Was Lee the right man for the job?


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Was Lee the right man for the job?

  • Was a great commander and the right man for the job

    Votes: 29 93.5%
  • Was a great commander, though not the right man for the job

    Votes: 2 6.5%
  • Was a bad commander, though the right man for the job

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Was a bad commander and not the right man for the job

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Don't know

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No, though he was the best man available for the job

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    31

MattL

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Another thread had a bit of a tangent discussion regarding this topic and I found it an interesting one. Would be interesting on peoples opinions.

Personally I never really thought about it until now, but I think Lee was an excellent Commander though not sure he was the right one for the way the Confederacy needed to win.

Thoughts? Agree, Disagree?
 

brass napoleon

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Yes, I believe Lee was a great commander and the right man for the job. He took over the ANV when the Confederacy was virtually on its knees, and not only kept it alive for the next 3 years, but placed it among the great armies in human history.
 

Nytram01

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The Confederates did not have the freedom of Russia or, perhaps more closer to home, the Colonists in the Revolutionary War. They didn't have a vast continent to fall back into and draw their enemy further and further into hostile territory and away from their supply base. The Confederacy was bordered by the Atlantic to the East, the Gulf of Mexico to the South and their enemy to the North and West - to a lesser extent - no matter how far the Confederates withdrew they could not stretch the Federals logistics far enough for it to impede them.

This being the case they were never going to win the war with, what people term as, a Fabian strategy. The more passive cautious kind of warfare favoured by Joe Johnston would have preserved lives and kept armies in the field but that field would have diminished considerably with every bit of territory relinquished and with it the means of supplying those armies as well as the very purpose for fighting.

It would only be a matter of time before the predominance of manpower and material at the Federals disposal would come to bear and crush the Confederacy under it's sheer weight. To achieve their aim of secession becoming perminant the Confederacy had to be agressive, it had to be reckless, it had to take risks. In this Lee was the ideal commander because he was a risk taker and he was agressive and he was, at time, reckless.

He gambled big in the hopes of winning big, and that was, really, the only chance the Confederacy had.

I maintain that, if Lee's gambles had paid off, simply holding the Federals at bay in the West would have been enough for the Confederates to succeed but they failed to do even that, so it's kind of a moot point.
 

PatW

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Well obviously Lee was not the "right" man for the job because he did not get the job done. The relevant issue is did Jeff Davis have any senior commander who could have done a better job than Lee? Given that Lee was the only CSA army commander who had a record of success at army command, I believe Lee was the best general Davis had. I also believe that this point is virtually indisputable.
 

Jamieva

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Well obviously Lee was not the "right" man for the job because he did not get the job done. The relevant issue is did Jeff Davis have any senior commander who could have done a better job than Lee? Given that Lee was the only CSA army commander who had a record of success at army command, I believe Lee was the best general Davis had. I also believe that this point is virtually indisputable.

Not getting the "job done" doesn't mean he wasn't the right man for the job. Army command is not done in a vacuum.
 

Northern Light

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I think that Lee was the right man for the job, because he understood that what was needed to win the war was to break the will of the US civilians want to continue the war. He came close to doing that at Chancellorsville.
I don't know enough about military tactics to know if he was a good general, but he was aggressive, and sometimes reckless, and that seems to be what the Confederacy needed. He knew that the army could not withstand a siege, and he did his best to avoid that situation until the very end, when the inevitable happened.
 

jgoodguy

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The Confederates did not have the freedom of Russia or, perhaps more closer to home, the Colonists in the Revolutionary War. They didn't have a vast continent to fall back into and draw their enemy further and further into hostile territory and away from their supply base. The Confederacy was bordered by the Atlantic to the East, the Gulf of Mexico to the South and their enemy to the North and West - to a lesser extent - no matter how far the Confederates withdrew they could not stretch the Federals logistics far enough for it to impede them.

This being the case they were never going to win the war with, what people term as, a Fabian strategy. The more passive cautious kind of warfare favoured by Joe Johnston would have preserved lives and kept armies in the field but that field would have diminished considerably with every bit of territory relinquished and with it the means of supplying those armies as well as the very purpose for fighting.

It would only be a matter of time before the predominance of manpower and material at the Federals disposal would come to bear and crush the Confederacy under it's sheer weight. To achieve their aim of secession becoming perminant the Confederacy had to be agressive, it had to be reckless, it had to take risks. In this Lee was the ideal commander because he was a risk taker and he was agressive and he was, at time, reckless.

He gambled big in the hopes of winning big, and that was, really, the only chance the Confederacy had.

