Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee Quotes

Last Updated January 16, 2010

With quotations by Lee first followed by others in alphabetical order of the person making the quote

“And as for myself, while you young men might afford to go to bushwhacking, the only proper & dignified course for me would be to surrender myself & take the consequences of my actions.”

Lee, Robert E.

April 1865

Lee to Porter Alexander when he suggested fighting a guerilla war

Hsieh, Wayne Wei-siang.  West Pointers and the Civil War The Old Army in War and Peace. Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 2009 pg 1

“I do my duty insofar as my powers and capabilities permit, until the moment when battle begins:  I then leave the matter to God and the … subordinate officers.  My supervision during the battle does more harm than good.  It would be unfortunate if…I could not rely upon my division and brigade commanders.  I think and work with all my powers to bring my troops to the right place at the right time; then I have done my duty.

Lee, Robert E.

1863

Lee’s philosophy of command as he described it to CPT Justus Scheibert, the official Prussian military observer during the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns

Luvaas, Jay & Nelson, Harold W.  Guide to the Battle of Antietam.  Lawrence KS:  University Press of Kansas, 1987 pg117

“If we go to ciphering, we shall be whipped beforehand.”

Lee, Robert E.

June 1862

Lee’s response to arguments that he evacuate Richmond in the face of McClellan’s offensive against the city.

Mason, Jack C.  Until Antietam The Life and Letters of Major General Israel B. Richardson, U.S. Army. Carbondale IL:  Southern Illinois Press, 2009 pg 149

“I must say that I am one of those dull creatures that cannot see the good of secession.”

Lee, Robert E.

Apr 19 1861

Lee to a citizen in a pharmacy in Alexandria

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 17

“If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I.  But if she secedes…then I will follow my native state with my sword and if need be with my life.”

Lee, Robert E.

Feb 1861

Lee to a friend as he prepared to leave Texas

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 15

“In the prime of life, I quit a service in which were all my hopes and expectations in this world.”

Lee, Robert E.

Apr 1861

in a conversation with a service comrade around the time of his resignation from the U.S. Army

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 20

“Mr. Blair, I look upon secession as anarchy.  If I owned four millions of slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”

Lee, Robert E.

April 18 1861

Lee to Francis Blair when he declined a major Union Army command

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 15

“Things look very alarming from this point of view, I prize the Union very highly & know of no personal sacrifice that I would not make to preserve it, save that of honor”

Lee, Robert E.

Dec 3 1860

REL to Rooney Lee from Texas

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 15

“Well Mary, the question is settled.  Here is my letter of resignation and a letter I have written General Scott.”

Lee, Robert E.

April 20 1861

Lee to his wife announcing his decision to resign from the U.S. Army

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 18

“all the little ebony bipeds on the hill”

Lee, Robert E.

May 2 1836

REL to Charles Carter Lee.  Lee expressing concern about the spread of whooping cough to slave children on the estate

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 139

“For I am so in the habit of considering an event that I have once determined upon as done, & want so readily for its accomplishment, that it is sometimes hard to recall me, & worse to efface the effects of my commencement.”

Lee, Robert E.

Jun 3, 1821

REL to Mary Lee regarding the setting of the date for their wedding.

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 353

“I don’t know that I shall ever overcome my propensity for order an methodology”

Lee, Robert E.

Nov 27 1833

REL to MCL

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 87

“I fought the enemy at every step, I faced him and…I believe I got out of [my army] all they could do or all any men could do.”

Lee, Robert E.

Mar 7 1868

Notes on a conversation with REL, in Bean “Memoranda of Conversations,” p478

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 422

“I shall never bear arms against the United States,-but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in defense of my native State, Virginia, in which I shall not prove recreant to my duty.”

Lee, Robert E.

Lee’s response when asked if he intended to go North or South, upon his departure from Texas.  Johnston. Soldier’s Reminiscences, p 133

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 285

“If we can defeat or drive the armies of the enemy from the field, we shall have peace, all our effort and energies should be devoted to that object.”

Lee, Robert E.

