Institute for Honor 2015: “Robert E. Lee: Honor in Defeat” with Gary Gallagher

I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward already to our panel and I’m on it I’m I’m going to take director’s prerogative in a lot of a few questions for our all of our speakers later today but for our next speaker excited about this one as well Gary Gallagher is the Jarnell now third professor in the history of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia he’s published over 30 books examining various military campaigns of the Civil War the Lost Cause myth and of course robert e lee his most recent books are becoming confederates paths to a new national loyalty and the union war professor Gallagher has received numerous awards for writing and teaching and is the founding president of the Association for the preservation of Civil War sites I came to know Gary when I was directing a summer program back 2009 through 2011 I think it was it was called the teeth presidential teaching Academy we had a grant from Congress believe it or not six years worth of taking high school teachers to Philadelphia Gettysburg as they pronounce it and Washington DC sights and sounds tour and a lot of reading we bring in guest speakers and when it came to Gettysburg of course we had to tour at the battlefields we actually tried to do it in one day one time this is with another Civil War historian that you might have heard of Jim Macpherson but we learned that wasn’t the best thing to do because after 10 o’clock I didn’t know that the park closes so you’ve got to me fear sent out there telling us some such thing and the park ranger comes in and says you guys have to leave it’s 10 o’clock I said we gotcha McPherson here man I didn’t say that I wanted to say that at any rate for the last three years we brought in Gary Gallagher and that was fantastic because not only do we have a guy in my opinion who’s of the equal caliber in terms of knowledge about the Civil War as it’s a change Macpherson but the guy actually used to relax enough to do Pickett’s charge in a straw hat cigar at the ready and we lived to tell the tale so that was a wonderful experience for us the title of his class of 1960 lecture is robert e lee honor in defeat please welcome professor Gary Gallagher thank you I’m gonna switch types of microphones here and there we are I’ve switched I’m gonna point that one the other way cigars should be obligatory on battlefields you can make a really fine connection with us grant if you’re on a battlefield smoking a cigar the way God intended for them to be smoked on a battlefield and imagining in some little way that you’re in another century I’m always happy to come to Lexington I’ve been coming here for a long time I have no idea how many times I’ve come here the first time I was 14 and we drove all the way from Colorado to come to Lexington poor travelers bones were still mounted down in the basement of the chapel then mercifully they’ve been laid to rest now outside and little sorrow was still I guess is still that means they gave him a sort of shampoo and fluff a little while ago but still it’s a cruelty to keep little Sorrell on display I think I would I would have mercy and put the poor beast away I have a slightly different title to my talk than the one in your program mine is robert e lee honor and coming to terms with defeat it’s about the same thing but what i’m going to be talking about today is how lee made the transition and this follows on what bill just talked about how he made the transition from this great war the greatest war in our history – what proved to be a very troubled piece in the course of examining this period I’m gonna be engaging with some very widely held ideas about lis more widely held in some places in other but widely held in many places and some of the things I’m going to say I’m almost certain are going to upset some of you but that but just relax it’s not gonna be that bad and we’ll have fun talking about it afterwards that’ll be the best part of this when you have all of us up here and everything I’m gonna say I don’t think will upset you but maybe some things will some of these ideas about lis that will come up in the course of my talk include first that he had no bitterness toward his enemy that he always just called him those people and he just never really developed a true antipathy toward them this was

because he was a gentleman and cheval rican sort of a throwback to an earlier kind of warfare that didn’t have the hard edge that a war waged by cold killers like ulysses s grant and William Tecumseh Sherman brought to the battlefield another of these common notions is that Lee was an ardent reconciliation ax stand that the healing began at Appomattox whenever you drive into the county now toward APLA medics that’s what the sign tells us Appomattox where the healing began okay we’ll talk about that a little bit another one is that Lee was pre-eminently a Virginian if you want to understand Lee all you need to know is that it was a Virginian everything flows from that if you understand that its Douglass Southall Freeman said there is no mystery there that’s all you need to know is that he was a Virginia and I would say that’s all you need to know unless you want to know more but if you’re comfortable just knowing that then sit back and relax and think of him only as a Virginian if you view him this way he’s someone who isn’t really even that upset about the end of the war because he never really embraced the Confederacy he’s a Virginian and there’s always Virginia there was a Virginia before the Confederacy there’s a Virginia after the Confederacy so the Confederacy is sort of a blip on a screen that’s dominated by Virginia and finally I’ll talk about the idea that he was never really comfortable with slavery some writings go so far as to say he’s kind of a proto abolitionist which of course is not true but more broadly the idea that he wasn’t that upset with the coming of emancipation almost relieved that the war brought an end to the institution of slavery those are some of the things that I’ll weave in and out of what I’m going to do now I’m going to get my big watch that has real hands on it that tells me exactly what