Can Gen. Robert E. Lee still be considered "A great general and honorable man"?

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President Lincoln married the daughter of a slave owning Kentucky family. His contention was about slavery, not a gripe about slaveowners. President Johnson owned slaves, but freed them during the course of the Civil War, yet was nominated and elected as Vice-President. President Grant had owned at least one slave, at least for awhile, but freed that one person before moving to Illinois, and his wife was the daughter of slave owning family. So General Lee's advocacy of slave ownership was not exceptional in 1861.
 
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Colonel Lee's decision not accept a command position within the United States army at the time of onset of the Civil War is always looked at from the standpoint of United States vs. the Confederacy. But it might be profitable to look at the decision from the standpoint of making a decision under pressure when someone else has constructed an artificial deadline for deciding.
If Lee had taken the same amount of time as George Thomas, would he have talked with General Scott and President Lincoln in a more thoughtful way, and considered other options to persuade Virginians that secession involved unacceptable risks?
Unfortunately Colonel Lee made bad decisions, not that different from what his father had done. Those decisions affected his family and his state and his nation.
Other people in similar circumstances decided that rebelling against a government whose capital was right across the Potomac River, that gave full and even disproportionate representation to the south, and had abundant resources to contest secession, was risky.
 

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https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entr...nfederate-general_us_5bc2a93de4b040bb4e82d9b6

What do you guys think? Can General Lee be considered a great general and honorable man? Or is it more correct to consider him a less than stellar general because he lost and dishonorable to the Union because he turned traitor against the nation he spent most of his life fighting for.
I think we need to remember no man is all one thing or another. There's no question Lee was a very talented general and very intelligent. He definitely knew what he was doing on a battlefield. Yet he did make mistakes, and he did lose.

Lee had a sense of honor and carried himself and acted according to his view of what was honorable. His view did not necessarily conform to others' views.
 

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https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entr...nfederate-general_us_5bc2a93de4b040bb4e82d9b6

What do you guys think? Can General Lee be considered a great general and honorable man? Or is it more correct to consider him a less than stellar general because he lost and dishonorable to the Union because he turned traitor against the nation he spent most of his life fighting for.
To be fair, Lee is now and was then a superb general - win or lose at the end. The traitor part is less crystal clear. By our Constitution's definition he had indeed committed treason against the United States by "levying war against the them." He abrogated his army oath in which he swore "to support and defend the Constitution. . ." He, and his defenders, would say that he didn't violate his oath, he resigned - and this made it honorable. The Constitution had not added or subtracted a single word between the time Lee took his oath as an officer and the time he resigned. His resignation would indeed have been honorable if he had gone home and took no part in the fighting. But he chose to fight against his country. Shortly before the war, Lee wrote this to a subordinate who was thinking about joining the rebels, “I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty.” So, it seems oaths and allegiances were somewhat "flexible" things to Lee. To make a long story a little shorter, I would say "yes" to the question about being a great general and "no" to being an honorable man by mid-19th century standards when oaths and promises were real, almost sacred things.
 
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I think we need to remember no man is all one thing or another. There's no question Lee was a very talented general and very intelligent. He definitely knew what he was doing on a battlefield. Yet he did make mistakes, and he did lose.

Lee had a sense of honor and carried himself and acted according to his view of what was honorable. His view did not necessarily conform to others' views.
As a tactician, he was the best, no question. In terms of mastery of the operational art, and adjusting to railroad logistics, he did poorly, but the handicaps under which he was operating were so severe that it is difficult to determine whether any better result was possible.
As far as a strategist, General Lee abdicated any responsibility. Its hard to conceive an alternative to General Lee's attempt to force a political settlement.
Faced with the historic examples of Generals Washington and Arnold, General Lee's choices after his army was defeated at Gettysburg were extremely limited. After that it is impossible to say whether he was fulfilling his duty to his soldiers, or to the government.
Good question. Sure to provoke heated commentary.
 

