was Robert E. Lee the "greatest" general in the southern army?

10 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hmmm....depends upon what criteria you use.

    For my money, the South's greatest general was Patrick Cleburne. In a sea of mediocrity in the Western Theater, he shown out. He consistently beat up on his opposition (which was much better than what Lee and Jackson faced in the East) and only his death prevented him from being elevated to a higher command. You would be hard-pressed to find a single example where Cleburne failed in battle.

    Lee was certainly outstanding. But I'd also caution it by noting the following:

    --initially he was completely surprised by Hooker at Chancellorsville (Hooker faked him out of his drawers and got a jump on the race to Richmond).

    --he came close to being destroyed at Antietam, only the death of Israel Richardson and McClellan's caution prevented Lee from being captured and the ANV from being totally crushed. And while it's common to refer to Antietam as a tactical draw or even a Southern victory, the purpose of the move into Maryland was to gain recruits (it failed miserably) and led to the bloodiest day of fighting for the south (and almost destroyed their two best units--the Stonewall Brigade and the Texas Brigade).

    --his performance at Gettysburg was an unmitigated disaster. He only went into Pennsylvania because he didn't want to give up troops to help save Vicksburg so concocted the move North as an excuse to keep his troops. His decisions at Gettysburg were faulty and foolish.

    --he also benefited by facing a string of incompetents or generals in difficult situations (Meade had been in command all of 2 days when Gettysburg happened. Burnside, Pope, even McClellan were fools). He was incredibly highly regarded and was truly a .gentleman (who actually felt that slavery was a bad idea)

    A good case could be made for Jackson. But folks also tend to forget that Jackson's performance at both Malvern Hill and then Fredericksburg was terrible in both cases.

    Hood was a good tactical officer at the regimental or even brigade level. But as an Army commander...he was a disaster. The assault at Atlanta has to rank as one of the stupidest efforts by any Southern leader during the war and you can lay that one at Hood's feet.

    Longstreet was highly underrated. His work at Fredericksburg and Second Manassas was superb. Lee should have listened to him at Gettysburg. But when he went West (after Gettysburg) and faced better Union commanders he was a flop.

    For my money, the order of best Southern senior officers would be:

    1. Cleburne

    2. Lee

    3. Jackson

    4. Longstreet

    And that's about it. It's not conventional wisdom but the North got far more outstanding officers from the regular army when the war started. Reynolds was regarded by people who knew them both as Lee's equal. Hancock was superb (his nickname was "Hancock the superb" actually). Sheridan, Thomas, Meade, Sherman all proved to be excellent Army commanders. And if you look at Corps commanders you'd have to add Hooker, Sedgwick, Wallace to the list as well. Both sides "grew" some officers who weren't regular army when the war started (Forrest, Gordon, Chamberlain, Grant) but the North got more really good generals than the South did. You saw this by the difficulty that the South had replacing Turner Ashby or Stonewall Jackson or Patrick Cleburne when they went down. While the North easily replaced Reynolds or Strong Vincent when they were killed.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Jefferson Davis apparently thought so, and many historians agree. Of the other generals, Jackson seems to be the best contender for the "greatest" title.

    Stonewall Jackson

    He earned his nickname for bravery at Bull Run. He met his fate in a tragic accident at Chancellorsville. Stonewall Jackson is widely regarded as one of the greatest of the Confederate commanders of the Civil War. An outstanding leader and brilliant tactician he led some of the most stunning campaigns of the war and earned a place in military history.

  • 1 decade ago

    I would say General James Longstreet was the best general of the Confederacy . Many of Lee's victories were do to Longstreet's abilities as a corps commander . I don't mean any disrespect for Stonewall Jackson but James Longstreet managed not to be shot and killed by his own troops during the war .

  • 1 decade ago

    Robert E. Lee's "greatness" did not come from being a General in the Confederate Army.

    He "greatness" can be attributed to his unwavering devotion to his God and his family, his sense of loyalty to his ancestral State of Virginia, and his compassion & concern for the men who so bravely fought by his side throughout the war.

    He was, first and foremost, a gentleman of excellant character, an honorable man, respected by his peers, as well as those who opposed him, including U. S. Grant and President Lincoln.

    Robert E. Lee's decision to join the Confederacy, was made with a heavy heart, knowing that the loss of life for thousands of good men would be his responsibility.

    Lee, above all other's, understood the meaning of the word "patriotism". His father was Lighthorse Harry Lee, who had served with General Washington, during the Revolutionary War. His uncles, Richard Henry Lee and Frances Lightfoot Lee, were the only two brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. Richard Henry Lee was a member of the House of Burgesses in Virgina and one of the premier orators of the fight for America's freedom from the tyranny of England and he was second only to Patrick Henry.

    When Lee rode his faithful steed, Traveler, along the dusty road leading to the McClean house, where he was to surrender to Grant, it was lined with men from both sides. As he passed, both Union and Confederate soldiers were so impressed by his presences, they removed their caps, stood at attention and saluted, out of respect.

    Lee's "greatness" can not be measured by "what" he was; it must be measured by "who" he was.

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  • 1 decade ago

    He was so considered at the beginning of the war, that's why Lincoln offered him the Generalship of the Union Army. Lee turned down the offer and went home to Virginia. The rest is history.

    Source(s): BA in History
  • 4 years ago

    i'm a proud Southerner, and a believer interior the Constitutional thought of States Rights. whilst I appreciate Lee as a gentleman and Soldier, he grow to be a traitor to the rustic that he had sworn to guard. He violated his oath to guard and preserve the form of the USA against all enemies distant places and relations and circuitously led to the deaths of tens of hundreds of infantrymen on the two facets. Upon his resign, at worst, he ought to have been stood up against a wall; a ultimate, he ought to have lived out his years in detention center.

  • 1 decade ago

    Hood might have been the best general and Lee second and take your pick for third place.

  • V.O.R.
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Stonewall Jackson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_Jackson

    I'd put Lee second

  • 1 decade ago

    He might have been, had the South

    won the war.

  • 1 decade ago

    yes or at least one of the most well known

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