Robert E. Lee

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

Robert Edward Lee (19 January 180712 October 1870) was an American military officer who went on to become a general for the Confederate armies during the American Civil War, fighting against the United States. He eventually commanded all Confederate armies as general-in-chief. After surrendering to Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, he lived out the rest of his life in Virginia, where he grew up. He was the son of Henry Lee III, who was a Continental Army officer during the American Revolutionary War.

Quotes[edit]

It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.
We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.
I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself.
Don't bring up your sons to detest the United States government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.
I think it would be better for Virginia if she could get rid of them.
I could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject. I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.
Fold it up and put it away.
I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. … Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.
True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same.
I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race.
I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. … A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
The education of a man is never completed until he dies.
I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. ~ Ulysses S. Grant
Lee's decision to take up arms against the United States went against the very things that Washington and his own father stood for. ~ Andy Hall
On Palm Sunday, at Appomattox Court House, the spirit of feudalism, of aristocracy, of injustice in this country, surrendered, in the person of Robert E. Lee, the Virginian slave-holder, to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and of equal rights, in the person of Ulysses S. Grant, the Illinois tanner. So closed this great campaign in the 'Good Fight of Liberty'. So the Army of the Potomac, often baffled, struck an immortal blow, and gave the right hand of heroic fellowship to their brethren of the west. So the silent captain, when all his lieutenants had secured their separate fame, put on the crown of victory and ended civil war. ~ George William Curtis
On their way to and from Gettysburg, Lee's troops seized scores of free black people in Maryland and Pennsylvania and sent them south into slavery. This was in keeping with Confederate national policy, which virtually re-enslaved free people of color into work gangs. ~ James W. Loewen
  • Madam, don't bring up your sons to detest the United States government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.
    • Advice to a Confederate widow who expressed animosity towards the northern U.S. after the end of the American Civil War, as quoted in The Life and Campaigns of General Lee (1875) by Edward Lee Childe, p. 331. Also quoted in "Will Confederate Heritage Advocates Take Robert E. Lee’s Advice?" (July 2014), by Brooks D. Simpson, Crossroads, WordPress. This quote is sometimes paraphrased as: "Madam, do not train up your children in hostility to the government of the United States. Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring them up to be Americans."
  • We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.
    • As quoted in A Life of General Robert E. Lee (1871), by John Esten Cooke.
  • I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself.
    • Comment regarding officers who became inebriated, as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1874) by John William Jones, p. 170
  • Sir, if you ever presume again to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this university.
    • After one of the faculty at Washington College in Virginia (now Washington & Lee University) had spoken insultingly of Ulysses S. Grant, as quoted in Lee the American (1912) by Gamaliel Bradford, p. 226
  • The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
    The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly — the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.
    The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
    • "Definition of a Gentleman", a memorandum found in his papers after his death, as quoted in Lee the American (1912) by Gamaliel Bradford, p. 233
  • I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.
    • As quoted in The American Soul : An Appreciation of the Four Greatest Americans and their Lessons for Present Americans (1920) by Charles Sherwood Farriss, p. 63
  • Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character.
    • As quoted in General Robert E. Lee After Appomattox (1922), by Franklin Lafayette Riley, p. 18
  • After it is all over, as stupid a fellow as I am can see that mistakes were made. I notice, however, that my mistakes are never told me until it is too late, and you, and all my officers, know that I am always ready and anxious to have their suggestions.
  • Teach him he must deny himself.
    • Lee to a mother who asked him to bless her son, as quoted in R. E. Lee : A Biography, Vol. 4 (1935) by Douglas Southall Freeman, p. 505
  • I should NOT be trading on the blood of my men.
    • On refusing requests to write his memoirs, as quoted in Gentlemen of Virginia (1961) page 188 by Marshall William Fishwick; also cited as possibly apocryphal in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2004) edited by Elizabeth M. Knowles
  • The education of a man is never completed until he dies.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 175
  • You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right … Never do anything wrong to make a friend or keep one; the man who requires you to do so, is dearly purchased at a sacrifice. Deal kindly, but firmly with all your classmates; you will find it the policy which wears best. Above all do not appear to others what you are not.
    • As quoted in Extraordinary Lives : The Art and Craft of American Biography (1986) by Robert A. Caro and William Knowlton Zinsser. Also quoted in Truman by David McCullough (1992), p. 44, New York: Simon & Schuster.-
  • I think it is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony. It is particularly incumbent upon those charged with the instruction of the young to set them an example.
    • Letter to trustees, as quoted in "Honoring Lee Anew" (15 July 2014), by David Cox, A Magazine of Student Thought and Opinion.

