Cracks in the Marble Man:Considering the Gap between the Legend and Reality of Robert E. LeeMichael MetzHIS 3784/30/12
2There are certain people in history who have the ability to shed their humanity and become a god.These people were so pow...
3marble man” was born.2Lee‟s death was the South‟s chance to change history; the North was toomoderate and easy-going to c...
4strength of his army caused him to send broken and fatigued brigades into battles that would end up beinga waste of manpo...
5key flaw in how Lee viewed long range artillery. Lee overestimated the accuracy of long range firepowerand used it for th...
617At Fredericksburg, Lee positioned a key part of his defensive line on a hilly ridge called the SunkenRoad. Due to the e...
7chose a location to fight where his army had a river at their back and one ford to cross.22As an engineer,Lee should have...
8he died long before the war was over. This was known as Lee‟s decentralized system of command.27While this system works w...
9foolhardy offensive maneuvers on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, along with the suicidalPickett‟s charge on t...
10Confederate army to invade the North without enough ammunition and proper equipment. Lee tended tobelieve that his soldi...
11and tactics at Antietam were far too aggressive for a general who should have known the limitations of hisown army.Lee‟s...
12as well.46This type of logic has no strategic backing. Lee should have pulled back to a more defensiveposition, but he i...
13towards Gettysburg because they did not feel as if Lee was really a threat. To inspire fear, Lee shouldhave torched the ...
14fundamental aspect of war, was a far cry from greatness. He was compared to Frederick the Great in thathis strength came...
15this atrocity to occur? The North did not have to alter the facts to show that Lee was an aggressive traitorwho made exc...
16death as an opportunity to reassert their continued commitment to the old racial order.”65TheseSoutherners used Lee‟s de...
17HIS 378 Research Paper BibliographyPrimary SourcesAlbany Evening Journal. A Lesson from the Enemy. September 1, 1862.htt...
18New York Times. The First and Last Test of Lee’s Generalship. March 16, 1865.http://www.nytimes.com/1865/03/16/news/the-...
19Gallagher, Gary W. Lee and his Generals in War and Memory. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UniversityPress, 1998.Hynds, Ern...
20http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNp...
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The Truth of Robert E. Lee

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The Truth of Robert E. Lee

  1. 1. Cracks in the Marble Man:Considering the Gap between the Legend and Reality of Robert E. LeeMichael MetzHIS 3784/30/12
  2. 2. 2There are certain people in history who have the ability to shed their humanity and become a god.These people were so powerful, respected, and loved that it became a veritable sin to criticize any part oftheir existence. These legends, however, do not always measure up to the truth. They are almost neveraccurate descriptions of what truly happened in the person‟s lifetime. Even the most perfect man does notmeasure up to his reputation.Robert Edmund Lee is a well-studied example of a man who has lost the faults that make himhuman. General Lee has been hailed as the unbeatable leader of the Confederate Army during theAmerican Civil War. The myth is that the only reason he lost the war is because the North merely hadbetter resources and more manpower than the South, a trap many history students fall into.Contemporaries believed that no general, not even Ulysses S. Grant, could truly be considered Lee‟smatch in an even fight. He was a man who sacrificed his position in the Union Army to defend a cause hedid not truly believe in, bearing the weight of the entire war on his shoulders. After the war, he lived aquiet, secluded life as the head of Washington University, secluding himself from politics and money. Itseems as though he was universally loved by the North and the South during and after the war. This is thestory told in the history books, but how much of it is actually true?The perfect reputation of Robert E. Lee as an unbeatable soldier does not match up with historicalrealities; in fact, his reputation did not even exist during his lifetime. By examining Lee‟s actions before,during, and after the Civil War, one can clearly see that Lee was not the universally loved and respectedgeneral that modern day students of history learn about. He had serious military faults that do not fit wellwith his modern image of invincibility. Lee was not even the most well loved general of the war. To theSouth, Lee was no higher on the pedestal than other Civil War generals such as Stonewall Jackson andGeneral Albert Johnston.1To the North, Lee was not considered a threat and was barely known to thepublic until the end of the Civil War. It was not until after Lee‟s death in 1870 that his reputation as “the1William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 88.
