Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Militant Spirit of Lee and His Army


Theodore Roosevelt recognized General Robert E. Lee as "the very greatest of captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth"; Dwight Eisenhower also praised Lee as a leader "never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history."

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"

The Militant Spirit of Lee and His Army

"Rev. J.H. McNeilly, of Nashville, Tenn., writes:

"I wish to call the attention of the [Confederate] Veteran's readers to one of the noblest tributes to Lee and his army which I have ever read.  It occurs in the "Life of Thomas H. Benton," pages 37, 38, by Theodore Roosevelt, now Governor of New York, in the "American Statesmen Series." The author is speaking of the influences which formed Benton's character, among them the militant spirit of his native South; and he is then led to mention that influence in making the Southern army and its great commander.  He quotes as follows:

"No man who is not willing to bear arms and to fight for his rights can give a good reason why he should be entitled to the privilege of living in a free community. The decline of the militant spirit in the Northeast during the first half of this century was much to be regretted. To it is due more than to any other cause the undoubted average individual inferiority of the Northern compared with the Southern troops – at any rate, at the beginning of the great war of the rebellion.

The Southerners, by their whole mode of living, their habits, and their love of outdoor sports, kept up their warlike spirit, while in the North the so-called upper classes developed along the lines of a wealthy and timid bourgeoisie type, measuring everything by a mercantile standard (a peculiar debasing one, if taken purely by itself), and submitting to be ruled in local affairs by low, foreign mobs, and in national matters by their arrogant Southern kinsmen.

The militant spirit of these last certainly stood them in good stead in the civil war.  The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee, and their leader will undoubtedly rank, without any exception, as the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth; and this although the last and chief of his antagonists may himself claim to stand as the full equal of Marlborough or Wellington."

(Roosevelt's Tribute to R.E. Lee, Confederate Veteran, June 1900, pg. 257)