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"If Practical"-- General Lee and Initiative - Robert E. Lee - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 03:18 pm
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5fish
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There has been much debate over the way Gen. Lee issued his orders. Like: Gen. Lee would usual issue what are called discretionary orders with that famous end phrase "If Practical" or " If Practicable." There is a debate which word he used for they have different meaning.

Most historians claim that Gen. Lee like to encourage initiative in his subordinates; that is why he like to issue these discretionary type orders.

I argue that maybe Gen. Lee wanted initiative from his generals but unlike Gen. Stuart who developed a system to encourage initiative. Gen. Lee failed to develop a good system to encourage the development of officers taking bold action.

Just think: The only officers at the corp. level that truly took initiative{ or bold action ) was Gen. Jackson and Gen. Stuart for the rest that held that position for Gen. Lee never took bold action.

Why? History wants to blame those generals like Anderson, A.P. Hill and Ewell for their lack of initiative. I argue that if the historians say Gen. Lee wanted his generals to take the initiative then those generals under him knew this too.

So the question becomes if the generals under Gen. Lee knew he wanted his generals to take the initiative. Why did they never step up and be bold?

The only answer is Gen. Lee must have punished failure. It also means Gen. Lee never had a true system to develop initiative taking type leaders.

Gen. Lee may have wanted initiative taking type of leaders but in truth he discourage bold risk taking leaders and this does make sense. Why?

Everyone makes Gen. Lee to be this perfect person and he was a fine person but he had personality failures as any human. He was a control freak and neat freak but unlike most people with these traits who tend to be rude. Gen Lee was a southern gentleman which softens his control freak and neat freak nature to people.

Now think: a person who is a control nut and neat freak can he truly develop initiative in others rarely for their standards for one to meet is set to high. In most cases control freaks and neat freaks more often punish initiative then reward it.

A note: Gen. Lee did transfer out a lot of officers form his command and in many cases no reason can be found why. Historians just say Gen Lee was getting rid of dead weight like political appointees.

A note: An over looked item, Gen. Lee made his battle plans in private. He never develop a battle with his generals only used them for information gathering. The battle plan always came directly from Gen. Lee.


In summary: Gen Lee may have wanted his generals to be bold and take the initiative but his personal failing of being a control and neat freak made him unable to develop initiative taking leaders he wanted. He was his own worse enemy in developing the type of officers he wanted.

Remember, A control and neat freak is never able to recognized that he is one and that he discourages people from taking the initiative. JUST THINK! Of the control and neat freaks you have worked under over the years. They are demanding and hard to please. So what do you do? You wait tell they tell you what they want, Why? Because if you take the initiative and it is not what they want. You catch hell.

Think of those poor generals under Gen Lee.



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 01:56 am
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The Iron Duke
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Are you trying to have a serious discussion or trying to stir the waters a bit?

Military leaders are generally conservative creatures by nature. That is why bold leaders like Lee, Hannibal, and Napoleon are so renown. Men like Ewell, Oliver Howard, and Burnside are more the norm.

If Lee punished failure then Ewell would have been dismissed after Gettysburg. Hill would have been gone after Bristoe Station. Longstreet would have never been welcomed back after his Knoxville Campaign.

Why wouldn't the battle plan come from Lee? He is the commander and the army is not a democracy. I believe it was Napoleon who said that councils of war never fight.

You should look more to West Point, where most of these men were trained, rather than to Lee for your answer.

Last edited on Sun Aug 31st, 2008 01:57 am by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 01:58 am
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Thanks for tellin them that Iron Duke



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:00 am
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The Iron Duke
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No problem Reb.



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 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:01 am
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If I would have done it would have been to nicely done.



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:27 am
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Was it not General Lee who said that he saw his tactical role as bringing the army to the battleground, preferably one of hisw own choosing and then letting his subordinates (meaning, I suppose, his corps commanders) make most of the rest of the decisions on how to fight it out?  That would seem to me to allow for enormous latitude for indivicual initiative on the part of his subordinates.

To say that A.P. Hll lacked inititive is to ignore his actions not only at Bristoe Station, but at Mechanicsvillle and Antietam and maybe other scenes of action that don't immediately come to mind.

One reason a 19th century commanding general was wise to insert "if practicable' in his orders was because he often as not could not know the tactical situaton at any given moment along a battle line that could, and often did, extend for miles. His  corps and divison commanders naturally had a more complete understanding (or should have) of the tactical situation on their front than the commanding general stationed at some more remote point. Commanders today have the luxury of real time communications that helps dispel some of the "fog of war" if not all of it.

 

 

 

 



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:30 am
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The Iron Duke
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Yes Lee did say that Mr. Roberts. Lee used Winfield Scott as a model for command.



