1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free! If you aren't ready for that, try posting your question or comment as a guest!

Robert E. Lee's-- Uniform/Surrender

Discussion in 'Civil War Uniforms & Relics' started by 5fish, Aug 29, 2007.

  1. 5fish

    5fish 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,381
    Location:
    Central Florida
    One may wonder why I am bring up Gen. Lee's uniform when he surrender the AoNV to Gen. Grant in April of 1865.
    My following observation will lead us to the age old question of when did Gen. Lee believe the southern cause was doomed to fail. Some historians like the use the date of Sept. 30, 1864, when Ft. Harrision fell and Gen. Lee was unable to recapature the Ft.
    I believe if that latter question can be answered with a better date of when Gen. Lee believed the southern cause was doomed to fail by answering the following questions listed below.

    Questions:
    If Gen. Lee was wearing a new uniform to his meeting with Gen Grant, when did he order the unifrom?

    If he did order a new uniform, it would have been during the siege of Petersberg. Why would Gen. Lee order a new uniform while his army was straving and desolving around him.

    Because Gen. Lee knew in the spring the AoP would start new campaign and he would be force to surrender the AoNV for it had lost ability to fight. Anyone familiar with Gen Lee's life knows he plans everything before it happens. Does anyone one not believe he would not plan his own surrender if it was inevitable?

    I believe if one can find out when Gen. Lee order his new unifrom he wore to his meeting with Gen. Grant and surrender the AoNV. The date he order that uniform would be the day he truly believe the war and the southern cause was doomed.

    Remember, when Gen Lee decided the southern cause was doom to failed. He lost his romantic dream to emulate his personal hero George Washington in being the Confederacy Cincinnatus.

    I would like to know if anyone out there knows the full story behind the unifrom Gen. Lee wore in his meeting with Gen. Grant and surrender of his army

    I would appreciate. Thanks!!

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. cw1865

    cw1865 Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,806
    Location:
    Riverdale, NJ (Morris County)
    Junction

    Then why bother even attempting a junction with Johnston?
  4. 5fish

    5fish 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,381
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Doing one's duty

    Remember, Gen. Lee discussed surrender with the new secretary of war Berckinridge{hero of New Market) numerious times. I believe the plan the meet and join up with Gen. Johnston was just a last ditch hope of Gen. Lee doing his duty.

    Remember, Gen. Lee was all about doing one's duty.

    Remember, if someone out there knows the history or story behind Gen. Lee's new uniform it would answer the question.
  5. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    28,395
    Location:
    Central Illinois
    Do we know that it was a new uniform and that he had just gotten it? Maybe it was new in the sense that he hadn't worn it much or at all.

    First we start with its newness. We can speculate from there.

    ole
  6. Freddy

    Freddy 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Messages:
    3,013
    Location:
    Worcester, MA
    It was a new uniform and General Lee could have worn it on a few formal occasions only. According to this site it was a new uniform.

    "He wore a new uniform of Confederate gray, buttoned up to the throat, and at his side he carried a long sword of exceedingly fine workmanship, the hilt studded with jewels. His top-boots were comparatively new, and seemed to have on them some ornamental stitching of red silk. Like his uniform, they were singularly clean, and but little travel-stained. On the boots were handsome spurs, with large rowels. A felt hat, which in color matched pretty closely that of his uniform, and a pair of long buckskin gauntlets lay beside him on the table."

    http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/appomatx.htm
  7. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2005
    Messages:
    6,731
    How long did Lee think he could continue the fight is a good question, but I don't think the new looking uniform is much of a clue. Several CS officers were in their best uniforms because in the fluid situation they realized losing their baggage and/or capture was a likely scenario, so they picked their best clothes to wear.
  8. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    28,395
    Location:
    Central Illinois
    He sounds quite elegant, but we still don't know when the uniform was tailored. I've got T-shirts in wrappers that I bought 5 years ago. Are they new? Or are they unused?

    ole
  9. custersluck13

    custersluck13 Cadet

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Messages:
    113
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    The General was a warrior. Warriors know but one thing. Fight. God's providence may yet unveil itself. I know that is why he fought on.
  10. custersluck13

    custersluck13 Cadet

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Messages:
    113
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Easy, I think...

