Armies of the Confederate States
Robert E. Lee accepted the appointment of CSA General-in-Chief on January 31st, 1865:
"Deeply impressed the the difficulties and responsibilities of the position, and humbly invoking the guidance of the Almighty God, I rely for success upon the courage and firmness of the people, confident that their united efforts under the blessing of Heaven will secure peace and independence." —R. E. Lee upon being appointed General-In-Chief
"Providence raises up the man for the time, and a man for this occasion, we believe, has been raised up in Robert E. Lee, the Washington of the second American Revolution." —The Richmond Dispatch, February 7, 1865
"Public demand led to [Lee’s] reluctant acceptance of an appointment as general-in-chief. The Confederate Congress and Virginia Legislature adopted resolutions asking for Lee’s appointment, but Lee told the president that he did not want the job. Davis was hard pressed to sustain his administration, though, and wanted to share responsibility. On February 9, Lee accepted a rank similar to that bestowed upon Washington." —Richard B. McCaslin, Lee in the Shadow of Washington
Originally five officers in the South were appointed to the rank of general, and only two more would follow. These generals occupied the senior posts in the Confederate Army, mostly entire army or military department commanders, and advisers to Jefferson Davis. This rank is equivalent to general in the modern U.S. Army, and the grade is often referred to in modern writings as "full general" to help differentiate it from the generic term "general" meaning simply "general officer"
All Confederate generals were enrolled in the ACSA to ensure that they outranked all militia officers, except for Edmund Kirby Smith, who was appointed general late in the war and into the PACS. P.G.T. Beauregard, had also initially been appointed a PACS general but was elevated to ACSA two months later with the same date of rank. These generals outranked all other grades of generals, as well as all lesser officers in the Confederate States Army.
The first group of officers appointed to general were Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard, with their seniority in that order. This ordering caused Cooper, a staff officer who would not see combat, to be the senior general officer in the CSA. That seniority strained the relationship between Joseph E. Johnston and Jefferson Davis. Johnston had been the only general officer in the U.S. Army who left for the South, so he considered himself the senior officer in the Confederate States Army and resented the ranks that Davis had authorized. However, his position in the U.S. Army was staff, not line, which was evidently a criterion for Davis regarding seniority and rank in the Confederate Army.
On February 17, 1864, legislation was passed to allow Davis to appoint an officer to command the Trans-Mississippi Department, with the rank of general in the PACS. Edmund Kirby Smith was the only officer appointed to this position. Braxton Bragg was appointed a general in the ACSA with a date of rank of April 6, 1862, the day his commanding officer Albert Sidney Johnston died in combat.
The Congress passed legislation in May 1864 to allow for "temporary" general officers in the PACS, to be appointed by Davis and confirmed by the Senate, and given a non-permanent command by Davis. John Bell Hood was appointed a "temporary" general on July 18, 1864, the date he took command of the Army of Tennessee in the Atlanta Campaign, but this appointment was not confirmed by the Congress, and he reverted to his rank of lieutenant general in January 1865. In March 1865, Hood's status was spelled out by the Confederate Senate, which stated:
Resolved, That General J. B. Hood, having been appointed General, with temporary rank and command, and having been relieved from duty as Commander of the Army of Tennessee, and not having been reappointed to any other command appropriate to the rank of General, he has lost the rank of General, and therefore cannot be confirmed as such.By 1865 Jefferson Davis had lost widespread support throughout the South. As the Confederacy’s fortunes worsened, there was a growing sense that Davis lacked the political and, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, the military skills needed to deliver victory and independence from the Union. Davis’s increasingly restive detractors began looking for ways to diminish the president’s role and expand that of their great general, Robert E. Lee.
Early proposals for expanding Lee’s authority included the idea of simply making him Commander-in-Chief and thus de facto leader of the Confederacy. This never came to pass, in large part because Lee himself made it clear that he had no wish to encroach upon Davis’s authority. Despite this there was a widespread desire among the public, as reflected in this Act of the Confederate Congress, for Lee’s role to be expanded and Davis’s diminished. On February 6, 1865 Adjutant and Inspector General Samuel Cooper issued General Orders #3, which announced Lee as the General-in-Chief.
This Act gave formal expression to this important shift in the Confederate South. A highly important piece of Confederate legislation, these orders not only represent the culmination of Robert E. Lee's career, but had significant effects on the outcome of the war. After Lee was appointed "General in Chief" he became, like Washington for the North, the central figure in which the Confederates placed their hopes. Consequently, when Lee surrendered to Grant, the implications were profound. "Without their Washington, Southerner’s realized their revolution was over" (McCaslin, 191).
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