time it is so that I don’t transgress my limit here and we have a little bit of time at the end devotion to honor and duty as he understood them was an essential element of robert e lee’s character the two words honor and duty possessed complex meanings of course and the 19th century southern concept of Honor has inspired a pretty large academic literature that’s beyond the scope of what I’m going to do today I’m not going to be talking about that literature for our purposes I’ll say that when Lee spoke or wrote about honor and duty and he often used some version of both those terms in the same statement when he spoke about them he typically had in mind how his actions would be perceived by and reflect on his family and friends and how his public reputation would be affected by what he did and said although he almost certainly never said duty is the sublime aswer do in the English language time and again during his lifetime his decisions he explained his decisions in terms of doing what he considered to be in line with honor and with duty for example in a letter to former Confederate General Wade Hampton the South Carolina cavalry man who’s been one of his subordinates during the war Lee addressed his decision to resign from the United States Army with an eye toward honor and duty he said quote I did only what my duty demanded I could have taken no other course without dishonor and if all were to ever be done again I should act in precisely the same manner he was comfortable with his decision because it accorded with his conception of honor and duty in general order number nine his famous April 10 1865 farewell message to the men of the Army of Northern Virginia Lee accorded those who had remained in the ranks the highest of compliments and he’s talking to the ones who remained in the ranks he’s not talking to the ones who fell out of the ranks between Pitts of Petersburg and Richmond and Appomattox which was about half of the army the man had fought long and hard against formidable odds affirmed Lee and now they had lost and must go home you will take with you emphasize the commanding general the satisfaction that precedes from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed duty faithfully performed he took that language almost verbatim from George Washington’s farewell to the Continental soldiers at the end of the American Revolution as you know here Washington is Lee’s great idol for his entire life and you find echoes of Washington throughout Lee’s life very direct references to Washington and many indirect references to Washington and here in general order number nine you find a very nice example of that go back and read Washington’s farewell order they’re making the same point the difference is Washington is making these

points conveying his affection to an army that emerged victorious and Lee is doing the same thing to an army that emerged defeated from their war during the hard winter of 1864 and 1865 with the army in Northern Virginia and the army the Potomac locked in the grinding siege at Petersburg Lee recorded in concise fashion how he conceived of the link between honor and duty there is a true glory and a true honor he wrote the glory of duty done the honor of integrity of principle it’s tryst written on a scrap of paper and found among his papers later nowhere did Lee’s sense of honor and duty stand out more obviously than the manner in which he coped with Confederate defeat and this we need to remind ourselves isn’t sort of a defeat for the Confederacy this is an overwhelming unequivocal defeat for the Confederacy the kind of defeat that no other segment of white American society has ever experienced there’s nothing of merit it is not an American experience a white American experience to be vanquished this way it is a southern white experience and that is what Lee as with the rest of the former Confederates is trying to come to terms with despite very strong personal grievances against the north and anger about the disruption of white social and racial control in the former Confederacy Lee meticulously refrained from any public criticism of the victors an honorable response to the verdict of Appomattox he believed obliged him and the rest of the white South to submit to the dictates of the United States government Lee’s attitude toward defeat can be summed up very simply the Confederacy had mounted the best military defense that it could it had been defeated by greater United States military power in the course of the war and now it must do whatever the United States told it to do those are the consequences of defeat there aren’t two options about how you’re going to respond to this will either submit or we won’t we’ll do something else there’s only one box to check and that box is we will submit in Lee’s view he had become an ardent Confederate nationalist during the conflict Lee’s most powerful loyalty during the war was to the Confederacy not to Virginia if Virginia’s interests and Confederate interest came into conflict during the war Lee not usually not almost always but always said the Confederate interests take precedence because this is a national effort if the national effort fails Virginia’s interests interest will fail as well in he is an ardent Confederate nationalist that is something he shared with Jefferson Davis that’s one reason they got along so well they got along as well as grant and Lincoln did and they got along so well primarily because on that fundamental question what can the national government do to win the war their answer was always anything it needs to do this is exactly on bills theme earlier anything it needs to do do we need to constrict men do it Lee’s staff helped write that legislation in the Confederacy the United States had never forced anyone to put on a uniform never this is a complete break with precedent in United States history the US government didn’t do it till the next year as you know the Confederate government did it in the spring of 1862 and ahreally is on board with that whatever it takes for Confederate victory that is what we will do the destruction of this incipient slaveholding republic profoundly distressed him profoundly he’s not a little bit upset that the Confederacy lost the war and went out of existence he is profoundly affected by that but in his post-war public statements he put aside all impulses to lash out at the north for its conduct during the war or its policies during Reconstruction something that I believe must have tested him sorely because on many occasions after the war because he nurtured a considerable amount of anger regarding a number of issues that arisen while the fighting raged between 1861 and 65 Lee left Appomattox in early April 1865 with private feelings that we will never know fully one of the things I really like about him is that he was remarkably free the modern predilection for sharing or bearing one soul I should say at the drop of a hat oh let me tell you something else about me and what I’ve been thinking and feeling I really want you to know what I’ve been feeling

