HILL: Washington and Lee Canceled…a horse?

Frank HillOpinion


A century from today, future historians may look back at a single incident and wonder if it was not one of the most absurd acts in American history ― assuming, of course, the USA survives until 2123 and anyone cares about it any longer.

Washington and Lee University, better known as W&L, canceled the memory of a horse on its picturesque campus in Lexington, Virginia.

W&L grads have been respected widely over its long, distinguished history for their intelligence; academic achievement and leadership ability. They are respected for their social graces and respect for duty, honor and responsibility and love of country. Numerous leaders in politics, business, law and medicine are W&L alums. Most were true Southern gentlemen in the mold and tradition of former Duke Athletic Director Eddie Cameron for whom Cameron Indoor Stadium is named ― we respected him so much we named our first-born son after him as well.

However, today, W&L is turning its back on its 274-year heritage and expunging much of its rich history ― including any remembrance of a horse named Traveller.

Traveller was the gray American Saddlebred steed upon whose back Confederate General Robert E. Lee traveled during combat for three years during the American Civil War.

Traveller didn’t have any say in the matter. He was a horse. He could have stayed on some farm far away from any war-related activity had not General Lee purchased him fair-and-square for $200. Lee thought Traveller had all of the equine characteristics he wanted in a war horse.

Traveller very easily could have been the horse of choice for Union General US Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman, in which case the far-left might be falling all over themselves to honor him with a cast bronze statue somewhere.

Traveller didn’t own any slaves. He had no political affiliation. To reiterate once again, Traveller was a horse.

He didn’t plan any attacks against Union troops to prolong the war. He was not a trusted advisor and counsel like Caligula’s horse. Traveller had nothing to do with the prosecution of the Civil War aside from being a mode of transportation for the Rebel general.

W&L President Dudley removed a plaque over Traveller’s burial site in Lee Chapel. What is next ― the exhumation of Traveller’s bones from the grave below? What then? Incineration of his bones so no future generation has any proof the great horse ever existed?

Why not cancel any historical reference to Bucephalus, the great warhorse Alexander the Great rode to subdue the entire Mediterranean in the third century B.C.? Alexander’s conquest allowed the spread of the Koine Greek language which fostered the spread of Christianity throughout Europe and became the underpinnings of western civilization as we know it today.

Blame it all on Bucephalus. Cancel Western Civilization!

President Dudley apparently never got a Duckburger and a keg of beer at Ducks near campus or participated in the PiKa mudslide on campus before becoming president of W&L. Did the Board of Trustees hire Dudley in 2017 specifically to destroy the heritage of W&L ― and if so, replace it with what exactly?

There is a rich history at W&L which can’t be simply “erased” because someone doesn’t like what happened at W&L since its inception.

Efforts to suppress history always fail, often miserably.  The successor to King Tutankhamun sought to erase him from history by moving his mummified remains to an undisclosed location and destroying all documents and monuments relating to him. Since his remains were found in 1922, King Tut has become the most famous of all Egyptian Pharaohs to modern audiences.

Cancelling the memory of Traveller at W&L has brought his story ― and the story of Robert E. Lee ― back to life for more people, not less in recent weeks.

It is far better to allow the full story of our collective history to be heard, warts and all, without prejudice or malice to any side, and let students and the public learn for themselves. Canceling the memory of a horse at an esteemed university such as W&L seems so small and petty.

After all, Traveller was just a horse.

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