1850s[edit]

  • In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.

1860s[edit]

  • I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honour for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labour, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession: anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and all the other patriots of the Revolution. … Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defense will draw my sword on none.
  • Since my interview with you on the 18th I have felt that I ought not longer retain my commission in the Army … It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed … I shall carry with me to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration and your name and fame will always be dear to me. Save for defense of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword.
    • Letter to General Winfield Scott (20 April 1861); as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 139, after turning down an offer by Abraham Lincoln of supreme command of the U.S. Army.
  • What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. … My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.
    • Letter to his wife on Christmas Day, two weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg (25 December 1862).
  • I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.
    • Remark to his son, G. W. Custis Lee (March 1865), as quoted in South Atlantic Quarterly [Durham, North Carolina] (July 1927)
  • I am glad to see one real American here.
    • To Ely S. Parker at Appomattox Court House (9 April 1865), as quoted in The Life of General Ely S. Parker: Last Grand Sachem of the Iroquois and General Grant's Military Secretary Buffalo, by Arthur C. Parker, New York: Buffalo Historical Society, 1919, p. 133.
  • The only question on which we did not agree has been settled, and the Lord has decided against me.
  • The questions which for years were in dispute between the State and General Government, and which unhappily were not decided by the dictates of reason, but referred to the decision of war, having been decided against us, it is the part of wisdom to acquiesce in the result, and of candor to recognize the fact.
    • Letter to former Virginia governor John Letcher (28 August 1865), as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 203
  • The interests of the State are therefore the same as those of the United States. Its prosperity will rise or fall with the welfare of the country. The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling; qualify themselves to vote; and elect to the State and general Legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country, and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself.
    • Letter to former Virginia governor John Letcher (28 August 1865), as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 203
  • True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same.
  • I think it would be better for Virginia if she could get rid of them.
    • Speech to the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction (1866), as quoted in "Testimony Lee before the Congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction" (17 February 1866), by Robert E. Lee, Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction at the First Session Thirty-Ninth Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866), pp. 135-6.
  • My experience through life has convinced me that, while moderation and temperance in all things are commendable and beneficial, abstinence from spiritous liquors is the best safeguard of morals and health.
    • Letter to a "Friends of Temperance" society (9 December 1869); as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 170

Letter to James Longstreet (1867)[edit]

  • I am of the opinion that all who can should vote for the most intelligent, honest, and conscientious men eligible to office, irrespective of former party opinions, who will endeavour to make the new constitutions and the laws passed under them as beneficial as possible to the true interests, prosperity, and liberty of all classes and conditions of the people.
    • Letter to General James Longstreet (29 October 1867), as quoted in Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (1924), p. 269.

1870s[edit]

  • So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the south. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.
    • Statement to John Leyburn (1 May 1870), as quoted in R. E. Lee : A Biography (1934) by Douglas Southall Freeman.
  • My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them, or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future.

    The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

    • Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Marshall (September 1870).


Attributed[edit]

  • Fold it up and put it away.
    • Not verified. The apparent source is this op-ed in the Roanoke Times, dated 14 July 2014, by David Cox (who was rector of R. E. Lee Memorial (Episcopal) Church in Lexington from 1987-2000):
      • "Someone wrote me of a woman asking Lee what to do with an old battle flag. Lee supposedly responded, 'Fold it up and put it away.' Though I’ve not verified the account, it is consistent with his letters and acts of his last years. He was always looking ahead."