Jul 6 1864

REL to Jefferson Davis Petersburg VA

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 348

“Never mind general, never mind.  It is all my fault, and you young men must help me out the best you can.”

Lee, Robert E.

July 3 1863

Lee quoted in Woodsworth, Beneath A Northern Sky, p 102

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 356

“Our Genl is our great reliance…Confident in his powers & resources, his judgment is as sound as his heart is bold & daring.”

Lee, Robert E.

Oct 2, 1847

REL to John Mackay, UASMHI

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 161

“stragglers are those usually who desert their comrades in peril such characters are better absent from the army on such momentous occasions as those about to be entered upon.”

Lee, Robert E.

May 18 1862

Letter to J.E. Johnston

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 411

“the young men have no fondness for the society of the old Genl,”

Lee, Robert E.

Dec 4 1863

REL to MCL Camp Rapidan

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 407

“With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.”

Lee, Robert E.

Apr 20 1861

Letter to sister Anne Marshall

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 291

“You must be No. 1.  It is a fine number.  Easily found & remembered.   Simple, & unique.  Jump to it fellow.”

Lee, Robert E.

Feb 1 1852

REL to son Custis at West Point

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 104

[his opponents had]”suffered heavily as far as the battle went, but it did not go far enough to satisfy me.”

Lee, Robert E.

Dec 16 1862

REL to MCL, Camp Fredericksburg,

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“When a man makes a mistake, I call him into my tent, talk to him, and use the authority of my position to make him do the right thing the next time”

Lee, Robert E.

May 15 1864

Lee counseling AP Hill after Spotsylvania;  Freeman, Lee, III, 331

Robertson, James I.  General A. P. Hill. New York:  Random 1987. Pg 272

I went into Maryland to give battle…and could I have kept Gen. McClellan in ignorance of my positions and plans… I would have fought and crushed him”

Lee, Robert E.

Lee to an interviewer after the war

Sears, Stephen.  George B McClellan – The Young Napoleon. New York:  Ticknor & Fields, 1988 pg 273

“Will this do?” said the general [Lee], handkerchief in hand.  “Yes my Lordy, that indeed!” broke out the soldier.  “Well then take it with you, and back quick in the ranks; no straggling this march, you know my man.”

Lee, Robert E.

Lee’s encounter with a soldier after Gettysburg

Sorrell, G. Moxley.  Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer. New York:  Bantam edition, 1992. Pg 148

“To be a good soldier, you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love.“

Lee, Robert E.

unk

“We cannot afford to be idle, and though weaker than our opponents in men and military equipments, must endeavor to harass, if we cannot destroy them.“

Lee, Robert E.

unk

“I think and work with all my power to bring the troops to the right place at the right time; then I have done my duty.  As soon as I order them into battle, I leave my army in the hands of God.”

Lee, Robert E.

Connelly, Thomas L. The Marble Man.  Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society. New York:  Alfred A. Knopf 1977 pp 199,200

Wert, Jeffry D.  General James Longstreet. New York:  Touchstone, 1993. Pg 129

“Do not take risks, be content to accomplish all the good you can without feeling it necessary to obtain all that might be desired.  Remember that one of the chief objects of your expedition is to gain intelligence for the guidance of future operations.”

Lee, Robert E.

Jun 11 1862

Lee’s order to Stuart concerning the march around McClellan’s Army

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 94

“I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.”

Lee, Robert E.

April 1861

Lee agonizing over decision to leave the U.S. Army

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 90

“The present seems to be the most propitious time since the commencement of the war for the Confederate Army to enter Maryland.”

Lee, Robert E.

Sep 2 1862

Lee in a letter to President Davis proposing to enter Maryland.

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 138

“We will make our stand on those hills”

Lee, Robert E.

Sep 15 1862

Lee making his decision to stand at Sharpsburg

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 151

“My father was the most punctual man I ever knew…He used to appear some minutes before the rest of us, in uniform, jokingly rallying my mother for being late, and for forgetting something at the last moment.  When he could wait no longer for her, he would say he was off and would march along to church by himself.”

