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Kevin M. Levin @KevinLevin
, 11 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
@mikerosenwald May want to check out the incredibly rich scholarship on Robert E. Lee's military career from the past two decades. A journal article from 1969, along with Edward Bonekemper's deeply flawed book does not inspire confidence in your analysis. washingtonpost.com/news/retropoli…
Let's look at some of the problems with Rosenwald's piece. First and foremost he relies heavily on Bonekemper, who published a number of books - none of which are original - on Lee's military career. All of it comes from Connelly and especially Alan Nolan's book *Lee Considered.*
The overall flaw here is with the assumption that we can somehow Monday-morning quarterback what would have led to a Confederate victory had Lee done x. The assumption that a defensive posture would have won the war simply doesn't hold up upon closer scrutiny.
Lee's early attempts at a defensive posture in western Virginia in 1861 did not bring results. In fact, he was severely criticized in the press for his reliance on the defensive. Ultimately, he was re-assigned as Davis's adviser in Richmond by 1862.
Confederate General Joseph Johnston relied heavily on the strategic defensive during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and ultimately ended with his back to the gates of Richmond. Confederate armies achieved little outside of Atlanta in1864 after relying on a defensive posture.
Lee won a great victory fighting on the defensive at Fredericksburg (Dec. 1862), but even he understood that it achieved very little. He was right. A few months later Union armies struck again just a few miles away at Chancellorsville (May 1863).
One important point that a number of Civil War scholars have pointed to is Lee's understanding that the Confederate citizenry desired to see their armies on the march and on the attack. In other words, they wanted to bring the war to their enemies.
Lee understood that the war could not be prosecuted without a continued commitment on the home front to continue to support the war effort. According to historians Gary Gallagher, Joseph Glatthhaar, etc this casts Lee decisively as a modern general.
According to Gallagher there is a reason that the Confederate citizenry placed their faith in Lee's ability to bring about battlefield victories and ultimately independence. Lee became by 1863 the face of Confederate nationalism because he achieved victories.
The question that needs to be answered is not why the Confederacy lost, but how it managed to remain a military threat for so long and how it came close to achieving its independence on more than one occasion. A big part of that answer has to do with Lee's generalship.
Further Reading:

Gallagher, Lee and His Army in Confederate History
Glatthaar, General Lee's Army
Carmichael ed., Audacity Personified
Woodworth, Davis & Lee At War
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