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 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 01:58 pm
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5fish
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The Iron Duke wrote: Are you trying to have a serious discussion or trying to stir the waters a bit.


I am serious and have I not been serious in my other posts. Why ask such question because i question conformity go against spoon fed history.

Lee may have want initiative within his officer but he did not develop it.

Like I mention it before, if historians tell us Lee wanted his officers to take initiative then would not the officers under his command know this as well. We do not see it in any of Lee's subordinates except Jackson and Stuart.

Longstreet and the other do not display much if any. So why is this the case?

Historians tell us one thing but something else is happening as you read about battles not mush initiative taking. All I am saying.

I figure Lee may wanted initiative but it obvious he did not have a system to bring initiative out of his men. I figure it goes back to his personalty. He was a neat and control freak.

I no Lee is perfect but he still human and historians seem to forget it.

I am looking what I see does not match what I am told so why? 

  

Last edited on Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:51 pm by 5fish



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:30 pm
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Well cause its kinda mean and realy rude to question the confederacy ability to lead, we dont do it to the Union and we respect it. Being a Reb I look ub to Gen'Ral Lee as a kinda hero. When some quetions the way he did things and how inperfect his command was it kinda hurts when some says that. We dont do that to your beloved Union. Javal I am sorry if you are mad at me for what I have said I just feel like it is the truth.



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:49 pm
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5fish
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posting error!!  ?  maybe I should have used this instead )).. 

This was a double post and I was mad at myself....You can not delete post only wipe them clean. I figure this is where all the acrimony is coming from....

 

 

 





Last edited on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 02:24 pm by 5fish



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 10:42 pm
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The Iron Duke
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"Why ask such question because i question conformity go against spoon fed history."

Because almost all of your discussions are worded in such a way to incite the ire of others and it's really getting old.

"So why is this the case?"

I already answered your question.



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 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 11:07 pm
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Alright Yall should Stop before Javal comes on here and gets yall in trouble.



 Posted: Mon Sep 1st, 2008 01:34 am
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The Iron Duke
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I shall withdraw from the discussion then. But my answer still stands.



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 Posted: Mon Sep 1st, 2008 03:52 am
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5fish
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Bama46 wrote: Iron Duke,
I heartily concur,sir!
I am fed up also.

Ed

 

What is up with you all?? I've done nothing but offer an observation that only contradicts our notion of Lee and his leadership style. I presented argument that was not even harsh on Lee only questions a lore around the man.

All everyone has done is complain, none have offer a counter view or support my observation?

Do as you must an I will do as I must....either we learn together or not....

Off I go....


 



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 Posted: Mon Sep 1st, 2008 04:52 am
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Alright enough.

5fish, you do seem to seem to have a great desire to simply agitate for the sake of agitating. You make blanket statements rarely backed up with sources - just that it's your opinion. It's fine to play Devil's Advocate or just be contrarian, but you have to have hard facts to back those opinions up if chalenged. You also seem to expect a level of respect for holding those opinions that you don't seem willing to  give others.

I'm going to give a piece of advice to all our newer members -   young and old. Try being a caboose before trying to be the locomotive. Listen as much as you talk. And when you talk do it with the respect  ( and care) you expect from others.

Right now, I'm fed up and that's really not good.



 Posted: Mon Sep 1st, 2008 03:44 pm
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5fish
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that is it...:(

 

Last edited on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 03:57 pm by 5fish



 Posted: Thu Sep 4th, 2008 02:22 am
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5 Fish, a good book for you to read that might answer some of your questions about Lee's leadership, his subordinate commanders and his troops is "General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse"  by Joseph Glatthaar.

One lesson that book will teach you is that Lee was not operating in a vaccuum. Much of what he did took place within the relm of Confederate culture, politics, economics, strengths and limitations. So Lee couldn't always just say something and expect it to be done exactly as he ordered.

Also he couldn't just simply fire generals who appeared to be insubordinate or operating as if they had independent command, because, especially as the war wore on, his officer corps was growing severely strained and thinned by death, wounding, disease and capture.

Another thing, Jefferson Davis had input to the way things were run, who got reinforcements, who would be drafted, whether slaves could be trained and armed as soldiers, what campaigns would be encourgaed, what campaigns would not be seen as pratical or viable.

But I won't summarize the book for you. Read it once, twice, five times. You will see that no Civil War general, not even Lee, operated all by himself.



 Posted: Thu Sep 4th, 2008 02:28 am
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CleburneFan
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5fish wrote:  

Think of those poor generals under Gen Lee.

I just have to respond to this statement by saying that many generals in the Confederacy would far rather fight for Lee than Braxton Bragg, Hood, J E Johnston. Pemberton or any number of other generals.



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