General Lee's Letter Of Resignation

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SouthernFriedOtaku

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General Lee's Letter of Resignation
On August 8, he sent President Jefferson Davis his offer to resign. Lee also expected a board of inquiry, and prepared for a court-martial for the failure of the Gettysburg Campaign.
Davis, of course, refused to hear of either one and rejected Lee's resignation. Ultimately Lee was the best general for the job of defending Richmond, as he demonstrated for two years up till that point, and probably the only high-ranking Confederate officer (except for Braxton Bragg) that Davis had a good relationship with.

Camp Orange, August 8, 1863
His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
President of the Confederate States
Mr. President,
Your letters of July 28 and August 2 have been received, and I have waited for a leisure hour to reply, but I fear that will never come. I am extremely obliged to you for the attention given to the wants of this army, and the efforts made to supply them. Our absentees are returning, and I hope the earnest and beautiful appeal may stir up the virtue of the whole people; and that they may see their duty and perform it. Nothing is wanted but their fortitude should equal their bravery to insure the success of our cause. We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies and to prevent our falling into greater disasters. Our people have only to be true and united, to bear manfully the misfortunes incident to war, and all will come right in the end.
I know how prone we are to censure and how ready to blame others for the non-fulfillment of our expectations. This is unbecoming in a generous people, and I grieve to see its expression. The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal. This is natural, and in many instances, proper. For, no matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops disaster must sooner or later ensue.
I have been prompted by these reflections more than once since my return from Pennsylvania to propose to Your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army. I have seen and heard of expression of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. I do not know how far this feeling exends in the army. My brother officers have been too kind to report it, and so far the troops have been too generous to exhibit it. It is fair, however, to suppose that it it does exist, and success is so necessary to us that nothing should be risked to secure it. I therefore, in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to take measures to supply my place. I do this with the more earnestness because no one is more aware than myself of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfill the expectations of others? In addition I sensibly feel the growing failure of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from the attack I experienced the past spring. I am becoming more and more incapable of exertion, and am thus prevented from making the personal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the operations of the field which I feel to be necessary. I am so dull that in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon Your Excellency from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be attained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader -- one that would accomplish more than I could perform and all that I have wished. I hope Your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason, the desire to serve my country, and to do all in my power to insure the success of her righteous cause.
I have no complaints to make of any one but myself. I have received nothing but kindness from those above me, and the most considerate attention from my comrades and companions in arms. To Your Excellency I am specially indebted for uniform kindness and consideration. You have done everything in your power to aid me in the work committed to my charge, without omitting anything to promote the general welfare. I pray that your efforts may at length be crowned with success, and that you may long live to enjoy the thanks of grateful people.
With sentiments of great esteem, I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,
R.E. Lee,
General
 

ErnieMac

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I gather from a portion of Lee's letter ("I have seen and heard of expression of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition.") that the newspaper reports and opinions expressed were critical of Lee with regard to the Gettysburg Campaign. It might be of interest to find some of those articles.
 
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Drew

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His writing skills were excellent. A well educated and gracious man, to be sure.

He took full responsibility for the Battle of Gettysburg, blaming no one but himself, praising his Grand Army in the process.

I would like to see one, single, solitary letter like this from a Union General. Oh, wait, it was always "someone else's fault," right?
 
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James N.

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"I have no complaints to make of anyone but myself". To me, this letter speaks volumes about Lee and his character. I would like to see a letter like this from any one of Lee's key subordinates.
Or his Federal opponents like McClellan, Pope, Burnside, or Hooker!
 

SouthernFriedOtaku

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One also has to remember it wasn't just the failure of the Southern generals -- Lee for choosing to fight after the first day, Ewell for not getting the high ground, Longstreet for not planning the second day better, Laws for not stopping for water, Stuart for not being with the army in enemy territory, ect. -- rather it was also due to the excellent defense by the Union officers: Buford and Reynolds who held Heath from taking the high ground at Cemetery Ridge, Warren for understanding the importance of the Round Tops, Chamberlain who didn't run when he ran out of ammo, Custer at Hanover who kept Stuart from interfering on the third day, and Hancock who stood his ground on the third day. Consider that if any single aspect of that battle had changed, the outcome could have been very different.
Lee choose to accept the moral responsibility for the loss of the campaign and the men, something he lived with for the rest of his life.
 
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thomas aagaard

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Longstreet for not planning the second day better,
What??? we can blame him for his poor planing and lack of action on the 3rd...
But on the 2nd?

btw Stuart had no plans about interfering. He was covering the flank... the idea that he was to attack the rear of the union army is just a myth.
 

SouthernFriedOtaku

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What??? we can blame him for his poor planing and lack of action on the 3rd...
But on the 2nd?

btw Stuart had no plans about interfering. He was covering the flank... the idea that he was to attack the rear of the union army is just a myth.
Longstreet could have followed Hood's suggestion and sent at least one brigade farther on the flank and up Big Round Top, which by that point in the day was unoccupied.
At any rate it was Lee who ordered the attacks on the Peach Orchard, Devil's Den and Little Round Top and Longstreet obeyed those orders to the letter. Is he at fault for simply obeying without improvising the strategy of the attack? Probably, though there is no guarantee that Hood's plan would have worked. It might have taken too long to go around the flank and there is no way to know if the Union forces would have beaten them there.
 

Pat Answer

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"The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal. This is natural, and in many instances, proper. For, no matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops disaster must sooner or later ensue."

...looks at Braxton Bragg...
 
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pfcjking

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Is this the source (or one of the sources) to which Lee was describing. Clipping taken from 21 July 1863 edition of the Richmond Enquirer. Seems like some of the future lost cause rational was being discussed well before the War was over and Jubal Early was already stirring the pot.
View attachment 319814

View attachment 319815

View attachment 319816
That is some excellent reporting. You can't get solid information like that today, let alone in 1863. Whoever wrote this.... He was good at his job.
 

thomas aagaard

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Longstreet could have followed Hood's suggestion and sent at least one brigade farther on the flank and up Big Round Top, which by that point in the day was unoccupied.
At any rate it was Lee who ordered the attacks on the Peach Orchard, Devil's Den and Little Round Top and Longstreet obeyed those orders to the letter. Is he at fault for simply obeying without improvising the strategy of the attack? Probably, though there is no guarantee that Hood's plan would have worked. It might have taken too long to go around the flank and there is no way to know if the Union forces would have beaten them there.
Lee did not order an attack as you describe it.
The original plan was to attack North East with the Emmitsburg Road being the left guide of the attack.
Lee had a poor understanding of both the terrain and the position of his enemy.

In the end Hoods division attacked east.
With the right flank then turning north going over big round top and then on to little round top.
 
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