Skip to Main Content
General Stephen D. Lee

General Stephen D. Lee

Herman Hattaway
Copyright Date: 1976
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    General Stephen D. Lee
    Book Description:

    This biographical portrait by a well known Civil War historian brings much deserved attention to an exceptional Confederate military figure who became one of the New South's most progressive leaders.

    Herman Hattaway's clear, swift narrative depicts Lee in brilliant performance at Second Manassas, Chickasaw Bayou, Nashville, and after the war as a leader who used his military skills and discipline to work in bringing prosperity and education into the defeated South.

    After the war Lee established a home in Mississippi and found fulfillment in his calling to be the first president of Mississippi A & M College (today Mississippi State University), where he preached the message of applying brain power to farming. His admirers bestowed upon him the title "Father of Industrial Education in the South."

    Though the significance of Stephen D. Lee was long overlooked in historical perspectives of the Civil War and the development of the New South, Hattaway's appreciative study has remedied a case of unintended neglect by previous historians.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-625-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. ix-1)

    Stephen Dill Lee has been hardly noticed in history, even by specialists dedicated to the study of the South or the Civil War; and it is unfortunate for both the South and the nation that men like Lee have been ignored while southern fireaters and other eccentrics received attention. This bias has affected interpretations of the southern people and obscured insights into the nature of the South. Without men like Lee to lead and build the region after the Civil War, the United States might now be as chaotic as Ireland.

    Lee lived through a period of traumatic change. He...

  6. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
  7. 1 Young Warrior
    (pp. 3-15)

    Stephen Dill Lee was born in Charleston, South Carolina, into the fifth generation of a proud southern family. His ancestor Thomas Lee founded the family’s American branch by immigrating from Saint Michaels, Barbados sometime before 1738. Stephen’s paternal grandfather, also named Thomas, was a gifted and prominent judge. Thomas junior, the eighth of the judge’s ten children, graduated as a doctor of medicine from the medical school of South Carolina in 1830. He married Caroline Allison, and their first child, a son, arrived on 22 September 1833. Dr. Lee honored one of his older brothers and named the child Stephen.¹...

  8. 2 Across the Rubicon
    (pp. 16-26)

    The United States accepted Stephen Lee’s resignation of his commission, effective 20 February 1861. Lee’s home state, South Carolina, had withdrawn from its union with the United States; and until formation of the Confederacy on 4 February 1861, the Palmetto State functioned as a separate nation. During that time, and briefly thereafter, South Carolina maintained its own army. Upon returning home, Lee at once reported to Gov. Francis Pickens, who made him a captain in the state’s Regular Artillery Service.¹ In Charleston, Lee and other professional soldiers assumed various duties, relieving cadets of the Citadel and numerous other volunteers.


  9. 3 Long Roads
    (pp. 27-44)

    Two weeks after the surrender ceremonies at Sumter, Beauregard gave written commendation to those who had served him during the affair. He cited Lee and others for their “indefatigable and valuable assistance night and day . . . in open boats . . . amidst falling balls and bursting shells.” But Lee got no promotion, and he resumed his desk duties as quartermaster, commissary, ordnance, and engineer officer. On 22 April, he received the additional duty of acting as recruiting officer for the Charleston area.¹ For a time he would have to serve the Confederacy as a desk soldier.


  10. 4 Two Battles: Glory and Despair
    (pp. 45-61)

    During August 1862, both northern and southern armies in Virginia made organizational changes, formulated new plans for operations against each other, and began maneuvering. Boldly, Robert E. Lee decided that the Army of Northern Virginia would divide, making it vulnerable to annihilation if caught before reuniting. Jackson’s corps with Stuart’s cavalary would move rapidly up the Rappahannock Valley between the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains, turn east through Thoroughfare Gap, and get between Maj. Gen. John Pope’s forces and Washington, cutting off Federal communications. Longstreet’s corps simultaneously would move up from the south and join with Jackson to crush...

  11. 5 Outdoing the Prophet
    (pp. 62-77)

    Five days after the terrific struggle at Sharpsburg, still on the march back into the Shennandoah Valley, Lee observed his twenty-ninth birthday. The Army of Northern Virginia finally went into camp along Opequan Creek, a southerly tributary of the Potomac River. There the army found food and safety, while stragglers who had dropped behind after the Second Manassas campaign, and others later returning from Maryland, trickled in. Harvest time arrived, and living became easier for the Confederates. Lee spent some of his time leisurely gathering fruit in nearby orchards and dining occasionally with his friend Pender. The latter wrote to...