Lee, Robert Jr.

Recollections p 12

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 87

“It is impossible to be in this officer’s presence, and to note his air of self-poised strength and repose without feeling that he was a person of great elevation of character and of broad and commanding intellect”

A chaplain

Robertson, James I.  General A. P. Hill. New York:  Random 1987. Pg 64

“I never saw Lee but once, but he made an impression on me I cannot forget.  He was standing upon the gallery of the government building in San Antonio, watching a squad of infantry that were being drilled by a lieutenant.  His appearance was so impressive that I stopped to look at him and ask who he was.”

A Texan

1860

A Texan who saw Lee in Texas in 1860

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 257

“He had the combative instinct in him as strongly developed as any man living”

Alexander, Porter

Alexander Fighting for the Confederacy p 265

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“We looked forward to victory under him as confidently as to successive sunrises.”

Alexander, Porter

Alexander Fighting for the Confederacy p 222

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 348

“No one could meet Lee, and fail to be impressed with his dignity of character, his intellectual power, and his calm self-reliance.”

Alexander, Porter

Alexander, Memoirs, p 111

Wert, Jeffry D.  General James Longstreet. New York:  Touchstone, 1993. Pg 128

“was executed with a dash & brilliancy equaled by few campaigns in the world, & with as much success as could possibly have been hoped for, considering the odds & all the circumstances.”

Alexander, Porter

Alexander commenting on Lee’s Manassas Campaign

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 137

“Lee was elegantly dressed in full uniform, sword and sash, spotless boots, beautiful spurs, and by far the most magnificent man I ever saw.  The highest type of the Cavalier class to which by blood and rearing he belongs.”

Blackford, Charles

July 13 1862

Blackford comparing Lee and Jackson at start of Second Manassas Campaign.  Susan Leigh Blackford, comp., Letters from Lee’s Army (New York, 1947). 86

Robertson, James I.  Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York:  Macmillan Publishing Co, 1997 pg 511

“looked in the fullest vigor of manhood, a most striking figure dressed in a shell jacket with gold lace, mounted on a fine horse, which he sat with superb grace…He impressed me then in a manner I could not forget”

Claiborne, Thomas

April 1847

speaking of Lee at Cerro Gordo

Johnson, Timothy. A Gallant Little Army.  Lawrence KS:  University of Kansas, 2007.   Pg 78

“a Great Gambler in human life.”

Conner, Henry Calvin

quoted in Laskin, “Good Old Rebels,” pp 472-73A native of York, S.C., Henry Calvin Conner (1835-1883) served as a soldier in the Confederate army. Some letters document that at various times, members of this family also spelled the surname as “Connor.”

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 347

“no man was so tender to the faults of others as he was or so ready to assume his own.”

Daniels, John

John Daniel to TL Rosser , Rosser Papers UVA

Wert, Jeffry D.  General James Longstreet. New York:  Touchstone, 1993. Pg 128

“he was my friend…and in that word is included all that I could say of any man”

Davis, Jefferson

Jefferson Davis, Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist:   7:284

Davis, William C.  “Lee and Jefferson Davis”  Lee the Soldier Ed. Gary Gallagher.  Lincoln NE:  University of Nebraska Press. 1996 pg 304

“standing alone among the confederate soldiers in military capacity”

Davis, Jefferson

Stephen R. Mallory Diary, n.d., Stephen R. Mallory Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, UNC, Chapel Hill

Davis, William C.  “Lee and Jefferson Davis”  Lee the Soldier Ed. Gary Gallagher.  Lincoln NE:  University of Nebraska Press. 1996 pg 300

“Confidence in you overcomes the view which would otherwise be taken of the exposed condition of Richmond.”

Davis, Jefferson

Davis in letter to Lee sending him reinforcements that leave Richmond undefended. Quoted in Woodsworth Davis and Lee at War

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 387

“Standing alone among the Confederate soldiers in military ability.”

