Sunday, January 26, 2014

Robert E. Lee the Matchless American Hero


A venerated American hero whose birth date we celebrate on 19 January, General Lee's abilities are legendary and even his adversaries would praise him. General Granville Dodge of the Northern military said that Lee's "unfailing equipoise and sturdy courage prolonged the life of the Confederacy from month to month [and a] dispassionate judgment places Robert E. Lee among the greatest generals of modern times."

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"

"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Robert E. Lee the Matchless American Hero:

"In discussing Pompey's greatness on the field of battle, Cicero, a master of ordered thought, asserts that four qualities are united in supreme military chieftains. These, as he thinks, are . . . Military knowledge . . . Valor . . . Authority . . . [and] Good fortune. No soldiers will long fight whole-heartedly for an unlucky chief.

Did Lee possess these traits? Knowledge?  How otherwise, with an army necessarily diminishing, did he compel President Lincoln to try McClellan, Halleck, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, Meade, Grant in an effort to match him in the field, and this, too, when these capable officers excelled him in every material equipment of war?

Valor? It is needed only to recall how, with McClellan still lying at the doors of Richmond, Lee sent off Jackson to jar Pope's complacency and then followed himself with the larger part of his army to complete Jackson's task, or how, when fighting in the ratio of only two to five, he divided his army at Chancellorsville and overthrew the self-sufficient Hooker. The last quality mentioned by Cicero, good fortune, is a relative term. Although Lee was fought to a standstill at Sharpsburg, and baffled at Gettysburg, the admiration, even veneration, of his soldiers was undiminished. They still believed that, while circumstances might prove too much for him, no skill of an antagonist would ever surpass his battlefield strategy.

Such was the chieftain the North Carolina troops, in common with the soldiers of the South, were henceforth to follow until Appomattox came. Bomb-proof critics might assail him with shallow criticisms, but the "hardiest troops that ever laughed at hunger, cold or danger," never wavered in their conviction that their leader was matchless."

(The History of the War Between the States, Volume II, Bethel to Sharpsburg, Daniel H. Hill, Edwards & Broughton, 1926, pp. 91-92)