From the 2 January 1909 issue of The New York Times.


Greater Than Lee.

New York Times Saturday Review of Books:

I notice with consternation that in your issue for Dec. 26 a gentleman writes from Lynchburg deploring that the Confederate States lost in their struggle to break up our Union and praising Robert E. Lee as the greatest English-speaking General that has ever lived.

May I ask: Does this gentleman feel no pride when he beholds Old Glory, with its thirteen stripes and the larger number of stars denoting the growth of this Union? Does he not exult in the fact that in the Spanish-American war the Union was victorious? Does he not receive with pride the news of American victories in international contests? Is he not pleased to know that the American gunners are the most expert in the world; that these great and glorious United States are feared and respected abroad? Does he not rejoice that these United States exist, rather than two arring factions, continually at variance with each other, finally to succumb to some external power?

The Southerners may have been legally right to a certain point, but they committed an unpardonable error when they fired on the flag of the Union. It was this menace to the Great Republic, a single, undivided Union, that brought forth that splendid patriotic spirit so nobly and so fittingly set forth in Webster’s words: “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”

I concede that Lee was a great General; indeed well set above the commoncrowd that are branded great. However, his ability cannot compare with that of Gen. George Washington, a man who fought against tremendous odds, greater even than those against Lee—fought and won. Frederick the Great said that Washington was without question the most wonderful military strategist that ever headed an army, all this taking into account the masterly ability of such past leaders as Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and all others in the pages of history.

Washington’s retreat from the battle of Long Island and across New Jersey has been often hailed as the most skillful military manoeuvre ever accomplished. How, then, can Lee, great as he was, hope to compare with a man who ranks with the greatest masters of military tactics from the beginning of history to the present day?

New York. Dec. 26.