New book on Lee. Would you read it?

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Have to disagree! I have a collection of his writings--and he was quite sentimental. Did you know that he wrote poetry? Alright, not good poetry but his poems were touching. He wrote about incidents of his boyhood, about the sadness of endings. I believe that his compassion and gentle nature were the roots of his greatness. Today we'd say of him that he is a push-over for a sad story.

Keeping up the side was important.
That was part of him. But then he lost his mother, he was raised by a step mother, he lost his lover and married a wealthier woman. He may have written sentimental poetry but he was incredibly ruthless and tolerant of corruption.
 

Georgia Sixth

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Location
Texas
I think he did an amazing job with poor resources. If he had been less skilled and talented the war would have been over in a year. If he is to be judged by how well he redeemed himself after the war then the author has a point. But he had a short time left and my understanding is that he did well at Washington and Lee. So for us CW buffs he will always be a hero.
Well said. Lee was a seriously ill man, working without the help of the sole remaining subordinate he completely trusted, yet he fended off Grant for a full year during the one time Grant was given complete support and top priority on any resources he needed, was epic. No other word for it. Like something out of Homer. No one else could have accomplished that. I suspect that Lee himself frequently could not believe he was pulling it off. He knew the odds. No wonder he gave so much credit to Providence!

As for Lee in the post war, he should be thanked for two key decisions: (1) he said not just no but hell no to transitioning to guerrilla warfare and (2) he told his veterans straight up to go home and obey the laws of the U.S. I cannot imagine how utterly exhausted and drained he must have been -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually -- by the time of his surrender. Grant's finest moment, in my opinion, was the generosity he showed to Lee's army. They had taken the war to its darkest, most brutal and lethal phase, yet when the killing stopped, they both truly took steps for peace. ....If only we had leaders like those two today!
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
That was part of him. But then he lost his mother, he was raised by a step mother, he lost his lover and married a wealthier woman. He may have written sentimental poetry but he was incredibly ruthless and tolerant of corruption.
Politics, anywhere, is a dirty business. So, as a contemporary commenter (David Brooks) wrote "You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others--if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical."

Perhaps the key words are "to serve others" because Mr. Lincoln never profited personally. He paid a pretty steep price for having brought about emancipation, for sparing lives and for (yes) being decent in a time of some pretty nasty people.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Politics, anywhere, is a dirty business. So, as a contemporary commenter (David Brooks) wrote "You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others--if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical."

Perhaps the key words are "to serve others" because Mr. Lincoln never profited personally. He paid a pretty steep price for having brought about emancipation, for sparing lives and for (yes) being decent in a time of some pretty nasty people.
President Lincoln never let his ideals or his faith get in the way of what needed to be done. For Lincoln, he knew the war mobilization was corrupt and inefficient. Rather than get frustrated by that, he appointed Stanton to slowly get things under control. Ruthlessness was that he was willing to use a man he did not like and discard him when he was no longer needed, gently, but firmly.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
President Lincoln never let his ideals or his faith get in the way of what needed to be done. For Lincoln, he knew the war mobilization was corrupt and inefficient. Rather than get frustrated by that, he appointed Stanton to slowly get things under control. Ruthlessness was that he was willing to use a man he did not like and discard him when he was no longer needed, gently, but firmly.
Edwin Stanton? I think that it was Andrew Johnson who tried to replace Stanton.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
No. Stanton replaced Simon Cameron. Stanton and Meigs slowly tried to get some of the waste out of the system. Contract for steamboat and steamship services were notoriously corrupt.
Yes, I think so. You said: "he appointed Stanton to slowly get things under control. Ruthlessness was that he was willing to use a man he did not like and discard him when he was no longer needed". But Stanton was not discarded: he continued as secretary of war to the end of Lincoln's term, through Johnson's term and into Grant's. Also, although their relationship was initially not very good, Lincoln and Stanton came to be friends and Lincoln backed Stanton 100% when Stanton (as war secretary during a war) took some serious heat.

Dismissing a corrupt man isn't an especially good example of tolerating corruption; I think, perhaps, you mean Montgomery Blair? But there's another story there.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
No, I do not. NFL football and wars of rebellion are very different things.... and Lee never won “the big one” either.
At least these members used two Pittsburgh guys(Marino, Montana) to do a comparison on the greatest QB in NFL history. I agree with you, but to play along I would compare Lee's performance and record to another Pittsburgh guy, Jim Kelly. Montana and Marino are really true demigods when it comes to QBs in NFL, and if we scrutinize Lee's war performance he does not deserve to compared to either one of them. I suppose he doesn't if we use football analogies as a metric to grade war performance.

