Gen. Robert E. Lee
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Quotes for
Gen. Robert E. Lee (Character)
from Gettysburg (1993)

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Gettysburg (1993)
General Robert E. Lee: To be a good soldier you must love the army. To be a good commander you must be able to order the death of the thing you love.

General Robert E. Lee: Gen. Longstreet, do you mind if I accompany you?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Not at all. I am very glad to have you with us, Sir.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: The heat reminds me of Mexico.
General Robert E. Lee: Yes, but the air was very dry.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: That was a good outfit. I remember storming the ramparts of Chapultepec with old George Pickett, REynolds, my old friend Ulysses Sam Grant. There was some good men in that army.
General Robert E. Lee: Yes sir, there were indeed.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Some of those men are waiting for us now up ahead on those ridges.
[pause]
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: I don't know. I sometimes feel troubled. Those fellas - those boys in blue - they never quite seem the enemy.
General Robert E. Lee: I know.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: I used to command some of those boys. Swore an oath too. Ah... I - I couldn't fight against Georgia, South Carolina. Not against my own family...
General Robert E. Lee: No Sir. There was always a higher duty to Virginia. That was our first duty. There was never any question or doubt about that.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Guess so.
General Robert E. Lee: Let us no think about that now. The issue is in God's hands. We can only do our duty.
General Robert E. Lee: General, soldiering has one great trap: to be a good solider you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. We do not fear our own death you and I. But there comes a time...
General Robert E. Lee: We are never quite prepared for so many to die. Oh, we do expect the occasional empty chair. A salute to fallen comrades. But this war goes on and on and the men die and the price gets ever higher. We are prepared to loose some of us, but we are never prepared to loose all of us. And there is the great trap General. When you attack, you must hold nothing back. You must commit yourself totally. We are adrift here in a sea of blood and I want it to end. I want this to be the final battle.

Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart: You wish to see me, sir?
General Robert E. Lee: [Lee nods and sighs; there is a short pause] It is the opinion of some... excellent officers that you have let us all down.
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart: [angry at the slight to his honor] General Lee, sir, if you will please tell me who these gentlemen are...
General Robert E. Lee: There will be none of that. There is no time.
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart: Sir, I only ask that I be allowed to defend my...
General Robert E. Lee: [raising his voice slightly] There is no time.
[Stuart looks stunned]
General Robert E. Lee: General Stuart... your mission was to free this army from the enemy cavalry and report any movement by the enemy's main body. That mission was not fulfilled. You left here with no word of your movement or movement of the enemy for several days. Meanwhile, we were engaged here and drawn into battle without adequate knowledge of the enemy's strength or position, without knowledge of the ground. So it is only by God's grace that we did not meet disaster here.
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart: General Lee, there were reasons...
General Robert E. Lee: [Lee holds up his hand to silence Stuart] Perhaps you misunderstood my orders? Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Well, sir... this must be made *very* clear. You, sir, with your cavalry, are the eyes of this army. Without your cavalry, we are made blind. That has already happened once. It must never, *never* happen again.
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart: [Stuart stares at the floor, then slowly draws his sword in token of his resignation] Sir... since I no longer hold the General's...
General Robert E. Lee: [suddenly furious, Lee pounds the table with his fist] I have *told* you, there is no time for that! There is no time!
[he pauses, takes a deep breath, and calms down again]
General Robert E. Lee: There is another fight comin' tomorrow, and we need you. We need every man, God knows. You must take what I have told you, and learn from it, as a man does.
[he takes Stuart's sword and replaces it in its scabbard]
General Robert E. Lee: There has been a mistake. It will not happen again; I know your quality. You are one of the finest cavalry officers I have ever known, and your service to this army has been invaluable. Now... let us speak no more of this.
[he turns and slowly walks away, then turns back to Stuart]
General Robert E. Lee: The matter is concluded. Good night, General.
[not knowing what to think of this show of mercy, Stuart snaps a crisp salute, and Lee returns it]

General Robert E. Lee: What day is it now, Major?
Maj. Walter H. Taylor: [takes out his pocket watch] It's long after midnight, sir. It's already Friday.
General Robert E. Lee: Friday, July the 3rd?
Maj. Walter H. Taylor: Yes, sir.
General Robert E. Lee: Then tomorrow is the Fourth of July.
Maj. Walter H. Taylor: Sir?
General Robert E. Lee: Independence Day?
Maj. Walter H. Taylor: Huh. I'd quite forgotten.
General Robert E. Lee: The good Lord has a sense of humor.

