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General Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis, grand step-daughter of George Washington, and thru this marriage he acquired slaves. He freed them by 1862, according to his father-in-law’s will.
Lee did not find slavery completely without justification. [it was] “a greater evil to the white man than to the black race. . . blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, and I hope will prepare and lead them to better things.”
Loyal to Virginia, he sided with the Confederates. “How can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”
He fought for the confederate cause. . . relentlessly. . . and. . . with relish . . .to the very end.
At Mule Shoe, when all was nearly hopeless, he tried to break out of Grant’s encirclement, to hold out in the hills of Tennessee or Georgia. In these last days of the war, he sacrificed many thousands of his men. Few of those men owned slaves.
“. . he rode Traveller hastily toward the fighting. He encountered terrified soldiers, streaking back in chaotic flight [from counterattacking union forces], “Hold on!” Lee shouted, seeking to stem the rout, “Your comrades need your services,” The terrified men refused to heed his admonition, “Shame on you men, shame on you!” Ron Chernow.
He would not negotiate release of captured Negro Union soldiers who had been southern slaves.
Lee was West Point and studied Napoleon. He was successful on defense, on his home turf – at Bull Run, at Fredericksburg, at Chancellorsville – but not so effective on offense, on unfamiliar ground, outside of Virginia, such as at Antietam or Gettysburg.
Strong on tactics, not so much on strategy.
“While Lee attacked the front porch, Grant would attack the kitchen and bedroom“. William T. Sherman.
He had Grant’s respect, but not his awe. “After I crossed the James, the holding of Richmond was a mistake. . if he left Richmond when Sherman invaded Georgia, it would have given us another year of war“.
At Appomattox, Lee dressed. . . like a victor . . . in his very finest silver grey.
“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
Following Lincoln, and ‘malice toward none‘, Grant refused Lee’s sword, and sent him freely off . Only five days later, Lincoln was assassinated.
Lee’s stature in the South has been mythic, both then and. . . to this day. His equestrian statue in Lee Park, Charlottesville, is . . .26 feet high. For Robert E. Lee, and for most southerners. . . to this day, (something northerners don’t seem to understand. . . to this day) is that for them, homeland freedom, not slavery, was the great issue of the Civil War. As in all the eons past, when your land is all that you have, you defend it with your life.
The best Union General, General Lee? ” McClellan, by all odds“. . .!!