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W&L Emeritus Professor Holt Merchant to Focus on R.E. Lee and the Reconstruction

Lee Chapel and Museum presents “Remembering Robert E. Lee” with a speech by J. Holt Merchant ’61, professor of history emeritus, at Washington and Lee University on Oct. 10 at 12:15 p.m. in Lee Chapel Auditorium.

The title of Merchant’s talk is “Under a Cloud: Lee Meets the Challenges of Reconstruction 1865-1870.” It is open to the public at no charge, and will also be streamed live on Livestream.com.

Merchant’s approach to his talk was to find an angle on Lee that most people didn’t know. “I’ll be talking about Lee’s confrontation with the Joint Committee on Reconstruction which until 1865 had been the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War,” he said. “Lee hadn’t won a major battle since 1863, but he won this one.”

Merchant joined the W&L faculty in 1970, retiring in 2013. He continued to teach part time until 2016. He served as the Martin and Brooke Stein Professor of American History, as chair of the History Department and marshall of the University.

He served in the U.S. Army for six years in both the U.S. and Germany, reaching the rank of captain, before earning his Ph.D. in American history at the University of Virginia.

Merchant is the author of “South Carolina Fire-Eater: The Life of Laurence Massillon Keitt, 1824-1864” (2014). He lectures widely to general audiences, most often on George Washington, Robert E. Lee and the Civil War.