Maj. Walter H. Taylor: General Trimble is waiting. Will you see him now?
General Robert E. Lee: Very well.
[he looks at Marshall]
General Robert E. Lee: Major, I want a scouting party sent out posthaste to find General Stuart.
Maj. Charles Marshall: Yes, sir.
General Robert E. Lee: Thank you.
Maj. Charles Marshall: Right away, sir.
General Robert E. Lee: [Trimble enters the room] General Trimble.
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: [Trimble salutes, and Lee returns it] Sir, I most respectfully request another assignment.
General Robert E. Lee: [Lee looks at Trimble, then sits down] Do please go on, General.
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: The man is a disgrace! Sir, have you been listening at all to... to what the aides have been telling you? Ask General Gordon or General Ewell. Ask them. We could've taken that hill! God in His wisdom knows we *should've* taken it! There was no one there, no there at all, and it commanded the town.
[he sighs]
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: General Gordon saw it. I mean, he was with us! Me and Ewell and Gordon, all standing there in the dark like fat, great idiots with that bloody damned hill empty!
[he stops]
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: I beg your pardon, General.
[Lee nods]
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: That bloody damned hill was bare as his bloody damned head! We all saw it, as God is my witness! We were all there. I said to him, "General Ewell, we have *got* to take that hill." General Jackson would not have stopped like this, with the bluebellies on the run and there was plenty of light left on a hill like that empty! Well, God help us, I... I don't know wh... I don't know why I...
[he stops]
General Robert E. Lee: Do please continue, General.
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: Yes, sir. Sir... I said to him, General Ewell, these words. I said to him, "Sir, give me one division and I will take that hill." And he said nothing. He just stood there, he stared at me. I said, "General Ewell, give me one brigade and I will take that hill." I was becoming disturbed, sir. And General Ewell put his arms behind him and blinked. So I said, General, give me one *regiment* and I will take that hill." And he said *nothing*! He just stood there! I threw down my sword, down on the ground in front of him!
[he stops and regains his composure]
Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble: We... we could've done it, sir. A blind man should've seen it. Now they're working up there. You can hear the axes of the Federal troops. And so in the morning... many a good boy will die... taking that hill.

[actual quote, after Pickett's Charge fails]
General Robert E. Lee: General, you must look to your division.
Major General George E. Pickett: General Lee... I have no division.

General Robert E. Lee: In the morning, there's to be a great battle. Tomorrow or the next day will determine the war.

General Robert E. Lee: [Lee is comtemplating the battle on the night of July 1]
[voiceover]
General Robert E. Lee: In the morning is the great battle. Tomorrow or the next day will determine the war. Virginia is here. All the South is here. What will you do tomorrow? In the morning, the enemy will be up in fortified positions on high ground. Longstreet's corps will be coming up, and... my boys'll be ready to finish the job. If I tell them to withdraw now... no, sir. They've been patient for far too long. With the enemy out there up on the hill, they'll be ready to finish the job. But I don't even know how much is up there. How many men? How many cannon? I don't know the ground or the flanks. I don't know. If I wait in the morning, the early morning, maybe Meade, under pressure, will attack. Hmm. That would make General Longstreet very happy. But I don't think Meade will come down. And I don't think I can withdraw. So... God's will. Thy will be done.

General Robert E. Lee: But this war goes on and on and the men die and the price gets even higher. We are prepared to lose some of us, but we are never prepared to lose all of us. We are adrift here in a sea of blood and I want it to end. I want this to be the final battle.

