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

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Johnston retreated way more than he fought, and he lost territory hoping to achieve a local superiority as the Union army detached troops to guard lines of communication; however, he didn't calculate on the size of the army facing him or the reduction in morale of his own army with each retreat.
We will never agree and have fundamental differences of opinion just like lee and Johnston. I believe a war of attrition was possible and would prolong the possibility of intervention. Today is not a good day to die, tomorrow would be much better and who knows what can happen in a day. I agree with Johnston (and others that have been sucessful in more recent history) that territory is secondary to an effective army. The north did not have territory in the south before the war, they took it by force. This can be done over and over and I am sure there were towns that changed possession many times during the war. While moral was low and desertion high I remember studies that show desertions in Georgia were on par with other parts of the confederacy. Desertion from Petersburg might have been higher if they could get out.
The entire confederate command did not calculate on the size of the armies facing them. I have heard stories of the suffering, misery, and long faces, of the soldiers marching home from Pennsylvania.
 

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Right... I suppose if you are a completely ineffective leader you can blow an incredible advantage.
When you cede the initiative to your opponent, your opponent then has the time and forces available to seek out your weak spot, find it, and exploit it.
 
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When you cede the initiative to your opponent, your opponent then has the time and forces available to seek out your weak spot, find it, and exploit it.
Or there’s time to do this because he was inept, poorly organized and bad at communication.
 

Saruman

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He lost almost all his men... and still lost Atlanta.... so pretty sure that sounds worse.
Johnston lost about 16,000 of his 66,000 men defending Atlanta from May to July, whereas Hood lost about 13,000 of his 50,000 men defending Atlanta from July to September, so their performance is roughly equivalent (around 25% losses).
 

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I believe peachtree creek was johnston's plan before his sacking.
There's no real evidence to determine who decided to attack Thomas at Peachtree Creek. Both Johnston and Hood claimed to have come up with the plan in their respective memoirs, but there doesn't seem to be any contemporary evidence as to who actually devised it.
 

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I believe peachtree creek was johnston's plan before his sacking. Had he been left in command it may have been more successful. Regardless a bad time to change commanders and a poor choice imo of hood, and they call grant a butcher...
Johnston later claimed it was his plan but the evidence shows that's not the case.
 
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Or there’s time to do this because he was inept, poorly organized and bad at communication.
Hooker had made many changes, the army was much better organized than it had been under Burnsides. Howard on the right flank had been warned to be alert. Few are the generals who could do much against Jackson. Want to lose send away your horse soldiers as at(Chancellorsville- Gettysburg)
 
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Johnston lost about 16,000 of his 66,000 men defending Atlanta from May to July, whereas Hood lost about 13,000 of his 50,000 men defending Atlanta from July to September, so their performance is roughly equivalent (around 25% losses).
Franklin and Nashville were complete disasters.

Your account doesn’t take into consideration time in field.

And... I’d rather drop that many men and continue defend than stop defending and lose city... then go off on stupid attacks destined for failure and lose more men anyway.. what’s the point? You lost men, lost the city anyway.

You keep the men in the field and you still have a chance. I’ve been to Franklin. Maybe he had a chance at Franklin but once that went poorly continuing on to Nashville was suicide.
 
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Hooker had made many changes, the army was much better organized than it had been under Burnsides. Howard on the right flank had been warned to be alert. Few are the generals who could do much against Jackson. Want to lose send away your horse soldiers as at(Chancellorsville- Gettysburg)
He had an enormous numerical advantage and ****** it away. Sooo...... again, at the face of it, you can’t tell me he did a good job and this was just the magic of Lee... if that were true CSA would have won the war.
 
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The best way to kill lots and lots of people in the civil war isn’t necessarily to initiate an attack or take a hill... it’s literally to take a defensive position - entrenched... on a hill... behind a barrier.. etc... and let them come to you. That’s how you kill a lot of
people in the civil war. So I agree that his best bet was to kill a lot of union troops.... charging hills and frontal assaults was not the way to do it though...
Can you cite any war where the above scenario actually took place? Yes Burnside stupidly sacrificed men at Fredericksburg but even Burnside was successful at New Berne and especially at Knoxville. I know of no Civil War won by having an enemy sacrifice his men on entrenched positions.
Maybe you can cite an example.
Civil War's are won and lost due to many different factors.
Leftyhunter
 

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Franklin and Nashville were complete disasters.