Davis, Jefferson

Davis, Cause Lost,p45

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 387

The stake is too high to permit the pulse to keep its even beat

Davis, Jefferson

Jun 1862

Ltr to his wife describing Lee’s offensive in front of Richmond in Jun ’62

Sears, Stephen.  George B McClellan – The Young Napoleon. New York:  Ticknor & Fields, 1988 pg 207

“I am afraid Gen Lee will lose much of the advantage he has already gained by allowing [McClellan] to rest…Lee ought to drive him into James River…Nonetheless, there never has been such a fierce struggle on this continent-All voices are singing with the praises of General Lee for planning the battle “

Early, Jubal

Early quoted in Jones Personal Reminiscences p 7

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“Gen. Lee is the best rider I ever saw.  He was mounted on a fine gray horse.  I cannot look at him with his gray hair and beard only with feelings of awe and almost devotion.”

Fitzpatrick, Marion Hill

Sep 15 1863

Fitzpatrick, a Virginian, In letter to wife describing a military review

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 415

“great military man in theory, but he has never had any practice.”

Goree, Thomas

Goree, Longstreet’s Aide p 47

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 320

“I never ranked Lee as high as some others of the army…that is to say, I never had as much anxiety when he was at my front as when Joe Johnston was in front,”

Grant, U.S.

As recorded by John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant, edited Michael Fellman (Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 384

Grant – A Biography by John Mosier

“but I had known him personally, and knew that he was mortal; and it was just as well that I felt this.”

Grant, U.S.

Grant, Personal Memoirs p 96

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 175

“Leaders like Napoleon could and he did see the greatest cavalry leader of the age in the stable boy Murat…and a host of others whose only learning came to them in the experience of the campaign and the lessons of numerous battles, but General Lee never did and was resolutely against going outside the regular grades to find men who might have been very Sampsons to help him multiply his scant resources.  He never discovered of encouraged a [Nathan Bedford] Forrest and many a man far more fit than his leaders went to his death trying to win against the incompetency of men who should have been brushed out of the way when they failed.”

Haskall, John Cheves

Haskall Memoirs, DU

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 335

“I have never seen him exhibit such indecision and embarrassment,”

Hill, DH

July 19 1864

Hill referring to Lee’s state of mind at the end of the Maryland Campaign.  Letter to Rev. R.I. Dabney, quoted in Bridges, Lee’s Maverick General, p 128

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 331

“Yes, you all who have had Stonewall with you awhile give him the credit for all of the Victories but never think of the Planning of the glorious RE Lee…I admit that Stonewall is a splendid fighter but he cant plan like Lee, and I expect Lee can plan better than he can fight but take the two together Genl Lee is far superior.”

Hill, William Powell

Mar 22 1863

Hill to sister from Quarter Masters Office Richmond

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 416

“He said our army had not been defeated, but had been asked to do an impossible thing and had not done it.”

Hotchkiss, Jed

Aug 21 1863 in diary.  About Gettysburg

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 353

“Alexander, if there is one man in either army, Federal or Confederate, who is head & shoulders, far above every other one in either army in audacity that man is Gen Lee, and you will very soon have lived to see it.  Lee is audacity personified. His name is audacity, and you need not be afraid of not seeing all of it that you will want to see”

Ives, Joseph C.

June 16, 1862

Ives of Davis staff in response to a question about Lee from Porter Alexander.  Gallagher. Fighting for the Confederacy. P 91

Wert, Jeffry D.  General James Longstreet. New York:  Touchstone, 1993. Pg 135

“of more value to us than Gen. Scott could render as commander.”

Jackson, Thomas

Apr 23 1861

An early estimate of Lee’s ability from Jackson.  TJJ in letter to wife. In James Robertson’s biography p 218

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 320

“his perspectives are as quick and unerring as his judgment is infallible.  But with the vast responsibilities now resting on him, he is perfectly right in withholding a hasty expression of his opinions and purposes.”

Jackson, Thomas

July 8 1862

Jackson in a conversation with Boteler Boteler account in Philadelphia Weekly Times, Feb 11, 1882

Robertson, James I.  Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York:  Macmillan Publishing Co, 1997 pg 509

“So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded.”