  3. 3. 3marble man” was born.2Lee‟s death was the South‟s chance to change history; the North was toomoderate and easy-going to care about the switch.When studying the military prowess of a figure such a Lee, it is important to not focus oncomparisons between opposing armies and the ease of hindsight when reviewing battles.3Instead, it isnecessary to examine the personal actions and military dogma of Lee himself to determine the disparitybetween reality and his reputation. To start off, Lee had several key flaws in the way he neglected thelogistics of battles and the handling of the details of an operation. In particular, Lee did not like to reviewpaperwork, staffing, organization, and other data.4He found these tasks tedious and instead piled thework on subordinates who were not as able as himself to comprehend and process the data. Lee oftenmissed specific details on his army‟s position. In Lee‟s early fights with McClellan, Lee often planned forgrand flanking and cut-off maneuvers that would have caused serious damage to the Union army. Lee didnot realize, however, that the troops providing the manpower for the maneuver led by Jackson was anhour behind schedule.5If he had paid attention to the specifics, he could have coordinated more effectivestrikes and not left openings on his plan for a Union counterattack. General James Longstreet hadsuggested that Jackson be given more time to enter the fight, but Lee dismissed this advice.6Lee had veryselective attention when paying attention to the size of his army. He would pay attention to recruitmentnumbers but preferred to not hear about the devastating death tolls after battles.7Not knowing the exact2Ernest C. Hynds, "The Press and the Generals: Media Influence Images, Aspirations.” Atlanta History: A Journal OfGeorgia & The South 42, no. 1/2 (March 1998), 53.3Ibid., 475.4Michael A. Palmer, Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 122.5Tom Boeche, "Robert E. Lee Takes Center Stage." Americas Civil War 21, no. 1 (March 2008): 52,http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=28052532 (accessed March 19, 2012).6William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 97.7Alan T. Nolan, Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History (Chapel Hill: University of NorthCarolina Press, 1991), 88.
  4. 4. 4strength of his army caused him to send broken and fatigued brigades into battles that would end up beinga waste of manpower. Lee should have had reliable officers providing updates and battle statistics everyhalf an hour, but he instead preferred summaries of what was happening during the course of the battle.8Lee also paid poor attention to military equipment and supplies of his army. Possibly the mostembarrassing of examples is the fact that Lee often had incorrect or outdated maps of territories in hisbackpack.9The lack of geographic knowledge on Lee‟s person led to a lack of preparation forcomplicated deployment maneuvers at battles such as Antietam and Bristoe Station. Lee‟s army oftenwent on the offensive without proper supplies. At Bristoe Station, General Longstreet observed thatEwell‟s troops were only able to refresh themselves from the supplies of captured enemy soldiers.10AtAntietam, his soldiers could not find anything to eat.11Lee also had difficulty dealing with new militaryequipment when he had studied tactics Napoleon had used fifty years earlier. For example, Lee usedaggressive Napoleonic charges and flanking maneuvers at Gettysburg against modern weaponry such asrifled muskets, artillery, and the Minié bullet.12Lee had several strategic disputes with artillerycommander Edward Porter Alexander, who was touted as one of the sharper military minds of the war bymodern historians. At the battle of Fredericksburg, Lee wanted guns higher up on the hill behindConfederate lines in order to respond to any potential Federal batteries firing at them.13Alexanderstrongly argued to place the artillery lower on the hill to fight against Union assaults coming up the hilltowards the Confederate position. Alexander‟s strategy proved far more effective than Lee‟s, revealing a8Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 110.9Christine M. Kreiser, "7 days that made Robert E. Lee an icon." Americas Civil War 25, no. 2 (May 2012): 55,http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=71799097 (accessed March 19, 2012).10William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 139.11Stephen W. Sears, Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983), 174.12Michael A. Palmer, Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 122.13Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 167.
  5. 5. 5key flaw in how Lee viewed long range artillery. Lee overestimated the accuracy of long range firepowerand used it for that purpose; younger artillery generals such as Alexander realized the destructive powerthat artillery had against medium range, supporting Confederate counter-attacks.Another aspect of Lee‟s military prowess that did not match his reputation was his skills atgetting his army into proper positions, particularly when going on the offensive. Lee was rather unusual inhow he made use of his cavalry. More often than not, Lee used General Stuart and his cavalry as scoutingparties or defending the rear of his army. At Gettysburg, however, Lee allowed the cavalry to get too faraway from the infantry for raids in enemy territory that had little impact on the overall battle. “The firstaxiom of war is to mass one‟s strength. Then and only then can its fullest power be brought into play.”14Instead of using the cavalry for scouts and skirmishers, Lee would have profited more by using themdirectly in the fight as Napoleon often did. In the contest for controlling Five Forks in 1865, Leedisconnected his cavalry from his army to defend his right flank, inadvertently helping Grant achieve hisobjective of lowering the defenses of Lee by forcing him to split up his army.15Instead, Lee should haveeither moved his army en mass or accommodated for the fall of Five Forks.There are several cases of inefficient use of battle lines and coordinated attacks with Lee‟sinfantry as well. On the first day of Gettysburg, General Richard Ewell convinced Lee that he would beable to take Little Round Top. However, his initial positioning was in a topographical position that madehis artillery useless. Furthermore, Lee had positioned Ewell in a location far enough away from the coreof the Rebel army that it was difficult to support and reinforce the attacks that happened on the secondday of the battle.16Part of the problem was Lee‟s refusal to believe the information presented to JamesLongstreet by his scout Henry Harrison on the first day of the battle, leading Lee to overextend his army.14Ibid., 228.15Stephen W. Sears, Controversies & Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac (Boston: HougtonMifflin Co., 1999), 263.16Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 232-234.