now wait I remember one thing more that I’ve been feeling that I haven’t inflicted on you yet and let me tell you at this cottage industry of sharing one’s pain so evident on our afternoon television programs now and even now infecting what used to be hard news programs in the United States it that is a 20th century and early 21st century phenomenon that I think would have mystified Lee he never would have gone on Oprah I can promise you if he had had a chance he just didn’t feel the need to make sure you knew everything about him and everything he was thinking so important so important we can see in photographs of Lee the physical toll that the war exact ‘add on him I used to think he was hopelessly old of course now that I’m older than he was when he died I’ve changed my view on that and think he was really just pretty much in his prime even at the end he’d been a robust 54 year old man with dark hair and mustache what Harry had left in April 1861 four years later as we all know his hair had turned first gray gray by 1862 white by the end of the war he became an old man in four years Lee aged Lincoln aged tremendously too as all of you know grant didn’t seem to age quite so much bill he came through though he was a lot younger the robust physique that Lee had going to the war he was a very he was a very robust man through almost all this life that deteriorated during the war as well as you know because of rigors in the field and because his heart problems became more serious in the war but the war also hardened his attitude toward the north although frequently described as I said earlier is almost free of enmity toward United States soldiers and civilians and this most common perception I’ll say one more times that he never referred to them as anything but those people you can only believe that if you don’t read anything that Lee wrote during the war and if you don’t read anything it’s liberating if you really don’t know anything about what you’re discussing you can say anything sometimes called being a novelist but if you’re going to be tethered to the evidence you cannot believe that Lee harbored no animosity toward his enemies during the war he in fact harbored deep resentments against an enemy he believed behave dishonorably in many ways and in many places throughout the conflict and I’m going to give some examples of this because I think it’s important to understand the depth of Lee’s antipathy in this regard if you are going to appreciate how honor his sense of honor shaped his behavior after the war it’s important to know how he really felt privately to appreciate how he behaved publicly after the war so I’m gonna give you a few quotations suggesting just how angry he became sometimes during the war toward Union and Mill and Union military and political leaders that he believed transgressed the boundaries of an honorable war as early as December 1861 he referred to quote the ruin and pillage inflicted on various parts of the Confederacy by what he termed the vandals in blue it’s a little harsher than those people are writing to one of his daughters about the fate of Arlington which had been seized by the United States government as you know very early in the conflict he betrayed considerable bitterness your old home if not destroyed by our enemies has been so desecrated that I cannot bear to think of it I should have preferred it to have been wiped from the earth rather than to have been degraded by the presence of those who rebel in the ill they do for their own selfish purposes and the United States government of course Montgomery Meigs particularly I mean Arlington National Cemetery is there it didn’t just happen to be there it’s there because that’s a direct message to our Ely let’s bury our dead there said the United States and then let’s put a Freedmen’s village there later to I mean these are not they didn’t just happen these are messages sent to Lee and Lee got the message and was very angry about that when Union General John Pope arrived in Virginia from the Western theater in the summer of 1862 he announced that he was going to bring a hardier war to the Confederacy he was a Republican most of the Union generals were Democrats Pope was a Republican he said he was going to hang guerrillas punish any civilians who helped guerrillas and otherwise bring a or direct kind of war to the eastern theater he didn’t follow through on all those things but Lee reacted strongly in July 1862 he wrote to Secretary of War George with Randolph that he longed to

