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Quotes of Robert E. Lee

AB3A (192265) writes | about 8 years ago

User Journal 4

He was one of the most reviled and adored characters of the American Civil War. Yet his quotes show a very different man. Check them out.

He was one of the most reviled and adored characters of the American Civil War. Yet his quotes show a very different man. Check them out.

Some of the ones I like best: "So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this that I would have cheerfully lost all that I have lost by the war, and have suffered all that I have suffered to have this object attained."

I didn't know he felt that way about slavery.

Here's another: "It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it."

And another: "[W]e made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers".

It seems little has changed in this regard...

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He was torn (1)

nizo (81281) | about 8 years ago | (#15832826)

My understanding is he could easily have fought on either side, but stuck with his home state in the end. It certainly would have been a whole different (and probably a hell of a lot shorter) war if he had been in charge of the northern armies.

Don't be so sure about that (1)

DG (989) | about 8 years ago | (#15868624)

Although Lee has been canonized in the South, his actual military record (when faced with competant opposition) is somewhat more mixed.

He was good, but not great, and Gettysburg was an outright disaster that he could have salvaged early on.

DG

Re:Don't be so sure about that (1)

AB3A (192265) | about 8 years ago | (#15876901)

We typically look at military campaigns with perfect 20/20 hindsight. Yes, Gettysburg was a disaster for Lee. In war, things like this happen. Lee was also a pretty good judge of character. He had a pretty good staff of people working for him while the North had a knack for finding some of the most appallingly uncreative and unaware leaders. Sure, the North could have had better Generals and the South made mistakes. However, Lee was undoubtably the best general of the Civil War, even though he was on the losing side.

Re:Don't be so sure about that (1)

DG (989) | about 8 years ago | (#15880989)

Grant was *by far* the best general of the Civil War. He made an accurate estimate of the situation, came up with a plan to defeat his enemy, sucessfully carried out that plan, and won the war.

It may not have been the most flashy or sexy plan, but it accurately captured the realities of the situation and led to victory.

Gettysburg wasn't just a disaster in hindsight; it was apparent that it was a disaster on the day that it happened. Lee, however, refused to march away (as he should have) to pick a fight on ground of his own choosing (which he should have) and instead bulldozed his force into a battle that they could not win.

I've walked the ground at Gettysburg and studied it (and the Civil War) in military college. It is a textbook example of how quick thinking cavalry/recce forces can set the stage for victory, of just how much ground shapes a battle, and of when a commander should recognise that the cards are stacked against him and refuse combat.

For those who may be reading this who aren't familliar with the battle, it went like this: a Rebel army was advancing north, and a Union army was sent south to block them. Lee allowed his cavalry to go off without him, so he was marching blind. His lead infantry elements made contact with the Union cavalry, and the cavalry commander realized that he had just crossed an enormously defensible piece of ground. On his own initiative, he dismounted his troopers and formed them into a skirmish line, with the aim of forcing the oncoming column to deploy out of marching order into fighting order - which they did. Meanwhile, the follow-on Union forces started arriving on the battlefield, and they too deployed from marching columns into fighting formations - the difference being that they deployed on the high ground, where the Rebels deployed on the low ground.

Right there, the battle was won; the ground at Gettysburg is dominant on the axis of the Rebel advance.

Lee, arriving on the scene, probed the Union right (a reasonable action) and was repulsed. He then tried the Union left, but the gound there was a steep, forested and bolder-infested cliff called the Devil's Den, and it was impassible. All that was left was a wide open field, crossed at intervals by fences, that rose steadily up to the Union positions.

By this time, Lee knew the size of the Union position, he knew the shape of the perimeter, and he had seen the ground. He knew the Union was present in force, had the advantage of interior lines (the Union position was convex, so it is easy to transfer forces from an unthreatened flank to a threatened one) and he knew just how disadvantageous the ground was to attack. At this point, a good general would have refused battle and sought some way to find an advantage for himself. Instead, he sent his army up the middle, and they were slaughtered.

This attack became known as "Pickett's Charge" (although it was more of a walk) after the poor unfortunate chosen to lead it. I have stood on the heights and the low ground there, and it is patent suicide to send a gunpowder army up that field.

No way, no how is the man who ordered that attack the "best general of the Civil War".

DG
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