  6. 6. 617At Fredericksburg, Lee positioned a key part of his defensive line on a hilly ridge called the SunkenRoad. Due to the elevated location compared to the rest of Lee‟s line, the Sunken Road became virtuallyimpossible to resupply under Union artillery fire.18Lee should have been able to see this flaw inpositioning and withdrew his line to a better defensive position from Union artillery. At the battle ofBristoe Station, Lee did not properly coordinate attack formations between the 2ndand 3rdConfederateCorps. The two corps attacked at different intervals, causing gaps in the Confederate lines that the Unionarmy flanked.19To make matters worse, Lee did not reach the battlefield until several hours after theattack failed. If he really was a master tactician, why was he not within eyesight of the battle and properlycoordinating what turned out to be the Confederacy‟s last chance at an offensive maneuver against theNorth? The Confederate army simply did not have the strength for another offensive.During his time at West Point and in the Mexican War prior to the Civil War, Lee gained areputation for being a master engineer; in war, this means being able to observe the battlefield terrain andmake proper tactical decisions based off of geography.20The skills that he learned in the Mexican War,however, did not transfer well to fighting on Eastern American soil. The Mexican War used relativelylittle artillery and was primarily fought on flat desserts and prairies; this landscape is relatively easy towork with when compared to rolling hills and cannons used during the Civil War.21At Antietam, Lee17William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 294.18Frank A. OReilly, "Lees Incomplete Victory." Americas Civil War 14, no. 5 (November 2001): 30,http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e94e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=5&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=5188532 (accessed March 19, 2012).19Michael A. Palmer, Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 115.20Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 110.21Ibid., 111.
  7. 7. 7chose a location to fight where his army had a river at their back and one ford to cross.22As an engineer,Lee should have realized the terrible position he put his army in. If McClellan had pushed the attack thenext morning, Lee‟s entire army would have been crushed. General Longstreet considered themselveslucky that “McClellan‟s plan of the battle was not strong, the handling and execution were less so.”23Leerelied too much on what he expected his opponent to do, which is a dangerous gamble. At Gettysburg,Lee refused to retreat to a better defensive position on the first day because he did not believe that hisarmy could survive long by foraging for food in Pennsylvania.24This decision led his army to fight Unionforces that had the high ground, a position that no engineer should allow the enemy to hold. Alexandernotes that Lee‟s army did well foraging for food in Pennsylvania for over a week during the retreat fromPennsylvania.25Keeping this in mind, Lee should have fallen back to Cashtown and forced Meade to fighton ground that Lee himself chose. This stubbornness to not retreat in face of a bad offensive position isnot desirable for somebody leading the Confederacy‟s only chance at survival.By examining battle orders and recollections of Lee from some of his close lieutenants, severalmilitary flaws become glaringly apparent. The first flaw of Lee as a military leader was his desire to keephis subordinates “blindfolded.” He was often unwilling to share his full battle plans with his immediatesubordinates.26He simply believed that he could give his generals a basic outline of what the battle wassupposed to look like and they would follow suit. This type of activity increases what is called the fog ofwar, which can be surmised as a lack of information leading to blind decisions. The only one of Lee‟ssubordinates who was truly talented enough to follow this style of leadership was Stonewall Jackson, but22Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 110.23William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 218.24Gary W. Gallagher, Lee and his Generals in War and Memory (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,1998), 52.25Ibid., 232.26Michael A. Palmer, Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 131.
