The Aug. 21 op-ed article "In Defense of Gen. Lee" was courageous on the part of Edward C. Smith in expressing the view of his African American heritage and Gen. Robert E. Lee.

My great-grandfather, a Pennsylvanian, lost an arm in the Civil War fighting to preserve the Union. In the same battle, my wife's great-grandfather was killed fighting for the Confederacy. Like most southerners, my wife's ancestors did not own slaves. Her ancestral home of Salem, N.C., was settled by Moravians who opposed slavery in any form.

Why did Moravians and Quakers and members of other religious groups that opposed slavery volunteer and fight for the South? They were fighting what they considered to be a foreign invasion by Yankees who came to loot and burn their crops and homes, take their livestock and on occasion molest their women.

As Mr. Smith points out, in pre-Civil War America, citizens' first loyalty went to their states and the local community where they lived.

In due time, the slaves would have been freed because of the expenses of slavery, which only the wealthy could afford, and the pressure of those many southerners who opposed slavery. However, the Civil War did preserve the Union, and we all became Americans -- not Virginians, Pennsylvanians or New Englanders -- which was what my great-grandfather was fighting for.

B. SELIN JONES

Alexandria

As an African American and a Washingtonian who is also a graduate of the D.C. Public Schools, I am appalled at the implication by Edward Smith in his Aug. 21 op-ed article that any African American who opposes the memorialization of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond is ignorant and misinformed.

There is certainly enough historical evidence to support the facts that Gen. Lee was a traitor to the U.S. Constitution, the document that has made the United States one of the greatest nations in the world. Gen. Lee had to know that the position he took would have led to even greater suffering and bloodshed to the slaves and to the Confederacy, if the Confederacy was successful.

The moral high ground had already been defined, and those Americans who truly believed in America, South or North, could not allow for a human to be enslaved, because as long as one human could be enslaved it put in danger the freedom of all.

It is believed that with or without the Emancipation Proclamation slavery would have ended in the United States. John Brown, Nat Turner and many other freedom fighters ensured that it would happen.

Speaking about memorializing a great American, John Brown, a friend of Frederick Douglass, made the supreme sacrifice. He gave his life to free his fellow humans. This act sent a shock wave throughout America and was one of many that brought an end to slavery in the United States. Because of his strong religious beliefs, he stood up for what was morally right.

A strong argument, I am certain, could be made that to elevate John Brown and Nat Turner to American heroes would be too divisive. Therein is the answer as to the position that informed African Americans are taking in Virginia, and I applaud their position.

J. RANDOLPH WATSON

Mitchellville, Md.