One of the random things I’ve learned while living here, is that there are a few quirks like Lee-Jackson Day. Yep, as in Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Confederate heroes. It’s on January 18th this year (usually the Friday before MLK Jr. Day). Up until the year 2000, it was actually celebrated on Martin Luther King Jr. day, and known as Lee-Jackson-King day. Kinda funny, right?
Lee-Jackson Day is a statewide holiday to celebrate the lives of the guys who tried to further the Confederate cause by commanding the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee is best known for his role as Commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and eventually commander of the entire Confederate force. Although offered the position to command the Union Army by Lincoln, he felt it his duty to stick with his home state Virginia. He did not believe in secession, and supported Reconstruction following the Civil War. He also served as president of Washington College (now Washington & Lee University) from 1865-1870, and his home is now part of Arlington National Cemetery. The Lees were one of Virginia’s first families, dating all the way back to the 1600s. In fact, you can still visit Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County today– home to four generations of the Lee family and two signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is another iconic Confederate general from the Civil War, and personal friend of Lee. He is best known for his military success and tactics, in fact you may have heard the term “stonewalling” (having a strong defensive combat style). He died following complications with pneumonia following the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, where he lost his left arm. Many people still believe that if Jackson had survived to fight at Gettysburg, Lee may have won that battle.
So, with that all said, if you’re going to be in the Commonwealth on or near Lee-Jackson Day, you might as well celebrate, right? Lee’s birthday is also celebrated throughout the south; In Texas it’s known as Confederate Heroes Day. Lee and Jackson’s birthdays both fall in the third week of January.
It isn’t necessarily remembering the Confederate cause that these two men are celebrated, instead, the fact that both men overcame odds to gain success while living their passion of military strategy. There is no doubt that both have been extremely influential in making Virginia into what it is today– home to our nation’s defense industry and home to more veterans than any other state.
What I’ve learned from the lives of these two men: aren’t we all supposed to be looking for ways to thrive at our passions, whatever they may be?
Lexington, Virginia, home to the resting place of Jackson and Lee will be having a weekend long celebration complete with parade, wreath laying ceremony, luncheon, memorial service and even a ball on Saturday evening.
Lee-Jackson Day Festivities in Lexington, VA
- Thursday, January 17: Confederate History Activist, H.K. Edgerton, will lead a march from Buena Vista to Lexington to oppose the Lexington City Council’s ongoing ban against posting historical flags for Lee-Jackson Day. The 10-mile march will start at 11 a.m. in front of the Buena Vista Library (2110 Magnolia Avenue).
- Friday, January 18: Lee-Jackson Symposium at the Holiday Inn Express in Lexington from 1:00 -6:00 p.m. Topics covered will range from the character of Lee and Jackson to the controversial aspects of their legacies.
- Saturday, January 19:
- 10:30 a.m.: Wreath Laying and Military Salute at the gravesite of Stonewall Jackson at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery
- 11:15 a.m.: Parade through downtown Lexington, beginning at the cemetery
- Noon: Memorial Service in Lee Chapel (home of the Lee family crypt)
- 1:30 p.m.: Lee-Jackson Day Luncheon at the Virginia Horse Center, featuring entertainment from the 2nd VA Calvary String Band
- 7:00-11:00 p.m.: Lee-Jackson Day Ball at the Virginia Horse Center, featuring music by the Shenandoah Valley Minstrels and period dancing.
- More information about the history of the celebration in Lexington and additional information about this year’s events is available here.
Never Been to Lexington? Here are a few nearby things to do
- Visit Stonewall Jackson’s home in Lexington.
- Visit the Virginia Military Institute Museum to see Jackson’s horse, antique firearms and seven Medals of Honor from VMI Alumni.
- Take the scenic way home through the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
- Check out a battlefield. Virginia is home to the most Civil War Battlefields. One of my nearby favorites (about 90 minutes away from Lexington) is Appomattox Court House, where Gen. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, signaling an end to the Civil War.
- Eat at one of the local restaurants. Pick up some chocolates at Cocoa Mill Chooclate Co., an award winning chocolatier in Lexington.
- Visit Natural Bridge, just south of Lexington. Now a National Historic Landmark, the site was once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
Other Ways to Commemorate the Lives of Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson
- Visit Arlington National Cemetery. The Robert E. Lee family home of more than 30 years, following his marriage to Mary Anna Randolph Custis (great-granddaughter of Martha Washington), is open to the public.
- Visit Monument Avenue in Richmond to see statues of Lee, Jackson and other confederate war heroes.
- Head to Lee’s birthplace, Stratford Hall.
- Look for the burial spot of Jackson’s left arm on the grounds of Ellwood Manor, within Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park- Battle of Chancellorsville area.
- Head to the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.
Looking for fun closer to home?
- Get ready for the Inauguration with some fun activities around town
- Check out a Smithsonian Exhibit before it’s gone
- Visit a local site you probably haven’t been to yet
- Stay warm indoors and check out a DC Library story time