President Donald Trump gave an impromptu history lesson at a rally last night. Speaking to a crowd in Ohio, Trump started talking about Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Lee famously refused command of the US in order to fight for the Confederacy.
“So Robert E. Lee was a great general and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia, he couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “He was going crazy … but Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle and Abraham Lincoln came home and he said ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee’.”
Trump’s history is not entirely wrong. Lee is widely acknowledged as a strategic genius who helped the Confederate army hold its own against the Union. The Confederacy had a much smaller population, fewer soldiers to draw on and a lack of equipment, but Lee’s tactics helped keep the south competitive.
However, praising Lee on a visit to Ohio is an odd choice. Ohio is in the north and soldiers from the state fought on the Union side during the war. In many respects, Ohio couldn’t be further from the Confederacy, which had its capital in Richmond, Virginia.
It’s also unusual for a Republican president to apparently criticize Abraham Lincoln. The first Republican president is held up as a paragon of American and GOP values. However, Trump has mentioned Lincoln before, comparing himself to the 16th president.
Trump recently met with rapper Kanye West, who has criticized the 13th Amendment. The amendment was a key victory for Lincoln’s Republican party. It abolished chattel slavery in the United States and gave permanent legal force to the Emancipation Proclamation, a decree Lincoln issued freeing slaves in the Confederacy.