Some people believe that Robert E. Lee did not have that much influence on the South. They believe that he was a just a great general and that he didn’t have much impact on the Confederate states. These people must have been from the North because General Robert E. Lee had a great impact on the South during the war, but he had an even greater impact after the war.
People do not always act in their own interests. The South spent more in loss of lives than keeping slavery was worth in economic terms. The North spent more fighting the South than it would have cost to pay for the slave owners for their property. “People by large are guided by leaders. When their leaders march off into a folly, the people often follow” (Alexander 318).
The smartest thing Lee ever did was surrender at Appomattox and put an end to the fighting. Before Lee surrendered, he was confronted by Porter Alexander and offered the idea of guerrilla warfare. Lee forcefully and finally rejected the idea of this. He saved countless lives of his soldiers by rejecting this idea. Lee made this statement in the hours before the surrender, “It is our duty to live, for what will become of the women and children of the South if we are not here to support and protect them” (Bradford 111).
The South had a great deal of honor and respect for Lee. Everyone knew that Lee had fought to the very end. He had a great influence over the South, consequently, when Lee asked his men to be as good as citizens of a united nation as they had been good soldiers in war, they agreed whole-heartily. His ideas “turned many Southerners away from their feelings of hate and revenge toward cooperation and peace” (Alexander 320).
After the war, the South realized that slavery was too expensive. The day after the surrender, Lee told Grant, “The South was now as opposed to human bondage as the North” (Alexander 320). The only real issue between the North and South had been settled.
If Robert. E. Lee wanted to continue fighting the civil war, he could have with much support. Lee was loved deeply by his soldiers, and they would have fought with him to the very end. “That Lee was beloved by his army it is hardly necessary to say, immensely beloved, beloved as few generals have ever been” (Bradford 82). Lee’s army trusted him and his decisions. They followed his orders and would have followed the order to stay and fight.
Lee made the South realize that the Civil War was actually a war between brother, not a war between enemies. If Lee had called for more fighting, the history books would be telling of more bloodshed and division between the North and the South.
After the war, Lee turned down offers to become an executive and live the rest of his life in a wealthy fashion. Instead, he became president of Washington and Lee University. Here, he taught new Southerners to be “Patriotic, loyal citizens of a united nation” (Alexander 320).
Lee did not win the Civil War for the South. He made it possible, though, for the North to reunite in friendship and unity. He made it possible for the North and South to create the most successful nation in history. Surely, people can see that he had a much more profound impact than being just a great general in the worst war in American history.