  8. 8. 8he died long before the war was over. This was known as Lee‟s decentralized system of command.27While this system works while an army is on the defensive and within close proximity to each other, thistype of strategy becomes derailed while going on the offensive. Lines stretch out, attacks becomeuncoordinated, and serious casualties are inflicted when every last minute detail is not hammered out bythe one creating the battle plan. In the words of General Edward Porter Alexander, “generals shouldsupervise the execution of orders, not just give them.”28However, Lee was a distant man when the timecame to discussing battle tactics. Francis Lawley, a British ambassador observing Gettysburg, noted thatLee was “unresponsive to his generals‟ advice.”29A lack of communication is a main source for militarydefeats throughout history. Even the generals closest to him such as Longstreet were often ignored, muchto the army‟s expense.30Following Gettysburg, Lee was noted to having read Northern newspaper reportson the battle that claimed the South would have won if he had followed Longstreet‟s suggestions.31It is possible to blame Lee‟s subordinates in this case for not being able to follow theircommander‟s orders. However, it was Lee himself who put his subordinates in the positions in the firstplace. Lee “lacked an eye for talent” and often appointed military leaders who could be consideredaverage at best.32Lee did not encourage “unusual promotions” within the ranks, which often squashed thepossibility of potential military geniuses to come out of the dark and into command.33General Longstreetis one example of a subordinate who followed orders but was later blamed for the loss at Gettysburg. The27Michael A. Palmer, Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 115.28Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 111.29Thomas L. Conelly, The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and his Image in American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1977), 57.30William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 179.31Ibid.,338.32Daniel Mark Epstein, "Who cares about Robert E. Lee?." New Criterion 26, no. 1 (September 2007): 26,http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2aae63a0-59b4-443a-b20c-fc10ab94fe39%40sessionmgr13&vid=7&hid=111 (accessed February 25, 2012).33Ibid., 26.
  9. 9. 9foolhardy offensive maneuvers on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, along with the suicidalPickett‟s charge on the third day, are both blamed on Longstreet disobeying Lee‟s orders to follow a moredefensive tactic. This story of Longstreet‟s disobedience, however, did not come up in the battle reportsuntil seven years later, when General Jubal Early turned Longstreet into the scapegoat for Lee‟s faults.34General Early himself made poor offensive maneuvers on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg thatpotentially caused the outcome of the battle itself. Longstreet described Early as one who was “ready tochampion any reports that could throw a shadow over its record, but the charge most pleasing to him wasthat of treason on the part of its commander.”35Clearly, Early enjoyed taking the initiative to shift theblame from himself to Longstreet, while simultaneously glorifying Lee‟s memory.36Aside from his immediate subordinates and advisors, Lee also had a way of trying to get aroundthe political system in order to achieve his own ambitions during war. Jefferson Davis and the politiciansat Richmond wanted to follow a far more defensive policy than Lee executed. Lee was „supposed tosustain the war through wit and maneuver to the point where the North grew thoroughly tired on a conflictthat posed no immediate threat to its own basic way of life.”37Instead, Lee shaped his battle plan to amuch more aggressive strategy than the Confederate army could afford. In fact, Lee never even fully toldDavis and the Cabinet about his planned invasions of the North in 1862 and 1863. The Maryland invasionof 1862 was only approved by Davis after the fact.38In 1863, Lee lied about the amount of resourcesnecessary for an offensive into Pennsylvania, in order to get Davis‟s approval. This blatant lie caused the34Stephen W. Sears, "Getting right with Robert E. Lee." American Heritage 42, no. 3 (May 1991):http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=9106031729 (accessed March 19, 2012).35William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 334.36Thomas L. Conelly, The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and his Image in American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1977), 54.37Early S. Miers, Robert E. Lee: A Great Life in Brief (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), 75.38Michael A. Palmer, Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 34.
  10. 10. 10Confederate army to invade the North without enough ammunition and proper equipment. Lee tended tobelieve that his soldiers were in prime condition to fight. In reality, they often were marching hundreds ofmiles without food or shoes. Lee‟s commitment to his battle plan despite the lack of resources availablecaused him to make poor political decisions that kept the Confederate government in the dark as to hisintentions throughout the war.Lee‟s decision to go with his own course of action instead of his government‟s decision comes offas arrogant, almost aggressive in nature. The character trait of aggressiveness is another one of Lee‟smilitary faults that manifested time after time throughout the Civil War. Lee is described as having the“instincts of a boxer, anxious to disconcert his opponent with counterpunches, swift and unexpected.”39The ability to counterpunch in military tactics derives from the ability to read your opponent‟s moves.While I am not denying that Lee had moments of incredible brilliance in predicting the timid nature ofNorthern Generals McClellan and Meade, in general, Lee proved to be too aggressive for his own good.At the battle of Antietam, Lee took enemy inactivity as “faltering” and would order his generals to pressthe attack.40This often backfired because the opposing army at Antietam was not faltering as Leeassumed, but instead taking a leaf out of Lee‟s book and adopting a defensive position. At Antietam, Leemade several great bluffs during the course of the battle, hoping to scare off the Union army. Towards theend of the battle, Lee ordered to put in every artillery gun possible and open fire with long and short rangeweapons.41He had no more reserves left and knew that the Union reserves were waiting just a few milesbehind the front lines. Luckily for Lee, McCellan did not press the attack. If they had, however, theywould have called Lee‟s bluff and completely overrun the Confederate army. Lee chose a battlefield witha terrible retreat route, backed against a river with only one faulty exit at Boteler‟s Ford.42Lee position39Early S. Miers, Robert E. Lee: A Great Life in Brief (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), 63.40Stephen W. Sears, Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983), 214.41Ibid., 160.42Ibid., 175.