Jackson, Thomas

July 8 1862

Jackson in a conversation with Boteler account in Philadelphia Weekly Times, Feb 11, 1882

Robertson, James I.  Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York:  Macmillan Publishing Co, 1997 pg 509

“One thing is accomplished.  It has imbued every man of ours with a determination to fight like demons.”

Johnston, JL

Jul 20 1862

JL Johnston to Miss MM Green ;

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“In youth and early manhood, I loved and admired him more than any man in the world.”

Johnston, Joseph

Johnston quoted in Craig L. Symonds, Joseph E. Johnston:  A Civil War Biography, p 18

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 65

“we had the same intimate associates who thought as I did, that no other youth or man so united the qualities that win warm friendship and command high respect.  For he was full of sympathy and kindness, genial and fond of gay conversation, and even of fun that made him the most agreeable of companions, while his correctness of demeanor and language and attention to all duties, personal and official, and a dignity as much a part of himself as the elegance of his person, gave him a superiority that everyone acknowledged in his heart.”

Johnston, Joseph

Johnston recalling his friendship with Lee at West Point.  Joseph Johnston quoted in Long, Memoirs, p71

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 65

“although I subsequently met General Lee on several fields of battle, and did my best to kill him…yet every palpitation of my heart has been of kindness for him and his, and will be till the end of his life.”

Keyes, Erasmus

Keyes, quoted in Fifty Years Observation, p 189

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 175

“manner calm and stately, his presence impressive and imposing, his dark brown eyes remarkably direct and honest as they meet you fully and firmly.”

Lawley, Francis C.

Jun 1862

A roving reporter from the London Times describes Lee.  Hoole, William Stanley. Lawley covers the Confederacy (Tuscaloosa, AL, 1962), 31

Robertson, James I.  Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York:  Macmillan Publishing Co, 1997 pg 462

“Nothing here is talked or thought of except our troubles.  Our poor country & our Father and brothers need all our prayers.”

Lee, Agnes

April 18 1861

Agnes Lee to Mildred Lee

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 17

“General Lee is winning great renown as a great captain.  Some of the English writers place him next to Napoleon and Wellington.  I once excelled him and might have been his equal yet perhaps if I had remained in the army as he did.  I sometimes regard his fame as a reproach to myself.

Mason, Charles

June 19, 1864

Mason who was number 1 in Lee’s West Point Class wrote this in his diary in 1864.  According to the author, Mason who was not in favor of the war sat it out in somewhat sullen copperhead sympathy, concluded that he could not have continued his military career with integrity.  Mason didn’t stay in the Army but had a distinguished career as a federal judge and commissioner of patents

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 60

“I prefer Lee to Johnston-the former is too cautious and weak under grave responsibility-personally brave and energetic to a fault, he yet is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by heavy responsibility and is likely to be timid and irresolute in action

McClellan, George

Apr 1862

GBM writing to A. Lincoln about RE Lee

Sears, Stephen.  George B McClellan – The Young Napoleon. New York:  Ticknor & Fields, 1988 pg 180

“the evidences I have given seems to show that it was not Gen. Lee, but his leading lieutenants, [who] were off their balance, either that or had never possessed that capacity to determine the most salient points in the positions to be attacked. . . .So that now, as in the past, and as I believe will be done in the future, we can, with sentiments of profound admiration and respect, [say] ‘Hurrah for Gen. Lee.'”

McLaws, Lafayette

April 27, 1896

LM in an address to the Confederate Veterans Association of Savannah entitled, “The Battle of Gettysburg”, April 27, 1896. ASG-LM, 58-59

http://asoldiersgeneral.com/lafayette.htm

“most aggressive man I met in the war, and was always ready for any enterprise.”

Mosby, John S.

“Personal Recollections of General Lee”, Munsey’s Magazine 45, 1 (April 1911),:67

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“The manly grandeur of his appearance is beyond my powers of portraiture.  He is ineffaceable.”

