Through Union victory an entirely new social order was to be established that would alter the relationship between the races forever. Unlike so many other Southerners, Robert E. Lee embraced the new order. After peace had been achieved through unconditional surrender, the South became a vast, heavily occupied military zone with black Union soldiers seemingly everywhere.
One Sunday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, a well-dressed, lone black man, whom no one in the community—white or black—had ever seen before, had attended the service, sitting unnoticed in the last pew.
Just before communion was to be distributed, he rose and proudly walked down the center aisle through the middle of the church where all could see him and approached the communion rail, where he knelt. The priest and the congregation were completely aghast and in total shock.
No one knew what to do…except General Lee. He went to the communion rail and knelt beside the black man and they received communion together—and then a steady flow of other church members followed the example he had set.
After the service was over, the black man was never to be seen in Richmond again. It was as if he had been sent down from a higher place purposefully for that particular occasion.
Today, and deservingly so, Lee is honored throughout the country. Only Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln exceed him in monuments and memorials.