Your account doesn’t take into consideration time in field.

And... I’d rather drop that many men and continue defend than stop defending and lose city... then go off on stupid attacks destined for failure and lose more men anyway.. what’s the point? You lost men, lost the city anyway.

You keep the men in the field and you still have a chance. I’ve been to Franklin. Maybe he had a chance at Franklin but once that went poorly continuing on to Nashville was suicide.
Franklin and Nashville weren't part of the Atlanta campaign.
 
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He had an enormous numerical advantage and ****** it away. Sooo...... again, at the face of it, you can’t tell me he did a good job and this was just the magic of Lee... if that were true CSA would have won the war.
Grant had very close the same advantage in numbers at the Wilderness, he didn't get very far either. Caught A P Hill knapping (because Longstreet was late relieving him) Longstreet counterattacked drove the enemy back. Hooker had sent his horse soldiers away (big mistake) every general makes mistakes. Howard was caught knapping and was not the first time Jackson showed up out of no were. Who would you replace Burnside with if not Hooker?
 
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Definitely cannot be deemed as an honorable American: if George Washington was the paradigm of a true patriot then Lee was beyond a traitor or was never on board. The former was necessary to start democracy and the latter wasn't remotely necessary to preserve it. Jefferson with his Empire of Liberty would have thought Lee was a nearsighted, deplorable slug with no vision past his own circumscribed and distorted view of the world. Lee reminds me he was some forlorn, doleful, introspected Type D personality guy who spent most of his time envisaging about being rewarded a slave ridden Arcadia for his services.
 
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The policy wasn't to invade specifically to capture African-Americans, but it was to capture fugitives as they came across them in the course of their operations.

It was confederate policy for their army to capture African-Americans they deemed to be "fugitive slaves." Of course, how could they tell a free person from an escaped slave? Why, the escaped slave was black, of course!

In March of 1863, Lee sent out a circular to all his subordinate commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia implementing a policy promulgated in Richmond.

The citation for the circular is: "W. H. Taylor to General, 21 March 1863, Orders and Circulars Issued by the Army of the Potomac and the Army and Department of Northern Virginia, C.S.A., 1861-1865, NA Microfilm M921, reel I, frame 1391. Also see Orders and Circulars, Rodes and Battle's Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865, NA, RG 109, Chap. 2, vol. 66, pp. 175-76. Lee's order to his subordinate commanders in that circular directed the army to comply with an early March directive by the Confederate Adjutant General (General Orders No. 25, Adjutant and Inspector General's Office, 6 March 1863, in OR, Ser. 2, vol. 5, pp. 844-45."

Here's the order:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924079609644;view=1up;seq=856

The order turned every confederate army into armies of slave catchers, and slave catchers were not known for being particular about which African American they accused of being a fugitive slave. Eyewitness testimony shows confederate soldiers rounding up every African American they could find for transport back to the confederacy in compliance with this order.

That they didn't catch more African-Americans shows how African-Americans fled as the ANV approached.

The African-Americans captured during the Gettysburg campaign were brought back to Virginia with the Army of Northern Virginia and there disposed of in accordance with above confederate policy.

The captured African-Americans would have been taken to one of the depots, likely Richmond, for disposition. Around the same time as this policy was developed, another policy, on slave impressment, was developed. You can see the bill here:
https://archive.org/details/billtobeentitled41conf

The bill eventually was passed in March of 1863 and likely any of the captured African-Americans who were not claimed by purported "owners" would be automatically impressed into confederate service to either work on food production or on fortifications.

We have this order, where Rev. T. V. Moore of Richmond interceded for one of the kidnapped African-Americans. Apparently friends in Pennsylvania got the documentary information to Rev. Moore showing Amos Bares was born free in Pennsylvania. Amos was lucky his friends knew Rev. Moore and could lay hands on documentary evidence.

CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, Va., December 14, 1863.
Brig. Gen. JOHN H. WINDER:

GENERAL: You will dispose of prisoners named below, embraced in Report, No. 146, of Maj. I. H. Carrington, indicated, viz: Joseph A. Marm, William Tennant, John E. Tennant; send to conscript camp. You will also deliver to Robert Ould, esq., commissioner for exchange, to be transferred to the United States by the first flag of-truce boat, Amos Bares, a free negro from Pennsylvania, whose release is applied for by the Rev. T. V. Moore, of this city, upon grounds which appear to the Department sufficient to justify an exceptional policy with regard to him.
By order of the Secretary of War:
J. A. CAMPBELL,
Assistant Secretary of War.
[OR Series II, Vol. 6, pp. 704-705]

In his book, Mosby's Rangers, James J. Williamson, who was a member of Mosby's Rangers [Company A, 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry], writes that on June 28, 1863, "It was Mosby's intention to join General Lee in Pennsylvania, but when we reached Mercersburg, where we expected to find a portion of the army, it had moved. Our number being so small, and as we were ignorant of the country as well as of the position of our army, Mosby determined to return to Virginia, which he did, but not until he had gathered up 218 head of cattle, 15 horses and 12 negroes. Returning through Washington county, Maryland, we recrossed the Potomac without interruption." [pp. 79-80]
The romantic myth of history in the matter of the Civil War is pervasive, indeed. The story the popular historians push is that "Lee's officers kidnapped free Blacks" during the Gettysburg Campaign. What irregular cavalry units, operating on their own hook, did or didn't do is not the issue, nor is the issue the fact that, as a consequence of Lincoln's announced military policy in December 1862, to use Africans who came within the power of the Union Armies invading the Confederacy, as soldiers, the Davis Government reacted by proclaiming that any such Africans found in Union uniforms were to be shot, those not shot, returned to slavery. In fact, there is no evidence this policy was actually carried out, for the simple reason that few, if any, such Africans were found.

The issue is, Did General Lee, in fact, carry with him back to Virginia Africans who at the time of the invasion had been living in Pennsylvania as "free" persons? Kent Masterson Brown has done a tremendous job of research, in writing his book "Retreat from Gettysburg." The objective evidence he marshals is immense; from the Confederate quartermaster records and from eye witness accounts of the retreat across the Potomac at Williamsport he proves that Lee's army took with it from Pennsylvania, hogs, sheep, cattle, horses, mules, wagons, fodder, grain, flour, leather, nuts and bolts, and 4,000 captured Union soldiers, but nowhere in the some 40 pages of footnotes can you find any evidence that "free" Africans, as a group, say ten or more, crossed the river with the army.

From one note in the record, it appears that irregular cavalry units covering Lee's foraging operations in the Cumberland Valley dumped a group of Africans into the hands of an officer of Pickett's division while it was at Chambersburg, and from this the historians have constructed their romantic myth. Had these Africans, those referenced in the note, actually been escorted through the stormy nights sixty miles from Chambersburg to Williamsport with Imboden's forty mile long train, the fact would have been observed and written down by some one of the many civilians at Greencastle, who chopped away at the wagon wheels, or slipped between wagons, to steal horses away, or were standing at the river bank at Williamsport, watching the Africans cross. It would have been a dramatic sight to see, worth writing down. The fact that one African from Pennsylvania was returned in December 1863 proves the point few such persons were taken across the river during the retreat.

Brown also proves conclusively that there were about 10,000 Africans--the strength of a division--serving in Lee's army as servants, cooks, teamsters, and pioneers, and that these Africans might easily have slipped away during the long trek through the stormy nights, from July 4, as Harmon's trains passed through Monterey Gap, and as Imboden's trains moved south from Chambersburg, to July 14 when the infantry crossed the river; but the record shows, though they had the plain chance, the Africans, some escorting the dead bodies of their erstwhile masters, stayed in their places. Most of the Confederate states after the war, provided these Africans with pensions by legislation. If I were an American of African descent I would be proud to find that an ancestor of mine was one of them. We, living in the new world of today, at least those of us born after 1970, have no clue about the social reality of the antebellum Union we inherited.
 
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matthew mckeon

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What does Kent Masterson Brown actually write?