    Id like to know all that as well. My guess, why he had a new uni? Cos he was Gen Lee. Cos he could. He could get whatever he wanted.
  11. 5fish

    5fish 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,381
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Follow up!!

    I know that someone must know the history behind the uniform Gen. Lee wore in April 1865 at Appomattox. If one think's about it, it is one of the most famous uniforms recorded in history. Every eyewittness at the event that day in April 1865 mentions Gen. Lee's uniform.

    I can remember watching a show 20plus years ago about the surrender at Appomattox and in that show mention the unifrom being purchased in Richmond; but it was said in passing and no details given.

    I beleive if the uniform can be shown to have been purchase in the weeks before proir to the fall of Petersburg. Then one can speculate that Gen. Lee was planning the ineitable surrender of his army.

    Someone out there must know something about this renown uniform like when it was tailor, purchased, or was it in storage.

    I am looking for an answer and any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
  12. custersluck13

    custersluck13 Cadet

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Messages:
    113
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    I like how it is mentioned, "the old meeting the new"...the old cavalier, in his neo Napaleonic style and gentleman configuration, meeting the new...hardened warrior in mud covered boots and a sack coat...the signs were there....
  13. Dred

    Dred First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Messages:
    1,014
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
    I was under the impression that the new uniform he had ordered was in one of the baggage trains during the run to Appomatox? The one he did wear, whether new or not, was not the day to day type uniform, it was the dress uniform, what we would call today the Class A.
  14. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    28,395
    Location:
    Central Illinois
    Like 5fish, I'm waiting for someone to come on board who knows when Lee bought the uniform. Then we can address the connection between the uniform and the decision to surrender.

    I believe Lee knew the jig was up when he decided to face Grant from Petersburg rather than get away with the AoNV relatively intact.

    ole
  15. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    10,200
    Location:
    Nashville
    I think there ain't much logic in this question. Lee was a man of means, unlike many of the rest of us. His uniform could have been three years old, but in unworn condition. He spent much time in the field, and was rarely called to the white house during the period 1861-65, though he may have been called many things by folks in the white house. The Confederate system would have very likely been unable to produce such a uniform in a rapid manner in 1865 for lots of reasons. A private tailor, perhaps. We can't ask Lee, so it's a long goose hunt for records. Lee was well smart enough to figure the war was a long shot at best when it began. He was afterall the commander at West Point. Certainly by Gettysburg in July 1863 any doubts would have been erased from his mind. Anyone have thoughts that can be printed?
  16. whitworth

    whitworth Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,393
    Lee knew; never accepted until the end

    I think Lee, if one accepts his brillance, had some knowledge of the ending, very early in the war.
    It is like a horseman of the time, knowing he is riding a poor horse, but has to ride it for the days needed to cover 100 miles. Lee was that accepting a rider.

    I think it goes beyond the uniform.

    Lee warned his son in early 1863, the odds the Confederacy faced. Lee had that religious faith that God would lead them to eventual victory.

    As bad as Lee was at facing what he knew as a soldier, Jefferson Davis was much worse in his presidential capacity. He seemed clueless to his very capture in Georgia.

    The Army of Northern Virginia, after a long winter in the trenches in '64-65, with meagre supplies, had no business attempting to march away. Their lines were broken near Petersburg and the battles that immediately followed was a slaughterhouse for the Confederacy.
    We know the army was half starved; how much ammunition did the ANV have left at Appomattox before the surrender. In reality, it was an army in name only.

    Grant knew for months, that the war was over. I'm sure he didn't want his army to kill the last fighting Confederate.

