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Getting Right With Robert E. Lee
How to know the unknowable man
May/June 1991 | Volume 42, Issue 3
When all is said and done, knowing Lee is a task that requires less analysis of his psyche and more analysis of his deeds.
Porter Alexander recorded a prophecy about Lee, made early in the war, before he had a record as a battlefield commander, that has been widely quoted. Alexander asked an aide to President Jefferson Davis if he thought Lee had audacity enough to lead a field army. “Lee is audacity personified,” the man replied. “His name is audacity, and you need not be afraid of not seeing all of it that you will want to see.” Lee’s was an instinctive audacity for doing whatever was necessary for winning, and if it resulted in such repulses as Malvern Hill and Pickett’s Charge, it was also responsible for the brilliance of Chancellorsville and Second Manassas and a dozen other combats that extended the life of the Confederacy beyond all reasonable expectations. That singular accomplishment is the mark of the man.