April, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the official end of the Civil War. The more we know about General Robert E. Lee, the more his character comes through. In addition to being a stalwart military mind and arguably as fine a general as ever came out of West Point, General Lee had unusually strong dedication and insight into what mattered most.
As he made his formal Farewell Address to the Army of Northern Virginia, at least one of his officers didn’t want to hear it. He advocated for General Lee to let him take to the hills and countryside with his men in a guerrilla war instead of surrendering.
Lee refused, saying that the soldiers “would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders … we would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”
That officer later shared his reaction to the general’s response. “I had not a single word to say in reply,” he said. “He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it that I was ashamed of having made it.”
The formal surrender of the soldiers of the Army took place two days later.