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Almost everybody knows about the civil war, but does anyone really know who the best general of it was? He was born into a military family, and was married to the great-granddaughter of George Washington (Compton’s). The man, the myth, the legend, this man is General Robert Edward Lee. He was praised for many of his decisions, yet reprimanded for others. His mistakes could not have been avoided, because he always chose the best paths. General Lee was by far the best and most strategic general of the civil war.
First of all, Lee was destined to fight. Lee’s father was the “Revolutionary War hero, ‘Light-Horse’ Harry Lee” (Compton’s). Later in Robert Lee’s life, he grew up and went to West Point (Compton’s). In 1852, he graduated with second in his class. Later, after the Mexican war, he went back to West Point and become the superintendent. After Lee was West Point’s superintendent, he became a Confederate general, with his home state of Virginia (Compton’s).
Second, Lee was the greatest civil war general, but not precisely in the very beginning. This was because in the beginning of the Civil War, Lee wasn’t given a lot of jobs. So, it is not his fault. When the Confederate government got control of Virginian armies, Lee became a full general. Unfortunately, the government did not give him any soldiers. They finally gave him a few men, and told him to block some union troops in Western Virginia. Because he had so few men, he failed. This caused Jefferson Davis, head of the Confederacy, to send Lee to “…build costal fortifications” (Compton’s). Finally he was brought back, but he was given very few jobs. He didn’t really start his greatness until the commander of the confederate armies was wounded, needing Lee to take his spot in the summer of 1862(Compton’s).
Lee’s first major battle was the Battle of Seven Days. General Lee discovered that the union general, George McClellan, had stationed his army near the Chickahominy River, which is right outside of Richmond, Virginia. Lee’s plan was to destroy the army on the northern part of the river with as many of his soldiers as possible, and then take care of the smaller part on the south side. General Lee was unsuccessful in destroying their army, but it was not a totally lost cause. He did succeed in pushing the army back about twenty-five miles (Compton’s).
Next, many people claim that Lee’s first major “mistake” in the Civil War was at the battle of Antietam, but, what Lee did was actually very smart. The main reason he failed was because the Union general, George McClellan, discovered his plans (civilwar.org). But, Compton’s says that during the battle, McClellan was having a hard time trying to break through Lee’s lines. So, the reason Lee retreated was not because he was losing. Instead, Compton’s says that the reason Lee retreated was because he realized that he was too far away from his supplies, and needed to go back. Also, after Lee retreated at Antietam, Compton’s says that General Burnside attacked Lee, but then quickly retreated because of Lee’s power. After the battle of Antietam was Lee’s absolute “worst” decision in The Battle of Gettysburg (Compton’s; civilwar.org).
Later, during the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee planned a very tricky assault, and that is the reason he failed. The main reason Lee planned such a tricky assault was because “the masterful victory at Chancellorsville gave Lee great pride in his army, and the Rebel chief was inspired once again to take the fight to enemy soil” (civilwar.org). So, Lee had a great win back at Chancellorsville so he had high pride in them, and thought that they could fight in the North. Also, according to Michael Fellman, Lee attacked the middle of the Union flanks because he thought that General Meade would never expect it. Unfortunately for General Lee, Meade did guess his plan, and so Meade made sure to strengthen his middle. Finally, Lee’s decision was not completely terrible because the Union soldiers usually ran in fear at the mere sight of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (civilwar.org; Compton’s; Fellman 232).
Finally, Lee was also a truthful and responsible man. After the battle of Gettysburg, many people urged Lee to ask for his resignation (Fellman, 232). This pushing was very unnecessary, though, because right away, he did. He also admitted that Gettysburg was entirely his fault. But, when he got a reply from Jefferson Davis, the Confederate leader, it read, “To ask me to substitute you by some one [sic] in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of the reflecting men of the country, it is to demand an impossibility (Fellman, 232).” So he basically said that nobody else could ever replace the great General Lee. After Davis denied his resignation, Lee knew that he could not hold on much longer. He went from an offensive military position to a defensive military position (Fellman, 231). According to Compton’s, Lee surrendered with pride and dignity on April ninth, 1865 with only 25,000 men left.
General Robert E. Lee was a military man since birth. He always had reasons for his attacks, and he considered all sides of every situation. His biggest mistake of the civil war was definitely at the battle of Gettysburg, but he had his reasons. As civilwar.org said, Lee would have “…the most famous and successful of the confederate armies.” Therefore, General Lee was the best, most successful general of the Civil War.
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