I read the metrics people use to determine how well a general performed and it seems off to me. The perennial argument or statements are all the same with a slightly different forum: "Lee did so great considering the resources he had." Lee did outstanding considering the Union had way more men." Maybe at the end of the war that might be somewhat true but not at the beginning or the middle of the war. Not true at all. If anyone scrutinizes Lee's military prowess it will be revealed he wasn't that good of a tactician and was given the advantage from the jump. Lee was given sufficient forces to defend a constricted operational theater. He was tasked with defending the axis between Washington, D.C. and Richmond Virginia, a fairly constrained, predominantly landbound geographical corridor with good communications and reasonable defensive terrain. He did so at a time when the defense was particularly effective. The whole essence of that theory that he did great with poor resources and not enough men is that he had enough men and resources and an fairly easy assignment but got greedy and fought battles he shouldn't have fought and wasted his resources and men. Lee "personally" created his own plight with his misdoings. If I was to grade his war performance I would equate it to self-flagellation. He was a good general, his boys loved him. He was a great engineer and built great fortification. But that theory he did good considering the men and resources he had is just not true.

If anything, he started out with plenty of men and resources and ended up with poor resources because basically he was too aggressive and fought battles he should not have fought. The more aggressive he was the more he zapped his men and resources. it sure seems that way.

Should he fought the Battle of Antietam? I'll leave it to the viewer. When he arrived at the position he would take for the battle on 15 September 1862, Lee knew he was being pursued by an army with superior numbers. He also knew a major portion of his own army was still at Harper's Ferry processing the Union prisoners of war and the massive amount of war material captured there. Lee had the opportunity to cross the Potomac unmolested by the Union army, but he did not take it. Lee felt that retreating would be an insult to his men, and Lee had major disdain for McClellan, the Union field commander. Lee stayed in that position for 2 days while McClellan brought up every available soldier and developed the position.

Many people call Chancellorsville Lee's finest hour. Well, no. Take another look at that battle. First, Lee was totally surprised by Hooker's flank maneuver and only responded at the last minute. Yes, Lee took Jackson's advice and allowed Jackson to lead a counter flanking maneuver that totally unstrung Hooker's attack. But once the Army of the Potomac had dug in and built field fortifications, and after Jackson had been wounded, Lee ordered almost continuous attacks against those fortifications. Again, Lee nearly wrecked his own army.

Gettysburg: another battle Lee probably had no business fighting. Again, I'll leave to the viewer to decide. After the first day's fighting when the Confederates failed to attack the high ground south of the town and gave the Union forces time to concentrate and build field fortifications, the position became almost unassailable. On the second day, Longstreet and other officers tried to talk Lee into attacking around the hills on the far southern flank of the Union position. Lee refused and ordered the attack across the road and into a true meat grinder, including the attacks on Little Round Top. Had Lee followed the advice of his generals, the position would have probably been flanked and the Union position become untenable. Then on the third day, again, officers attempted to talk Lee out of attacking and to move to the south to flank the Union position. Lee again refused and ordered Pickett's Charge. Again, the Army of Northern Virginia was almost wrecked.

During the 1864 Overland Campaign, Lee did a good job of slowing Grant, but it was done at tremendous cost and did not stop Grant from advancing. Lee was so concerned about holding Richmond that he got himself caught in a box he could not get out of without risking the utter destruction of his army. And so it began a siege Lee had no realistic hope of breaking.

At Appomattox Court House, Lee's army was utterly and literally surrounded by much superior forces. He ordered a break out attempt anyway which was pushed back by the Union forces at great cost to Confederate personnel. It was a totally useless waste of lives.
If people want to view like the above-mentioned excerpts, you can help but see Lee was responsible for his own plight.

Just a theory, but it appears Lee created his own poor resources and limited men theory by fighting battles he should not have and as a result, wasted resources in men. He started out with significate forces, a good assignment for defense and plenty of resources and squandered it all by himself. I just don't buy that theory that Lee did a great job with the poor resources he had dealt to him. I would love for someone to synthesize the why and how Lee did a great job with poor resources and limited men. If you count Union soldier to Confederate soldier then yes. But that was not the case at all with Lee. It is simply not true.
General Lee gave his side the best chance it had to win. But when 1/3 of his army became casualties at Gettysburg and his army still lost, it was probably time to admit it was not possible. to win.

Yes, he kept on fighting and wasting men and resources when he should have quit. Self-flagellation at its finest.