I maintain that, if Lee's gambles had paid off, simply holding the Federals at bay in the West would have been enough for the Confederates to succeed but they failed to do even that, so it's kind of a moot point.
Good analysis IMHO.
 

jgoodguy

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Well obviously Lee was not the "right" man for the job because he did not get the job done. The relevant issue is did Jeff Davis have any senior commander who could have done a better job than Lee? Given that Lee was the only CSA army commander who had a record of success at army command, I believe Lee was the best general Davis had. I also believe that this point is virtually indisputable.
Most 'right' is more 'right' than just a theory. IMHO
 

matthew mckeon

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Lee wasn't only the right man for the job: he was the perfect man for the job. He reorganized the ANV and made it into his image: nimble, aggressive, and hard hitting.

As far as trading space for time or to stretch enemy supply lines. As noted above, that really wouldn't have worked in the Confederacy. Also it was the strategy of those who can't stop the enemy at the border. Lee could, and did stop the Union in Northern Virginia, for two years.
 

5fish

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A great command of the AoNV, he defeated a much larger force more then once but he fought the wrong war. He should have fought the whole war the way he fought the Overland Campaign. He took on too high of a casualties fighting his aggressive style. He wanted to destroy the AoP but only ever take out a corps. He should have figured out he did not have enough punch to finish off the AoP. He should have changed to achieving a great kill ratio... He was a great commander but fought the war with his army.
 

matthew mckeon

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A great command of the AoNV, he defeated a much larger force more then once but he fought the wrong war. He should have fought the whole war the way he fought the Overland Campaign. He took on too high of a casualties fighting his aggressive style. He wanted to destroy the AoP but only ever take out a corps. He should have figured out he did not have enough punch to finish off the AoP. He should have changed to achieving a great kill ratio... He was a great commander but fought the war with his army.
I've got to disagree with you. Lee did fight on the tactical defensive against Burnside and McClellan at Antietam. He attacked at Chancellorsville and 2nd Bull Run, and got his biggest victories, and sent the Union back to square one. His losses in the Overland Campaign were as punishing as when he was attacking Pope or Hooker. Achieving a favorable kill ratio only works with an enemy who isn't willing to accept losses. Lee didn't get one of those.
 

5fish

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Its not to say Lee didn't make mistakes or blunder. But of all the Confederates, he alone seemed to understand what winning the war would take, what it would cost, and what needed to be sacrificed.
He paid the wrong cost and made the wrong sacrifice. he tried to fight a bigger army toe to toe ans after defeating it not destroying it as he wished. He should have realized he could not fight it toe to toe. He needed a better plan... blocking and fighting from behind cover... remember they had to come to him...


Achieving a favorable kill ratio only works with an enemy who isn't willing to accept losses. Lee didn't get one of those.
He never planned to fight a war of attrition. He thought the confederacy could fight such a war. The confederacy could not absorb the causalities count. The loss of men either.
 

rpkennedy

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He paid the wrong cost and made the wrong sacrifice. he tried to fight a bigger army toe to toe ans after defeating it not destroying it as he wished. He should have realized he could not fight it toe to toe. He needed a better plan... blocking and fighting from behind cover... remember they had to come to him...




He never planned to fight a war of attrition. He thought the confederacy could fight such a war. The confederacy could not absorb the causalities count. The loss of men either.
Lee had to fight aggressively or else lose the whole thing. The only possibilities were winning were to destroy the AotP and take Washington (which could lead to a mediated settlement) or make the North so tired of fighting that they would relent and allow the South to go. Sitting in defenses that could be turned or bypassed was not going to do it. Yes, his methods were costly but it was as close as the Confederacy got to winning.

R
 

John Winn

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Other than maybe Jackson (and maybe Longstreet too) I can't think of anybody else better suited to the job or a better practitioner. For reasons already detailed the Confederacy had to try and win fairly early on and take some risks and be bold to accomplish that. Lee used the smaller and not-as-well-supplied forces at his disposal to great advantage and more than once defeated a much larger army. He made some mistakes but so did all the others on both sides. It took the Union a few years to sift through all their mediocre generals to find a few that were as effective as Lee.
 
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matthew mckeon

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He paid the wrong cost and made the wrong sacrifice. he tried to fight a bigger army toe to toe ans after defeating it not destroying it as he wished. He should have realized he could not fight it toe to toe. He needed a better plan... blocking and fighting from behind cover... remember they had to come to him...




He never planned to fight a war of attrition. He thought the confederacy could fight such a war. The confederacy could not absorb the causalities count. The loss of men either.
McClellan, advancing slowly up the peninsula, backed with as much heavy artillery as he could muster. Attacking was the way to stop him, not fighting defensively, as it turned out.

Lee ended up behind trenches at Petersburg, and then behind a table at Appomattox. A purely defensive campaign couldn't even buy time.
 

matthew mckeon

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Off the battlefield, he also seemed to understand the war was a political and psychological struggle as well. He developed his strategy at least in part to impact the North's will to fight. He wanted even more dramatic changes in the south as well, to maximize the Confederate war effort.
 

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