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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.

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Citations Robert Lee

„The education of a man is never completed until he dies.“

— Robert E. Lee
As quoted in Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 175

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„Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character.“

— Robert E. Lee
As quoted in General Robert E. Lee After Appomattox (1922), by Franklin Lafayette Riley, p. 18

„My experience through life has convinced me that, while moderation and temperance in all things are commendable and beneficial, abstinence from spirituous liquors is the best safeguard of morals and health.“

— Robert E. Lee
Letter to a "Friends of Temperance" society (9 December 1869); as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 170

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„After it is all over, as stupid a fellow as I am can see that mistakes were made. I notice, however, that my mistakes are never told me until it is too late, and you, and all my officers, know that I am always ready and anxious to have their suggestions.“

— Robert E. Lee
Remark to General Henry Heth, as quoted in R. E. Lee : A Biography, Vol. 3 (1935) by Douglas Southall Freeman <!-- also quoted in May I Quote You, General Lee? (2002) by Randall Bedwell, p. 63. New York: Gramercy Books -->

„Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.“

— Robert E. Lee
Letter purportedly written to his son, G. W. Custis Lee (5 April 1852); published in The New York Sun (26 November 1864). Although the “Duty Letter” was presumed authentic for many decades and included in many biographies of Lee, it was repudiated in December 1864 by “a source entitled to know.” This repudiation was rediscovered by University of Virginia law professor Charles A. Graves who verified that the letter was inconsistent with Lee's biographical facts and letter-writing style. Lee's son also wrote to Graves that he did not recall ever receiving such a letter. “The Forged Letter of General Robert E. Lee”, Proceedings of the 26th annual meeting of the Virgina State Bar Association 17:176 http://books.google.com/books?id=EMkDAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA176 (1914)

„Tell Hill he must come up … Strike the tent.“

— Robert E. Lee
Reported as his last words. There are suggestions that Lee's autobiographer, Douglas Southall Freeman embellished Lee's final moments; as Lee suffered a stroke on September 28, 1870. Dying two weeks later, on October 12, 1870, shortly after 9 a.m. from the effects of pneumonia. Lee's stroke had resulted in aphasia, rendering him unable to speak. When interviewed the four attending physicians and family stated "he had not spoken since 28 September..."

„Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.“

— Robert E. Lee
Supposedly made to Governor Fletcher S. Stockdale (September 1870), as quoted in The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, pp. 497-500; however, most major researchers including Douglas Southall Freeman, Shelby Dade Foote, Jr., and Bruce Catton consider the quote a myth and refuse to recognize it. “T. C. Johnson: Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, 498 ff. Doctor Dabney was not present and received his account of the meeting from Governor Stockdale. The latter told Dabney that he was the last to leave the room, and that as he was saying good-bye, Lee closed the door, thanked him for what he had said and added: "Governor, if I had foreseen the use these people desired to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox, no, sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in this right hand." This, of course, is second-hand testimony. There is nothing in Lee's own writings and nothing in direct quotation by first-hand witness that accords with such an expression on his part. The nearest approach to it is the claim by H. Gerald Smythe that "Major Talcott" — presumably Colonel T. M. R. Talcott — told him Lee stated he would never have surrendered the army if he had known how the South would have been treated. Mr. Smythe stated that Colonel Talcott replied, "Well, General, you have only to blow the bugle," whereupon Lee is alleged to have answered, "It is too late now" (29 Confederate Veteran, 7). Here again the evidence is not direct. The writer of this biography, talking often with Colonel Talcott, never heard him narrate this incident or suggest in any way that Lee accepted the results of the radical policy otherwise than with indignation, yet in the belief that the extremists would not always remain in office”.

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„I think it is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony. It is particularly incumbent upon those charged with the instruction of the young to set them an example.“

— Robert E. Lee
Letter to trustees, as quoted in "Honoring Lee Anew" http://wluspectator.com/2014/07/15/cox-honoring-lee-anew/ (15 July 2014), by David Cox, A Magazine of Student Thought and Opinion

„I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.“

— Robert E. Lee
As quoted in The American Soul: An Appreciation of the Four Greatest Americans and their Lessons for Present Americans (1920) by Charles Sherwood Farriss, p. 63 <!-- also quoted in The Civil War (1991) by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ch. 5 -->

„The Abolitionist... must see that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means and suasion.“

— Robert E. Lee
Speech in the Senate (3 March 1854); Quoted in Douglas Southall Freeman (2008) Lee, p. 93

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