Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Lee on Failure, Hope, and Steadfastness

Today is the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s charge, which occurred on the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. This is Lee’s assessment, from a letter to President Jefferson Davis:

“No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me, nor should it be censured for the unreasonable expectations of the public. I am alone to blame, in perhaps expecting too much of its prowess & valor. It however in my opinion achieved under the guidance of the Most High a general success, though it did not win a victory. I thought at the time that the latter was practicable. I still think if all things could have worked together it would have been accomplished. But with the knowledge I then had, & in the circumstances I was then placed, I do not know what better course I could have pursued. With my present knowledge, & could I have foreseen that the attack on the last day would have failed to drive the enemy from his position, I should certainly have tried some other course. What the ultimate result would have been is not so clear to me.   Our loss has been heavy, that of the enemy’s proportionally so. His crippled condition enabled us to retire from the country comparatively unmolested.” — Robert E. Lee, July 31, 1863

A week later, Lee would follow this up with a letter of resignation, which included this oft-quoted section:

“We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies and to prevent our falling into greater disasters. Our people have only to be true and united, to bear manfully the misfortunes incident to war, and all will come right in the end.” — Robert E. Lee, August 8, 1863

Italics are mine. Contrary to the “Lost Cause” view of the war, that particular sentence seems to indicate that Lee at least still thought that ultimate victory was possible even at that late date.

[Click through to see these quotes in their full context.]

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