Lt. General Stephen D. Lee

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pfcjking

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I've never read in depth about S. D. Lee, but I always find myself wondering how he came to be a Lt. General. I do not disparage his service, as I do not know enough details about it to questions much of it. I know he served in nearly every theater, barring the Trans-Mississippi, but how he came to be in command of Forrest seems like a mystery to me.

What did S. D. Lee do that was so great that he was promoted to Lt. General? My guess is that he was credited with some of Forrest's exploits.

What say you?
 
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... but how he came to be in command of Forrest seems like a mystery to me....
If I´m not mistaken he was the senior officer and commanded the department.

As for his promotion I´d say he had served in all 3 combat arms (+staff duty), was promoted at a time of reorganisation (Hood took command) and probably just had luck with having fewer burdens then the other division commanders ... and of course his family name wasn't too bad, either.
 
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diane

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Well, I think what S D Lee did to get promoted was his actions at Champion Hill and at Vicksburg. He received the command of the Alabama and Louisiana district after he got off parole - think that was the name - and also received Forrest - with Bragg's hearty blessings. Just Forrest, not his cavalry because Bragg had snitched it away and given it to Wheeler and Forrest had to go raise another outfit. The secret to Lee's success with Forrest was he had the good sense to leave him mostly alone - as a semi-independent commander Forrest was of much more use than otherwise. I don't think Lee got credit for things Forrest accomplished so much as Forrest got dinged for mistakes Lee made - such as Tupelo. Forrest didn't want to fight that one because he thought he'd get a whipping, and he was right.
 

James N.

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Of course, then-Colonel S. D. Lee had commanded a battalion of artillery that brought to a complete halt the final Union assault by Fitz-John Porter's corps at Second Manassas and did similar work in front of the Dunker Church at Antietam until longer-ranged Union artillery forced him to move from that position. It was because of those successes commanding artillery that he was promoted to general and transferred to the west. The NPS display below is on the site Lee held at Antietam.

dsc04514-jpg.jpg
 
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pfcjking

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I hear what y'all are saying, and I know you're right, but Lt. General.... Just seems lofty for such a young man.
He definitely seemed to have a charmed career. I guess some men just did. McPherson did, as well, as did Wheeler.
 

Vicksburger

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In all my reading I never have come across any source that says anything negative about him, doesn't mean it isn't out there, but I have never seen it. His actions at Champion Hill in the face of adversity make me admire him. During the Siege of Vicksburg he gave good, brave service. (And on July 1 or so, he was one of only two of Pemberton's lieutenants that said "hold out!" Just my two cents, but seems (considering all the other great comments in this thread), he was deserving.
 
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AUG

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In all my reading I never have come across any source that says anything negative about him, doesn't mean it isn't out there, but I have never seen it. His actions at Champion Hill in the face of adversity make me admire him. During the Siege of Vicksburg he gave good, brave service. (And on July 1 or so, he was one of only two of Pemberton's lieutenants that said "hold out!" Just my two cents, but seems (considering all the other great comments in this thread), he was deserving.
Besides Tupelo, Ezra Church would be the only other stain on S. D. Lee's career that I am aware of.

In Earl Hess' last book on Ezra Church he assigns most of the blame to Lee, who commanded one of the two corps sent by Hood to oppose O. O. Howard's advance on Macon & Western R.R. Lee was supposed to stop and entrench his corps to hold Howard in place and wait for A. P. Stewart's corps to arrive - the original plan calling for Stewart's corps to attack the flank of the Federal position the next day - however, as Lee's corps arrived he began sending his men in piecemeal assaults on the entrenched Federal line rather than wait for Stewart. That ended in nothing but a waste of some 3,000 men with no gain.

Part of the blame for Ezra Church could be placed on Hood as well, such as for withholding Lee from moving throughout most of the morning, allowing Howard time gain the high ground and entrench by the time Lee arrived, or for being nowhere near the battlefield. Though that still doesn't excuse Lee's actions that day.
 
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JeffBrooks

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It's always been a bit of a mystery to me that S.D. Lee was promoted to Lieutenant General and corps commander in the Army of Tennessee while Patrick Cleburne remained a major general and division commander.
 

pfcjking

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It's always been a bit of a mystery to me that S.D. Lee was promoted to Lieutenant General and corps commander in the Army of Tennessee while Patrick Cleburne remained a major general and division commander.
I still cannot say why S.D. Lee got promoted that high, but I can tell you why Cleburne didn't.