Misattributed[edit]

  • Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.
    • Letter purportedly written to his son, G. W. Custis Lee (5 April 1852); published in The New York Sun (26 November 1864). Although the “Duty Letter” was presumed authentic for many decades and included in many biographies of Lee, it was repudiated in December 1864 by “a source entitled to know.” This repudiation was rediscovered by University of Virginia law professor Charles A. Graves who verified that the letter was inconsistent with Lee's biographical facts and letter-writing style. Lee's son also wrote to Graves that he did not recall ever receiving such a letter. “The Forged Letter of General Robert E. Lee”, Proceedings of the 26th annual meeting of the Virgina State Bar Association 17:176 (1914)
  • Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand. Supposed made to Governor Fletcher S. Stockdale (September 1870), as quoted in The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, pp. 497-500.
    • However, every major researcher along with autobiographer, Douglas Southall Freeman; Shelby Dade Foote, Jr.; Bruce Catton; are but a few that consider the quote a myth and refuse to recognize it. “T. C. Johnson: Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, 498 ff. Doctor Dabney was not present and received his account of the meeting from Governor Stockdale. The latter told Dabney that he was the last to leave the room, and that as he was saying good-bye, Lee closed the door, thanked him for what he had said and added: "Governor, if I had foreseen the use these people desired to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox, no, sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in this right hand." This, of course, is second-hand testimony. There is nothing in Lee's own writings and nothing in direct quotation by first-hand witness that accords with such an expression on his part. The nearest approach to it is the claim by H. Gerald Smythe that "Major Talcott" — presumably Colonel T. M. R. Talcott — told him Lee stated he would never have surrendered the army if he had known how the South would have been treated. Mr. Smythe stated that Colonel Talcott replied, "Well, General, you have only to blow the bugle," whereupon Lee is alleged to have answered, "It is too late now" (29 Confederate Veteran, 7). Here again the evidence is not direct. The writer of this biography, talking often with Colonel Talcott, never heard him narrate this incident or suggest in any way that Lee accepted the results of the radical policy otherwise than with indignation, yet in the belief that the extremists would not always remain in office”.
  • Tell Hill he must come up … Strike the tent.
    • Reported as his last words. There are suggestions that Lee's autobiographer, Douglas Southall Freeman embellished Lee's final moments; as Lee suffered a stroke on September 28, 1870. Dying two weeks later, on October 12, 1870, shortly after 9 a.m. from the effects of pneumonia. Lee's stroke had resulted in aphasia, rendering him unable to speak. When interviewed the four attending physicians and family stated "he had not spoken since 28 September...".

Quotes about Lee[edit]