Nisbet, James Cooper

Georgian Colonel James Cooper Nisbet.  Nisbet 4 Years on the Firing Line p 108

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 414

“the boys never cheer him, but pull off their hats and worship.”

Patterson, Edmund DeWitt

quoted in Laskin, “Good Old Rebels,” pp 475-76

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 416

“Gen Lee has shown great Generalship and the greatest boldness.  There never was such a campaign, not even by Napoleon.”

Pender, Dorsey

Pender commenting on the success of the Second Manassas campaign

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 137

“to cautious for practical revolution”

Pickens, Francis W.

7 July 1861

Francis W. Pickens to Milledge L. Bonham, Milledge L. Bonham Papers, South Carolina Collection, University of SC, Columbia

Davis, William C.  “Lee and Jefferson Davis”  Lee the Soldier Ed. Gary Gallagher.  Lincoln NE:  University of Nebraska Press. 1996 pg 294

“intrepid coolness and gallantry exhibited by Captain Lee of the Engineers when conducting the advance of my brigade  under heavy flank fire of the enemy. “

Riley, Bennet

Riley a brigade commander observing Lee on Apr 17

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 164

Genl Lee…though reputed to be an accomplished & great officer (deemed to be the best in the U.S. Army, before he resigned) is, I fear, too much of a red-tapist to be an effective commander in the field.”

Ruffin, Edmund

Nov 18, 1861

Diary of Edmund Ruffin

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 320

“Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life, but I feared it would be so.”

Scott, Winfield

April 18 1861

Scott to Lee upon the latter’s visit to his office to tell him he turned down a Union Army command

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Pg 16

“the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual during the campaign.”

Scott, Winfield

Scott describing Lee’s crossing of the Pedragal in 1847quoted in Long Memoirs p 58

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 165

“The very best soldier I ever saw in the field.”

Scott, Winfield

May 8 1857

Scott to John B. Floyd quoted in Jones Life and Letters p 127-28

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 161

“This officer greatly distinguished himself at the siege of Vera Cruz, was again indefatigable during those operations, in reconnaissance as daring as laborious, and of the utmost value.  Nor was he less conspicuous in planting batteries, and in conducting columns to their stations under the heavy fire of the enemy.”

Scott, Winfield

quoted in Freeman, R.E Lee, 1:247-48

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 165

“a mind which has no superior”…[he] advised [Scott] with a judgment, tact, and discretion worthy of all praise.  His talent for topography was peculiar, and he seemed to receive impressions intuitively, which it cost other men much labor to acquire”

Semmes, Raphael

August 1847

Lt Semmes on Worth’s staff speaking about Lee

Johnson, Timothy. A Gallant Little Army.  Lawrence KS:  University of Kansas, 2007.   Pg 162

“he seemed to receive impressions intuitively, which it cost other men much labor to acquire.”

Semmes, Raphael

Semmes Campaigns of General Scott, p 267

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 164

“approachable by all”

Sorrel, Moxley

Sorrell, Recollections, 67

Sorrell, G. Moxley.  Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer. New York:  Bantam edition, 1992. Pg 67

“for he was not a man to stay idly behind defenses when there was an enemy about that he might hopefully strike.

Sorrel, Moxley

June 1862

Speaking about the events of the Seven Days Campaign

Sorrell, G. Moxley.  Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer. New York:  Bantam edition, 1992. Pg 60

“Lee was an aggressive general, a fighter.  To succeed, he knew battles were to be won, and battles cost blood, and blood he did not mind in his general’s work.  Although always considerate and sparing of his soldiers, he would pour out their blood when necessary or when strategically advisable.”

Sorrel, Moxley

Sorrell, G. Moxley.  Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer. New York:  Bantam edition, 1992.

