Conditions vs Generalship--Lee's Defeat

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Which one was greater cause of Lee's defeat--?

  • Conditions: It is what Lee points to for his defeat.

    Votes: 44 45.8%
  • Generalship: Grant's military campaign against Lee.

    Votes: 29 30.2%
  • Other: There always another reason why?

    Votes: 23 24.0%

  • Total voters
    96

5fish

Captain
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Location
Central Florida
The following quote is form Rev. William Mack Lee. He was Robert E. Lee's personal servant(slave) before, during and after the war.

At the close of the struggle, General Lee said to General Grant: "Grant, you didn't whip me, you just overpowered me, I surrender this day 8,000 men; I do not surrender them to you, I surrender on conditions; it shall not go down in history I surrendered the Northern Confederate Army of Virginia to you. It shall go down in history I surrendered on conditions; you have ten men to my one; my men, too, are barefooted and hungry. If Joseph E. Johnston could have gotten to me three days ago I would have cut my way through and gone back into the mountains of North Carolina and would have given you a happy time." What these conditions were I do not know, but I know these were Marse Robert's words on the morning of the surrender: "I surrender to you on conditions."

\I think the quote has a little "Lost Cause" romanticism in those words but it make the point of my questions.
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Was Bobby Lee defeated by what he calls conditions or was he defeated by U.S. Grant's Generalship?

What was Lee and Johnston going to do if they had met up and made it the mountain of North Carolina? What plan?

A thought...
 

captainrlm

Sergeant
Joined
Jun 10, 2009
Location
Northern Kentucky
He didn't just wake up one day and suddenly find his army dwindled to size and his opponent with more resources than him. He had overcome the lack of resources for years before Grant started utilizing the manpower the Union had more aggressively than previous Union leaders.

Grant's generalship and the maneuvering Lee into a siege contributed mightily (completely?) the the conditions that led to the reduction of Lee's forces, though I find it hard to believe he had just 8,000 men.

I don't claim there was any one single cause of Lee's surrender, but on any such list, Grant's generalship has to be at the top. Lee did not go from having a tough, usually victorious army from 1862-1864 by some out-of-his-control fluke overnight - Grant's strategy, aggressiveness and pesristency created (or at least greatly worsened) a lot of the conditions that, all together, added up to Lee's defeat.
 
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ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Near Kankakee
Lots of holes in the story. Just three:

a) Oral history and one of those wherein "Rev. William Mack Lee told me X years after the fact that Lee said ...."

b) Was Lee's body-servant even present at the signing?

c) Given that Lee expressed opposition to guerilla warfare in his writings and speeches to his troops, it seems a bit off-center that Lee would suggest such a thing. Besides, Lee was too much a pragmatist to assume that an army so combined could subsist in the mountains.

Just some doubts.

Ole
 

ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
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Location
Near Kankakee
I don't claim there was any one single cause of Lee's surrender, but on any such list, Grant's generalship has to be at the top. Lee did not go from having a tough, usually victorious army from 1862-1864 by some out-of-his-control fluke overnight - Grant's strategy, aggressiveness and pesristency created (or at least greatly worsened) a lot of the conditions that, all together, added up to Lee's defeat.
One of Grant's tactics was to heap misfortunes on Lee and take maximum advantage of each: attrition of irreplaceable troops, cutting off supplies, seeing that others cut off supplies, et al.
 

Glorybound

Major
Retired Moderator
Honored Fallen Comrade
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Location
Indiana
I agree that the statements attributed to Lee above don't sound like Lee. I think a combination of Grant's determination/generalship at the head of the AOP, and Lee's supply/manpower/resources situation combined to bring about the defeat of the ANV.



Lee
 
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dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
I voted the condition of Lee's army but almost would change it to "other". I feel it was the combined effect of a starving and tattered army depleted of its manpower, overwhelmed by superior manpower and resources, brought about by Grant's strategy.
 

Horace Porter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Location
Absoltely Nowhere Now, MA
The following quote is form Rev. William Mack Lee. He was Robert E. Lee's personal servant before, during and after the war.

At the close of the struggle, General Lee said to General Grant: "Grant, you didn't whip me, you just overpowered me, I surrender this day 8,000 men; I do not surrender them to you, I surrender on conditions; it shall not go down in history I surrendered the Northern Confederate Army of Virginia to you. It shall go down in history I surrendered on conditions; you have ten men to my one; my men, too, are barefooted and hungry. If Joseph E. Johnston could have gotten to me three days ago I would have cut my way through and gone back into the mountains of North Carolina and would have given you a happy time." What these conditions were I do not know, but I know these were Marse Robert's words on the morning of the surrender: "I surrender to you on conditions."

\I think the quote has a little "Lost Cause" romanticism in those words but it make the point of my questions.
[/color]
Was Bobby Lee defeated by what he calls conditions or was he defeated by U.S. Grant's Generalship?

What was Lee and Johnston going to do if they had met up and made it the mountain of North Carolina? What plan?

A thought...
I'd say it's a little Lost Cause romanticism in the story, as there's no record of Lee saying this, and no report of Lee's slave being present at any discussions between Grant and Lee, either on April 9 or 10.

Nor did Lee surrender to Grant on any conditions.

But, hey, that isn't what the question is about, anyway.

Grant crushed Lee. It took time, and it was bloody, and Grant made mistakes along the way, while Lee fought very well. In the end, however, Grant crushed him. His war against Lee's army and its logistical base combined meant that Lee couldn't get his act together.

