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Thread: The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

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    The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

    In the midst of the controversy over removing Confederate Statues comes this interesting article about the myth making of Robert E. Lee.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics...al-lee/529038/

    A good synopsis of Lee's real views on slavery and blacks in general. In truth, I doubt it was much different than any other white southerner - probably even a bit more liberal than many. But still, he was a racist to the core, and violated his basic oath of office to defend that view. As the article says, we venerate him only because he had the ability to look noble in a gray uniform.

    I would only add to this article that Lee is overrated as a military leader both strategically and tactically. His decisions at Gettysburg were so utterly insane that some have speculated that he suffered a mild heart attack and that affected his judgment. Longstreet was right - get between the US Army and DC and force them to attack. Lee learned nothing from Fredericksburg seven months previously.

    SLD

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    Quote Originally Posted by SLD View Post
    In the midst of the controversy over removing Confederate Statues comes this interesting article about the myth making of Robert E. Lee.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics...al-lee/529038/

    A good synopsis of Lee's real views on slavery and blacks in general. In truth, I doubt it was much different than any other white southerner - probably even a bit more liberal than many. But still, he was a racist to the core, and violated his basic oath of office to defend that view. As the article says, we venerate him only because he had the ability to look noble in a gray uniform.

    I would only add to this article that Lee is overrated as a military leader both strategically and tactically. His decisions at Gettysburg were so utterly insane that some have speculated that he suffered a mild heart attack and that affected his judgment. Longstreet was right - get between the US Army and DC and force them to attack. Lee learned nothing from Fredericksburg seven months previously.

    SLD
    Yes great article.

    Not sure if I agree that Lee was an inept general. He was a poor quartermaster, the ANV was poorly supplied. He was aggressive, his casualty rate was the highest of any army commander in the war.

    The whole strategic aim of the Union army during Gettysburg was to stay between Lee and Washington. JEB Stuart was not with Lee until the third day. Meade was no Hooker. And without Stuart handling the cavalry, such moves were risky. It was Stuart who discovered the unanchored Federal right wing at Chancellorsville. Lee had to attack - or retreat, which would've been a defeat. Armies living off the land must disperse, but with a concentrated enemy nearby, Lee had to also concentrate or be defeated in detail. The worst mistake was not ensuring the capture of Cemetary hill on the evening of the first day, which would've compromised the Union position. But it had been a long day.

    Some blame Longstreet for the defeat because of his slow start on the second day.

    Strategically, the move made sense. It took the war out of Virginia, easing supply problems which Lee could never deal with effectively, and had a political impact. But in both the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns, the Union army shadowed Lee effectively.
    Last edited by Horatio Parker; 06-05-2017 at 05:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Horatio Parker View Post
    ... The worst mistake was not ensuring the capture of Cemetary hill on the evening of the first day, which would've compromised the Union position. But it had been a long day. ...
    I heard one historian saying that Lee's artillery was using an unfamiliar source for their powder charge and consequently most of the shells flew way past the top of the hill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Horatio Parker View Post
    ... The worst mistake was not ensuring the capture of Cemetary hill on the evening of the first day, which would've compromised the Union position. But it had been a long day. ...
    I heard one historian saying that Lee's artillery was using an unfamiliar source for their powder charge and consequently most of the shells flew way past the top of the hill.
    I don't know about the powder, but the barrage was indeed high, true. But that was the third day, Pickett's charge and all. The mistake I was referring to occurred late on the first day. The Union army had been decisively beaten, and was in disarray. Without Cemetery Hill, the Union couldn't have held its strong defensive position, and would've been forced to retreat.

    It's very important to understand that the ANV was living off the land. That means that to gather sufficient food, the army must disperse. But if a concentrated enemy is nearby, they must also concentrate, or be defeated in detail. So whatever Lee did, it had to be done quickly. With Stuart out of the picture, he had little choice but to attack or retreat.

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