quote destroy the miscreant Pope I love the word miscreant it’s one we don’t use I tell my students they can actually look right at someone and call him a miscreant and the person won’t know whether to be upset or not but in the mid 19th century you would know to be upset our great friend the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that miscreant in the mid nineteenth century meant quote an unbeliever a heretic a vile wretch a villain li knew that again we’ve gone beyond those people in how he felt about them he also said that Lee that Pope must be suppressed as one would deal with a swarm of termites or an infestation of fire ants in Austin you suppress them they’re not really humans similarly when Union artillery shelled the city of Fredericksburg on December 11th 1862 Lee who was watching from the high ground to the to the west of the Rappahannock most of you have stood on part of that high ground on Marie’s Heights and looked over to Stafford Heights on the other side of the river and there’s this great artillery duel going on two days before the actual battle began Lee angrily remarked that the Federals quote delight to destroy the weak and those who can make no defense it just suits them now what he didn’t say is his soldiers William Barksdale’s Mississippians were using the houses in town is covered shoot the Union engineers who were building the pontoon bridges and the Union commander said we had to shell the city the Confederates were using it for cover but the point is Lee became angry at the Federals there a few episodes of the war brought out least bitterness toward the north more dramatically than the hanging of his second cousin William Orton Williams as a spy on June 9th 1863 the same day that Lee’s middle son Rooney was very badly wounded at Brandy Station more than three years after Williams was hanged a letter from Lee to martha Custis williams whom he called marquis as man you know indicated the continuing depth of his anger my own grief as his poignant now is on the day of the hanging he wrote Marquis and my blood boils at the thought of the atrocious outrage against every manly and Christian sentiment which the great God alone is able to forgive he obviously was not able to forgive even though it’s several years later above all Union policies that threaten the social stability of the South slaveholding society infuriated Lee before the war in a letter to mrs. Lee he had pronounced slavery quote a moral and political evil in any country that’s often quoted that passage from the letter but he went on to make the point that he didn’t think anything should be done to get rid of it that it would go in God’s own time the whole question of how long slavery lasted should be left in God’s hands and he then deplored what he termed quote the systematic and progressive efforts of certain people in the north to interfere with and change the domestic institutions of the south domestic institution of the south that slavery as you know under the Constitution it is a domestic institution meaning the states have control over it not the federal government in most ways such actions by those certain people said Lee can only be accomplished by them he underlined that through the agency of a civil and servile war abolitionists might create an apocalyptic moment by persevering in what he called their evil course and this is of course one of the great fear in the minds of many white Southerners before the war was of course Santa Domingo that is in their minds that the great widespread slave rebellion that results in the butchery of many white people and in that case the installation of a black Republic that is very much a theme that runs through the first half of the 19th century in southern thought and fears white Southern thought and fears Lee went on to deploy a nice Geographic stereotype of New Englanders widely held in the south he asked rhetorically is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others although seldom quoted by historians Lee’s response to Lincoln’s final proclamation of emancipation leaves no doubt about the depth of his feeling he wrote a letter on January 10th nine days after the proclamation was announced he wrote to Secretary of War James sedon sedin had succeeded Randolph late the preceding year Lee called for greater mobilization and effort on the part of the Confederacy in the face of this new threat from the United States which threatened in his view complete disruption of the entire

Confederate social system Lincoln’s proclamation laid out quote a savage and brutal policy stated Lee which leaves us no alternative but success or degradation worse than death if we would save the honor of our families from pollution our social system from destruction Lee’s use of degradation pollution and social system those are words that are often deployed in Antebellum southern rhetoric when they’re talking about the possible consequences of abolitionism and they highlight the degree to which Lincoln’s policy menaced far more than the political integrity of the Confederate state in Lee’s view two years earlier this is the last of these things I’ll quote two years earlier Lee had also spoken of honor claiming that quote there’s no sacrifice I’m not ready to make for the preservation of the Union save that of Honor I mean Lee Lee is he’s a man of his family he’s a member of the course the very top of the slaveholding aristocracy in the Confederacy there’s nobody above the Lee’s and the Carters and his other kin in that regard he has a sense of honour that places him as part of that aristocracy with those of his blood and his class and his section he hated the respective disunion but rejected the idea of a country as he put it that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets and he was very much put off by the notion that the war if the Confederacy lost would end in the complete overturning of the social system that he’d known his entire life all of these quotations indicate and I could cite many more but I’m going to spare you they indicate that he frequently characterized the Federals as a brutal foe who often respected neither the laws of God nor the dictates of decency and honor in their interaction with Confederate civilians in the course of the war he similarly took offense at much of what the Radical Republicans wanted to do after the war their legislative agenda he found very repellent as well he didn’t approve of legislation or amendments to the Constitution designed to place black people on more equal footing with white people nor did he believe it fair to disenfranchise or otherwise penalize former Confederates if they took the oath of allegiance he said if they take the oath of allegiance to the United States that should wipe the slate clean and they should be able to move forward I mean those are essentially the terms that grant extended at Appomattox and those grant didn’t make up those terms grants doing what he knew Lincoln wanted him to do there he’d met with Lincoln just a little while before the Appomattox campaign unfolded he knew what Lincoln wanted