  11. 11. 11and tactics at Antietam were far too aggressive for a general who should have known the limitations of hisown army.Lee‟s aggressive nature derives from another aspect of his life that should not have been broughtonto the battlefield: his faith in God. “He saw the Southern army as controlled by a divine hand, andbelieved that battles were determined by God.”43While confidence in your success is indeed important,putting your faith in the hands of an unseen power is not good military judgment. Lee himself is thecommander of the army and should not rely on supernatural forces of the next world to help protect thephysical world and its realities. Lee “trusted in God that his blunders might not prove calamitous, thatsomehow the Confederacy could muddle through.”44This quote does not paint the picture of a soldierconfident in his own abilities. Instead, it shows how Lee would push forward with over aggressiveactions, backed only by the belief that God would protect them. Lee believed that with God would protecthis soldiers during the battle of Gettysburg; he should have been focusing on how he could form betterstrategies to protect his soldiers.Lee also had a tendency to let glory and past victories take precedence over logistical truths, thusclouding his vision from the truth. At the battle of Antietam, Lee had only 35,000 soldiers facingMcCellan‟s force of 87,000, but Lee pressed onward because he believed these were the “best soldiers” inthe world.45Even if his soldiers were indeed superhuman, superior numbers and the disparity in militaryequipment should have ended any delusions of military success. In the Virginia Wilderness campaigns of1864, Lee actively pitted 60,000 poorly equipped soldiers against Ulysses S. Grant‟s 125,000 soldiers.Despite being outnumbered by a force twice his size, Lee continued because they would be fighting in thesame forests that Union General Hooker had lost in two years prior, so it was likely that Grant would lose43Thomas L. Conelly, The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and his Image in American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1977), 191.44Early S. Miers, Robert E. Lee: A Great Life in Brief (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), 73.45Stephen W. Sears, Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983), 175.
  12. 12. 12as well.46This type of logic has no strategic backing. Lee should have pulled back to a more defensiveposition, but he instead actively engaged Grant in bloody contests that shattered the remainder of theConfederate army. Lee‟s aggressiveness and unrelenting faith in his soldiers shows a poor sense ofjudgment and what his army was truly capable of accomplishing, often sending his army north “without afully developed plan of operations.”47He did plan out his offenses but instead trusted in God that hisopponents would slip up. “Assumptions about the incompetence of one‟s opponents are not the basis forsound strategic planning.”48Some historians will argue that Lee had political reasons for being aggressive in strategy. It ispossible that Lee believed a quick knock-out punch against the enemy capital would end a war that theSouth could not sustain in the long run; this could explain his great focus on the war in Virginia and lessin the Western theatre. In 1864, it would have been a better political victory to send the army southwest,crush Sherman‟s advance into Atlanta, and then returned to Virginia.49Simply put, Lee focused too muchon the northeastern theatre. Furthermore, it has been suggested that Davis wanted Lee to inspire enoughfear into the North to prevent Lincoln from winning the 1864 election and likely ending the war bydeterring the population of the North. However, “Lee relied too heavily on the 1864 political loss ofLincoln. He pushed too fast for an offensive with heavy casualties…giving Lincoln a boost by ending upon the defensive himself.”50Lee even failed in his objective to inspire fear into the north when invadingPennsylvania in 1863. Most of the citizens did not join an emergency militia to stop Lee‟s advance46Early S. Miers, Robert E. Lee: A Great Life in Brief (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), 168.47Ibid., 105.48Ibid., 105.49Edward Porter Alexander and Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections ofGeneral Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 471.50Alan T. Nolan, Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History (Chapel Hill: University of NorthCarolina Press, 1991), 88.
