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Robert Lee

Date de naissance: 19. janvier 1807
Date de décès: 12. octobre 1870

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Robert Edward Lee, né le 19 janvier 1807 à la plantation de Stratford Hall et mort le 12 octobre 1870 à Lexington, est un militaire américain. Diplômé de l'académie militaire de West Point, il est officier du Génie plus de trente ans dans l'armée des États-Unis avant que n'éclate la guerre de Sécession où il s'illustre d'abord comme commandant de l'armée de Virginie du Nord, puis comme général en chef des armées des États confédérés.

Fils d'Henry Lee III, un officier révolutionnaire pendant la guerre d'indépendance des États-Unis, Robert Lee participe à la guerre américano-mexicaine. Lorsque la Virginie fait sécession de l'Union en avril 1861, Lee choisit de combattre pour son État d'origine, en dépit de son souhait de voir le pays rester intact et malgré l'offre d'un commandement dans l'Union. Au cours de la première année de la guerre, Lee sert de conseiller militaire au président confédéré Jefferson Davis. Une fois qu'il prend le commandement de la principale armée de campagne en 1862, il apparaît vite comme un tacticien habile et un excellent commandant sur le champ de bataille, remportant la plupart de ses batailles contre des armées de l'Union numériquement bien supérieures. Les stratégies sur le long terme de Lee sont plus discutables et ses deux grandes offensives dans le Nord finissent en défaites. Ses tactiques agressives, qui entraînent de lourdes pertes à un moment où la Confédération manque d'hommes, ont fait l'objet de critiques au cours des dernières années. Les campagnes du général de l'Union Ulysses S. Grant mettent à mal la Confédération en 1864, et en 1865, malgré de lourdes pertes portées à l'ennemi, Lee est incapable de changer le cours de la guerre. Il se rend à Grant à Appomattox le 9 avril 1865. Comme Lee avait pris le commandement suprême des armées confédérées restantes, les autres forces confédérées capitulent rapidement après sa reddition. Lee appelle par la suite à la réconciliation entre le Nord et le Sud.

Après la guerre, il devient président de l'université de Washington, qui fut rebaptisée Washington and Lee University après sa mort. Il soutient le programme du président Andrew Johnson prônant la reconstruction, tout en s'opposant aux propositions des Républicains radicaux pour donner aux esclaves libérés le droit de vote et de retirer le droit de vote aux ex-Confédérés. Il exhorte à reconsidérer leur position entre le Nord et le Sud en favorisant la réinsertion des anciens Confédérés dans la vie politique de la nation. Lee est devenu le grand héros sudiste de la guerre et une icône après-guerre de la « Cause perdue » pour certains. Mais sa popularité grandit surtout après sa mort en 1870, et ce même dans le Nord.

Citations Robert Lee

„A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: 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. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly — the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which imparts sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others. [http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/LEE/gentdef.html "Definition of a Gentleman"], a memorandum found in his papers after his death, as quoted in Lee the American (1912) by Gamaliel Bradford, p. 233

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„I shall carry with me to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration and your name and fame will always be dear to me. Save for defense of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: Since my interview with you on the 18th I have felt that I ought not longer retain my commission in the Army … It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle, it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed … I shall carry with me to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration and your name and fame will always be dear to me. Save for defense of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword. Letter to General Winfield Scott (20 April 1861) after turning down an offer by Abraham Lincoln of supreme command of the U.S. Army; as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 139

„You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right … Never do anything wrong to make a friend or keep one; the man who requires you to do so, is dearly purchased at a sacrifice. Deal kindly, but firmly with all your classmates; you will find it the policy which wears best. Above all do not appear to others what you are not. As quoted in Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography (1986) by Robert A. Caro and William Knowlton Zinsser. Also quoted in Truman by David McCullough (1992), p. 44, New York: Simon & Schuster.-

„My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them or indisposed me to serve them“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future. The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope. Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Marshall (September 1870)

„The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession: anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and all the other patriots of the Revolution. … Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defense will draw my sword on none. [http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/01/03/robert-e-Lee-owned-slaves-and-defended-slavery/ Letter to his son], G. W. Custis Lee (23 January 1861).

„I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession: anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and all the other patriots of the Revolution. … Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defense will draw my sword on none. [http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/01/03/robert-e-Lee-owned-slaves-and-defended-slavery/ Letter to his son], G. W. Custis Lee (23 January 1861).

„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.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: 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. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly — the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which imparts sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others. [http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/LEE/gentdef.html "Definition of a Gentleman"], a memorandum found in his papers after his death, as quoted in Lee the American (1912) by Gamaliel Bradford, p. 233

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„The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future. The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope. Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Marshall (September 1870)

„Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession: anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and all the other patriots of the Revolution. … Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defense will draw my sword on none. [http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/01/03/robert-e-Lee-owned-slaves-and-defended-slavery/ Letter to his son], G. W. Custis Lee (23 January 1861).

„What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world!“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. … My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men. Letter to his wife on Christmas Day, two weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg (25 December 1862).

„I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. [http://www.fair-use.org/robert-e-lee/letter-to-his-wife-on-slavery Letter to his wife, Mary Anne Lee] (27 December 1856)

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„My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. … My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men. Letter to his wife on Christmas Day, two weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg (25 December 1862).

„Never do anything wrong to make a friend or keep one“

— Robert E. Lee
Context: You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right … Never do anything wrong to make a friend or keep one; the man who requires you to do so, is dearly purchased at a sacrifice. Deal kindly, but firmly with all your classmates; you will find it the policy which wears best. Above all do not appear to others what you are not. As quoted in Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography (1986) by Robert A. Caro and William Knowlton Zinsser. Also quoted in Truman by David McCullough (1992), p. 44, New York: Simon & Schuster.-

„I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself.“

— Robert E. Lee
Comment regarding officers who became inebriated, as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1874) by John William Jones, p. 170

„It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.“

— Robert E. Lee
Comment to James Longstreet, on seeing a Union charge repelled in the Battle of Fredericksburg (13 December 1862)

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