Robert E. Lee was perhaps the most beloved Commander to lead any of the Confederate Armies.
He undoubtedly earned this admiration in part due to his "against the odds" successes but certainly also
because of how he treated his men. Prior to the Battle of Gettysburg while referring to the men he would take
into battle, he offered to Confederate Major General John Bell Hood, "I agree with you in believing that our army would
be invincible if it could be properly organised and officered. There were never such men in an army before. They will go
anywhere and do anything if properly led."
After his stalwart troops fell short in their efforts to take the Union positions along Cemetery Ridge and defeat the
Federal Army, General Lee rode amongst his men saying about the results of this day, "All will come right in the end.
We'll talk it over afterward, but meanwhile every good man must rally. We want all good and true men just now." To
one of his generals, angry about the day's outcome, Lee would say, "Never mind General. All this has been my
fault. It is I who have lost this fight, and you must help me out the best way you can."
Those who knew General Lee said that his representation atop the Virginia Monument, pictured below, was the best
likeness ever sculpted. The figures at the base of the monument represent the men from all walks of
life who so valiantly served their beloved home state of Virginia.
Between the end of the Battle of Gettysburg and the end of the war, General Lee would write several reports concerning
the Battle of Gettysburg which revealed his feelings towards the men of his army. In one, General Lee said, "...after
a most determined and gallant struggle, were compelled to relinquish their advantage, and fall back to their original position
with severe loss. The conduct of the troops was all that I could desire or expect, and they deserve success so far as it can be
deserved by heroic valor and fortitude. More may have been required of them than they were able to perform, but my admiration of
their noble qualities and confidence in their ability to cope successfully with the enemy has suffered no abatement from the issue
of this protracted and sanguinary conflict."
In his final report, General Lee continued with "The highest praise is due to both officers and men for their conduct during the
campaign. The privations
and hardships of the march and camp were cheerfully encountered, and borne with a fortitude unsurpassed by our ancestors
in their struggle for independence, while their courage in battle entitles them to rank with the soldiers of any army and of any
time. Their forbearance and discipline under strong provocation to retaliate for the cruelty of the enemy to our own citizens, is
not their least claim to the respect and admiration of their countrymen and of the world."
To his men,
despite the three days outcome, Lee would offer only the highest praise.
"General Orders, No. 76.
Hdqrs. Army of Northern Virginia, July 11, 1863.
After long and trying marches, endured with the fortitude that has ever characterized the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia,
you have penetrated the country of our enemies, and recalled to the defense of their own soil those who were engaged in the invasion
of ours. You have fought a fierce and sanguinary battle, which, if not attended with the success that has hitherto crowned your
efforts, was marked by the same heroic spirit that has commanded the respect of your enemies, the gratitude of your country, and the
admiration of mankind..."
During the twilight years of his life, Union Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain would say of Robert Edward
Lee, "As to personal qualities, Lee's utter unselfishness, in fact his whole moral constitution, appeared
to us singularly fine. In his high characteristics as a man he compelled admiration among those who knew him, -
even as we did, - and he will command it for all the future."