the Civil War (though Pryor does not give us this information in her book) Lee had his soldiers do the same thing -- he ordered hundreds of blacks-- once freed slaves or not, including women and children, captured in the North, brought South, and sold.

We don't know who got the money for those Lee had captured in the North, and sold in the South. But I have a pretty good idea who got the money, and I bet Pryor could have told us, if she wanted.

Lee was not only cruel to his slaves -- according to Pryor's own book (and remember, she defends Lee as much as humanly possibly) his slaves said he "was the worst person were ever knew."



No one at the time claimed Lee was anti slavery. No one at the time said he was kind to his slaves. In fact, newspapers reported how cruel he was.

But lies, repeated over and over, become engrained, part of the folklore, the fables, the myth.

We are told, by the most self confident teachers and "historians" that Lee was against slavery - and there was a letter to prove it. Well that proved it, right, the letter to his wife proved he was anti slavery?

Oh hell no. Read the whole letter, it's actually a tenacious defense of slavery and the torture of slaves. And far more than that letter, which defends slavery tenaciously, and calls slavery a "spiritual liberty" -- are Lee's own actions. His tortures. His purchase of women. His profit on sale of flesh.

Yes -- Lee's profit was from sale of slaves. Pryor claimed "All Lee ever wanted to become, was a planter." A PLANTER is Orwellian double speak for slave owner, on a slave plantation.

And by the way, slave plantations should be called slave FARMS. Lee did not grow lots of cotton to sell. His money -- and Pryor could show it to us in his own slave ledgers if she wanted to -- came from the sale of blacks, and sending them to various places, and collecting the money for them.



The lunacy and deception of Douglas Freeman, Lee's supposedly "definitive" biographer.


Lee was honorable, chaste, brave, tidy, devout..... on and on.

Douglas Freemen's epic biography of Lee -- heavily footnoted - is a study in two things. Bullshit and insanity.

Freeman did not write a biography, as much as he concocted pure fiction.  It is not that he slightly over stated Lee's qualities, it's that he just made them up.

Lee was not just honorable, but the MOST honorable, not just brave, but the most brave.  Douglas Southall Freeman won the Pulitzer Prize for his "work". 

In the index of one editions, there are four columns of noble human traits -- kindness, humility, tidyness (yes, even tidy) on and on. Four columns.  Think of that, four columns.  And Freeman sets out to prove, in his book, that Lee not only had those traits, but he had them more than anyone else.

Lee "now sits at the right hand of the Lord" kind of nonsense -- there are biographies that claim that. Freeman had to outdo those -- so he did. 

Freeman might have gotten away with his fraud (yes, he knew it was a fraud, he had Lee's dirty letters and knew about Lee's tortures) except -- Lee wrote it down.

Freeman did more than just omit horrors like torture of young girls too small for the regular overseer to torture.  Let me repeat that, Freeman did MORE than just omit such things.

Freeman inserted fraudulent bullshit. One of Freeman's basic frauds was to insist one of Lee's slaves wrote a book about him later, and confirmed Lee as this wonderful person.  Mack Lee, Freeman said, was Lee's "servant" during the Civil War.  Mack Lee wrote a pamphlet (not a book) which he handed out to crowds in the 1920's, purporting to be Lee's former slave, and raising money from whites in cities around the upper South, and Missouri.

Freeman "forgot" to mention that of the four (yes four) Lee slaves with him as "body servants" (that means they dressed him and wiped his ass) none of them were named Mack.

And Freeman "forgot" to mention this "Mack Lee" gives incredible goofy stories of canon balls crashing into houses they were in, and hitting Mack in the head, to which Lee laughed and said "I aint never seen no nigger hit in head with a cannon ball before". 

Freeman "forgot" to mention that "Mack Lee" raised money by handing out these pamphlets, they were really advertisements to come to his "church meeting" that night where "Mack" hit them up for donations.

Oh, and Freeman "forgot" to mention Mack Lee wore a confederate uniform, and told the crowds blacks were lazy and no good, and blacks should be thankful what whites did for them.

Freeman forgot all that. Did he know? Of course he did.   But Mack Lee's BS in his pamphlet was heaven sent for Freeman to use to claim even Lee's "servants" adored him.

It's very likely whoever "Mack Lee" was, he never got near Lee. And he certainly was not listed anywhere in Lee's slave ledgers.  If Pryor could have found this Mack Lee in those slave ledgers, she would have made that clear on page one. And had an entire chapter on Mack.



George Mason, founding Father, wrote that men (like Lee) who were raised from birth to see slaves as subservient beings who deserved torture, were sociopaths (he used the vernacular of the day of course) and predicted they would cause a violent calamity for the United States, in the future.

Alan Nolan told us 20 years ago, essentially, we need to "start over" about Lee, because what passed for "scholarship" about Lee, was nothing of the sort. 

He could not know how right he was. We don't know what he thought of Pryor's book.  


Fittingly, a John Cooke prize is given even now -- to authors who conjure up the most effusive bullshit about Lee. It's rather like a Monty Python or Alice in Wonderland spook, but this crap is taught as factual.