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Historiography on General Robert E. Lee - Essay Example

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Historiography on General Robert E. Lee

Both men became idols after their deaths made them martyrs for the Confederacy.
Books published in those first years after the war treated Lee favorably but found fault with his actions at Gettysburg and Malvern Hill - and sometimes Antietam, Fredericksburg and the Severn Day's battle. While Jackson, Longstreet, Joseph E. Johnston, Albert Sidney Johnston and others received generally favorable treatment, Richard Ewell and Jubal Early were universally criticized for their timidity on the first day at Gettysburg. These early books included James Dabney McCabe Jr.'s Life and campaigns of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1866), William Swinton's The Twelve Decisive Battle of the War (1867), and Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac (1882), John Esten Cooke's A Life of Gen. Robert E Lee (1871), and Edward A. Pollard's Lee and His Lieutenants (1867). In an 1866 book, The Lost Cause, Pollard concluded that Lee's influence on the Confederacy's general affairs was negative (Bruce 1866 pp.133).
After his death on October 12, 1870, however, Lee became a southern and then a national deity or idol. Previously second to Jackson in the literature and hearts of the South, Lee was elevated to the flawless southern embodiment of The Lost Cause. No criticism of him went unchallenged, and the South's other leading generals were seen as a threat to Lee's exaltation, and thus became fair game for censure and condemnation. One of the major reasons for Lee's elevation to god-like status was that former Confederate officers associated with Lee could promote themselves through idolization of Lee. Wartime incompetents Jubal Early and William Nelson Pendleton were among the leaders of the pro-Lee and anti-Longstreet cabal. (Piston, 1998, pp. 47-51). "When the Civil War ended, Early and Pendleton were generally viewed as failures. For Early and Pendleton, the worship of Lee seems to have given meaning to otherwise empty lives." Ok to add the above in since I'm not using footnotes/endnotes Also, what pages (if any) should I reference Ok to add it in! Just reference it in the same style as throughout the paper.
Early had faltered at Gettysburg, lost the Shenandoah Valley and his corps, had been relieved of command by Lee, and fled the country for a few years after the war. Through his pro-Lee efforts, he hoped to cover up his own disastrous record and spread the blame elsewhere. He became the power and brains behind the anti-Longstreet movement with his famous January 19, 1872 Lee Birthday Speech at Washington and Lee University. (Gallagher, 1996, pp. 37-73) In that speech, which was widely distributed as a "Lost Cause" pamphlet, Early created the myth that Lee had ordered Longstreet to attack at dawn on the second day at Gettysburg. (Piston, 1987, p. 118) Early proved to be a better propagandist than general and dominated the pro-Lee cult for three decades as an author and as president of three Lee-worshiping organizations, the Lee Monument Association, the Association of the Army of Northern Virginian, and the Southern Historical Society. (Gallagher, 1996, pp. 90-91). (Need to add this to Works Cited page). Pendleton furthered the myth that Lee ordered Longstreet to attack at dawn in his 1873 Lee Birthday speech, which contradicted his 1863 after-action report to Lee.1 (Piston, 1987, pp. ) Below you give numerous pages do I list all of ...Show more

Summary

There is a vast amount of information regarding historian's treatment of Robert E. Lee. The interpretations of him as a man and a general evolved and changed over time. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, historians dealt with Lee as with most other participants in the war…
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Historiography on General Robert E. Lee essay example
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