“yet there is always something to say of that noble unostentatious figure, the perfect poise of head and shoulders and limbs, the strength that lay hidden and the activity that his fifty-five years could not repress.  Withal graceful and easy, he was approachable by all; gave attention to all in the simplest manner.  His eyes-sad eyes! the saddest it seems to me of all men’s – beaming the highest intelligence and with unvarying kindness, yet with command so firmly set that all knew him for the unquestioned chief;.  He loved horses and had good ones, and rode carefully and safely, but I never liked his seat.  The General was always well dressed in gray sack-coat of Confederate cloth, matching trousers tucked into well fitting riding boots-the simplest emblems of his rank appearing, and a good large black felt army hat completed the attire of our commander.  He rarely wore a sword, but his binoculars were always at hand.  Fond of the company of ladies, he had a good memory for pretty girls.  His white teeth and winning smile were irresistible.”

Sorrel, Moxley

Sorrel’s description of Lee in his Recollections

Sorrell, G. Moxley.  Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer. New York:  Bantam edition, 1992. Pg 50

“I will never forget that evening, Captain Lee in calm even, well weighed words, giving a full view of the state of our force, suggesting the various methods of reestablishing affairs, and proffering his own services and exertions to carry out the views of the general;  Scott composed, complacent, weighing every word he said,…and exhibiting entire confidence in the ultimate event.”

Stevens, Isaac Ingalls

Aug 22 1847

Ingalls to wife.

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 161

“powers of enduring fatigue is extraordinary, and his strength of judgment and perfect balance are conspicuous.”

Stevens, Isaac Ingalls

Aug 22 1847

Ingalls to wife.

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 164

“I presume no one but myself will ever know the immense but quiet service he rendered the state and country.”

Stuart, J.E.B.

Stuart describing the actions of RE Lee at Harpers Ferry in capturing John Brown.  Thomas Emory M. “‘The Greatest Service I Rendered the State”:  J.E.B. Stuarts Account of the Capture of John Brown.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 94, o. 3 (July 1986)

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 39

“with profound personal regard for General Lee, he has disappointed me as a general.”

Stuart, J.E.B.

Stuart’s reaction upon hearing of Lee’s failed campaign in the western Virginia mountains

Wert, Jeffry D. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause. New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008. Pg 67

“Never so uncomfortable as when comfortable.”

Taylor, Walter

Nov 14 1863

Lee declined to let staff stay in comfortable quarters.  Taylor to sister

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 407

“to move out, to maneuver, to concentrate, and to fight.”

Taylor, Walter H.

quotation Taylor, Four Years with General Lee

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“He was then in the prime of mature manhood, being fifty-two years of age. With a fine masculine figure, perfect in every proportion, he had a handsome, manly face. Altogether, he was a perfect specimen of manhood. The dignity of his bearing, devoid as it was of all arrogance or affectation, arrested the attention of all who came within his influence. The affability of his manners made him approachable and agreeable under all conditions. He was exceedingly punctilious in points of etiquette, and I well recall that although we officers were quartered around in the buildings in the most inconvenient places, he took special pains to seek us all out and make a friendly call upon each one. His pleasing manners put everyone at ease, and his conversation was gentle and mild. Although scrupulously particular in dress and personal neatness, he had none of the airs of foppishness about him.”

Tidball, John C.

Tidball found himself among future Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart during the suppression of John Brown’s raid, in October 1859. He was, apparently, impressed with Lee:  From Tidball’s unpublished memoirs

Tidball, Eugene C.  No Disgrace to My Country. Kent:  Kent State University Press.  2002 pg 162

“Lee was far below the occasion.  If we had had a general in command we could easily have taken McClellan’s whole command and baggage.”

Toombs, Robert

Seven Days Battles Toombs quoted in Steven E. Woodworth, Davis and Lee at War p 173

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 323

“No matter what it is if Genl. Lee says do it is all right, the commonest private can always have justice done him…he always gives them a fair hearing.”

A Virginia infantryman  quoted in Laskin Good Old Rebels

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 412

“Our position requires that you should know everything & you must excuse my troubling you.”

Jun 5 1862

In letter to Jefferson Davis

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 318

capable, diligent, faithful and universally trusted, grave cold dignity of bearing…rather chilled over-early or over-much intimacy.”

Anderson Texas Before and on the Eve of the Rebellion

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Reading the Man – A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York:  Penguin Group, 2007 pg 257

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