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Old December 2nd, 2011, 11:07 PM   #1

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Robert E. Lee


Did Lee actually believe in slavery being legal or did he sign with the South because he wanted to be loyal to Virginia? Also was he has good as a general has history has portrayed him to be?
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Old December 2nd, 2011, 11:52 PM   #2

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Originally Posted by jayhawker View Post
Did Lee actually believe in slavery being legal
Did Lee believe slavery was legal? Of course, because it was legal.
He was breaking no law. Laws were passed to return slaves to their masters.

Quote:
or did he sign with the South because he wanted to be loyal to Virginia?
Lee was a career Army officer from 1820-61 and it was a tough decision for him
to turn down Lincoln's offer to command the Union army against the South and his
beloved Virginia. The Lee name was an old and important name in Virginia history,
no way he could lead invading troops against or as he said it, "may be necessary for
me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state." Personally Lee was against
secession but he was cornered by his honor.

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Also was he has good as a general has history has portrayed him to be?
General of the Union Army Winfield Scott thought very highly of Lee and so did
Lincoln when he sent word that he wanted Lee to command the Union Army in the
field. Gen. Lee was a very, very good commander but like all commanders he
made some mistakes and miscalculations. Overall though, yes he was a very good
general.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:22 AM   #3

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Lee's decision to side with the south was based on loyalty to his home state. I don't think that any opinions he had on slavery had much to do with decision.

Lee had a period of about one year from mid 1862 to mid 1863 whereby his magnificent successes against all odds prevented the North from quickly ending the war. That string of successes cemented his status as a great general. He faced an larger army that was better equipped and managed to hold out for three years before being defeated. Most of his victories were born from aggressive battlefield tactics and competent command serving under him. One can argue however, that a good degree of his success was generously enabled by the ineptitude of the northern command. Still, I think one Lee's best attributes was to get into the head of his adversaries and act decisively based on how he thought his opponent would react.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 02:14 PM   #4

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[QUOTE=tjadams;842462]Did Lee believe slavery was legal? Of course, because it was legal.
He was breaking no law. Laws were passed to return slaves to their masters.


Sorry, this was late when I posted this thread and I didn't proof read it, I meant to say; did he think it should be kept legal? Was he pro-slavery?
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 02:28 PM   #5

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There's a legend that, immediately after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Lee was seen in a small country Methodist church, praying for a black man who had come up to the altar for prayer (and had been ignored by every other person in the church).

Lee was probably not a racist by how that word would have been defined in the 19th Century. I've read that he disliked the institution of slavery, but his loyalty to Virginia outweighed his moral convictions.

Lee's freedman was supposed to have been a celebrity at post-war Confederate reunions.

Last edited by Salah; December 3rd, 2011 at 02:35 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:24 PM   #6

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There's a legend that, immediately after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Lee was seen in a small country Methodist church, praying for a black man who had come up to the altar for prayer (and had been ignored by every other person in the church).
As you wrote, this is legend supported by the thinnest of proof. Supposedly it happened
in June 1865 in Richmond, Va. at the St. Paul's Episcopal Church. A black man came
up from the back of the church to take communion. No one else moved. Lee rose
and knelt, at a short distance away, next to the man and received communion as
well. This story didn't surface till forty years after the end of the war.

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"NEGRO COMMUNED AT ST. PAUL'S CHURCH," CONFEDERATE VETERAN, 13 (AUGUST 1905): 360. "Col. T. L. Broun, of Charleston, W. Va., writes of having been present at St. Paul's Church, Richmond, Va., just after the war when a negro marched to the communion table ahead of the congregation. His account of the event is as follows:

Two months after the evacuation of Richmond business called me to Richmond for a few days, and on a Sunday morning in June, 1865, I attended St. Paul's Church. Dr. Minnegerode [sic] preached. It was communion day; and when the minister was ready to administer the holy communion, a negro in the church arose and advanced to the communion table. He was tall, well-dressed, and black. This was a great surprise and shock to the communicants and others present. Its effect upon the communicants was startling, and for several moments they retained their seats in solemn silence and did not move, being deeply chagrined at this attempt to inaugurate the "new regime" to offend and humiliate them during their most devoted Church services. Dr. Minnegerode [sic] was evidently embarrassed.

General Robert E. Lee was present, and, ignoring the action and presence of the negro, arose in his usual dignified and self-possessed manner, walked up the aisle to the chancel rail, and reverently knelt down to partake of the communion, and not far from the negro. This lofty conception of duty by Gen. Lee under such provoking and irritating circumstances had a magic effect upon the other communicants (including the writer), who went forward to the communion table.

By this action of Gen. Lee the services were conducted as if the negro had not been present. It was a grand exhibition of superiority shown by a true Christian and great soldier under the most trying and offensive circumstances."
http://www.stratalum.org/leecommunion.htm

I'm thinking it was a nice attempt to soften Lee's image on race.

Last edited by tjadams; December 3rd, 2011 at 04:31 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:27 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by tjadams View Post
Did Lee believe slavery was legal? Of course, because it was legal.
He was breaking no law. Laws were passed to return slaves to their masters.

Quote:
Sorry, this was late when I posted this thread and I didn't proof read it, I meant to say; did he think it should be kept legal? Was he pro-slavery?
Here's a nice link to what Lee thought about slavery. Like a lot of slave holders, Lee felt it was wrong, and believed
in gradual emancipation, but who would willingly sacrifice their homes, their fortunes and lives when push comes to shove?
Robert E. Lee on Slavery
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 04:47 PM   #8

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Originally Posted by jayhawker View Post
Did Lee actually believe in slavery being legal or did he sign with the South because he wanted to be loyal to Virginia? Also was he has good as a general has history has portrayed him to be?
Robert Lee was especially good in managing his smaller resources to win stunning victories. His masterpieces were 2nd Bull run and Chancellorsville, but he was also a masterful defender (Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, cold harbor). Constantly outnumbered, his performances were certainly great ones. But he also had some bad weaknesses :
- At times, he could order costly frontal assaults that were not the best of decisions (the seven days or Gettysburg for example).
- His focus on the eastern front (though it should be noted that this was from the perspective of an eastern front commander. Still, he sometimes opposed the use of reinforcements in the west to keep more men) mean that while he was struggling, and ultimately never succeeding, to win a decisive battle her, the Union crushed the confederacy in the west.
- He made some poor decisions in terms of logistics at times.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 05:15 PM   #9

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I think almost everybody (North and South) during the 1860s would be labled a racist by today's definition. Even if a person was against slavery at the time, more than likely they still felt superior to blacks.

Lee was most likely no exception.
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Old December 3rd, 2011, 05:17 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jegates View Post
I think almost everybody (North and South) during the 1860s would be labled a racist by today's definition. Even if a person was against slavery at the time, more than likely they still felt superior to blacks.

Lee was most likely no exception.
I'm inclined to fully agree with you. Some Abolitionists claimed it was their duty to help "civilize" the blacks, and serve as a guiding hand to them - operating under the assumption they were too stupid to function unaided.
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