    Perhaps that was Lee's fragile failing. He would not accept defeat and would not accept its coming.
  17. J_Man0507

    J_Man0507 Cadet

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Messages:
    461
    Its an interesting concept to be sure, but it all does revolve around when he actually got the uniform itself. I have never run across any information on the uniform, except that it was very well tailored and elaborate. I would hazard a guess that there are three very real possibilities of a time when he got the uniform. The first is in the summer of 1862, after he has been made commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was now an army commander and needed to look the part. The second is in 1865, when he is made commander of all Confederate armies in the field. And the third is that he had it from close to the beginning, him being the military advisor to the President and he may have had to attend balls and other functions.

    Number three, I think, has the greatest possibility, as he was going to be in Richmond, around political men and possibly foreign dignitaries, and he needed to look the part of a general. I am sure he wanted to command in the field, but he was at the time a military advisor. It is possible that he did not get the uniform until almost the time he took command of the AoNV and he never got a chance to wear it, hence its appearance of being almost brand new and looking as if it had never been worn.

    Number one also has some credence, seeing as he was probably planning an invasion of the North and wanted to look the part of a conquering general. Its a possibility, but holds less credence than three.

    And number two I think is a far stretch, because by the time he was made commander of all armies in the field, the war was practically over, and though he was a man of means, the material was probably all but non-existent by that point in the war.

    He wore his best uniform for the reason that he intended on being captured, I think. He probably expected to be taken in as a traitor and he wanted to look his best. From what I have read, he was a bit insulted by the fact that Grant came in looking shabby, begrimed and spattered in mud.

    So that is my take. It would take alot of digging to find a receipt or some mention of when he got it, but it very well could be out there. Its an interesting theory, to be sure!! :smile:
  18. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    28,395
    Location:
    Central Illinois
    Which is the only reason I have for pursuing it. I'd wager that Grant had similar regalia stashed somewhere. (If you're a top general, you simply must have an appropriate uniform for those occasional state occasions.) I've always been privately pleased that Grant and Sherman were so obviously unconcerned with their appearance. Grant's dishabille at the surrender, contrasted with Lee's impeccable attire speaks volumes.

    But I digress. My conclusion is that Lee had the dress uniform in one of his trunks. The uniform had nothing to do with his anticipation of a surrender.

    ole
  19. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    10,200
    Location:
    Nashville
    J-Man, welcome to the board!

    You wrote: "He wore his best uniform for the reason that he intended on being captured, I think. He probably expected to be taken in as a traitor and he wanted to look his best. From what I have read, he was a bit insulted by the fact that Grant came in looking shabby, begrimed and spattered in mud."

    I suspect that logic is far worse than some of my ****?

    He wore his best uniform to represent his beloved Virginia and the Confederacy in the most dignified manner possible. He was, above all, a cultured gentleman, the descendant of a couple of Virginia's most prominent families. He had corresponded with all the ranking folks involved in the close of the war for years prior and wasn't particularly worried about being a traitor, which he wasn't. Grant, being a little shabby, might have insulted him mildly, but in the case of Grant, I doubt Lee was surprised. Grant was a soldier who occasionally acted a bit human. Culture and finesse weren't Grant's strong points. Running an army and ending a war were his gold stars.
  20. 5fish

    5fish 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,381
    Location:
    Central Florida
    just more

    To all,

    I agree that Gen. Lee had all the appropriate uniforms for his status within the confederate army; but all the eye wittnesses keep refering to it as a new uniform. These eye wittnesses are themselves military officers and most of them should be able to tell if a uniform is new or not.

    We have only questions until we know the history behind the uniform Gen. Lee at appomattox in April 1865.

    5fish
  21. J_Man0507

    J_Man0507 Cadet

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Messages:
    461
    Larry,

    My theory that it was because he thought that the possibility of capture was there doesn't come from off the top of my head, but from gleanings of works I have read. It may be true, it may not, and it will take me more time to read up on it. When I said, I think, I meant it more as an "if I remember what I read." Lee himself later said to his men as to his appearance that "I have probably to be General Grant's prisoner today and thought I must make my best appearance." So from his own words, it seems as if he thought it a possibility. This account above is from Jay Winik's April 1865: The Month That Saved America. So its out there, and it has credence, though maybe he only thought it a possibility and not a likelihood, but it was in his mind, that seems to be for certain.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page