him to do I think grants own instincts were in the same place but those are Lincoln’s terms not grants that get offered at Appomattox Lee said if you take the oath you should move forward you should be back in the United States he worried that the federal government was becoming too powerful and that if it reached a certain level of power it would simply undo whatever was good about the Republic he said the consolidation of the states into one fast vast Republic sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home will be the certain precursor of that ruin which is overwhelmed all similar nation in the past when james longstreet who was a favorite of lee’s during the war in a staunch lieutenant as many of you know he became Anathem of most white Southerners after the war because long she became a Republican and took office from Grant and became a Catholic I mean there’s the trifecta what else could he do we could go home and think is there anything else I can do to make people not like me without became a Catholic I’m a Republican and I like grant know that about covers it Lee and Longstreet remained friends and when Longstreet asked his old commander in mid 1867 to endorse part of the Republican program Lee answered very firmly in the negative observing that quote I do not judge the course pursued by the dominant political party to be the one best for the interests of the country I mean it’s a nice muted yet firm response to James Longstreet I believe that Lee’s unwavering commitment to behaving honorably and doing his duty after the war prompted him to suppress his strong personal feelings and attitudes about what was going on to his urge to criticize the north to criticize the Republican Party and some of their policies he knew that his behavior his

public behavior was especially important because he knew he was the most important former Confederate Jefferson Davis isn’t the most important former Confederate Lee is the most important former Confederate Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia had functions from about the mid point of the war forward as the most important national institution in the Confederacy people didn’t look to the Confederate Congress to figure out how the war was going they look to re Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia and in this way Lee and his army came to function very much as his idol George Washington and the Continental Army had functioned during the American Revolution they’re the most important institution oh the Capitals in Philadelphia oh wait a minute no now it’s now it’s moving West it’s a it’s a portable Capitol as the British cut didn’t matter what mattered was is Washington and the Continental army still in the field if the answer is yes there’s still a chance that becomes true in the Confederacy as well orally in the Army of Northern Virginia still in the field there’s a chance for victory it’s it’s not an accident that Apple Maddox is generally considered the end of the war it’s the end of the war because it’s the end of Lee as bill said there’s scores of thousands of Confederates under arms at many other points in the Confederacy after Lee surrendered doesn’t matter because Lee’s gone and if Lee’s gone people on both sides of the Ohio and the Potomac understood that’s it the Confederacy cannot but will Lee understood this after the war he understood how important his position he was he saw it whenever he traveled people just turned out and lavished love on him wherever he went in the south after the war nowhere could he move abroad without being greeted with such demonstrations of love and interest has always touched his generous and gracious heart wrote one of his neighbors here in Lexington after the war now at the Virginia convention that debated secession in 1861 the president of that convention a man named Robert Janey from Northern Virginia he had introduced Lee after Lee had resigned his commission in the United States Army and had become a major general of the Virginia state forces Lee didn’t go from the US Army to the Confederacy as you know he went from the US Army to command to Virginia’s military forces and when janey introduced Lee to the Virginia secession convention he summoned memories of Light Horse Harry Lee tribute to George Washington he told the members of the convention we pray God he’s looking right at Lee I know a number of you stood there in that room in the Capitol you can go in there now with all the Confederate busts around it there’s Alexander Stephens there’s even Joe Johnston in there God knows why but anyway they’re in that room and Janey looks right at Ari Lee and says we pray God most fervently that you may so conduct the operations committed to your charge that it will soon be said of you that you are first in peace and when the time comes you will have earned the steel prouder distinction of being first in the hearts of your countrymen I I think Lee was probably embarrassed by being compared to Washington that way even though he’d walked past the great statue of Washington on his way into that chamber and had passed Crawford’s huge equestrian statue of Washington on the capitol grounds outside now he’s being compared specifically to his great idol I don’t think anybody in that room really believed that in fact Lee would become the Confederacy’s Washington in the course of the war but anyway we know that he did and because he did what he did after the war after the war was all the more important as an example to the rest of the Confederate South aware of his singular position least row from Appomattox until his death here in Lexington in October 1870 to set an example for the Confederate south in handling issues relating to reconstruction setting an example of what he considered an honorable course of action during an era marked by tremendous political and social turbulence I think he was what might be called the situational reconciliation as that is publicly he behaved impeccably he called for putting aside animosity he said look forward don’t look backward don’t don’t wallow in anger put that aside privately in his private letters he often seized it what was going on in reconstruction and about what had been lost during the war it’s this fascinating dichotomy in Lee after the war I think his sense of honor said publicly privately nobody knows what I’m

