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[157] transportation lines, without credit abroad, with supplies given by a willing people fast disappearing, with fields left untilled and unproductive because the young men were under arms on the battle lines, and with sections constantly widening in devastation and depopulation. And yet General Lee for three years led a patriotic army against superior numbers across victorious fields, and sent a line of notable commanders, defeated, home. Moreover, the historian of the future will discern that ‘The fall of Richmond and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia were consequence of events in the west and southwest, and not directly of the operations in Virginia.’ (Early.)

Was he indeed a great commander? In 1861, General Winfield Scott said; ‘If given an opportunity, Lee will prove himself the greatest captain of history.’ To General William C. Preston, General Scott said: ‘I tell you, that if I were on my death's bed tomorrow, and the President of the United States should tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and asked my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, “Let it be Robert E. Lee!” ’

During the war, Stonewall Jackson said: ‘General Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man I would be willing to follow blindfolded.’

After the war, Lord Wolsey said: ‘I have met many of the great men of my time, but Lee alone impressed me with the feeling that I was in the presence of a man who was cast in grander mould and made of different and finer metal than all other men.’

President Andrews, of Brown University, said: I fail to find in the books any such masterful generalship as this hero showed, holding that slim, gray line, half starved, with no prospects of additions, and fighting when his army was too hungry to stand, and the rifles were only useful as clubs. His courage was sublime. He was as great as Gustavus Adolphus, or Napoleon, or Wellington, or Von Moltke.

Was he a great commander? In the esteem of the army he led he was—in victory, in defeat, and in surrender, there was a confidence and devotion that grew and deepened to the end of the struggle, a universal faith in his capacity, his energy, his untiring loyalty and zeal. In the esteem of the people of the South, the ability of Lee to lead their army in Virginia was unquestioned then, and remains unquestioned to this day.

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