  13. 13. 13towards Gettysburg because they did not feel as if Lee was really a threat. To inspire fear, Lee shouldhave torched the entire area he invaded, but he was too much of a gentleman to do so.51Lee‟s reputation as an amazing general was not even known to the North during and after the war.The earliest that Lee is mentioned in the New York Times is 1862. He is described as “far from beingpopular at the South…he has no political strength there now of any importance.”52In fact, the North knewso little about Lee at the beginning that the first picture they had of him in the Northern newspapers wasfrom his younger years at West Point. Lee simply was not somebody that the North cared about. “Hemust be looked upon simply as the right arm of an unscrupulous authority which he can neither hope toadvise nor to control.”53After Lee‟s victory at the 2ndBattle of Bull Run in 1862, The North was notafraid of Lee‟s military prowess. To the contrary, the North was quite impressed with Lee‟s ability toshake off the disastrous defeats and in turn throw the northern army onto the offensive. Instead of puttinga dent in Northern morale, Lee had taught the North a “lesson of perseverance.”54By August of 1863, Lee had begun to be openly criticized by northern newspapers. Lee‟s militaryprowess was described as such: “talent serves a defensive war, while genius takes an offensive war.”55This stab at Lee‟s skills was clearly in response to the two failed offenses that Lee attempted throughoutthe war. Lee had proven successful while on the defense, but his skills at attacking the enemy, a51William Alan Blaire,““A Source of Amusement”: Pennsylvania versus Lee, 1863.” The Pennsylvania Magazine ofHistory and Biography 115, no. 3 (Jul., 1991), 334. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20092629 (accessed February 25,2012)52The Rebel Generals, New York Times, September 16, 1862,http://www.nytimes.com/1862/09/16/news/the-rebel-generals.html?scp=19&sq=%22robert+e+lee%22&st=p (accessed March 13, 2012)53Ibid.54A Lesson from the Enemy, Albany Evening Journal, September 1, 1862.http://www.newsinhistory.com/blog/northern-and-southern-reaction-second-battle-bull-run-manassas (accessedMarch 14, 2012).55The Chivalry of the Rebel Gen. Lee, New York Times, May 23, 1864,http://www.nytimes.com/1864/05/23/news/the-chivalry-of-the-rebel-gen-lee.html?scp=74&sq=%22robert+e+lee%22&st=p&gwh=53A65173D89E5CE0A4A7FA5BBC58698 3 (accessedMarch 15, 2012).
  14. 14. 14fundamental aspect of war, was a far cry from greatness. He was compared to Frederick the Great in thathis strength came from being on the defensive with offensive returns, a strategy that would not win thewar for the South.56. On May 14th, 1864, the north attacked Lee‟s honor and revealed an address that Leehad given to his soldiers on that status of the war. Every section of the address was a blatant military lie,and now the entire North had direct evidence of the faults of Lee‟s character. “Fidelity lies at the verycore of sound character, and when that rots, all rots.”57The north had no respect for Robert E. Lee; in fact,they believe that he took credit for all of Stonewall Jackson‟s victories and noticed that he had not had amajor victory since Jackson‟s death.581865 was the last year that Lee received harsh criticism from the South, which later opened up awindow for the remolding of his reputation to begin. Prior to 1865, Lee‟s defensive nature had at leastbeen considered admirable. It was the one tactic that Lee was good at executing. In March 1865, Northernnewspapers made a point that it took no skill to build and defend fortifications. In fact, the only reasonthat the majority of his defensive efforts had worked in the first place could blamed on the timidity ofMcClellan and the overall lack of Northern efforts to press the attack on Lee.59Northern critics did notunderstand how it is possible to honor a man who caused a prolonged bloodshed in a pointless war. Lee‟shonor was attacked again when Northern newspapers questioned how any sane Christian could allowthousands of Union soldiers to starve to death on Belle Isle prison.60What sort of gentleman would allow56Gen. Lee and the Rebellion, New York Times, August 25, 1863, http://www.nytimes.com/1863/08/25/news/gen-lee-and-the-rebellion.html?scp=38&sq=&pagewanted=1 (accessed March 15, 2012).57The Chivalry of the Rebel Gen. Lee, New York Times, May 23, 1864.58Ibid.59The First and Last Test of Lee’s Generalship, New York Times, March 16, 1865,http://www.nytimes.com/1865/03/16/news/the-first-and-last-test-of-lee-s-generalship.html?scp=96&sq=%22robert+e+lee%22&st=p&gwh=FA1B47B43F439BC3D256DD0ABCE76405(accessed March 17, 2012).60The Rebel Chiefs, Harper’s Weekly, May 13, 1865, http://app.harpweek.com.navigator-kutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1865&issueId=0513&page=2 90 (accessedFebruary 29, 2012).
