On Monday 22 April 1861…

Time to Read: Just over a minute

Time to Listen: A little bit more

On Monday 22 April 1861…

Robert E. Lee was named commander of Virginia forces, after turning down the offer to command the entire Union army.

Perhaps the most beloved American General of all time – what were his three most outstanding qualities of leadership?

1. He genuinely cared for his men.

In short, Lee turned a rag-tag bunch of men into one of the most impressive fighting forces history has ever known. And, at the end, at Appomattox Court House, with the South a beaten force, Lee chose surrender on terms that would ensure his men had safe passage home, and could keep their horses.

2. He was a brilliant battlefield commander.

He outwitted his opposite number on the Union side for most of the war, but was eventually crushed by the sheer weight of the Northern army’s numbers. He knew how to do a lot, with a little. Lee’s most brilliantly fought battle was the defeat of Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville on May 1-4, 1863, when he was vastly outnumbered. Sadly, his early victories in the war are overshadowed by his one big mistake – fighting at Gettysburg, when he was advised (By General Longstreet)
not to fight, and instead to march in the other direction, to take Washington, capital of the North.

3. His leadership skills were transferable across different contexts.

He inherited the debt-ridden Arlington plantation and streamlined its operations, as a teacher he took a backwater college, Washington, and transformed it into the prestigious Washington and Lee University, and after the war he became a figurehead in uniting the nation.

The leader in history that I would most want to meet –
General Lee.

With love and best wishes to you all


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