Lee is a beneficiary of numerous hagiographies, so a hamartography might be in order to neutralize that excessive praise and impeccable character theory that he receives to bring people in the middle a little. Even it does bring people in the middle regarding his character, it might make people make a proper estimation of his war performance as well. I'm indifferent about hagiographies and hamartographies because neither are realistic. But something has to be done to neutralize those unrealistic hagiographies about him. He was human being with faults and made mistakes like everyone else. He was a good general, his boys loved him and great engineer and did some tactical masterpieces, but had a suspect strategy. He also fought to sustain slavery and wasted 17 year old boys lives when he knew he was beat. Hmm. I don't know...
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
At least these members used two Pittsburgh guys(Marino, Montana) to do a comparison on the greatest QB in NFL history. I agree with you, but to play along I would compare Lee's performance and record to another Pittsburgh guy, Jim Kelly....etc
Well...dear @lurid , you will most probably know now that I am usually not sharing your opinion (and also do not completely share it here), but....man....this was a fascinating, entertaining and thought-provoking read! Great!
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Well...dear @lurid , you will most probably know now that I am usually not sharing your opinion (and also do not completely share it here), but....man....this was a fascinating, entertaining and thought-provoking read! Great!

Why are you trolling me? Evidently, you didn't follow the thread and notice the football analogy was already posted before I said anything football, and evidently you forgot to read my entire post where I gave me position on Lee's war performance and character. To be honest, the members who did use the football analogy did an outstanding job. I thought it was quite thought provoking. I couldn't careless if you never agree with me. I hope you continue not to agree with me. Just don't turn this thread into a circus. You're excused.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
At least these members used two Pittsburgh guys(Marino, Montana) to do a comparison on the greatest QB in NFL history. I agree with you, but to play along I would compare Lee's performance and record to another Pittsburgh guy, Jim Kelly. Montana and Marino are really true demigods when it comes to QBs in NFL, and if we scrutinize Lee's war performance he does not deserve to compared to either one of them. I suppose he doesn't if we use football analogies as a metric to grade war performance.

I read the metrics people use to determine how well a general performed and it seems off to me. The perennial argument or statements are all the same with a slightly different forum: "Lee did so great considering the resources he had." Lee did outstanding considering the Union had way more men." Maybe at the end of the war that might be somewhat true but not at the beginning or the middle of the war. Not true at all. If anyone scrutinizes Lee's military prowess it will be revealed he wasn't that good of a tactician and was given the advantage from the jump. Lee was given sufficient forces to defend a constricted operational theater. He was tasked with defending the axis between Washington, D.C. and Richmond Virginia, a fairly constrained, predominantly landbound geographical corridor with good communications and reasonable defensive terrain. He did so at a time when the defense was particularly effective. The whole essence of that theory that he did great with poor resources and not enough men is that he had enough men and resources and an fairly easy assignment but got greedy and fought battles he shouldn't have fought and wasted his resources and men. Lee "personally" created his own plight with his misdoings. If I was to grade his war performance I would equate it to self-flagellation. He was a good general, his boys loved him. He was a great engineer and built great fortification. But that theory he did good considering the men and resources he had is just not true.

If anything, he started out with plenty of men and resources and ended up with poor resources because basically he was too aggressive and fought battles he should not have fought. The more aggressive he was the more he zapped his men and resources. it sure seems that way.

Should he fought the Battle of Antietam? I'll leave it to the viewer. When he arrived at the position he would take for the battle on 15 September 1862, Lee knew he was being pursued by an army with superior numbers. He also knew a major portion of his own army was still at Harper's Ferry processing the Union prisoners of war and the massive amount of war material captured there. Lee had the opportunity to cross the Potomac unmolested by the Union army, but he did not take it. Lee felt that retreating would be an insult to his men, and Lee had major disdain for McClellan, the Union field commander. Lee stayed in that position for 2 days while McClellan brought up every available soldier and developed the position.

Many people call Chancellorsville Lee's finest hour. Well, no. Take another look at that battle. First, Lee was totally surprised by Hooker's flank maneuver and only responded at the last minute. Yes, Lee took Jackson's advice and allowed Jackson to lead a counter flanking maneuver that totally unstrung Hooker's attack. But once the Army of the Potomac had dug in and built field fortifications, and after Jackson had been wounded, Lee ordered almost continuous attacks against those fortifications. Again, Lee nearly wrecked his own army.

