Dr. Sol Taylor

Coins & Medals of Robert E. Lee

Stone Mountain
The 1925 Stone Mountain commemorative half dollar shows Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, August 30, 2008

obert E. Lee is best known for his command of the Confederate Army during the final year of the Civil War. Were it not for the role of Abraham Lincoln in pardoning the Confederate leadership of treason, Lee would never have achieved his fame after 1865.
    As an American general at the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee chose to join with the forces of Northern Virginia (his home was in Arlington, on the grounds of today's Arlington National Cemetery). He presided over some of the costliest battles of the war including Antietam, which cost the Union Army some 12,400 dead and the Confederate forces some 10,700 dead.
    The United States Mint struck two different commemorative half dollars featuring Lee. The first was the 1925 Stone Mountain commemorative. It was aimed at raising funds to complete a monument on the face of Stone Mountain, Geo.
    The coin features Lee and Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on horseback. The coin was inscribed, "To the valor of the soldier of the South." About two dozen of these coins were counterstamped for the various states represented in the South, and each counterstamped coin also had a number stamped. Thus a typical piece might say "FLA" above and "12" below. These pieces were special gifts to the various states' officials involved in the project. Today they are quite valuable collector items. The project was not completed for another 40 years.
    The second commemorative half dollar was issued in 1937 for the battle of Antietam. The obverse features Lee and his Union counterpart, Gen. George McClellan.
    A third commemorative half dollar, not including Lee, was issued in 1937 for the 1938 final reunion of the UCV and GAR in Gettysburg. Two unidentified soldiers are shown on the obverse, one Union and one Confederate. Some 2,000 survivors of the Civil War attended the event. Proclamations were issued by most state governors and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
    In 1956, Congress issued a Civil War survivor's medal for the four known survivors from either side. The obverse featured Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant. Four gold specimens were struck — one for each of the final survivors. Gilroy Roberts designed the medal. Bronze specimens were struck for sale to the public.
    Medallic Art Company issued a bronze medal featuring Lee on the obverse and a :Lee on horseback on the reverse. It was issued in 1965 commemorating the end of the Civil War.
    The Battle of Gettysburg was commemorated in 1938 with a medal featuring Lee and Meade on the obverse and the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg on the reverse. It was also given to the nearly 2,000 veterans attending the three-day observance in 1938.
    In 1963, a medal was issued observing the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It features Lee and Meade on the obverse and battle flags on the reverse. Other privately minted medals from Medallic Arts and Presidential Arts honor various events of the era and include Lee in the design.
    For a non-president, Robert E. Lee has generated more coinage and medals than most Americans.
    With the sesquicentennial approaching in 2011, no doubt more medals will be issued commemorating the events of 1860-1865, including those honoring Robert E. Lee.