Robert E. Lee is often eulogized as the greatest general of the CW although many military historians have challenged this legacy from T. Harry Williams to John Keegan. Personally, I consider the praise to be excessive for a couple of reasons.
Along with Lee's conflicted sense of honor between secession and remaining with the country he swore an oath to defend and his whimpered ramblings on the "possible" evils of slavery, Lee's tactical brilliance also kept the war viable for four long years. In addition, Lee's Virginia myopia kept the war in his backyard where the countryside was continually raped by both armies.
In an essay published in his book <u>Drawn with the Sword</u> critiquing <u>Lee Reconsidered</u> by Alan Nolan, James McPherson, IMO provided what I consider a thought-provoking and powerful synopsis of Lee's legacy. I am interested in how Lee admirerers perceive this view of Robert E. Lee.
"We have Lee the professed Unionist and emancipationist fighting for disunion and slavery; Lee the general who won more battles than almost any other but lost the war; Lee the humane Christian who caused untold death and sorrow. . . When he took command of the Army of No. Virginia in June 1862, the Confederacy wa son the verge of collapse. In the previous four months it had experienced crucial military defeats in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina; it had lost its largest city, New Orleans, much of the Mississippi Valley, and most of Tennessee; McClellan's Army of the Potomac had moved to within five miles of Richmond, where the Confederate government at one point had packed the archives and treasury on special trains to evacuate the capital. Within three months Lee's offensives had taken the Confederacy off the floor at the count of nine and had driven Union forces onto the ropes. Without Lee the Confederacy might have died in 1862. But slavery would have survived; the South would have suffered only limited death and destruction. Lee's victories prolonged the war until it destroyed slavery, the plantation economy, the wealth and infrastructure of the region, and virtually everything else the Confederacy stood for. That was the profound irony of Lee's military genius." [Lee Dissected, <u>Drawn with the Sword,</u> page 158]
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