Robert E. Lee played a vital role… in bringing the Civil War to a conciliatory close. Though he compared his surrender to Grant to “dying a thousand deaths” Lee understood that the two men were doing more than just ending battlefield hostilities; they were working to bring the nation back together. The loyal and dependable Army of Northern Virginia would have followed Lee into hell, he had to convince them to join in the noble crusade of rebuilding.
“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them: but, feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain there until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
Lee did not carry misguided doctrines with him… following the war. He accepted the Confederate defeat and always looked to the future. He lived out his years chastising fellow former Confederates who argued with Federal authority, “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South.”