Lee had no plan to fight in the mountains of western North Carolina. You've fused together two different things: Lee's efforts to link up with Johnston (in which case their first target would have been Sherman, not Grant), and Lee's later decision to try to escape the the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are in Virginia. Western North Carolina was hostile to the CSA, and so a last stand there would have been a disaster for Bobby Lee and his boys.
 

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
This is from part of an article by Victor Davis Hanson writing about raising troop numbers to obtain victory versus changing tactics or strategy.

Stasis or Victory?

William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army of the West finally reached a level of nearly 100,000 troops in late summer 1864. Yet its success was predicated not on increased numbers per se, but rather on a radical shift in tactics, abandoning reliance on rail support and living off the land. When Sherman left on his March to the Sea, he actually pruned his forces. A good argument could be made that Lee finally cracked, not because Grant’s surges smashed his lines, but due to southern desertion and loss of morale, once it was known that a huge and unpredictable Union army under the unconventional Sherman was approaching the Confederate rear through the Carolinas.
 
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Joined
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Horace Porter (the real one) was present at the surrender and reported in detail the events as he experienced them, including Lee's general attitude and demeanor, which was respectful and somewhat reserved, and after the signing was over, when he was waiting for his horse to be brought up, seemed to be lost in thought.

Mack Lee's quote, which he attributes to the general, is both hostile and rude, not qualities that a man like Lee would be likely to display under such circumstances. He had told his troops prior to leaving camp to meet with Grant, that this was the hardest thing he had ever had to do (or words to that effect), and with that in mind, I think it's unlikely that Lee would have said or done anything to make the situation more difficult.

A good question might be, if General Lee was surrendering only 8,000 men, and if he told Grant that, why did Grant offer, and Lee accept, 25,000 rations? As I recall, Grant asked him how many men were in his army, and Lee responded that he didn't know for sure, but he estimated "about" 28,000.
 

K Hale

Colonel
Annual Winner
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
Texas
Whatever his thoughts at the time, it is highly unlikely Lee would have said anything like what is recorded above; to Grant, especially. Too much like whining and excuse making.
Yes. I call shenanigans on that quote.

I voted for "Other," because I see it as a combination of both factors. :lee: :grant:
 

Elennsar

Colonel
Joined
May 14, 2008
Location
California
What Ms. Hale said.

On numbers: As best as I can tell, Lee had roughly 8,000 (~7,800 to be more precise) organized troops - armed and able to be used in battle, but 28,000 or so counting troops in no shape at all for a fight.

Something along those lines, at least.
 
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johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
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Location
South of the North 40
I call BS on the quote; it isn't Lee. Doesn't sound like him and more importantly it isn't mentioned anywhere else; in short pure Lost Cause claptrap.
 

Elennsar

Colonel
Joined
May 14, 2008
Location
California
I agree. Lee did say in his farewell address to the AoNVA that "After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources..."

But that seems to simply being acknowledging that the AoNVA was facing those and could not, in the end, overcome them rather than the "conditions".
 
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Flash

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Sep 22, 2009
Location
Rome, Italy
Horace Porter (the real one) was present at the surrender and reported in detail the events as he experienced them, including Lee's general attitude and demeanor, which was respectful and somewhat reserved, and after the signing was over, when he was waiting for his horse to be brought up, seemed to be lost in thought.

Mack Lee's quote, which he attributes to the general, is both hostile and rude, not qualities that a man like Lee would be likely to display under such circumstances. He had told his troops prior to leaving camp to meet with Grant, that this was the hardest thing he had ever had to do (or words to that effect), and with that in mind, I think it's unlikely that Lee would have said or done anything to make the situation more difficult.

A good question might be, if General Lee was surrendering only 8,000 men, and if he told Grant that, why did Grant offer, and Lee accept, 25,000 rations? As I recall, Grant asked him how many men were in his army, and Lee responded that he didn't know for sure, but he estimated "about" 28,000.
I can only agree with you Leah. All that I have read and seen on Lee give me the impression he was a gentleman soldier. The above quote does not sound anything like Lee plus what he said during and after the meeting with Grant simply would not make sense in combination with this quote.
I believe a combination of Grant's Generalship and the so colled conditions that led to Lee's surrender.
 

bama46

Captain
I call BS on the quote; it isn't Lee. Doesn't sound like him and more importantly it isn't mentioned anywhere else; in short pure Lost Cause claptrap.

I don't particularily see any "lost cause" **** in that quote.. I see someone with a semi-creative mind and too much time on their hands. That certainly was not Lee.. it does not sound like him, the phrasing is wrong, the tone is wrong it is as you say "BS"
 

Horace Porter

First Sergeant
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Location
Absoltely Nowhere Now, MA
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ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Near Kankakee
Fish claimed nothing of the kind. He simply posted an interesting quote and where he found it; and left it to the rest of us to draw conclusions or discussion.

We've been discussing it. Let's not turn it into something ugly.

Ole
 

CChartreux

Cadet
Joined
Nov 22, 2005
Location
Alexandria, Virginia
Agree with others...it doesn't sound like Lee at all. Not only that, but Lee had much concern about what was going to happen to his men once they surrendered (hardly comments that would be fitting either before or after the final terms were established). I believe Lee remained in an appreciative state once he understood the terms of the surrender and nothing would happen to his men...they could go home. Furthermore, it doesn't jive with post-war comments from Lee that he refused to allow Grant to be insulted in his presence.






CC
 
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