Originally Posted by Hopeforus
--By his achievements he won a high place amongst the great generals of history. - Though hampered by lack of materials and by political necessities, his strategy was daring always, and he never hesitated to take the gravest risks.
Lee's strategy was foolish, even in most of his victories. He was an agressive commander, yes, but in attacking an enemy army, an army that outnumbers him and is armed with the same weapons he is using is an invitation to disaster.
He is credited with winning the Battle of the Seven Days, but this was mostly set up by McClellan's ineptness as a battlefield commander. In every engagement, McClellan's army BEAT Lee's army and inflicted heavier casualties. Yet, McClellan retreated and in directions that would not allow him to stay near Richmond for long...
And yet the Union didn't surrender and recognize the Confederacy after the Seven Days.
He handled Second Bull Run better, but was unable to destroy the Union army, and again Lincoln didn't immediatelely ask for peace terms.
He managed to hold the Union army to a draw at Antietam, but mostly because McClellan let him hold on and didn't commit his reserves, regardless of how small they were. Fredericksburg was set up failures in the Union War Department and then Burnside's foolish decision to press on anyway. Here, Lee didn't attack, as he didn't have to, and Fredericksburg didn't have as many Confederate casualties as other battles did.
Again, Lincoln didn't surrender.
Chancellorsville is considered one of his most spectacular victories, but the Union army wasn't destroyed, and Lee lost Jackson in the battle. And again, Lincoln did not surrender.
And following the defeat at Gettysburg, Grant came east and would hammer away the Confederate Army. By the time the war ended, Lee's army a tiny force that had no hope of winning any battle.
Much of this was set up by Lee's agressive tactics. When an army is outnumbered and outsupplied, it can not take risks that would throw away large numbers of them. Lee took these risks repeatedly, and even in most of his victories still took heavy casualties. I've read that he was already stripping units protecting the Carolina coast, as well as Carolina militia units following Second Bull Run to prepare for Antietam to replenish his forces.
The Confederacy's only hopes for victory were in breaking the will of the northern people, which would require doing to the north what Sherman would do to Georgia and the Carolinas. This opportunity, however, only happened once in the American Civil War, and Lee was not at that battle. There, the men who pushed for it were Jackson and Longstreet.
Once Lee took command, the South's only hope (as McClellan had succesfully trained the Union Army) was foriegn recognition, as the war had by then become clear that it would be a long one that played to the North's superiority in manpower and material. Lee had to conserve his forces as much as possible to try and keep them together and in large numbers... and even in victory, Lee failed to do that...
Lee was a great commander with regard to winning individual battles. Winning the war however, he could not do.