Gettysburg: another battle Lee probably had no business fighting. Again, I'll leave to the viewer to decide. After the first day's fighting when the Confederates failed to attack the high ground south of the town and gave the Union forces time to concentrate and build field fortifications, the position became almost unassailable. On the second day, Longstreet and other officers tried to talk Lee into attacking around the hills on the far southern flank of the Union position. Lee refused and ordered the attack across the road and into a true meat grinder, including the attacks on Little Round Top. Had Lee followed the advice of his generals, the position would have probably been flanked and the Union position become untenable. Then on the third day, again, officers attempted to talk Lee out of attacking and to move to the south to flank the Union position. Lee again refused and ordered Pickett's Charge. Again, the Army of Northern Virginia was almost wrecked.

During the 1864 Overland Campaign, Lee did a good job of slowing Grant, but it was done at tremendous cost and did not stop Grant from advancing. Lee was so concerned about holding Richmond that he got himself caught in a box he could not get out of without risking the utter destruction of his army. And so it began a siege Lee had no realistic hope of breaking.

At Appomattox Court House, Lee's army was utterly and literally surrounded by much superior forces. He ordered a break out attempt anyway which was pushed back by the Union forces at great cost to Confederate personnel. It was a totally useless waste of lives.
If people want to view like the above-mentioned excerpts, you can help but see Lee was responsible for his own plight.

Just a theory, but it appears Lee created his own poor resources and limited men theory by fighting battles he should not have and as a result, wasted resources in men. He started out with significate forces, a good assignment for defense and plenty of resources and squandered it all by himself. I just don't buy that theory that Lee did a great job with the poor resources he had dealt to him. I would love for someone to synthesize the why and how Lee did a great job with poor resources and limited men. If you count Union soldier to Confederate soldier then yes. But that was not the case at all with Lee. It is simply not true.


Yes, he kept on fighting and wasting men and resources when he should have quit. Self-flagellation at its finest.


Lee is a beneficiary of numerous hagiographies, so a hamartography might be in order to neutralize that excessive praise and impeccable character theory that he receives to bring people in the middle a little. Even it does bring people in the middle regarding his character, it might make people make a proper estimation of his war performance as well. I'm indifferent about hagiographies and hamartographies because neither are realistic. But something has to be done to neutralize those unrealistic hagiographies about him. He was human being with faults and made mistakes like everyone else. He was a good general, his boys loved him and great engineer and did some tactical masterpieces, but had a suspect strategy. He also fought to sustain slavery and wasted 17 year old boys lives when he knew he was beat. Hmm. I don't know...
I hate to boil it down to another football analogy but it reminds me of the QB who has way too much faith in himself and his team and thus takes unsound chances. It’s great to do that when it works and Rodgers throws a 60yrd TD to win the game. It’s terrible when Rothlesberger throws a pick. Lee was a QB who threw too many picks, even his greatest “win” at Chancellorsville was Phyrric. When it came time for the big game, Antietam, Gettysburg, Overland, he and his boys just got beat.

Perhaps, @Ct Yank Lee and Marino are alike. Both look good on paper but couldn’t win the big game and when you scratch the surface just a bit you find that maybe they aren’t who you thought they were.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
At least these members used two Pittsburgh guys(Marino, Montana) to do a comparison on the greatest QB in NFL history. I agree with you, but to play along I would compare Lee's performance and record to another Pittsburgh guy, Jim Kelly. Montana and Marino are really true demigods when it comes to QBs in NFL, and if we scrutinize Lee's war performance he does not deserve to compared to either one of them. I suppose he doesn't if we use football analogies as a metric to grade war performance.

I read the metrics people use to determine how well a general performed and it seems off to me. The perennial argument or statements are all the same with a slightly different forum: "Lee did so great considering the resources he had." Lee did outstanding considering the Union had way more men." Maybe at the end of the war that might be somewhat true but not at the beginning or the middle of the war. Not true at all. If anyone scrutinizes Lee's military prowess it will be revealed he wasn't that good of a tactician and was given the advantage from the jump. Lee was given sufficient forces to defend a constricted operational theater. He was tasked with defending the axis between Washington, D.C. and Richmond Virginia, a fairly constrained, predominantly landbound geographical corridor with good communications and reasonable defensive terrain. He did so at a time when the defense was particularly effective. The whole essence of that theory that he did great with poor resources and not enough men is that he had enough men and resources and an fairly easy assignment but got greedy and fought battles he shouldn't have fought and wasted his resources and men. Lee "personally" created his own plight with his misdoings. If I was to grade his war performance I would equate it to self-flagellation. He was a good general, his boys loved him. He was a great engineer and built great fortification. But that theory he did good considering the men and resources he had is just not true.