[seeing the remains of Pickett's Division after the charge]
General Robert E. Lee: This is all my fault.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet: [Lee and Longstreet are discussing Harrison's report on the Union army on the night of 30 June] He says the lead element is here with the Third Corps...
[he points on the map]
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: ... the Sixth right behind...
[he points to a different spot]
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: ... supported by a column of Federal cavalry. Seven corps altogether. The First and Eleventh are above Taneytown, and there's more cavalry two hours east. There may be as many as 100,000 altogether.
General Robert E. Lee: Do you believe the man, this Mr. Harrison?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: No choice. Oh, you remember him, sir; the actor from Mississippi?
General Robert E. Lee: An actor? We move on the word of an actor?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Can't afford not to.
General Robert E. Lee: [Lee takes off his glasses and sits down in a camp chair] There would be some word from General Stuart. General Stuart would not leave us blind.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Oh, one other thing. Hooker's been replaced. George Meade's the new commander. Harrison read it in the Yankee papers.
General Robert E. Lee: [thoughtfully] George Meade. Pennsylvania man. Meade would be cautious, I think. Take him some time to get organized. Perhaps we should move more swiftly. There may be an opportunity here.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Yes, sir.
General Robert E. Lee: Well...
[Lee gets up and walks back over to the map table]
General Robert E. Lee: ... no reason to delay. I think we should concentrate here.
[he points to a spot on the map]
General Robert E. Lee: All the roads converge just east of this gap, and this junction will be very necessary.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Yes, sir.
General Robert E. Lee: I left my spectacles over there. What is the name of this town?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: [Longstreet leans over and reads the name on the map] "Gettysburg."
General Robert E. Lee: Very well.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet: This is almost perfect, now we got them where we want them. Swing south and east, down the road, get between them and Lincoln, find some good high ground, then they'll have to hit us, they'll have to, we'll have them, sir.
General Robert E. Lee: You mean disengage?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Well sir, I've always been under the impression that it was our strategy to conduct a defensive campaign wherever possible in order to keep the army intact.
General Robert E. Lee: Granted, but the situation has changed now.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: In what way?
General Robert E. Lee: We've already pushed them back, they're on the run, vacating the town. How can we move off to the south and the east in the face of the enemy? What are you thinking, General?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Maybe we should not have fought here?
General Robert E. Lee: I know that. But we have prevailed. The men have prevailed.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Yes sir, they have always done that. But in the morning we may be outnumbered, and they'll be entrenched on the high ground.
General Robert E. Lee: General, you know as well as I, we have never concerned ourselves with being outnumbered.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: That is true, sir, you are right. If we move to the south to Washington, they have to pursue us, and then we can fight on ground of our choosing.
General Robert E. Lee: But the enemy is here! We did not want the fight but the fight is here! How can I ask this army to retreat in the face of what they have done this day?
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Not retreat, sir. Re-deploy.
General Robert E. Lee: Our guns will move them off that hill or Ewell will push them off. But if Meade is there tomorrow, I cannot move this army away, no sir, I will attack him.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: General, if Meade is up there tomorrow, it is because he wants us to attack him. We pushed back two corps, but there are five more coming.

General Robert E. Lee: Yes, sir, general. We will attack the center. But I believe you are right about the flank. Hood and McLaws were both very badly damaged yesterday. What I will do is give you two other divisions: General Pettigrew and General Trimble. They are stronger and more rested, and so you will have nearly three divisions at your command, including Pickett. Your objection will be that clump of trees yonder.
[he points toward the Union line]
General Robert E. Lee: The attack will be proceeded by massed artillery. We'll concentrate all our guns on that one small area. A feu d'enfer, as Napoleon would call it. When the artillery has had its effect, your charge will break the line. You will have nearly 15,000 men at your command, general. And you may begin whenever you are ready, but plan it well. Do plan it well, I pray you, sir. We stake everything on this.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: Sir with your permission... Sir, I've been a soldier all my life. I've fought from the ranks on up, you know my service. But sir, I must tell you now, I believe this attack will fail. No 15,000 men ever made could take that ridge. It's a distance of more than a mile, over open ground. When the men come out of the trees, they will be under fire from Yankee artillery from all over the field. And those are Hancock's boys! And now, they have the stone wall like we did at Fredericksburg.
General Robert E. Lee: We do our duty, general. We do what we must do.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet: [resignedly] Yes, sir.


Gods and Generals (2003)
General Robert E. Lee: It is well that war is so terrible... or we should grow too fond of it.

General Robert E. Lee: He's lost his left arm. I've lost my right.

General Robert E. Lee: I never thought I'd see the day when the President of the United States would raise an army to invade his own country. No, Mister Blair, I cannot... I will not lead it.

General Robert E. Lee: If Washington will end their side of the fighting and recall their armies, this war will be over. We must show the enemy that they can not win. If we threaten the northern cities, if we threaten to bring the blood into the North, great pressure on Mr. Lincoln to end this war.

Col. Porter Alexander: [Speaking with General Lee on the Confederate positions on Marye's Heights] General, they going to come at us here?
General Robert E. Lee: Colonel Alexander, Federal troops amassed across that river are watching us prepare for them. If I were General Burnside, I would not attack here. I'd move back upstream, come across from above us. But Burnside is not a man with the luxury of flexibility. He's being pushed from behind by loud voices in Washington, by newspapers who demand quick action. But we're here, and so he will attack us here.


Abraham Lincoln (1930)
[an aide suggests that General Lee surrender]
Gen. Robert E. Lee: [Grasping sword] Surrender? My poor army! Why I'd rather die a thousand deaths than to do that to them.
Aide: There, there, General. You must lie down and rest.
Gen. Robert E. Lee: [Introspectively] Rest... that's a beautiful word.