Newspaper Generals

In 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, lamenting on the current state of the War to a Georgia congressman, said “We have made a great mistake…and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be fatal mistake.”

Asked what that mistake was, Lee replied, “…In the beginning we appointed all our worst generals to command the armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.”

Lee went on to explain that he had planned a number of campaigns and battles with as much diligence, care and thought as he could. In his mind, the plans seemed to be perfect but when he had fought them, he discovered defects and wondered why he had not seen them in advance.

“When it was all over,” Lee said, “I found by reading a newspaper that these best editor generals saw all the defects plainly from the start. Unfortunately, they did not communicate their knowledge to me until it was too late.”

Ever the gentleman and patriot, General Lee said he had no ambition but to serve the Confederacy in any capacity for which he might be assigned. He had done the best he could in the field but had not succeeded as he had wished. Therefore, said Lee, “I am willing to yield my place to these best generals, and I will do my best for the cause in editing a newspaper.”

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