  • Robert E. Lee once said 'it is good that war is terrible, otherwise men would grow fond of it.' This is not an issue upon which we should have war. Our people do not need to bleed the color of red Georgia clay. This is an issue that demands cool heads and moderate positions. Preserving our past, but also preserving our future. And not allowing the hope of partisan advantage to prohibit the healing of our people.
  • The proposition to make soldiers of our slaves is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. It is to me a source of deep mortification and regret to see the name of that good and great man and soldier, General R. E. Lee, given as authority for such a policy. My first hour of despondency will be the one in which that policy shall be adopted. You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to negro soldiers your white soldiers will be lost to you; and one secret of the favor with which the proposition is received in portions of the army is the hope that when negroes go into the Army they will be permitted to retire. It is simply a proposition to fight the balance of the war with negro troops. You can't keep white and black troops together, and you can't trust negroes by themselves. It is difficult to get negroes enough for the purpose indicated in the President's message, much less enough for an Army. Use all the negroes you can get, for all the purposes for which you need them, but don't arm them. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong. But they won't make soldiers. As a class they are wanting in every qualification of a soldier. Better by far to yield to the demands of England and France and abolish slavery and thereby purchase their aid, than resort to this policy, which leads as certainly to ruin and subjugation as it is adopted; you want more soldiers, and hence the proposition to take negroes into the Army. Before resorting to it, at least try every reasonable mode of getting white soldiers. I do not entertain a doubt that you can, by the volunteering policy, get more men into the service than you can arm. I have more fears about arms than about men, For Heaven’s sake, try it before you fill with gloom and despondency the hearts of many of our truest and most devoted men, by resort to the suicidal policy of arming our slaves.
    • Howell Cobb, regarding suggestions that the Confederates turn their slaves into soldiers (1865). As quoted in Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), Hugh Chisholm, editor, 11th ed., Cambridge University Press. Also quoted as 'You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong'.
  • Lee famously marched out of step with cadets because his military days had passed. Several times, he quashed student actions against the Freedmen’s Bureau or African Americans. While he never lamented his Confederate service, he knew that the future lay elsewhere, in a reunited United States. To that cause he gave his last five years.
  • On Palm Sunday, at Appomattox Court House, the spirit of feudalism, of aristocracy, of injustice in this country, surrendered, in the person of Robert E. Lee, the Virginian slave-holder, to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and of equal rights, in the person of Ulysses S. Grant, the Illinois tanner. So closed this great campaign in the 'Good Fight of Liberty'. So the Army of the Potomac, often baffled, struck an immortal blow, and gave the right hand of heroic fellowship to their brethren of the west. So the silent captain, when all his lieutenants had secured their separate fame, put on the crown of victory and ended civil war. As fought the Lieutenant-General of the United States, so fight the United States themselves, in the 'Good Fight of Man'. With Grant's tenacity, his patience, his promptness, his tranquil faith, let us assault the new front of the old enemy. We, too, must push through the enemy's Wilderness, holding every point we gain. We, too, must charge at daybreak upon his Spottsylvania Heights. We, too, must flank his angry lines and push them steadily back. We, too, must fling ourselves against the baffling flames of Cold Harbor. We, too, outwitting him by night, must throw our whole force across swamp and river, and stand entrenched before his capital. And we, too, at last, on some soft, auspicious day of spring, loosening all our shining lines, and bursting with wild battle music and universal shout of victory over the last desperate defense, must occupy the very citadel of caste, force the old enemy to final and unconditional surrender, and bring Boston and Charleston to sing Te Deum together for the triumphant equal rights of man.
  • Lee hagiographers seem to be completely unaware that Lee ever owned slaves, much less treated them like this. Part of that's just the warping of tidbits they heard elsewhere. It's true that Lee did not own any slaves during most of the civil war, and part of it is, frankly, dishonest fudging. Lee's sixty-three slaves were, in spite of being legally under his control and forced to work on his plantation, not held under his own name, but rather temporarily under his control as an inheritance from his father-in-law, G.W.P. Custis. Other Lee cheerleaders recognize that Lee did own slaves, but give him props for manumitting them. What they leave out of the record is that Custis' will legally required Lee to emancipate the slaves that passed into his control within five years of Custis' death. Custis died October 10, 1857 and his will was probated December 7, 1857, about a year after Lee wrote his letter on slavery. Lee kept the slaves as long as he could, and finally filed the deed of manumission with Court of the City of Richmond on December 29, 1862, five years, two months, and nineteen days after Custis' death. Custis actually gave freedom to his slaves without qualification in his will, the matter of the five years was supposed to be time for Custis' executors to do the legal paperwork for emancipation in such manner as may to, them, seem most expedient and proper. There’s good reason to read the clause as intending for the five years to serve as an upper bound on settling the legal details, not as five more years for driving the slaves for whatever last bits of forced labor could be gotten. Lee, however, did not see it that way, and set the slaves to for his own profit for as long as he could. We have already seen that some of the slaves disagreed with Lee on this point of legal interpretation, and how he treated those who acted on their legal theory by seceding from his plantation.
  • Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.
  • Lee, the result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the C.S. Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and rank, that he would remember me, while I would more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War. When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldier's blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview. What General Lee's feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.
  • On the first day of July 1863, Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet, writing through his adjutant, ordered General George Pickett to bring up his corps from the rear to reinforce the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia. The lead elements of the armies of Robert E. Lee and George Meade had come together outside a small Pennsylvania market town called Gettysburg. The clash there would become the most famous battle of the American Civil War, and would be popularly regarded as a critical turning point not just of that conflict, but in American history.
  • It is, in fact, open to question whether Light-Horse Harry was as die-hard as his son claimed in his loyalty to state over nation. The elder Lee had been a fierce nationalist during and after the War for Independence. If, after the ratification of the Constitution and Washington's two terms as president, he had decided that his state was more important than the Union, it is a wonder that he did not shift his political allegiance to the Jeffersonian Republicans, the party that became the beneficiary of the Anti-Federalist legacy. Instead, Light-Horse Harry spoke passionately against the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, in which James Madison and Thomas Jefferson introduced the idea of state nullification of federal laws, denounced Jefferson and his presidency, and, like other Federalists, distrusted the public and feared the growing excesses of 'wicked citizens... incapable of quiet'. If states could override federal laws such as the Alien and Sedition Acts, he predicted, insurrection and disunion would be the result. 'If we love the Union', wrote Light-Horse Harry, 'if we wish peace at home, and safety abroad, let us guard our own bosoms from a flame which threatens to consume all reason, temper and reflection'. He did not condone dis-unionism in his own time, so it was unlikely he would have approved the creation of the Confederate States of America or his son's prominent involvement in fighting a bloody war for the southern nation. ... These were the very things his father had warned his countrymen to avoid at all costs.
  • In Gettysburg the African American community braced for the arrival of Lee's men. Some like confectioner Owen Robinson fled, as did Lloyd Watts, who was considered to be a pillar of his church community. It made no difference that both individuals were free men, who had legal papers to prove it. Randolph Johnson chose to stay and attempted to organize a "colored company" in response to the governor's call for local recruits. Though the regiment was not accepted into state service others took part in the defense of a bridge over the Susquehanna River on June 28 against 2,500 Confederate troops in defense of the state capital of Harrisburg. It is likely that the experience of some local blacks in a military setting subsequently led them to Philadelphia, which commenced with the recruiting of blacks into the federal army just days earlier.
  • Between 1890 and about 1970, northerners found it less embarrassing to let Dixie tell the story of the cause it lost than to reminisce about the cause they had abandoned. The Civil War had been about something other than states' rights after all. It began as a war to force or prevent the breakup of the United States. As it ground on it became a struggle to end slavery. At Gettysburg in the fall of 1863, Abraham Lincoln was already proclaiming 'a new birth of freedom', black freedom. Conversely, on their way to and from Gettysburg, Lee's troops seized scores of free black people in Maryland and Pennsylvania and sent them south into slavery. This was in keeping with Confederate national policy, which virtually re-enslaved free people of color into work gangs on earthworks throughout the south.
  • Lee's army expected to find recruits and help with food, clothing and information. They didn't. Maryland residents greeted Union soldiers as liberators when they came through on the way to Antietam. Recognizing the residents of Frederick as hostile, Confederate cavalry leader Jubal Early demanded and got $300,000 from them lest he burn their town, a sum equal to at least five million dollars today. Today, however, Frederick boasts what it calls the 'Maryland Confederate Memorial', and the manager of the Frederick cemetery, filled with Union and Confederate dead, told me in an interview, 'Very little is done on the Union side' around Memorial Day. 'It's mostly Confederate'.