doing privately privately I can express these things about issues I feel strongly about but publicly we lost publicly we accept the terms the enemy imposes publicly I cannot call for resistance to what the Republicans in Congress or the military expression of the Republicans in Congress might be doing in the south and what he said had tremendous impact in the former Confederacy all of the mainline lost cause arguments that raised Lee up and did other things that that were all familiar with now it’s not a coincidence that they didn’t really begin until after his death because I don’t think Lee would have countenance them even Jubal Early didn’t do much of that before in Jubal Early was basically uncontrollable except by Ari Lee and Lee wrote to him more than once just calm down maybe dial it back a little bit and Jubal Early waited and then when Lee was gone he was Jubal Early Unleashed and he could do whatever he wanted to do and did for the rest of his long and cantankerous life from the summer of 65 to the end of his life Lee never deviated from this behavior this public behavior on his part and he explained what he was doing to the Confederate General whose name I love to say more than any other Gustav too-tall Beauregard right after the war Beauregard as you know had been born Pierre Gustav to Tom Beauregard but had dropped Pierre because it seemed to him as sounding too foreign so just going with plain Gustave to Tom made him just one of the guys I guess in his part of Louisiana but Lee wrote a letter to Gustav to Tom Beauregard on October 3rd 1865 and this is what he said he stayed told Beauregard I’m requesting a pardon true patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly 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 the circumstances which govern their actions change and their conduct must conform to the new order of things we lost the war that’s the new order of things and we must conform to that as was so often the case Lee looked to his primary hero George Washington to clinch his case to Beauregard at one time he Washington fought against the French under Braddock in the service of the King of Great Britain at another he fought with the French at Yorktown under the orders of the Continental Congress of America against the king absolutely different behaviors dictated by exactly the same approach toward what the honorable thing to do was although he didn’t say so explicitly Lee’s desire to do right surely stemmed from his understanding of duty and honor a president of Washington College here you all know this better than I do a lot of his students were former soldiers and he would always tell them look forward not backward the future is what’s important not the fact that you lost a war and a little bit more on that in a minute Thomas Nelson paged the southern author who was entered WL in 1869 remembered that Lee mandated an end to all combustible rhetoric regarding the North what’d you say about the North Lee told the young men tends to promote ill feeling and injure the institution they said something similar in March 1866 too early I’ve already talked a little bit about her Early’s the great unreconstructed rebel as you know who was a corps commander under Lee late in the war and then became he’s one of the two men that Lee gave an affectionate nickname to he called him my bad old man that’s what he called early early was younger than Lee but Lee called him my bad old man Lee was sort of he’d look at early and think I wish I could do some of those things early cursed imaginative Lee yes people at the time said I’ve always loved I just wish after someone wrote Jubal Early was an imaginative cursor cursor I wish they would have said for example he said this but they didn’t ever do that they just left us with this I wonder what imagination in cursing might look like in the mid nineteenth century he wrote to Jubal Early that we shall have to be patient and suffer for a while at

least early was complaining about what some former Federals were writing about former Confederates all controversy will only serve to prolong angry and bitter feeling and postpone the period when reason and charity may resume their sway she said the same thing to Jefferson Davis’s wife Erina Davis shortly after that she had written to him complaining about Schuyler Colfax who was a Republican politician from Indiana complaining about Schuyler Colfax who was insulting former Confederates and Lee said I’ve thought from the time of this accession of hostilities that silence and patience on the part of the South was the true course and I think so still these considerations have always kept me from replying to accusations against myself and he meant replying in a public fashion publicly he’s simply not going to do that now he he thought that his notion of honor didn’t mean he couldn’t praise his own soldiers he thought it was important to get their story out he saw no tension between the what honor said to do in terms of whether he would criticize Republicans or what the Federals had done during the war in one way and praising his own army and what it had done he urged others to do they thought about riding as many of you know thought about writing the history of the Army of Northern Virginia for a while and tried to collect records while he was here in Lexington but the burdens of running the college simply took too much of his time and in the end he didn’t do it but he thought about doing it for a while and he wanted to stress the odds against which his army had fought and what they had achieved against those odds he he fired an early salvo in that regard in general order number nine as you know when he explained the Confederate defeat because of what he called the overwhelming numbers and resources of the Federals he wanted to get that in print he wanted to let the rest of the world know that his army in his view had fought honorably and well against very long odds the question of relative strengths really interested him and later lost cause riders picked up on this and that’s one of the main things that they they went even beyond