  15. 15. 15this atrocity to occur? The North did not have to alter the facts to show that Lee was an aggressive traitorwho made excuses for his actions, as all traitors do.61So when did Lee‟s reputation switch? How did the man who was known as a traitor and a failedtactician turn into a flawless symbol of the American legend? The origins of the switch were acombination of two factors: the easing of tensions from the victorious north and the needs of a bitter,defeated south for a hero to exploit. The turning point came after Robert E. Lee‟s death on October 12,1870. After the fiery accusations of Northern newspapers died down in 1865, Lee‟s life became one ofquiet obscurity.62He took a low key job at Washington University and stayed removed from politics. Bythe time of his death, newspapers had become bored with writing about Lee. He was a regional hero, not anational one.63In the few articles written about Lee in response to his death, he was viewed in a far moremoderate light than he was during the Civil War. He was described as an amiable man who made thewrong choice in the war; he would be remembered as unfortunate.64After these mild descriptions ended,The North had little to say about Lee. This opened the door for Lee‟s reputation to blossom.In New Orleans, the death of Lee meant an opportunity for the South to take control of thepolitical direction of the city. By 1870, moderate northern Republicans had been placed in New Orleansto head the Reconstruction efforts. Northern Republicans were charged with healing the divisionsbetween themselves and Southern, white conservative communities. “White conservatives…saw Lee‟s61Extraordinary Conduct, Harper’s Weekly, May 13, 1865,http://app.harpweek.com.navigatorkutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1865&issueId=0513&page=290 (accessed February 29, 2012).62James C. Cobb, "How did Robert E. Lee Become and American Icon?." Humanities 32, no. 4 (July 2011): 30,http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=0373755d-f904-413b-8294-59366c77ad20%40sessionmgr111&vid=15&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=62984560 (accessed March 19, 2012).63Thomas L. Conelly, The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and his Image in American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1977), 99.64Robert E. Lee, Harper’s Weekly, October 29, 1870,http://app.harpweek.com.navigator-kutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1870&issueId=1029&page=691 (accessedFebruary 28, 2012).
  16. 16. 16death as an opportunity to reassert their continued commitment to the old racial order.”65TheseSoutherners used Lee‟s death as a way to hoodwink the northern Republicans into uniting under thebanner of a single white hero. Southerners beckoned their Northern neighbors to join them in themourning of a hero‟s passing.66They capitalized on the wishes of the North to reconcile with the South bycommemorating Lee as a man who lacked corruption, and blamed the dwindling state of the city on thenew biracial government. Republican Judge Dibble stationed in New Orleans allowed a powerful eulogyfor Lee to be said because he saw nothing wrong with letting it happen.67Moderate Republican politiciansin New Orleans went along with the mourning process because the majority of the population would havebeen angry at them if they refused to recognize Lee. Northern businessmen followed the mourningprocess because it was better for business to accept it.68Throughout the years, Lee has been built up into an unbeatable general who only lost because of alack of resources and faulty subordinates. These claims, however, have little historical truth and weremore often than not created after he died. The men who created this image were bitter Southernpoliticians and generals seeking to justify their cause as righteous. Subordinates of Lee such as Longstreetwere turned into scapegoats, taking the blame for Lee‟s losses.69Lee was indeed a very capable generalwhose tactics proved useful while on the defensive and displayed great intuition on the battlefield.However, the record of his offensive engagements reveal a general who did not listen to his subordinates,trusted more in the supernatural than reality, and made unwise decisions when positioning his army on theoffensive.65Michael A. Ross, "The Commemoration of Robert E. Lees Death and the Obstruction of Reconstruction in NewOrleans." Civil War History 51, no. 2 (June 2005): 135.http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=3&hid=109&sid=95eb5024-dfff-4a99-8b13-9785b407f307%40sessionmgr14&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=ahl&AN=16795572(accessed February 25, 2012).66Ibid., 140.67Ibid., 143.68Ibid, 140.69William G. Piston, From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet (1989; repr., New York: Barns & Noble Inc.,2004), 487.
