The Union seized the property after he went to war and it became the place we know today. What about racial equality after the war? What I learned was that Arlington was Lee’s home. He laid him out gently on the ground, kissed him, and got back to advancing. He went on the defensive. The war was still raging. To get there Longstreet would have to make a long march under cover. This assumption rests not on any public position he took but on a passage in an 1856 letter to his wife. One day after surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Robert E. Lee addresses his army for the last time. On Friday, President Trump called Lee “a great general” while defending his comments after the violence in Charlottesville in 2017. He was 56 and bone weary. Again Longstreet objected; again Lee wouldn’t listen. By the end they had inflicted 63,000 Union casualties but had been reduced themselves to fewer than 10,000. But I don’t think that means that he is only worthy of spite. Lee didn’t know that in the night Meade had managed by forced marches to concentrate nearly his entire army at Lee’s front, and had deployed it skillfully—his left flank was now extended to Little Round Top, nearly three-quarters of a mile south of where Lee thought it was. Lee, whose devotion to white supremacy outshone his loyalty to his country, is the embodiment of everything they stand for. He jumped a personal appearance bail—to the dismay of his brother, Edmund, who had posted a sizable bond—and wangled passage, with pitying help from President James Monroe, to the West Indies. Without the medicines, elixirs, and food Harry Lee’s raiders captured from the enemy, George Washington’s army would not likely have survived the harrowing winter encampment of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. Terms of Use That is all that makes life valuable.” All right. Not only the uniform, the mythic horse, the hair and beard, but the resignation with which he accepted dreary burdens that offered “neither pleasure nor advantage”: in particular, the Confederacy, a cause of which he took a dim view until he went to war for it. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained. “No,” he said, “the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there.”. He was not in fact good at telling men what to do. Vote Now! He has become a cultural icon in some respects, a sign of where you stand on our never stopping culture war which has metastisized since Donald Trump became President. For all his audacity on the battlefield, he accepted rather passively one raw deal after another, bending over backward for everyone from Jefferson Davis to James McNeill Whistler’s mother. “The heart, he kept locked away,” as Stephen Vincent Benét proclaimed in “John Brown’s Body,” “from all the picklocks of biographers.” Accounts by people who knew him give the impression that no one knew his whole heart, even before it was broken by the war. In theaters of grinding, hellish human carnage he kept a pet hen for company. It all seemed Olympian, in a Christian cavalier sort of way. the colors on it should be white with orange or blue. Was Lee an honorable man? Washington became his patron and close friend. Why did Lee stake everything, finally, on an ill-considered thrust straight up the middle? And he had not sent word of what he was up to. For this reason when there were cries to try Lee for treason, Grant vigorously opposed them. I plunged back into it for this book, and am relieved to have emerged alive.”, “Also,” he says, “Lee reminds me in some ways of my father.”, At the heart of Lee’s story is one of the monumental choices in American history: revered for his honor, Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission to defend Virginia and fight for the Confederacy, on the side of slavery. Grant took over command of the eastern front and 118,700 men. Take a look, when Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appamatox, Coldest Case Solved but the Murderer Can’t Be Found, How the Father of Computers Died For Being a Homosexual, A 17th Century Entrepreneurial “She-Merchant” and Shipowner in America. Each supposed major blunder of his subordinates—Ewell’s failure to take the high ground of Cemetery Hill on July 1, Stuart’s getting out of touch and leaving Lee unapprised of what force he was facing, and the lateness of Longstreet’s attack on the second day—either wasn’t a blunder at all (if Longstreet had attacked earlier he would have encountered an even stronger Union position) or was caused by a lack of forcefulness and specificity in Lee’s orders. No. Expect questions about celebrities, questions about animals, questions about cheese (yes really) and some sporting trivia thrown into the mix, too. In the months after Gettysburg, as Lee stewed over his defeat, he repeatedly criticized the laxness of Stuart’s command, deeply hurting a man who prided himself on the sort of dashing freelance effectiveness by which Lee’s father, Maj. Gen. Light-Horse Harry, had defined himself. In the past Lee had also granted Ewell and Longstreet wide discretion, and it had paid off. In a new biography, Robert E. Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., treats Lee as a man of competing impulses, a “paragon of manliness” and “one of the greatest military commanders in … Advertising Notice And it's uglier, too. When the Duke boys lose a cross country race to a better car, a discouraged Luke makes an offhanded remark about the General Lee possibly wearing out its usefulness. I think Lee’s choice to fight for the Confederacy will always cloud the many accomplishments he made before and after the Civil War. On Christmas Day, 1868, Johnson provided a general amnesty and pardon to everyone who participated in the rebellion, including Lee. Under the conditions of bankruptcy that obtained in those days, Harry was still liable for his debts. Neither a citizen of the Union he once loved nor of the Confederacy that ceased to exist, Lee publicly rejected the idea of a guerrilla struggle. He did have rheumatism and heart trouble. If we take as a given Lee’s granitic conviction that everything is God’s will, however, he was born to lose. The southern states seceded to preserve slavery. The disgruntled Longstreet, never one to rush into anything, and confused to find the left flank farther left than expected, didn’t begin his assault until 3:30 that afternoon. On the other hand, Lee beat McClellan. He only wanted a Virginia farm—no end of cream and fresh butter—and fried chicken. The General then passed into his house, and the crowd dispersed.”, Continue On June 30 a Confederate brigade, pursuing the report that there were shoes to be had in Gettysburg, ran into Federal cavalry west of town, and withdrew. So Lee swung back in that direction. On April 9, 1865, Lee finally had to admit that he was trapped. A tank was named after him. #1 Robert E Lee’s father served as the governor of Virginia. Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. I would have to disagree with Eisenhower that Lee was someone to look up to. And why should Lee expect his imprudence to be any less unsettling to Meade than it had been to the other Union commanders? “The whole affair was disjointed,” Taylor the aide said of Gettysburg. Maybe his magic in Virginia didn’t travel. A Tombstone Inscribed in Ancient Greek Is Found in Southern Israel, What 'Bridgerton' Gets Wrong About Corsets, Ancient Humans May Have Tossed Meaty Scraps to Wild Wolves, Boosting Domestication, Why Robert McCurdy's Photo-Realist Portraits Stop Viewers in Their Tracks, The Way Americans Remember the Blackwell Sisters Shortchanges Their Legacy, The 'Last' Female Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle Died in 2019. Now, I think Lee is not an honorable man, but I do think he was a good man. Perhaps it broke many years before the war. He was not one to hide his looks under a bushel. Most important, by April 1865 he no longer spoke of the Confederacy as “we” or “our country.” Now he spoke as a U.S. citizen, thereby forging the path to a reunited country. Lee had his men well dug in. With the war nearly over, however, Harry decided he was underappreciated, so he impulsively resigned from the army. The General Lee Lyrics: I'm a charger / That charges through the night / Like an orange bolt of lightning / Passing everything in sight / I'm the best pal the Duke boys' ever had / I'm thunder on the Grant resolved to turn his flank, force him into a weaker position, and crush him. At the start of the war, President Lincoln offered Lee to command all of the Union forces. After Lee “alighted from his horse, he immediately uncovered his head, thinly covered with silver hairs, as he had done in acknowledgment of the veneration of the people along the streets,” Chester wrote. He decided to strike straight ahead, at Meade’s heavily fortified midsection. That does not mean that they fought for an honorable cause. In 1818, after five years away, Harry headed home to die, but got only as far as Cumberland Island, Georgia, where he was buried. “There was an utter absence of accord in the movements of the several commands.”. I love Johnny Cash! Confederate artillery would soften it up, and Longstreet would direct a frontal assault across a mile of open ground against the center of Missionary Ridge. At the beginning of Lee’s long, combative retreat by stages from Grant’s overpowering numbers, he had 64,000 men. When the usually repressed Lee felt an overpowering need for emotional release, and had an army at his disposal and another one in front of him, he couldn’t hold back. To be sure, there were those in Lee’s army who proposed continuing the struggle as guerrillas or by reorganizing under the governors of the various Confederate states. These days, many consider him a traitor and nothing more. 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The Confederate artillery exhausted all its shells ineffectively, so was unable to support the assault—which has gone down in history as Pickett’s charge because Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division absorbed the worst of the horrible bloodbath it turned into. The great Southern diarist of his day, Mary Chesnut, tells us that when a lady teased him about his ambitions, he “remonstrated—said his tastes were of the simplest. The statue has been one of two representing Virginia (every state gets two; Virginia’s second is of George Washington ) in the … Eisenhower said, “The man [Lee] must have got so mad that he wanted to hit that guy [Meade] with a brick.”). Former Allied Commander and later President Dwight Eisenhower had four portraits of General Lee. When Lincoln called on the loyal states for troops to invade the South, Southerners could see the issue as defense not of slavery but of homeland. . That’s why there is an asterisk in the title of this essay; Lee probably was a good person, but the fact of his choice knocked him down a few pegs. He supported the enslavement of African Americans. . The tour guide told us that it was in this place that Lee decided if he was going to fight for the Union or the Confederacy. Lee's prewar family home, the Custis-Lee Mansion, was seized by Union forces during the war and turned into Arlington National Cemetery, and his family was not compensated until more than a decade after his death. Blount argues that the issue does matter: “To me it’s slavery, much more than secession as such, that casts a shadow over Lee’s honorableness.”