If anything, he started out with plenty of men and resources and ended up with poor resources because basically he was too aggressive and fought battles he should not have fought. The more aggressive he was the more he zapped his men and resources. it sure seems that way.

Should he fought the Battle of Antietam? I'll leave it to the viewer. When he arrived at the position he would take for the battle on 15 September 1862, Lee knew he was being pursued by an army with superior numbers. He also knew a major portion of his own army was still at Harper's Ferry processing the Union prisoners of war and the massive amount of war material captured there. Lee had the opportunity to cross the Potomac unmolested by the Union army, but he did not take it. Lee felt that retreating would be an insult to his men, and Lee had major disdain for McClellan, the Union field commander. Lee stayed in that position for 2 days while McClellan brought up every available soldier and developed the position.

Many people call Chancellorsville Lee's finest hour. Well, no. Take another look at that battle. First, Lee was totally surprised by Hooker's flank maneuver and only responded at the last minute. Yes, Lee took Jackson's advice and allowed Jackson to lead a counter flanking maneuver that totally unstrung Hooker's attack. But once the Army of the Potomac had dug in and built field fortifications, and after Jackson had been wounded, Lee ordered almost continuous attacks against those fortifications. Again, Lee nearly wrecked his own army.

Gettysburg: another battle Lee probably had no business fighting. Again, I'll leave to the viewer to decide. After the first day's fighting when the Confederates failed to attack the high ground south of the town and gave the Union forces time to concentrate and build field fortifications, the position became almost unassailable. On the second day, Longstreet and other officers tried to talk Lee into attacking around the hills on the far southern flank of the Union position. Lee refused and ordered the attack across the road and into a true meat grinder, including the attacks on Little Round Top. Had Lee followed the advice of his generals, the position would have probably been flanked and the Union position become untenable. Then on the third day, again, officers attempted to talk Lee out of attacking and to move to the south to flank the Union position. Lee again refused and ordered Pickett's Charge. Again, the Army of Northern Virginia was almost wrecked.

During the 1864 Overland Campaign, Lee did a good job of slowing Grant, but it was done at tremendous cost and did not stop Grant from advancing. Lee was so concerned about holding Richmond that he got himself caught in a box he could not get out of without risking the utter destruction of his army. And so it began a siege Lee had no realistic hope of breaking.

At Appomattox Court House, Lee's army was utterly and literally surrounded by much superior forces. He ordered a break out attempt anyway which was pushed back by the Union forces at great cost to Confederate personnel. It was a totally useless waste of lives.
If people want to view like the above-mentioned excerpts, you can help but see Lee was responsible for his own plight.

Just a theory, but it appears Lee created his own poor resources and limited men theory by fighting battles he should not have and as a result, wasted resources in men. He started out with significate forces, a good assignment for defense and plenty of resources and squandered it all by himself. I just don't buy that theory that Lee did a great job with the poor resources he had dealt to him. I would love for someone to synthesize the why and how Lee did a great job with poor resources and limited men. If you count Union soldier to Confederate soldier then yes. But that was not the case at all with Lee. It is simply not true.


Yes, he kept on fighting and wasting men and resources when he should have quit. Self-flagellation at its finest.


Lee is a beneficiary of numerous hagiographies, so a hamartography might be in order to neutralize that excessive praise and impeccable character theory that he receives to bring people in the middle a little. Even it does bring people in the middle regarding his character, it might make people make a proper estimation of his war performance as well. I'm indifferent about hagiographies and hamartographies because neither are realistic. But something has to be done to neutralize those unrealistic hagiographies about him. He was human being with faults and made mistakes like everyone else. He was a good general, his boys loved him and great engineer and did some tactical masterpieces, but had a suspect strategy. He also fought to sustain slavery and wasted 17 year old boys lives when he knew he was beat. Hmm. I don't know...
A lot of good points. I salute you, by the way, for making me actually look up "hamartography" - well done. I don't think the Guelzo book will fall there. As I posted, I've skimmed it at random and have found some even-handed material - in addition to the points I referred to in my earlier post, Guelzo also addresses Lee's manumissions. He points out - correctly - that he was required to free the Custis slaves under the will, but then adds that he freed his own slave without having to. All this is based only on isolated text, so things may change after reading it in full, but those are signs that it's what a decent biography should do - look at the subject objectively, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. On the other hand, and as I indicated, it looks like Meade will get hammered again, as he was in the Gettysburg book.

