Civil War Interactive Discussion Board Home
Home Search search Menu menu Not logged in - Login | Register


R.E. Lee and slavery - Robert E. Lee - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
 Moderated by: javal1 Page:  First Page Previous Page  1  2   
 New Topic   Reply   Printer Friendly 
 Rating:  Rating
AuthorPost
 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 03:19 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
21st Post
9Bama
Member
 

Joined: Mon May 10th, 2010
Location:  
Posts: 106
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Texas Defender wrote: Bama-

  I'm sure that you'd agree that there are many, many disreputable scoundrels on both sides who are worthy of villification. However, it would be most unfair for anyone to place General Lee on such a list.

Absolutely. He was a mortal and was fallible, but at the same time, he was what we sort of wish our father was and definitely what we hope our sons will become. The very idea that he could complete his entire career at West Point without so much as one demerit boggles the mind.



 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 04:27 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
22nd Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Bama-

  The clean record of conduct that General Lee achieved at West Point wasn't matched by any cadet, before or since.

  In reality, of course, he wasn't the fabled, perfect : "Marble Man." I agree that he had his share of human frailties of mind and body like the rest of us. However, he was clearly exceptional in his time.

  None of General Lee's daughters ever married. The story goes that no other man could measure up to the high standards that they thought their father set. I've never seen anything written by any of them that expressed that sentiment, but it does make for a good story line.



 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 10:45 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
23rd Post
peon
Member
 

Joined: Mon Jun 14th, 2010
Location:  
Posts: 7
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top


The clean record of conduct that General Lee achieved at West Point wasn't matched by any cadet, before or since.

In reality, of course, he wasn't the fabled, perfect : "Marble Man." I agree that he had his share of human frailties of mind and body like the rest of us. However, he was clearly exceptional in his time.


However at the time I believe he was criticized in the press like any other general (rightly or wrongly), for not following up on Fredericksburg and for Gettysburg etc. I think Stonewall was actually more highly esteemed by the Southern press at the time. Lee maybe had a certain image of a "political operator" for some time being the right-hand man of Davis and having not shone in West Virginia.

But I'm not saying he was later definitely one of the best generals, and this is also getting away from his views on slavery/states rights and union. I'm just saying other southerners made a different choice between them, and also that I have some doubt it was a very hard choice for him given his later determination and statements.



 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 12:18 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
24th Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

peon-

  Once again I must take issue with one of your: "assumptions." You apparently believe that leaving the U.S. Army and going back to Virginia was an easy choice for then Colonel Lee. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many different sources can be found that mention Lee agonizing over the decision.

  In early1861, Lee was back in Texas when that state was in the process of seceding from the Union. When I visited the Nimitz Hotel (now a museum) in Fredericksburg, Texas, there was a document there written by a woman who was staying at the hotel one evening when Robert E. Lee was also there. She described hearing him pacing the floor all night above her room.

  In February of 1861, Union troops were being run out of Texas, and it was time to leave. Lee said to a friend: "If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes, I will follow my native state with my sword and if need be my life."

  In April of 1861, Lee was offered a major command in the Union Army by Francis P. Blair. In response, he said: "Mr. Blair, I  look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned four millions of slaves, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword on Virginia, my native state?" (18 April 1861).

  In Alexandria, Virginia the following day, he said , regarding secession: "I must say that I am one of those dull creatures that cannot see the good of secession."

  After his meeting with his old friend, General Winfield Scott, Lee made his final decision to leave the U.S. Army. He said: "In the prime of life, I quit a service in which were all my hopes and expectations in this world."

  To his wife, Lee said: "Well, Mary, the question is settled. Here is my letter of resignation and a letter I have written General Scott."  (20 April 1861). Mary Custis Lee had said that she would accept whatever decision her husband made, though apparently her preference was for the Union.

  On that day he wrote a letter to his sister, Anne Marshall. He said: "With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home."

  So- this was the decision that Lee had to make. He could choose the Union and perhaps have to draw his sword against Virginians. Or he could choose to go with his state and perhaps have to draw his sword against the Union. He had to choose between the things he loved when they went against each other. In the end, he chose his state.

  Faced with the same decision, some Virginians made the other choice. In this forum, there is a lengthy discussion of this matter as it related to one who went the other way, George H. Thomas.

General George H. Thomas - The People of the Civil War - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board

  The choice was no easier for Thomas as his relatives had expected him to go the other way. He never reconciled with them.

