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The Leadership of Robert E. Lee

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Robert E Lee (1807-1870), a well known military figure, exhibited epochal leadership in both Union and Confederate uniform. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829; receiving an official commission to the US Army. His emacculate record followed several victories during the Mexican-American war, acquiring him the rank of Colonel. After Virginia formally succeeded from the Union, Lee resigned his commission and served the Northern Virginia Army. Lee later on acquired the highest rank amongst the Confederacy; leading his men to Southern Sovereignty. (History 2009) Robert E. Lee’s leadership, possesses lessons from success. However valuable lessons come from his failures alike.

Transformational leadership is displayed among inspirational and people focused leaders. Robert E Lee attributes to this idea, “No matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops, disaster must sooner or later ensue. ” (Stilwell, 2018)) Retaining confidence, moral and strength amongst soldiers proved to be ideal under Lee’s direction. “The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.” (Stilwell, 2018)

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Reluctantly resigning his commision, and assuming command of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee is recorded saying. “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country then a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice anything but honor for it’s preservation.” (Allen) Robert E Lee acknowledged the detriment succession would behold; seeking it’s avoidance to preserve life. Post-Succession, Lee compromised with the current situation and joined the Confederacy in order to defend southern sovereignty. Behavioral Theory would put Lee in the Middle of the Road Management. Lee was operationally concerned and the people concerned when analyzing the dangers of succession, but necessity to ensure sovereignty dominated. Being a change agent to his troops, Lee proclaims this; “True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them the desire to do right is precisely the same.” (Robert E Lee Quotes) Focusing, justifying, and strengthening southern patriotism, formulated under a defensive mission. Lee successfully fueled this idea and commanded his army for four years during the war. However what resulted in his demise was contradicting the southern “patriotism” he once rooted for. In 1863, Lee pushed northward, facing against Union forces on Union Land. This ultimately led to his defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. (History 2009)

Tactical and Technical Proficiency is significant for any leader. Amongst Lee’s victories are Chancellorsville, Bull Run and Fredericksvirg. When combatting a greeter echelon, Lee portrayed tactical strengths by attaining victories. (History 2009) However, one subjective tactical decision suggested by Lee proved to be fatal to southern success. Richmond, being 112 miles from the Maryland border, was the capital of the Confederacy. This city, being so close to the Union required exorbitant attention for its defense. This required resources that could have been used elsewhere to remain still, and protect a capital nextdoor to its enemy. (Virginia Museum)

Confidence is significant to every successful leader. Lee resigned his commision, held confidence in Virginia’s sovereignty, and took command of the Confederacy’s military. His confidence for Confederate victory resulted in him marching north leading to a Confederate surrender. Gettysburg, a three day battle, leaned toward southern victory for the first two days. Lee lacking drive, and tactical and technical proficiency, did not pursue retreating union forces. Portraying something between moral subjectivity, and lack of drive, a Union regroup surrounded his position claiming victory. (History 2009) Lee, being a risk taker, faced potential treason, fought against his army, marched into northern territory and in result surrendered. According to Gen. Daniel Allyn, Army vice chief of staff. ” One of our greatest military generals in the history of the nation was Robert E. Lee.” (Pawlyk, 2015)

Being one of the “greatest” military generals, Lee was accompanied by subordinate general officers that carried out his objectives. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a West Point Graduate served alongside Lee during his battles. Stonewall was known to be strict, secretive, and hard to please and expected obedience and loyalty under his guidance. Acquiring General Officer amongst various victoires established Stonewall’s reputation. (History 2009) Retrograde from Jackson, Gen. Johnston portrayed poor leadership. Johnston familiarized by his quick retreat in the Peninsula Campaign, was followed by Lee to lead the Confederacy in 1862. Johsnton was known for overly cautious strategies and various queries with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. After his resignation, Lee requested his recall to combat Union Gen. William T. Sherman. Johnston, having experience in the Mexian-American war, and American Civil War, possessed an over cautious attitude failed to stop Sherman’s offense. Gen.Johnston faced Sherman with half his force guarding a railroad. Lee understood Stonewall’s strengths, and attributed it to a shared victory when both are involved. To Lee’s demise, assigning Johnston to prevent Sherman’s advance was a failure; due to his overabundant caution on the battlefield. (History 2009)

Lee, understanding the war was approaching a close, adapted to the necessary conditions by pushing northward. Without thoroughly considering soldiers’ necessary needs and leadership, added with failure to adapt at Gettysburg, solidified the Confederate defeat. Lee’s resilience is strongly identified by his acceptance to a hardfought defeat. “don’t bring your sons up to detest the United States. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans”. (Stilwell 2018)


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