"Some free African Americans were seized by Lee's troops during their foraging operations in Pennsylvania. Rachel Cormany, a resident of Chambersburg, wrote in her diary on 16 June that General Jenkins' leading Confederate cavalry brigade was 'hunting up the contrabands and driving off by droves...some of the colored people who were raised here were taken along-"'
"Elements of the army used every other means at their disposal, including seizing free African Americans.."
"..the seizures of free African Americans occasioned much grief and heartache..."

"In sum, it is accurate to conclude that...elements of Lee's army seized free blacks in Pennsylvania...Many of those captured accompanied the army as far as Gettysburg. Some free African Americans who were seized by partisan commands operating on the fringes of the army were taken to Virginia."

Brown argues that the slaves compelled to serve the Confederate army made have been confused with the free blacks kidnapped by the Confederate army or vice versa, making a reliable account possible. I don't find that the Army of Northern Virginia relied on slave labor a selling point for the Lee was a great guy. The distinction between people who had run away from slavery and people born in PA doesn't rebound to the NVA's credit either.
 

jgoodguy

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What does Kent Masterson Brown actually write?

"Some free African Americans were seized by Lee's troops during their foraging operations in Pennsylvania. Rachel Cormany, a resident of Chambersburg, wrote in her diary on 16 June that General Jenkins' leading Confederate cavalry brigade was 'hunting up the contrabands and driving off by droves...some of the colored people who were raised here were taken along-"'
"Elements of the army used every other means at their disposal, including seizing free African Americans.."
"..the seizures of free African Americans occasioned much grief and heartache..."

"In sum, it is accurate to conclude that...elements of Lee's army seized free blacks in Pennsylvania...Many of those captured accompanied the army as far as Gettysburg. Some free African Americans who were seized by partisan commands operating on the fringes of the army were taken to Virginia."

Brown argues that the slaves compelled to serve the Confederate army made have been confused with the free blacks kidnapped by the Confederate army or vice versa, making a reliable account possible. I don't find that the Army of Northern Virginia relied on slave labor a selling point for the Lee was a great guy. The distinction between people who had run away from slavery and people born in PA doesn't rebound to the NVA's credit either.
Could be, but Lee's soldiers were from a society where black = slave and they were soldiers in the presence of the enemy where niceties were optional then the ANV was defeated and chased by the Union. The available evidence is that a very few with friends were repatriated back to PA, some were exchanged for CSA prisoners, most were held in a prison in VA and disappeared in the chaos of war. The official procedure seems to have been if a slave said he was a slave he was sent to a camp awaiting his master. I am not sure how this reflects on Lee one way or another.
 

matthew mckeon

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Could be, but Lee's soldiers were from a society where black = slave and they were soldiers in the presence of the enemy where niceties were optional then the ANV was defeated and chased by the Union. The available evidence is that a very few with friends were repatriated back to PA, some were exchanged for CSA prisoners, most were held in a prison in VA and disappeared in the chaos of war. The official procedure seems to have been if a slave said he was a slave he was sent to a camp awaiting his master. I am not sure how this reflects on Lee one way or another.
Because this was the society he was defending. A slave holding and actively enslaving society. Its why the citation: "Lee, man of honor" always has an asterisk.

Lee was always honored by his men and postwar by the South and the American nation as a whole. But the OP is asking us: was he a great general and an honorable man. Great general for sure. But as Shakespeare wrote in All About Nothing "in a false quarrel there is no true valor." Lee's greatest feats were in the service of America's worse cause. We can understand Lee, we can comprehend his social background and ideas and conflicting loyalties. We can respect his courage, commitment, military judgement, leadership, and intellectual daring. But honor? Which, to me, implies approval, justification, righteousness? There will always be an asterisk.
 

jgoodguy

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Because this was the society he was defending. A slave holding and actively enslaving society. Its why the citation: "Lee, man of honor" always has an asterisk.

Lee was always honored by his men and postwar by the South and the American nation as a whole. But the OP is asking us: was he a great general and an honorable man. Great general for sure. But as Shakespeare wrote in All About Nothing "in a false quarrel there is no true valor." Lee's greatest feats were in the service of America's worse cause. We can understand Lee, we can comprehend his social background and ideas and conflicting loyalties. We can respect his courage, commitment, military judgement, leadership, and intellectual daring. But honor? Which, to me, implies approval, justification, righteousness? There will always be an asterisk.
Noted.
 

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