  For Lee and Thomas, and many other Virginians, there would be dire consequences, regardless of which way they chose to go. Lee knew that if there was war, that the estate at Arlington would be occupied. But in 1861, even he could not have imagined Arlington's eventual fate. It was taken over by the Union Army, and eventually, due to the enmity of General Montgomery Meigs, it was turned into a cemetery.

  After the war, General Lee's descendants fought a long battle in court to regain the estate. After years of struggle, the decision went against the U.S. Government and the Lee family was given a cash settlement rather than having to have thousands of soldiers disinterred.

  The thread that we are following was initiated by the member: "pam c." She mentions reading the work of the author Elizabeth Brown Pryor. Here is a discussion with that author that discusses in Part Three, among other things, the situation with Arlington.

A Conversation with Elizabeth Brown Pryor

  This author was able to gain insight into Robert E. Lee the man, as well as the Custis family,  from thousands of documents that Lee's daughter Mary had kept for many years before her death in 1918. Pryor called Lee's letters: "A window into the soul of a very private person."

  Perhaps a soldier can best be described by other soldiers. Winfield Scott said of Robert E. Lee: "The very best soldier I ever saw in the field." (8 May 1857). Another soldier of note said: "So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded." (Thomas J. Jackson, 8 July, 1862).

 

Last edited on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 12:56 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 05:56 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
25th Post
Mark
Member
 

Joined: Mon Mar 30th, 2009
Location:  
Posts: 434
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

And yet in 1978 Thomas Connelly was able to write a very persuasive book arguing just the opposite of what Texas Defender just postulated-- that the R.E. Lee we know was primarly the result of a well managed post war PR campaign. I think Connelly took his argument too far, however, its worth a read. Makes you wonder if there ever can be "truth" in history! Cheers!

Mark



 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 06:29 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
26th Post
9Bama
Member
 

Joined: Mon May 10th, 2010
Location:  
Posts: 106
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Mark wrote: And yet in 1978 Thomas Connelly was able to write a very persuasive book arguing just the opposite of what Texas Defender just postulated-- that the R.E. Lee we know was primarly the result of a well managed post war PR campaign. I think Connelly took his argument too far, however, its worth a read. Makes you wonder if there ever can be "truth" in history! Cheers!

Mark


There will always be those who see their mission as destroying the reputation of those they disagree with. This has become much more prevelant in the past few decades MHO.

Truth in history... well, there will always be bias, there will always be hero worship masquerading as biography, and there will always be those with an ax to grind



 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 07:02 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
27th Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Mark-

  Of course there is only one absolute truth in history, but history is always told from a point of view. Therefore, different people view the reality through different lenses.

  In our system of freedom of the press, well known figures (especially those who are deceased) have always been convenient subjects for authors who wish to stir up controversial subjects. This tradition in our country goes back at least as far as the presidential election in 1800 when Thomas Jefferson hired agents to dig up: "Dirt" on John Adams (Who was accused, among other things, of trying to set up a monarchy with himself as king).

  So, of course Thomas Connelly was able to write a book that might have been less than complimentary of Robert E. Lee. I say: "Might have been" because I have not read that book.

  Since I have not read the book, I don't know what Connelly said that you believe is the: "Opposite" of what I have written about General Lee. I have read some reviews of the Connelly book. If these are accurate, it seems to me that Connelly's real target is the so-called: "Lost Cause Syndrome" movement, which included some who were trying to create myths to build up the image of Lee as a person whose moral character and leadership could not be challenged.

  There were some who wanted to portray General Lee as some kind of god. No doubt they had various motivations for wanting to do so. But I don't believe that Lee himself ever sought any form of aggrandizement.

  If others sought to build up the image of Robert E. Lee as being godlike, I don't see how he can be blamed for it. By 1870, he was dead. The controversy and bitter wrangling between prominent figures of the CSA took place mostly after that.

  While admitting that I haven't examined Connelly's book, I would maintain that: "Exposing" the fact that Lee was a human being and not a god does not diminish Lee in any way. He had his human frailties as I have said previously. If Robert E. Lee had in fact been the perfect: "Marble Man," then in my view he would have been a much less interesting person to study.

Last edited on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 07:05 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 03:34 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
28th Post
Mark
Member
 

Joined: Mon Mar 30th, 2009
Location:  
Posts: 434
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I think you are right for the most part TD--just beware that many postmodernists would argue that there is no absolute truth in history. I like to think of history as a puzzle which we will never get all the pieces for.



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 06:56 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
29th Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Mark-

  I would maintain that while there is absolute truth in history, it is our ability to see and understand it that can seldom, if ever, be absolute. When it comes to historians, perhaps it is an absolute truth that they will always find something to bicker about when it comes to historical events and personages.

