What made Lee a good commander?

Georgia

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Good evening everyone, to start off I've always seen General Lee as a commander who in the most unfavorable odds turn the tide of battle and defeat his far more superior union foes. So here is my question . What made Lee such a successful commander ?
I think it ultimately came down to the admiration he received from his troops. It sounds like they’d have walked over hot coals had he asked them to and to have that relationship of trust and admiration must’ve made a difference in the attitude the troops carried with them and his they responded to his orders.
(Just my general opinion- I’m certain others will have much more well thought out replies based upon examples from various battles. )
 

Pete Longstreet

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Lee was a gentleman, and had a caring side, but also had a strict command presence. He was a honorable soldier and men respected his professionalism. This is very important in a commander, and he led by example. He was a very good tactician both on offensive and defensive campaigns. But one of the most important traits that made him a successful commander was his willingness to listen to his subordinate generals and officers. He always discussed military operations with them, and attentively listened to what they had to say, taking their recommendations into consideration. He was closely involved with his subordinates, everything from movements of the army to personal/private grievances they may have. This type of leadership sets the tone right down to the rank and file. For example, Bragg's command was dysfunctional and thus created infighting between the subordinates and him. There was a breakdown in communication, which thus created a hostile environment. Although Lee wasn't perfect, and obviously takes a lot of criticism for Gettysburg and being too aggressive at times with an army with inferior numbers.
 

Georgia

Sergeant
Lee was a gentleman, and had a caring side, but also had a strict command presence. He was a honorable soldier and men respected his professionalism. This is very important in a commander, and he led by example. He was a very good tactician both on offensive and defensive campaigns. But one of the most important traits that made him a successful commander was his willingness to listen to his subordinate generals and officers. He always discussed military operations with them, and attentively listened to what they had to say, taking their recommendations into consideration. He was closely involved with his subordinates, everything from movements of the army to personal/private grievances they may have. This type of leadership sets the tone right down to the rank and file. For example, Bragg's command was dysfunctional and thus created infighting between the subordinates and him. There was a breakdown in communication, which thus created a hostile environment. Although Lee wasn't perfect, and obviously takes a lot of criticism for Gettysburg and being too aggressive at times with an army with inferior numbers.
Is the concept of him suffering a heart attack still considered to be the reason for such issues at Gettysburg?
(Again, not one to backseat diagnose, but just wanting to see if this was still considered the accepted reasoning as why Gettysburg didn’t go well during his command.)
 

Samof94

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Is the concept of him suffering a heart attack still considered to be the reason for such issues at Gettysburg?
(Again, not one to backseat diagnose, but just wanting to see if this was still considered the accepted reasoning as why Gettysburg didn’t go well during his command.)
Remember that his health got worse as the war went on.
 

jackt62

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Lee was all the above. Additionally his audacity, superior skills and compassion in leading and managing his rank and file, and his understanding of terrain and engineering were major assets. But I'm also going to note certain deficiencies that detracted from his command ability. Lee's tendency was to devise and issue broad directions to his corps commanders, which worked well when dealing with an individual such as Jackson, but was not suitable when dealing with less creative minded officers such as AP Hill and Ewell. In that respect, Lee was lacking in the type of supervisory skills that had to sometimes involve being more assertive with or demanding of subordinate officers. Additionally, Lee did not understand or refused to acknowledge the necessity for a staff that was large enough, was adept in various functional areas, and had the highest level of authority to ensure that orders were carried out. Finally, Lee's offensive tactics were too heavily reliant on direct assaults and/or counterattacks, which did gain him victories for a time but were ultimately doomed to failure because of attrition in his manpower.
 

rpkennedy

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Lee was all the above. Additionally his audacity, superior skills and compassion in leading and managing his rank and file, and his understanding of terrain and engineering were major assets. But I'm also going to note certain deficiencies that detracted from his command ability. Lee's tendency was to devise and issue broad directions to his corps commanders, which worked well when dealing with an individual such as Jackson, but was not suitable when dealing with less creative minded officers such as AP Hill and Ewell. In that respect, Lee was lacking in the type of supervisory skills that had to sometimes involve being more assertive with or demanding of subordinate officers. Additionally, Lee did not understand or refused to acknowledge the necessity for a staff that was large enough, was adept in various functional areas, and had the highest level of authority to ensure that orders were carried out. Finally, Lee's offensive tactics were too heavily reliant on direct assaults and/or counterattacks, which did gain him victories for a time but were ultimately doomed to failure because of attrition in his manpower.

