Posted on August 15, 2023

Washington & Lee University Tears Down Plaque Honoring Robert E. Lee’s Horse Traveller

Stephen M. Lepore, Daily Mail, August 11, 2022

Virginia’s Washington & Lee University has torn down a commemorative plaque honoring the horse of Confederate General Robert E. Lee – whom the school is still partially named after.

The plaque honoring Traveller, placed over the horse’s gravesite, was removed from its place outside Lee Chapel, which is a National Historic Landmark as part of a series of removals.

In July, the school got rid of plaques enshrining the room where Lee took his oath of office as president of the school in 1865 and the other denoting his office from 1865-68.

In 2021, the school announced a plan devoted to concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion that removed much of the general’s imprint on the school.

They announced plans to discontinue its Founders Day – which occurred on Lee’s birthday – and renaming a chapel dedicated to him, alongside repudiations of racism.

‘We have reviewed campus symbols, names and practices, and we are making changes to remove doubt about our separation from the Confederacy and the Lost Cause,’ the university’s board of trustees said in the plan.

The plaque to Traveller was erected in 1930 by a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

It stated: ‘The last home of Traveller. Through war and peace the faithful, devoted and beloved horse of General Robert Lee. Placed by the Virginia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy.’

The horse lived in the stables next to the president’s house from 1869 to 1871, a year after Lee died in the school’s president’s house.

Every Washington & Lee president has lived in the house since, using the stables as their garage, according to The W&L Spectator.

The school has also replaced a plaque at the horse’s gravesite that honored the horse with one deleting all mention of the Confederacy and General Lee.

University spokesperson Dewry Sackett told The College Fix the decision was made a year ago.

Kamron Spivey, the president of Students For Historical Preservation, said this is disrespecting campus history.

‘People like to hear tales about animals because they do no wrong. That is how Traveller has been immortalized in campus history,’ Spivey said. ‘He was a faithful horse whose beauty and loyalty Robert E. Lee said would inspire poets. Until this month, very few people seemed bothered by the horse.’

People would often leave apples, a favorite treat of horses, at Traveller’s gravesite.

‘Due to a misappreciation of Lee’s contributions and positive legacy as an educator, university officials think any reference to the man is detracting from student enrollment. Rather than confront the issue directly, they are trying to secretly hide their history from the world,’ Spivey added.

‘[T]he university should keep the original markers. If the goal is to contextualize a historic site, there is no better place than the original location they were erected.’

Founded in 1749, the school was initially named Augusta Academy but changed names several times.

At the time George Washington donated shares of stock that helped form the school’s endowment in 1796, the university was called the Liberty Hall Academy. The school changed its named to Washington Academy to honor the donation, becoming Washington College in 1813.

Four months after he lost to Ulysses S Grant – causing the short existence of the Confederacy to come to an end – Robert E. Lee was tapped to be the college’s president in 1865. He served five years until his death and is buried in a mausoleum inside the Lee Chapel on the campus.

The school added his name at the time of his death.

The university has had talks to remove the name since August 2017 when white supremacists marched nearby in Charlottesville. Then-president William C. Dudley rejected the notion, forming a committee to issue a formal report as to why the decision was made.

While the committee said that the school should acknowledge that Lee supported slavery and only wanted white men to attend the school, it also determined that the school should keep the ‘Generals’ name for its sports teams.

However, in the 2021 diversity plan, it was announced the board of trustees rejected a name change by a 22-6 margin.

Black students did not enroll into the school for almost a century after the end of the Civil War. Dennis Haston, the first African American undergraduate, matriculated in 1962.

The school still owned slaves as late as 1852.