  17. 17. 17HIS 378 Research Paper BibliographyPrimary SourcesAlbany Evening Journal. A Lesson from the Enemy. September 1, 1862.http://www.newsinhistory.com/blog/northern-and-southern-reaction-second-battle-bull-run-manassasAlexander, Edward Porter, and Gary W. Gallagher. Fighting for the Confederacy: The PersonalRecollections of General Edward Porter Alexander. Chapel Hill: University of North CarolinaPress, 1989.Harper’s Weekly. Extraordinary Conduct. May 13, 1865.http://app.harpweek.com.navigatorkutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1865&issueId=0513&page=290 (accessed February 29, 2012).Harper’s Weekly. Robert E. Lee. April 22, 1865.http://app.harpweek.com.navigator-kutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1865&issueId=0422&page=242 (accessed March 1, 2012).Harper’s Weekly. Robert E. Lee. October 29, 1870.http://app.harpweek.com.navigator-kutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1870&issueId=1029&page=691 (accessed February 28, 2012).Harper’s Weekly. Robert Edmund Lee. July 2, 1864.http://app.harpweek.com.navigator-kutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1864&issueId=0702&page=418 (accessed March 1, 2012).Harper’s Weekly. The Rebel Chiefs. May 13, 1865http://app.harpweek.com.navigator-kutztown.passhe.edu/IssueImagesView.asp?titleId=HW&volumeId=1865&issueId=0513&page=290 (accessed February 29, 2012).New York Times. Gen. Lee and the Rebellion. August 25, 1863.http://www.nytimes.com/1863/08/25/news/gen-lee-and-the-rebellion.html?scp=38&sq=&pagewanted=1 (accessed March 15, 2012).New York Times. The Chivalry of the Rebel Gen. Lee. May 23, 1864.http://www.nytimes.com/1864/05/23/news/the-chivalry-of-the-rebel-gen-lee.html?scp=74&sq=%22robert+e+lee%22&st=p&gwh=53A65173D89E5CE0A4A7FA5BBC586983 (accessed March 15, 2012).
  18. 18. 18New York Times. The First and Last Test of Lee’s Generalship. March 16, 1865.http://www.nytimes.com/1865/03/16/news/the-first-and-last-test-of-lee-s-generalship.html?scp=96&sq=%22robert+e+lee%22&st=p&gwh=FA1B47B43F439BC3D256DD0ABCE76405 (accessed March 17, 2012).New York Times. The Rebel Generals. September 16, 1862.http://www.nytimes.com/1862/09/16/news/the-rebel-generals.html?scp=19&sq=%22robert+e+lee%22&st=p (accessed March 13, 2012).Piston, William G. From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet. 1896. Reprint, New York: Barns &Noble Inc., 2004.Secondary SourcesBlair, William Alan. ““A Source of Amusement”: Pennsylvania versus Lee, 1863.” The PennsylvaniaMagazine of History and Biography 115, no. 3 (Jul., 1991), pp. 319-338. The Historical Society ofPennsylvania, JSTOR (accessed February 25, 2012)http://www.jstor.org/stable/20092629Boeche, Tom. "Robert E. Lee Takes Center Stage." Americas Civil War 21, no. 1 (March 2008): 48-55.Military & Government Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed March 19, 2012).http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=28052532Cobb, James C. "How did Robert E. Lee Become and American Icon?." Humanities 32, no. 4 (July 2011):28-33. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 19, 2012).http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=0373755d-f904-413b-8294-59366c77ad20%40sessionmgr111&vid=15&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=62984560Conelly, Thomas L. The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and his Image in American Society. New York: AlfredA. Knopf, 1977.Epstein, Daniel Mark. "Who cares about Robert E. Lee?." New Criterion 26, no. 1 (September 2007): 22-27. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 25, 2012).http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2aae63a0-59b4-443a-b20c-fc10ab94fe39%40sessionmgr13&vid=7&hid=111
  19. 19. 19Gallagher, Gary W. Lee and his Generals in War and Memory. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UniversityPress, 1998.Hynds, Ernest C. "The Press and the Generals: Media Influence Images, Aspirations.” Atlanta History: AJournal Of Georgia & The South 42, no. 1/2 (March 1998): 45-58.Kreiser, Christine M. "7 days that made Robert E. Lee an icon." Americas Civil War 25, no. 2 (May 2012):50-55. Military & Government Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed March 19,2012).http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=71799097Miers, Early S. Robert E. Lee: A Great Life in Brief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956.Nolan, Alan T. Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History. Chapel Hill: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1991.OReilly, Frank A. "Lees Incomplete Victory." Americas Civil War 14, no. 5 (November 2001): 30. Military& Government Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed March 19, 2012).http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=5&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=5188532Palmer, Michael A. Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.Piston, William G. Lee’s Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and his Place in Southern History.Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987.Ross, Michael A. "The Commemoration of Robert E. Lees Death and the Obstruction of Reconstructionin New Orleans." Civil War History 51, no. 2 (June 2005): 135-150. America: History & Life,EBSCOhost (accessed February 25, 2012).http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=3&hid=109&sid=95eb5024-dfff-4a99-8b13-9785b407f307%40sessionmgr14&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=ahl&AN=16795572Sears, Stephen W. Controversies & Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac. Boston:Hougton Mifflin Co., 1999.Sears, Stephen W. "Getting right with Robert E. Lee." American Heritage 42, no. 3 (May 1991): 58.Military & Government Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed March 19, 2012).
  20. 20. 20http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=22980074-474f-4bce-82e9-4e91fd5a7b3f%40sessionmgr113&vid=4&hid=102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=mth&AN=9106031729Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983.

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