Robert E. Lee, like most generals for the Union and the Confederacy, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Although he was offered command of the Union Army, Lee submitted his resignation on April 20, 1861- about six weeks after Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural - to side with his native state of Virginia. A close associate of C.S.A President Jefferson Davis, Lee assumed command of the Confederate Army in 1862.
Who were some of the other famous (or infamous) military leaders for the Confederate States of America?
- P.G.T. (Pierre Gustave Toutant) Beauregard was the hero of Ft. Sumter and the first battle of Bull Run.
- John C. Gordon - a critic of General Longstreet's actions at Gettysburg - wrote war memoirs that are available on-line.
- John Bell Hood - who evacuated Atlanta on September 1, 1864 - resigned his command after leading his men to defeat at the Battle of Nashville.
- Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson - a popular, capable and resolute general - was also an instructor at VMI (Virginia Military Institute). After Jackson was injured at the battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee sent him a famous message: "Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead." Jackson died of his injuries. General Lee was never able to adequately replace him.
Since the battle of Gettysburg, James Longstreet (a close friend of Robert E. Lee who called his second-in-command at Gettysburg "my old war-horse"), has not been admired in the South. Until 1998, no monument was erected in his memory. Even though he disagreed with some of Lee's orders, and warned against the plan of attack known as "Pickett's Charge," Longstreet is usually blamed for losing the battle. His memoirs include his reaction:
Bad as was being shot by some of our own troops in the Battle of the Wilderness - that was an honest mistake, one of the accidents of war - being shot at, since the war, by many officers, was worse.
The Confederacy had to build a Navy overnight and out of nothing. General Mansfield Lovell greatly contributed to the cause when he seized several commercial craft (like the CSS Governor Moore) that were refitted and became known as the "River Defense Fleet."
George Pickett, forever remembered by the failed "Pickett's Charge" at the battle of Gettysburg, wrote to his fiancé the day after the battle ended:
It is all over now. Many of us are prisoners, many are dead, many wounded, bleeding and dying. Your soldier lives and mourns and but for you, my darling, he would rather be back there with his dead, to sleep for all time in an unknown grave.
- The order for "Pickett's Charge" was signed by General Longstreet, even though he did not think the advance was a wise move. Many historians believe attaching Pickett's name to the disastrous attack on the third day of the battle at Gettysburg is unfair since Pickett himself did not "lead" the charge.
- One of the most villified CSA officers was Captain Henry Wirz who, for a time, ran the Andersonville Prison in Georgia. It is believed that more than 13,000 of the 49,485 Union prisoners sent to Andersonville between 1864-65 died there.
- After the war, Wirz was captured and tried - he had been the only remaining Confederate officer at the prison. Found guilty of the charges brought against him - he said he could not disobey the orders he was charged to carry out - he was publicly hanged in Washington, D.C. on November 10, 1865. He didn't die immediately of a broken neck, however. Writhing about, at the end of the rope, he ultimately succumbed to strangulation.