Cleburne voiced an opinion after Chattanooga that slaves should be used as soldiers and offered their freedom in exchange. He said it openly at a meeting, and I think he even wrote a letter that he was ready to send to Davis if Johnston approved.

From what I understand, the only reason he wasn't carried off on a rail is that he was arguably the best division commander in the CSA, and also because Johnston and his peers nipped it in the bud. Davis knew about it, but I think Johnston shut it down before Davis ever found out. The event was suppressed so successfully, that it was not made public until 30 or so years after the war. It is rumored to have been the reason why he never commanded a corps, along with his foreign birth, which is laughable.

Ewell mentioned the same thing earlier in the war, arming slaves out of pragmatism, and he was shut down as well, but I don't think he wrote a letter, and I think it never went further than a short verbal conversation. R. E. Lee & Longstreet had to press the issue in early 1865, and even then it was nearly impossible to get congress to debate it openly.

If they had armed slaves and given them freedom in exchange, like during the American Revolution, we'd be discussing the merits of this war in very different tones. The moral high ground would not be exclusive to the North. That is precisely why some people try to promote the ridiculous idea that there were thousands of armed black Confederate Soldiers from day one, despite all the Confederate laws and and actions, such as the censure of Cleburne, as evidence to the contrary.

BTW, even when they did form a company or two of armed slaves in Richmond just weeks from the end, they were not offered freedom in exchange for it. However deluded the congressman were who believed the armed slaves would help that late in the war were, they were even more deluded to think that they would somehow be able to take veteran slaves and return them to a cotton field after a Confederate victory. Not a chance.
 
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Vicksburger

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Besides Tupelo, Ezra Church would be the only other stain on S. D. Lee's career that I am aware of.

In Earl Hess' last book on Ezra Church he assigns most of the blame to Lee, who commanded one of the two corps sent by Hood to oppose O. O. Howard's advance on Macon & Western R.R. Lee was supposed to stop and entrench his corps to hold Howard in place and wait for A. P. Stewart's corps to arrive - the original plan calling for Stewart's corps to attack the flank of the Federal position the next day - however, as Lee's corps arrived he began sending his men in piecemeal assaults on the entrenched Federal line rather than wait for Stewart. That ended in nothing but a waste of some 3,000 men with no gain.

Part of the blame for Ezra Church could be placed on Hood as well, such as for withholding Lee from moving throughout most of the morning, allowing Howard time gain the high ground and entrench by the time Lee arrived, or for being nowhere near the battlefield. Though that still doesn't excuse Lee's actions that day.
Thanks for the information. I have always wanted to study the Atlanta Campaign in more depth. This makes me want to study it even more. He would have been fascinating to interview after the war, he was involved in quite a lot in both the Eastern and Western campaigns.
 

AUG

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Thanks for the information. I have always wanted to study the Atlanta Campaign in more depth. This makes me want to study it even more. He would have been fascinating to interview after the war, he was involved in quite a lot in both the Eastern and Western campaigns.
And the Atlanta Campaign continues to get more coverage as we speak. Gary Ecelbarger who authored The Day Dixie Died on the Battle of Atlanta also just recently wrote a book on Ezra Church, Slaughter at the Chapel. Haven't read it yet but was wondering how it compares to Hess' book, which was pretty good.

I believe S. D. Lee was involved in a lot of postwar activities among veterans and with the the Vicksburg National Park. Seems like I've read some reminiscences from him somewhere, perhaps in Confederate Veteran.
 

James N.

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... I believe S. D. Lee was involved in a lot of postwar activities among veterans and with the the Vicksburg National Park. Seems like I've read some reminiscences from him somewhere, perhaps in Confederate Veteran.
Every meeting of any SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans) camp I've ever spoken to has always begun with a reading of what's known as Lee's Charge. He was the last Confederate general officer to serve as commander of the UCV (United Confederate Veterans) and in this short address enjoined the Sons to keep alive the memory and traditions of the UCV. He was also the driving force among Confederate veterans behind the creation of Vicksburg NMP.
 
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