  Using your example of the true picture being seen in the form of pieces of a puzzle, I would say that in many cases, as time passes,  more pieces are eventually found. These additional pieces might give us a clearer view of a person or an event, and might change our perspective to some degree. (And perhaps lead to new arguments).

  Carrying this theory forward, I would maintain that in viewing the: "Puzzle" of Robert E. Lee, that Elizabeth Brown Pryor could see a lot more pieces in 2007 than Thomas Connelly could in 1978. But I don't expect that to end the arguments.



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 08:16 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
30th Post
peon
Member
 

Joined: Mon Jun 14th, 2010
Location:  
Posts: 7
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

On the other hand I found in a fairly old book an interesting comment on Lee vs. McClellan (both students of Napoleon, Lee arguably imitated his independent corps, corps d'armee, and offensive strategies). Lee also I believe said he "understood" McClellan, and that he feared the day Washington had a general he didn't understand.


McClellan forgot that in war it is impossible for a
general to be absolutely certain. It is sufficient, accord
ing to Napoleon, if the odds in his favor are three to
two; and if he cannot discover from the attitude of his
enemy what the odds are, he is unfitted for supreme
command.
The "attitude" that Lee was in the habit of assuming was the very thing that impressed his enemy with
the idea that his army was about twice as large as it
really was.
If Napoleon could determine the strength of his
enemy by his "attitude" it is clear that he had no Lees
to deal with.

http://www.archive.org/details/strategyofrobert00bowe



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 03:35 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
31st Post
HankC
Member


Joined: Tue Sep 6th, 2005
Location:  
Posts: 517
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Mark wrote: And yet in 1978 Thomas Connelly was able to write a very persuasive book arguing just the opposite of what Texas Defender just postulated-- that the R.E. Lee we know was primarly the result of a well managed post war PR campaign. I think Connelly took his argument too far, however, its worth a read. Makes you wonder if there ever can be "truth" in history! Cheers!



There is plenty of primary evidence. and of course results, giving us our modern view of Lee.
 
I'm unaware of much, if any, evidence of a 'a well managed PR campaign' to buff his image.
 
Frequently, the promoters of such a thesis use the *lack* of evidence to show how well organized and devious the campaigners really were ;)
 
 
HankC



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 06:30 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
32nd Post
Mark
Member
 

Joined: Mon Mar 30th, 2009
Location:  
Posts: 434
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

There is plenty of primary evidence on the other side as well. Jubal Early was the chief architect of post war polish that Lee got. There is no doubt that he assumed a nearly demigod status after his death.
In the 1960s and 1970s many historians looked to deconstruct the "myths" American history. A lot of good came of this. Sometimes, however, the fact that men were products of their time was lost in the rush to "correct" history. Thus, Columbus became a genocidal maniac, Washington became a self-promoting aristocrat, and Lee became a fire-breathing seccesionist. The truth is probably somewhere in middle as usual...

Mark



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 08:42 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
33rd Post
HankC
Member


Joined: Tue Sep 6th, 2005
Location:  
Posts: 517
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

There may be polish, but is there evidence of threads saying, in effect, 'let's buff up marse roberts image. i'll write something this month and you write something next'.

Today's image of Lee can easily be drawn from his own correspondence and actions.

I am not aware of any historian coloring Lee as a fire-breathing secessionist...


HankC



 Posted: Wed Jun 16th, 2010 09:01 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
34th Post
Mark
Member
 

Joined: Mon Mar 30th, 2009
Location:  
Posts: 434
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Ok, I exaggerated a little, but Connelly argues in "The Marble Man" that Lee was not the reluctant secessionist. It’s been a while since I read the book but I think most of his basis for this was his correspondence with the Virginian government following their secession and how quickly he resigned his commission in the US Army and accepted a new one in the Confederate Army. Connelly basically argues that Lee was an opportunist who felt that he would a better chance of enhancing his career by going South. I find this argument a bit hard to swallow since Lee had been offered the job that McDowell eventually took and had a suberb reputation in the US Army. If I remember correctly his first assignments in the Confederate Army were a small command in western Virginia and then inspecting forts along the Atlantic coast. Anyway, I think I have probably strayed off the path of Lee’s views toward slavery, so I’ll let more knowledgeable folks discuss that topic. Cheers!

Mark



 Current time is 06:36 amPage:  First Page Previous Page  1  2   
Top




UltraBB 1.17 Copyright © 2007-2008 Data 1 Systems
Page processed in 0.3693 seconds (16% database + 84% PHP). 28 queries executed.