Question of the Week: 3/28-4/3/16


This week, Phill Greenwalt asks, “Was Fitzhugh Lee a good cavalry commander or a product of nepotism?” The same could be asked of Rooney Lee, too.

3 Responses to Question of the Week: 3/28-4/3/16

  1. Although their last names probably didn’t hurt Fitz and Rooney’s careers, both established themselves independently as some of the South’s fiercest and bravest cavalry leaders. Both were severely wounded in the war – Fitz (RE Lee’s nephew) in the Shenandoah Valley and Rooney (RE Lee’s son) in the Battle of Brandy Station at the beginning of his father’s second invasion of the North – the Gettysburg campaign). Soon after, Rooney became a POW and didn’t return to the Confederacy’s ranks until being exchanged in February 1864.

    Fitz’s career was more prominent. A West Point graduate, who was first wounded fighting Comanches in Texas in 1859, Fitz became a brigadier general in 1862 at age 26. By Appomattox, he commanded what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry.

  2. Agree with difficulty in assessing Rooney (too large for a man, too small for a horse) due to his wounds and POW status. But Fitz?? Heyday was as a politician after the War. Recall, he led the cavalry, while Pickett led the infantry from the “Shad Bake” on Hatcher’s Run on the afternoon of April 1, 1865 at Five Forks. ?? Wade HAMPTON, now there was a leader of the ANV cavalry, perhaps even better than Stuart!

  3. Lee was possibly promoted beyond his abilities. As a cavalry brigade commander he had few equals in either army. His 1862 exploits were the stuff of legend and he was Stuart’s right hand man. In 1864 he shows considerable cracks. He was slow at Trevilian Station. His actions at Wilson’s Wharf do not cast him a good light as either a combat commander or a human being. He was probably upset that he was not named Stuart’s replacement right away.

    To be fair, Lee might have also lost heart, particularly in 1865. Given the string of defeats and disasters after the fall of Atlanta, who could blame him.

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