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Lee-Jackson Day

Lee-Jackson Day 2018 and 2019

Lee-Jackson Day is a public holiday in Virginia that falls on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, thus creating a four-day weekend.

201812 JanFriLee-Jackson DayVA
201918 JanFriLee-Jackson DayVA

Lee-Jackson Day is designed to remember the two greatest Confederate generals, head general Robert E. Lee and his “right hand man,” Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee-Jackson Day has been celebrated in Virginia since 1889. It was originally an observance of Robert E. Lee’s birthday, but in 1904, Jackson was added to the holiday’s name.

Between 1983 and 1999, the holiday was subsumed under Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but since 2000, it has had separate status again. Lee-Jackson Day generally comes sometime in mid-January.

The day is somewhat controversial since the two generals fought for the Confederacy, which supported slavery and rebelled against the United States. Thus, some Virginia cities refuse to observe the holiday, while others keep it with great fanfare.

General Lee’s ability to hold off the always-larger Union Army of the Potomac with his Army of Northern Virginia for over four years while out-supplied and out-gunned was extremely remarkable, and many speculate he could have won the Battle of Gettysburg and the whole war if he had not earlier lost the help of General Jackson. Jackson’s exploits in the Shenandoah Valley were, if possible, even more incredible that Lee’s achievements, as he repeatedly routed armies two and three times the size of his own.

Those visiting the state of Virginia on Lee-Jackson Day might want to take part in any of the following activities:

  • Go to Lexington, the very center of Lee-Jackson Day activity. There will be a Civil War parade, a ball, speaking events, music from the Civil War era, and military reenactments. Events continue all day long.
  • See the graves of both Lee and Jackson, also in Lexington, Virginia. Lee is buried under the floor of Lee Chapel, which he had built when president of Washington College. A statue of Lee resting on the battlefield is on the floor above his burial spot. Lee’s horse, “Traveler,” is buried in front of the chapel. Jackson is laid to rest in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.
  • Go to the town of Appomattox Court House and see the national park now there with its restored buildings from the era. Most especially, tour McLeon House, the very place where Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, 1865, ending the Civil War.

There is much history to be learned and many festive events to attend on Lee-Jackson Day in certain parts of Virginia, but Lexington is the main attraction.