it were they were long odds for them it became in the end impossible odds and the Confederacy never could have won it was a hopeless struggle against overwhelming odds and there’s no loss of honor in losing a war you never could have won because the Yankees had too much of everything well Confederates didn’t believe that during the war they didn’t go to war saying you know we cannot win this war we won’t win this war we’ll lose a quarter of a million will lose yeah that’s that’s more than a quarter of all of our military aged white men but we’ll do that just to make a point no they didn’t do that of course they thought they would win and if there had been a Las Vegas in 1776 in 1861 the odds against colonial success would have been much longer than the odds against Confederate success in 1861 but post war that became a cardinal element of the Confederate explanation for defeat and and there is support for that for them from Lee in general order number nine he didn’t write the orders you know Charles Marshall wrote it but Marshall talked to Lee before he wrote it got Lee’s ideas in mind he wrote General Order number nine and then Lee fiddled with it a little bit to get it in the in the language that he really wanted I’m about to finish I promise a number of scholars have complained really over the last 20 years mostly that Lee has an undeserved reputation as a post-war conciliator public conciliator they concede that he called for submission to the north in his public utterances but they point out that he number one always retained his belief in state rights which he did was not enthusiastic about the new racial order in the south which he was not and never explicitly conceded that secession was unconstitutional which he didn’t one of these scholars Alan T Nolan who was a great friend of mine I’ll say right now because I’m gonna say something else about alum that might make you think otherwise Alan wrote an influential book titled Lee considered came out in 1991 and Alan wrote this contrary to the Lee tradition it appears that after the war the generals attitudes matched those of most of his fellow southerners in spite of some conciliatory statements he was in brief a mainstream secessionist after the war the typical southern partisan one would expect from his environment and experience I believe Nolan’s critique is almost completely off the mark least postwar public stance in my view is all the more impressive precisely because it often ran against his private feelings about these things

I really think and I think it’s his sense of honor how do you behave honorably after being defeated how do you do it you do it by doing one thing publicly where you will influence other former Confederates and reserve your true feelings for private situations that you know will not reach the public I think Lee faced a true sense of his devotion to honor and duty as he understood them in the years after Matt after Appomattox and I believe that he passed that test splendidly we have ten minutes I think if we’re supposed to go till 11:30 any have any questions or comments or disagreements with accepted command of the US Army outside Washington DC if Virginia hadn’t seceded I mean obviously I can’t answer that I don’t know whether he would have or not but I think that there’s a chance that he would have if he was really certain that Virginia was going to stay in the United States although one of these what we often try to judge loyalties in the late antebellum years in terms of whether this individual is more loyal to the state or to the federal level of government that’s how easily a Virginian or does he believe in the United States as he believed in the Union more than he believes in Virginia but it’s actually more complicated than that because Lee also thought he had a very strong loyalty to the slaveholding south he thought of himself as a southerner as well as a Virginian as well as a citizen of the United States and he had a powerful allegiance to the United States I mean his family were Federalist George Washington his idol there’s no stronger nationalists than George Washington George Washington doesn’t say well the nation’s kind of important but what did the states want that’s not his approach to things Lee’s father very much against the Virginian Kentucky resolutions at the turn of the century very much against what Thomas Jefferson was up to at that point Jefferson was malleable in things Jefferson could always find another path necessary or pretend that someone else found it he was really good at that so he has and he has thirty years service in the United States Army he loves the United States there’s no question about that but all these different loyalties come into play the question you’re opposing is would his sense of being a white southerner we say southern and we mean the white southerner usually when we use it is that more powerful could he have countenanced leading military forces against Alabama in South Carolina South Carolina I mean South Carolina was a problem for everybody because South Carolina was such a weird it was always doing something and everybody knew it Pettigrew had it exactly right South Carolina is too big to be an insane asylum and too small to be a republic I mean he’s from South Carolina he’s from South Carolina and he got it just right so when South Carolina does something you can roll your eyes and say it’s South Carolina you know what will they do next but when seven states are gone it complicates it and I’m not sure I think he admired Winfield Scott a great deal as we all know and Scott’s a Virginian he’s from Dinwiddie County and Scott says please do this well if Virginia hadn’t been on the other side I think he might have but I but I don’t know long answer that isn’t an answer yes they did not attack grant the fascinating thing to me about Lee and grant now see this is I can you pretend I’m a politician and you ask me a question and then I say what I want to say anyway we see this all the time on television the fascinating thing to me about Lee and grant is neither of them ever conceded the abilities of the other I find this fascinating Grant said that Joseph young he was always more nervous when Joseph Johnston was in front of him than when Lee was really General Grant really what you were nervous about that he retreats so fast you couldn’t catch him I mean why would you why would you be uneasy because Joe Johnston was Joe Johnston as we all know woke up every morning and his first thought was what a great day to retreat I can go that way or I can go that way life is good grant was very much put off by the fact that he put this in his memoirs and he put it in letters too he couldn’t understand why Lee got a past and he believed that Lee got a past lease a much bloodier general than US Grant much bloodier grants known as the butcher not even close to re Lee in terms of the percentage of his soldiers who get shot

up your goal is to get shot and you live in the United States the Army in Northern Virginia is where you want to be nothing else even close nothing close all of grants battles in the West before he came East Shiloh Chattanooga Henry and Donaldson all of them Vicksburg 35,000 casualties Lee’s battles in that same period 95,000 casualties when does Grant become a bloody General General Grant this is robert e lee he’s your new opponent that’s when he became became a bloody general at the same time every other union commander who faced lee did you cannot be around robert e lee without having piles of casualties jo guitar did a wonderful book on the army northern virginia the only one that’s done serious statistical sampling about many things in jo reckoned that if you’re a soldier in lee’s army for three years that’s how long he commanded the army and as you know if you’re a confederate soldier and they ever get you in uniform they never let you out they keep changing the rules on you as you go along which many of the soldiers considered fundamental abridgement of individual freedom and liberty but nonetheless there you are you’re in forever if you are in lee’s army you have a 76 percent chance of becoming a casualty three quarters nothing else even close to that in the war but grant even though he’d had his way with all those forgettable confederate generals out west he never would admit that lee was the best and lee wouldn’t admit it about grandpa I find that fascinating because usually they’re willing to do that granting his memoirs and all second bills comments it’s not even close there’s grants memoirs and then this gaggle of forgettable voices in the rest of the presidential memoirs it’s really it’s it’s there’s nothing even close he’s not fair to George Thomas and a few others but he’s really you can tell he’s still upset about Lee said the whole Confederate nation was behind Lee no matter what he did no one ever criticized him he had the advantage of having this huge agreement on what he was doing it’s true and of course the Democrats in the North were not always behind what grant was doing they attacked they attacked him a great deal late in the war he never would had never would concede but Lyoto great deal to grant when there was talk about bringing lee up on treason charges after the war under the Johnson administration grant said fine you do that I will resign as general and chief of the United States Army and even Andrew Johnson and I’m not as friendly to him as you are maybe bill even Andrew Johnson deep in the mush of his gray matter knew that in a fight between grant and him that’s not a fight grant is a great hero he’s not sort of a great hero the end of the war it’s Lincoln and Grant they’re equal heroes they’re not it’s not Lincoln and Grant we’ve lost sense of what a towering figure US grant was he’s the most famous American in the world for all the rest of the 19th century more people saw us grant in person and have seen any other American in our history in person Moore saw Grant when he went around the world crowds of a hundred thousand two hundred thousand three hundred thousand came out to see him have the biggest funeral in American history as the biggest tomb in the in North America he had another million people it is funeral another million people when they dedicated his tomb 12 years later grant the most visited tourist attraction in New York City until World War Two was Grant’s Tomb we’ve lost that we’ve Rihanna’s bill said people oh yeah he’s a drunk he’s a corrupt president and he’s a butcher and he smokes a lot of cigars and he did smoke a lot of cigars twenty a day and so did Sherman 20 a day some homeric bad breath in their tent there’s a lot of cigar smoking going on there one more question and then it’s 11:30 yes that’s really a summary that’s a very brief summary I think it’s awkward I li but it’s buddy but it’s correct Lee does not make a misstep in any forum such as that after the war to my at least that I’m aware of he he does not he is he behaves impeccably in that regard impeccable in that regard and he and he’s of course as you know probably he’s it infuriated Frederick Douglas Lee is quite popular in much the north right after the war and a lot of the of the obituaries in northern papers especially democratic papers in the North were quite flattering as Douglass said he didn’t understand the nauseating flatteries of

robert e lee in 1870 when news of his death went to the north he said it seems that what we’re gonna do is find the person who killed the most loyal man and almost destroyed the republic and make him a figure to be admired it drove him crazy drove some of the Radical Republicans crazy too but nonetheless it was the case it was the case and a lot of people in the United States had a sense that Lee was a good loser he’d been the great Bugaboo during the war it’s fascinating everybody thinks Gettysburg is the great turning point if you don’t take anything away from my talk today except one thing take away the Gettysburg was not the turning point of the Civil War Gettysburg was not the turning point of the Civil War absolutely wasn’t after Gettysburg Confederates their diaries letters her felt Lee’s never lost a battle Lee’s never been defeated and never will be same attitude in the northern papers anticipating the Overland campaign in the spring of 1864 no one’s ever beaten Lee but now grant will pour George Meade he doesn’t even get credit for Gettysburg after a year goes by it’s really interesting thank you