When did Robert E. Lee realize that the war was lost?


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matthew mckeon

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With the fall of Richmond, he was planning on retreating and linking up with Johnson. In hindsight it seems delusional. Certainly the withdrawal from Richmond was badly planned and managed, and the ANV was beginning to opt out of a hopeless cause.

Lee didn't have much give up in his character.
 

Jamieva

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If we disregard Early's recollection as postwar inaccuracy, perhaps Lee knew at the Battle of Sailor's Creek, where he said to William Mahone, "My God! Has the army dissolved?"
To me Sailor's Creek is beyond the point. At the latest it would have been when Petersburg and Richmond fell. When you lose your seat of government there is no coming back from that.
 

ErnieMac

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I think November 9, 1864, the day after Lincoln's re-election would be the date. Militarily it was over when Grant crossed the James, but there was the chance of a negotiated peace if Lincoln lost. Why did Lee fight on? As in the U.S. Constitution the President was the commander in chief. It was up to Davis to say the War was over.
 

Scott1967

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When Grant crossed the James River, Lee knew the War was over and it now was a seige with an inevitable result of defeat. Merely a matter of time.
Regards
David
I totally agree with this statement it was imo the defining moment of the war the fact that Grant was willing to keep his promise to Lincoln and look forward not backwards.
 

WJC

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If Lee hadn't yet come to realize that victory was at best a 'longshot', he certainly must have realized it by the time he was besieged in Petersburg in June 1864. Freedom of movement was a huge factor in Lee's successes; with the siege, Grant removed that factor.
 

cash

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wausaubob

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The quotes about General Lee's changed perception of the probable course of the war are probably not accurate. I doubt that General Longstreet knew Grant would fight every hour of every day.
However there are numerous quotes that suggest that at Spotsylvania and thereafter, the Confederates knew that the Army of Potomac would fight continuously. If it did so, only a change in administration in the US would prevent the Confederate economy from completely collapsing.
The eventual outcome was logically predictable long before the core supporters of the Confederacy could accept it emotionally.
 

jackt62

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After Lee's last major offensive-defense at the Wilderness, the ANV more or less settled into a strictly defensive posture for the rest of the campaign. So Lee had to understand he was fighting to hold off defeat as long as possible after May 1864.
 

John Hartwell

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I would say it was not long before April 9, 1865. He knew for many months, of course, that his cause was in grave peril, and increasingly unlikely to triumph. But, I do not believe he would have long delayed after concluding that there was, indeed, no hope at all.
 

diane

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To me Sailor's Creek is beyond the point. At the latest it would have been when Petersburg and Richmond fell. When you lose your seat of government there is no coming back from that.
To Davis, any caboose he could fit a state file cabinet into was the seat of government! After Richmond fell, he had no government, but he believed two or three government officials together constituted one. His general was not using a sieve to bail out the ocean, however, and knew it was over. Lee would give no more lives to a cause that was now gone. You're right - at Sailor's Creek he thought his army had dissolved!
 

major bill

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Lee must have know once Sherman reached coast in Georgia, that there was little hope for victory. Without European intervention it would have only been a matter of time.
 

diane

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Lee must have know once Sherman reached coast in Georgia, that there was little hope for victory. Without European intervention it would have only been a matter of time.
I haven't been able to find evidence that Lee might have been planning something, but Sherman was very concerned that Lee might slip out from under Grant, swing around to Sherman's rear and pounce on him. Lee was Sherman's very worst nightmare - and Sherman was a master at conjuring dire scenarios - because Sherman knew very well Lee could take him apart five times before Sunday. Lee was well crippled at this time, but Sherman knew he could not take him.
 

wausaubob

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I haven't been able to find evidence that Lee might have been planning something, but Sherman was very concerned that Lee might slip out from under Grant, swing around to Sherman's rear and pounce on him. Lee was Sherman's very worst nightmare - and Sherman was a master at conjuring dire scenarios - because Sherman knew very well Lee could take him apart five times before Sunday. Lee was well crippled at this time, but Sherman knew he could not take him.
That would be a worse case scenario, and something Sherman would have to prepare for. However, there is little evidence that General Lee's army had the ability to move and then fight after November 1864. It was not comparable to the army that had existed 6 months previously.
 

leftyhunter

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leftyhunter

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If you read those books:
1. You gain a better understanding.
2. Then I don't have to re-read and search through the books for you.
I provide posters with page numbers all the time and cite a few lines. It's not a problem for me to do so. It saves posters time. Per previous threads the amount of what we call war crimes today committed by Union troops was very rare compared to future conflicts fought by US forces.
Leftyhunter
 

gary

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Lee did write a letter to Davis in early '64 warning of the '64 campaign and the possibility of a siege. He knew it would be over if his army was trapped in a siege.
 


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