US Civil War

Who is the gentlemanly top commander of the confederate army?

User Avatar
Wiki User
August 29, 2010 7:40PM

There were two - both of them extremely gentlemanly.

For most of the war, there was no-one in the job of General-in-Chief, and supreme command was notionally held by the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, an ex-West Point regular, who saw himself as a great General. Experience showed that he was not in that league, though nobody doubted that he was a very worthy aristocrat, with a strong feeling for his feudal obligations. In fact, he treated his slaves so well that they didn't want their freedom. He also assumed that all slave-owners adopted the same responsible and humane outlook. Based in Mississippi (or 'down the river'), he really ought to have known better than that. His conduct at the moment of defeat showed that he was out of his depth - fleeing into Georgia and making wild claims that he and his cabinet would continue the struggle from somewhere in the West.

Much too late to make any difference, Davis had created the post of General-in-Chief, to which he appointed Robert E. Lee as the obvious choice. Lee was also a traditional landowning aristocrat, and his personal nobility impressed all who met him. His conduct at the moment of defeat reflected true greatness of character. The dialogue between him and U.S. Grant was a model of wise leadership, Lee reacting to Grant's generous terms by telling his men to go home peacefully, and not listen to some officers who were urging them to take to the hills and start guerrilla operations. For the rest of his life, he would not allow a bad word against Grant.