  • 'The Thin Grey Line' came through Montgomery and Frederick counties at least three times, en route to Antietam in 1862, Gettysburg in 1863, and Washington in 1864. Lee's army expected to find recruits and help with food, clothing, and information. This did not happen, although the army did kidnap every African American it came upon, dragging them back into Virginia as slaves. In a further irony, on the courthouse grounds not far from the Confederate monument, a historical marker tells of J.E.B. Stuart's 1863 raid nearby, in which he captured 'as many as a hundred' African Americans and enslaved them, but they are invisible. The marker only mentions the capture of '150 U.S. wagons'. During the first invasion, Maryland residents greeted Union soldiers 'as liberators' when they came through on their way to Antietam, according to historian William F. Howard. During the last invasion, when Confederate cavalry leader Jubal Early came through, he demanded and got $300,000 from the leading merchants of Frederick, lest he burn their town, a sum equal to at least five million dollars today.
  • My name is Wesley Norris. I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis. After the death of Mister Custis, General Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy. It was the general impression among the slaves of Mister Custis that on his death they should be forever free. In fact this statement had been made to them by Mister C. years before. At his death we were informed by General Lee that by the conditions of the will, we must remain slaves for five years. I remained with General Lee for about seventeen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859. We had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the north, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and General Lee notified of our arrest. We remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington. We were immediately taken before General Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away. We frankly told him that we considered ourselves free. He then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget. He then ordered us to the barn, where, in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mister Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by General Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty. We were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us. Accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered. General Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to lay it on well, an injunction which he did not fail to heed. Not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, General Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover Court-House jail, my sister being sent to Richmond to an agent to be hired; we remained in jail about a week, when we were sent to Nelson county, where we were hired out by General Lee's agent to work on the Orange and Alexander railroad. We remained thus employed for about seven months, and were then sent to Alabama, and put to work on what is known as the Northeastern railroad. In January 1863, we were sent to Richmond, from which place I finally made my escape through the rebel lines to freedom. I have nothing further to say. What I have stated is true in every particular, and I can at any time bring at least a dozen witnesses, both white and black, to substantiate my statements. I am at present employed by the government; and am at work in the National Cemetery on Arlington Heights, where I can be found by those who desire further particulars. My sister referred to is at present employed by the French Minister at Washington, and will confirm my statement.
  • U.S. Grant was one of the greatest generals in history. He and his friend, William Tecumseh Sherman, essentially won the Civil War. Grant was the only Union general who would go head to head with Robert E. Lee, the Bishma and Drona of the Confederacy, and not back down. The result was immense slaughter; but we know that when Grant had the chance, he, like Sherman, preferred a war of movement with minimal casualties. It was the greatness of Lee as a general that foiled all of Grant's maneuvers and forced the bloody attempts at breakthrough in 1864, such as at Cold Harbor. The final act, indeed, catching Lee at Appomattox Court House, was the result of the maneuver and rapid movement that cut off Lee's retreat. And, for all the accusations of 'butcher' at Grant, a larger percentage of Lee's soldiers died under his orders, none more terribly and futilely than in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. Years later, a bitter Pickett himself reportedly said of Lee, 'That old man had my division slaughtered'.
  • The Army of Northern Virginia. Under the superb command of Marse Robert that army's battle flag came close to being a national flag of an independent Confederate States of America. Thank God it did not. But neither were those who fought under that banner executed, imprisoned, permanently disenfranchised, or exiled, as the losers in most other civil wars have been. As Lincoln advised, U.S. Grant, and William T. Sherman 'let 'em up easy'. Thereafter, the battle flag was flown for some bad purposes, as the emblem of the Klan and the Democratic Party's southern wing.
  • Lee is the greatest military genius in America, myself not excepted.
    • Winfield Scott, Union general, as quoted in Life of General Robert Edward Lee (1870), by C. Stoctly Errickson, p. 35
  • In 1864, black Union troops were involved in operations against Lee's army outside Richmond and Petersburg, and some of them are taken prisoner. Lee puts them to work on Confederate entrenchments that are in Union free-fire zones. When Grant gets wind of this, he threatens to put Confederate prisoners to work on Union entrenchments under Confederate fire unless Lee pulls out. So Grant was willing to embrace an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth retaliation policy based upon Confederate treatment of black prisoners. For Grant, it was the color of the uniform, not the skin, that mattered.
  • Once we understand that the flags in question are those of an army, we can have a more intelligent discussion about what those armies did, such as the fact that the Army of Northern Virginia was under orders to capture and send south supposed escaped slaves during that army's invasion of Pennsylvania in 1863.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Commons
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: