Men of substance lead lives of substance. Robert E. Lee did not spring fully grown and armed, Athena like, from the head of the Confederacy. From the time he graduated – second in his class – from the military academy at West Point in 1829 until the time of his resignation from the United States Army in 1861 he had amassed an impressive record as an army engineer, a capable leader in the War with Mexico and as superintendent of West Point. He was no moonlight and magnolias tragic cavalier of the lost cause but he was hamstrung – as were most generals on both sides – by politicians and suffered the additional disadvantages of always being behind the curve in men, munitions and materials. The sad irony of his genius is that it was his abilities that ultimately turned the war into the prolonged struggle that it became with its concomitant bloodshed, destruction and lingering animosities that colored the history of the nation for another century. While this book serves the purpose of separating him from the inaccuracies of the Lost Cause apologists it does nothing to serve the legitimate claims of the South nor to give a balanced evaluation of the greatest leader to emerge from the war and is, in our opinion, incomplete for these deficiencies.
Lee & his army in Confederate history Gary W. Gallagher Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c 2001 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xviii, 295 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Was Robert E. Lee a gifted soldier whose only weaknesses lay in the depth of his loyalty to his troops, affection for his lieutenants, and dedication to the cause of the Confederacy? Or was he an ineffective leader and poor tactician whose reputation was drastically inflated by early biographers and Lost Cause apologists? These divergent characterizations represent the poles between which scholarly and popular opinion on Lee has swung over time.
Now, in eight essays, Gary Gallagher offers his own refined thinking on Lee, exploring the relationship between Lee’s operations and Confederate morale, the quality of his generalship, and the question of how best to handle his legacy in light of the many distortions that grew out of Lost Cause historiography.
Using a host of contemporary sources, Gallagher demonstrates the remarkable faith that soldiers and citizens maintained in Lee’s leadership even after his army’s fortunes had begun to erode. Gallagher also engages aspects of the Lee myth with an eye toward how admirers have insisted that their hero’s faults as a general represented exaggerations of his personal virtues. Finally, Gallagher considers whether it is useful – or desirable – to separate legitimate Lost Cause arguments from the ones relating to slavery and secession.