I completely agree. Lee's strength was his audacity and willingness to do the unexpected but this resulted in devastating losses for the Confederacy. From June 1862-July 1863, Lee had won a number of major victories but had sustained almost 100,000 casualties that the South simply could not afford (and that doesn't count the serious losses among senior field and staff and general officers in that time) and was not much closer to victory than he had been when he took command. And all of this while Union armies in the Western Theater were relatively consistently winning and rolling back the Confederacy.

Ryan
 

Scott1967

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Good evening everyone, to start off I've always seen General Lee as a commander who in the most unfavorable odds turn the tide of battle and defeat his far more superior union foes. So here is my question . What made Lee such a successful commander ?

Was he successful?.

In reality nothing Lee did effected the outcome of the war his two invasions of the North were abject failures.

I agree with some other posters Lee was the perfect leader and soldiers love a bit of class when it comes to their leaders he was also very diplomatic when dealing with his senior commanders Lee took Longstreet's advice at Fredericksburg and gave carte blanche to Jackson at Chancellorsville however I firmly believe the loss of Jackson was the turning point in the war.

So what it comes down to is was Lee really a great commander of was he lucky enough to have in my view the two best corps commanders of the war in Jackson and Longstreet.

In my opinion of course.
 

jackt62

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what it comes down to is was Lee really a great commander of was he lucky enough to have in my view the two best corps commanders of the war in Jackson and Longstreet.

No commander, no matter how superior in talent and attributes, can attain real "greatness" in command without the support of very effective subordinates. In that respect, Lee was fortunate in commanding those officers mentioned, but it should also be noted that the ANV and Lee was favored with an A team of officers at all levels down to company. But the severe attrition in those officers by 1864 (in no small part the result of Lee's aggressive tactics), resulted in the diminishment of the ANV's and Lee's proficiency to fight anything other than a defensive war.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Is the concept of him suffering a heart attack still considered to be the reason for such issues at Gettysburg?
(Again, not one to backseat diagnose, but just wanting to see if this was still considered the accepted reasoning as why Gettysburg didn’t go well during his command.)
Although it is known he was not feeling well and did suffer from a heart condition... some historians have said that blaming his decisions at Gettysburg on his heart condition was another way to protect his image and reputation.
 

Pete Longstreet

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So what it comes down to is was Lee really a great commander of was he lucky enough to have in my view the two best corps commanders of the war in Jackson and Longstreet.

In my opinion of cocourse.
This is an important piece. Although Lee was a proven soldier, the team of Lee, Longstreet and Jackson was like a well oiled machine. Their personalities balanced one another's and for the most part, performed fluently.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Good evening everyone, to start off I've always seen General Lee as a commander who in the most unfavorable odds turn the tide of battle and defeat his far more superior union foes. So here is my question . What made Lee such a successful commander ?

In a historical context, ... In order to have a Cannae, you must first have a Varro.

We have had this discussion on the board before and I have long maintained that although having qualities that made him a first class Civil War general, his genius stems mainly from the generalship of a McClellan, Pope, Burnside or Hooker, rather than a Meade or Grant.

As to his generalship, Lee, like most professionally trained officers of his time, was a student of the Napoleonic Wars and the generalship of Napoleon. He knew the precepts of Napoleon, Audacity, Speed, , ability to make war by Map(not by personal observation) etc., all of which, of course, being adapted to the art of warfare as existed during his life.
 
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