Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10, 1865

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

In recognition of Lee's Farewell Address to his army, the day after his formal surrender to General Grant, I offer his remarks. Yes, this post may seem a tad repetitive - seeing that I spoke of the surrender at length a week or so ago. But too bad. I have a thing for anniversaries.

I do have a question though, for you...my readers. Do Lee's words mark the origin of the Lost Cause? He does indeed touch on one very important Lost Cause point. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

R. E. Lee, General

And I say....

Peace to you,



  1. If memory serves, Lee produced another document around this same time that told a different story than the one presented in General Order 9. Ten days later, he wrote to Davis (I'm not sure if he received it). Joseph T. Glatthaar cites it in General Lee's Army: from Victory to Collapse (467-468):

    "Lee described the "moral condition" for the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia. "The operations which occurred while the troops were in the entrenchments in front of Richmond and Petersburg were not marked by the boldness and decision which formerly characterized them. Except in particular circumstances, they were feeble; and a want of confidence seemed to possess officers and men. This condition, I think, was produced by the state of feeling in the country and the communications received by the men from their homes, urging their return and the abandonment of the field."

    Glatthaar supports both ideas, overwhelming numbers and internal collapse. I agree, but it shows too that Lee told his troops what they wanted to hear. It's a pity that so many believed him, leading in part to the Lost Cause school of the Civil War which plagues us to this day.

  2. Lee's instruction that they are to remain at their homes until exchanged strikes an odd note. Any indication that any of the men thought there was any possibility they would return to the army?

  3. Lee's letter to Jefferson Davis, noted by Scott A. MacKenzie, concerning the "moral condition" of the army points to a massive political collapse of the CSA as the real cause for the failure of the Confederate Army on the field. The idea that the white people of the South came to reject and oppose the war is, of course, completely antithetical not only to the ideology of the Lost Cause, but to the way that the war has been taught and understood by generations. Has any historian explored the political collapse of the CSA in detail?