As for Montana, I'll concede that his and my shared college backgrounds may play a role (Cotton Bowl 1979, 00:01 on the clock, with the flu and on an icy field, for example). But he did have those rings. 😎 And I like the Kelley analogy...
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I don´t know....does anybody really need to read that book?

Is there still a need to battle the picture of the marble man?
I always thought that quite a lot of people already scratched up Lee´s varnish (or tried to do it) - and all of Guelzo´s points of criticism were already adressed to in many books (Lee allegedly being overly aggressive, Lee´s stance towards race and reconstruction, Lee´s alleged greed for ever more ressources, Lee´s fixation on Virginia...).
I am not so sure about his assessment regarding the manumission of the Custis slaves - I remember having read pages of debate in this forum where the conclusion was by far not that unambiguosly as Guelzo seemingly is presenting it...
Maybe another balanced biography would be needed (if any).

And regarding Lee´s qualities as a general....well...he was cocky at Antietam - but consider what could have happened...
invite the AoP to battle on their home ground and beat them thoroughly - the recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and/or France would have been nearly inevitable.
(and if you really want McClellan to actually attack you - then better not choose a position that is too scary to him).

And Chancellorsville....well...imagine you have to play the game....
- with only six players
- as you had to send five players home to Grannie to get some food and huggies
(because YOUR team is just not admitted to the spa area and the restaurant and got no taps in their changing rooms...)
and still you smash them....

Or Second Manassas...
- you know that the opposing team will be joined by an additional team in the third quarter and then it´s "all over Baby Blue"
- and then you beat ´em up in half an hour so thoroughly
- that the additional team doesn´t even dare to dismount the bus....

And then somebody calls Chancellorsville "pyrrhic" and Second Manassas "lucky" and Antietam "overly aggressive"....

Well...I don´t know....sounds a bit nitpickingly to me.....
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
I don´t know....does anybody really need to read that book?

Is there still a need to battle the picture of the marble man?
I always thought that quite a lot of people already scratched up Lee´s varnish (or tried to do it) - and all of Guelzo´s points of criticism were already adressed to in many books (Lee allegedly being overly aggressive, Lee´s stance towards race and reconstruction, Lee´s alleged greed for ever more ressources, Lee´s fixation on Virginia...).
I am not so sure about his assessment regarding the manumission of the Custis slaves - I remember having read pages of debate in this forum where the conclusion was by far not that unambiguosly as Guelzo seemingly is presenting it...
Maybe another balanced biography would be needed (if any).

And regarding Lee´s qualities as a general....well...he was cocky at Antietam - but consider what could have happened...
invite the AoP to battle on their home ground and beat them thoroughly - the recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and/or France would have been nearly inevitable.
(and if you really want McClellan to actually attack you - then better not choose a position that is too scary to him).

And Chancellorsville....well...imagine you have to play the game....
- with only six players
- as you had to send five players home to Grannie to get some food and huggies
(because YOUR team is just not admitted to the spa area and the restaurant and got no taps in their changing rooms...)
and still you smash them....

Or Second Manassas...
- you know that the opposing team will be joined by an additional team in the third quarter and then it´s "all over Baby Blue"
- and then you beat ´em up in half an hour so thoroughly
- that the additional team doesn´t even dare to dismount the bus....

And then somebody calls Chancellorsville "pyrrhic" and Second Manassas "lucky" and Antietam "overly aggressive"....

Well...I don´t know....sounds a bit nitpickingly to me.....
Doesnt seem nit-picky to me at all. Chancellorsville was a pyrrhic victory. A pyrrhic victory is a victory or success that comes at the expense of great losses or costs. Losing Jackson certainly qualifies for a great loss, not to mention the casualties the ANV sustained.

As for Antietam, fighting with an unfordable river at your back, against overwhelming odds, when you had every chance to move and select some other position to fight closer to your troops who are still absent, and then staying on the field or another day after bleeding your army dry and your opponent has a fresh Corps to use against you, yea, that seems overly aggressive.

As long as people still think of Lee as a god of war, then I think more education on his very real deficiencies as a general is warranted. Ask the normal non CW geek about Lee, and most will say he is one of the greatest generals the US ever produced (and Grant was simply a butcher who only used sledgehammer tactics). Given we had 100 plus years of misinformation on this, its going to take some time to correct this impression in the public consciousness. I mean, there are people on this forum who are real students of the war who still have a hard time admitting Lee ever made a mistake and are always handy with an explanation why he was was disserved by one of his subordinates.
 
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