. Eisenhower and Ford were not lovers of the Confederacy, but they did see qualities in the man that made them think of Lee as a man of honor. The first … “Jeb” Stuart. Just under six feet (1.8 metres) tall, with black hair and brown eyes, Lee cut a striking figure. He may have had dysentery, though a scholar’s widely publicized assertion to that effect rests on tenuous evidence. As an engineer, Lee helped Scott find ways around Mexican strongpoints or to capture them.This experience undoubtedly played an important role during the Civil War, when he was always looking for a way “to get at thos… Cookie Policy He had tiny feet that he loved his children to tickle None of these things seems to fit, for if ever there was a grave American icon, it is Robert Edward Lee—hero of the Confederacy in the Civil War and a symbol of nobility to some, of slavery to others. But I do think he was a good man, or at least as good as one can be. Now I think Lee’s role in history will always be disputed which makes sense; the Civil War is disputed and argued about as well. Stuart wasn’t frolicking. TOO BAD!”. After Gettysburg, Lee never mounted another murderous head-on assault. Lee was excellent, but he did not have the manpower to outlast the Union's forces. General Lee, written by his nephew and fellow soldier, Fitzhugh Lee, takes the reader to the heart of Lee’s life, f Although having fought for the slave-trading South during the American Civil War he was, and still is, regarded as a superb tactician and leader of men by both North and South. Of course, we are talking about Lee again because for two reasons. Jay Winik writes about what happened at war’s end when Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appamatox: Finally, Lee’s greatest legacy was not in war, but in peace. A recognized classic, Four Years with G He and his second wife, Ann Hill Carter Lee, and their children departed the Lee ancestral home, where Robert was born, for a smaller rented house in Alexandria. . Tribe and race over country is … The Myth of the Kindly General Lee. Since Jeb Stuart’s scouting operation had been uncharacteristically out of touch, Lee wasn’t sure where Meade’s army was. That’s plain from their articles of secession. As battlefield generals go, he could be extremely fiery, and could go out of his way to be kind. As a father Lee was fond but fretful, as a husband devoted but distant. He had done his best to act on Lee’s written instructions: “You will . So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. . Though Blount was never a Civil War buff, he says “every Southerner has to make his peace with that War. One is the question of what to do of statues of Confederate leaders and because White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made remarks that said that Lee was an honorable man. I had a foolish horse, once, and kind treatment is the best.” Then he resumed his apologies: “I am very sorry—the task was too great for you—but we mustn’t despond.” Shelby Foote has called this Lee’s finest moment. The show aired for 147 episodes spanning seven seasons. The passage begins: “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. He had seen more than enough of governors who would be commanders, and he had no respect for ragtag guerrilladom. On the third morning, July 3, Lee’s plan was roughly the same, but Meade seized the initiative by pushing forward on his right and seizing Culp’s Hill, which the Confederates held. . HERE IS A TREAT FOR ALL OF YOU..This is Johnny Cash singing a song I wrote.. "The General Lee". Its name would thereafter resound with courage, casualties and miscalculation: Gettysburg. “It’s all my fault,” he assured stunned privates and corporals. Until war aged him dramatically, his sharp dark brown eyes were complemented by black hair (“ebon and abundant,” as his doting biographer Douglas Southall Freeman puts it, “with a wave that a woman might have envied”), a robust black mustache, a strong full mouth and chin unobscured by any beard, and dark mercurial brows. More than a decade and half passed before Lee saw a battlefield. So Lee was forced to improvise. When asked why he would hold Lee in esteem, Eisenhower replied in a letter and this is part of what he said: From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. True False Previous Next → No new data to save last checked at 1:30pm Submit Quiz He wrote personal letters—a discordant mix of flirtation, joshing, lyrical touches, and stern religious adjuration—and he wrote official dispatches that are so impersonal and (generally) unselfserving as to seem above the fray. “After four years of In the excerpt that follows, the general masses his troops for a battle over three humid July days in a Pennsylvania town. In 1799 he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he famously eulogized Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. 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