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As a tactician, he was the best, no question. In terms of mastery of the operational art, and adjusting to railroad logistics, he did poorly, but the handicaps under which he was operating were so severe that it is difficult to determine whether any better result was possible.
As far as a strategist, General Lee abdicated any responsibility. Its hard to conceive an alternative to General Lee's attempt to force a political settlement.
Faced with the historic examples of Generals Washington and Arnold, General Lee's choices after his army was defeated at Gettysburg were extremely limited. After that it is impossible to say whether he was fulfilling his duty to his soldiers, or to the government.
Good question. Sure to provoke heated commentary.
I don't think the above is accurate at all.

Lee didn't determine tactics for the most part as commander of the ANV. He got his army to the point of battle and his subordinate commanders decided which tactics to use. In 1864 he had to get more involved in tactics, and while he was very good I see no justification for saying he was the best. In fact, there is a great deal of question.

I suppose we could believe Lee abdicated any responsibility for strategy if we never read a single thing he ever wrote to Jefferson Davis.
 
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I don't think the above is accurate at all.

Lee didn't determine tactics for the most part as commander of the ANV. He got his army to the point of battle and his subordinate commanders decided which tactics to use. In 1864 he had to get more involved in tactics, and while he was very good I see no justification for saying he was the best. In fact, there is a great deal of question.

I suppose we could believe Lee abdicated any responsibility for strategy if we never read a single thing he ever wrote to Jefferson Davis.
Under the way command and control worked in the 1860's, giving talented subordinates tactical freedom, and being willing to divide the army to strike the enemy at its weak spot look pretty good to me.
He seemed to have done a pretty good job of staying just ahead of the Army of the Potomac in 1864 when the only advantage of the Confederates was the advantage of interior lines.
 
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I think the West Point oath as it now stands is a firm rebuke to the idea that an Army officer retains the option of fighting against the Constitutional Congress and the Constitutional President.
In 1868, when relations between Congress and the President were pretty dicey, there was not much effort in the army to suppress the elected Congress in favor of the President who had ascended to office through the assassination of his predecessor.
Since the example of Colonel Lee has not been repeated, its hard to see how his decisions can be honored. Given more time he probably made other decisions.
Honoring Robert E. Lee at the expense of S. Phillips Lee, General Thomas and Admiral Farragut is a deliberate political choice.
 

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Well, I suppose the gentleman in the article can change his name if that's the way he feels about uncle!

I can't see why Robert E Lee would not be an honorable man and a great general. The cause he fought for wasn't really what most believe - he was fighting for his family. He was a Virginian. Everything he and his had or ever would have was in Virginia. And, come right down to it, that's what men fight to protect.
 

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He seemed to have done a pretty good job of staying just ahead of the Army of the Potomac in 1864 when the only advantage of the Confederates was the advantage of interior lines.
If we ignore the fact that Anderson exceeded his orders in marching to Spotsylvania we can say that. Also, we would need to ignore the fact that Lee was completely bamboozled by Grant in crossing the James River.
 
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Well, I suppose the gentleman in the article can change his name if that's the way he feels about uncle!

I can't see why Robert E Lee would not be an honorable man and a great general. The cause he fought for wasn't really what most believe - he was fighting for his family. He was a Virginian. Everything he and his had or ever would have was in Virginia. And, come right down to it, that's what men fight to protect.
It was his choice. He could have fought for Virginia within the United States army. Others found a way to do that, even if they disagreed with President Lincoln's policy choices.
 
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If we ignore the fact that Anderson exceeded his orders in marching to Spotsylvania we can say that. Also, we would need to ignore the fact that Lee was completely bamboozled by Grant in crossing the James River.
Good points. Having the United States cavalry riding and raiding all over the Virginia landscape seemed to create quite a distraction in May and June of 1864. It was almost as if his opponent knew a thing or two about creating havoc.:thumbsup:
 

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