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“ [271] matters of deliberate judgment as the impulses of a great mind disturbed by unparallelled conditions” ; that he, himself, alone understood the requirements of the occasion, and if he had been allowed to control the operations of the army, a brilliant victory would have ensued; and that every other officer in any responsible position, outside of his own immediate command, was grossly derelict, or terribly blundered. All this he claims the right to do, for the benefit of “the Comte de Paris and the general historian,” because he is “the only living person who could explain the motif of that campaign and the true reasons of its failure.”

He laid the foundation for enlightening the “general historian” in regard to the demerits and deficiencies of General Lee, and his own superior claims to the leadership of the Army of Northern Virginia, by a letter written to his uncle, on the 24th day of July, 1863, which letter would have never seen the light of day if he had not, himself, given it to the public. In that letter he said:

The battle was not made as I would have made it. My idea was to throw ourselves between the enemy and Washington, select a strong position, and force the enemy to attack us. So far as is given to man the ability to judge, we may say with confidence that we should have destroyed the Federal army, marched into Washington, and dictated our terms, or, at least, held Washington and marched over so. much of Pennsylvania as we cared to, had we drawn the enemy into attack upon our carefully-chosen position in his rear. General Lee chose the plans adopted; and he is the person to choose and to order. I consider it a part of my duty to express my views to the Commanding General. If he approves and adopts them, it is well; if he does not, it is my duty to adopt his views, and to execute them as faithfully as if they were my own. I cannot help but think that great results would have been obtained had my views been thought better of; yet I am much inclined to accept the present condition as for the best.

The arrogance and egotism of all this might be to some extent pardonable when confined to a private confidential letter to a near relative; but when that letter is given to the public by its author, they become insufferable. The part of the letter published concludes as follows:

As General Lee is our commander, he should have all the support and influence we can give him. If the blame (if there is any) can be shifted from him to me, I shall help him and our cause by taking it. I desire, therefore, that all the responsibility that can be put upon me shall go there and remain there. The truth will be known in time, and I leave that to show how much of the responsibility of Gettysburg shall rest on my shoulders.

The spirit of the first part of this latter passage is very self-sacrificing and commendable indeed, but the declaration of it is confined to the ear of his uncle, until the letter is made public for the purpose of showing that General Lee made an inexcusable blunder in framing his own plans, and rejecting the wiser counsels of the writer of that letter; and, when the attempt is made to show that the latter was really at fault in not cordially, promptly, and vigorously seconding the plans of the Commanding General, he cries out most lustily that he is the victim of “the ill-natured and splenetic attacks” of “certain wordy soldiers,” in a “tom-tom warfare.” These figures of rhetoric are,

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R. E. Lee (4)
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