  12. 6 Conflict, Ratholes, and Defeat
    (pp. 78-98)

    With Sherman gone from the scene and no aggressive action to contend with, “Old Temporary” Lee and his men settled into the environs of Vicksburg, where they manned defensive trenches for the first two and one-half months of 1863. Their guns performed efficiently throughout the winter, and only an occasional insignificant Federal vessel got past. Commanding a “provisional division” and continuing to receive official compliments, Lee began to think that he soon would be promoted to the rank of major general, but this honor did not come to him until much later.¹

    Lee continued to enjoy popularity with his men....

  13. 7 “. . . The Most Enterprising of All in Their Army”
    (pp. 99-111)

    Early in the war most prisoners received releases and exchanges, but later the North—with its larger population—tightened the procedure. Nevertheless both sides continued to engage in numerous trades to free specifically desired persons. Sometimes a large number of privates might be exchanged for a general officer. A Confederate agent declared Lee exchanged on 13 July, and three days later Secretary of War James A. Seddon wrote that Lee could return to duty.

    On 17 July Pemberton recommended to President Davis that Lee be promoted to major general and assigned to command the cavalry in Mississippi. “In my opinion,”...

  14. 8 “Soldiers Must Do as They Are Ordered”
    (pp. 112-125)

    On 5 May 1864, Lee began acting in temporary command of Folk’s department, and on 9 May took over in his own right. Polk remained with Lee at Demopolis, Alabama, between those dates. Lee expressed apprehension over the planned arrangement, saying that he preferred a field assignment and that he expected difficulties if left in charge of the department because Maj. Gen. Dabney Maury, in command at Mobile, outranked him. Polk preferred to keep Lee near him anyway and telegraphed President Davis suggesting that Maury be given the department and that Lee accompany Polk to Georgia. “To be deprived of...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. 9 Trying Times with the Army of Tennessee
    (pp. 126-147)

    Hood knew quite a lot about Lee, since they had been together for three years at West Point; then early in the war they saw each other in the Army of Northern Virginia. On 19 July 1864, Hood wrote the war department requesting a new corps commander and suggested three names, one of which was Lee’s. President Davis gave the matter his personal attention and took only one day to decide upon Lee.¹

    Between the time he assumed command on 17 July and when Lee arrived on 25 July, Hood had engaged his army in two devastating battles, bitter, hard-fought,...

  17. 10 Interlude and War’s End
    (pp. 148-156)

    The defeated Army of Tennessee limped into a position of relative safety at Tupelo, Mississippi. Lee got only as far as Florence, Alabama, where he was hospitalized for several days. Just before Christmas 1864, he wrote to General Beauregard, the department commander and Hood’s immediate superior, requesting a conference. Hood had asked Lee to see the Creole and try to explain the events in Tennessee.¹

    Then Lee went to Columbus, Mississippi, to join the girl who soon would become his bride. She was Regina Lilly Harrison, the granddaughter of Thomas C. Blewett, probably the wealthiest man in Columbus.² Both the...

  18. 11 A Gentleman in Troubled Times
    (pp. 157-167)

    The years from 1865 through 1877 constituted a quiet period for Stephen Lee. He established his permanent home in Mississippi, and he devoted most of his energies to carving out a new life. Although he did not isolate himself completely from the outside world, he engaged in far fewer and less important public activities than in the decades thereafter. Not quite thirty-two years old at the end of the Civil War, Lee was still a young man. He would outlive most of his Civil War contemporaries, the average age of the other former Confederate leaders who survived the contest being...

  19. 12 Southern Bourbon Strangely Flavored
    (pp. 168-177)

    One scholar who studied S. D. Lee’s life concluded that “it was inevitable” the general should “sooner or later become involved in politics.” Large numbers of ex-Confederate leaders did enter the political arena, particularly in Mississippi, which elected more Civil War veterans to office than any other southern state. Lee never had been strongly attached to any political party, and in 1876 he had told a newspaper reporter: “Excuse me from making allusion to the subject of politics. The extent to which official corruption has been carried is a disgrace to the 19th century, and the very mention of the...

  20. 13 “Gen. Lee Runs the College . . .”
    (pp. 178-192)

    By the late 1870s Lee desired some sort of position in the field of education. Jefferson Davis recommended him, probably at Lee’s request, for the vacant presidency of the University of Alabama. Lee maneuvered while a state senator to become head of the planned Mississippi A. & M. College, which the legislature established during his term in office. Soon afterwards the board of trustees began holding meetings, and construction of buildings got underway. But not until 1880 was the school opened and the president selected. By then a considerable amount of popular sentiment had developed in favor of Lee for the...

  21. 14 Comrades Who Wore the Gray
    (pp. 193-205)

    Most Confederate veterans required a number of years after the close of the Civil War to revere it as a “glorious conflict” or form organizations to perpetuate its memory. Numerous factors—the Reconstruction experience most notably—deterred the growth of large-scale fraternal movements among ex-southern soldiers. But the South’s veterans gradually did drift into communion with one another. Individual efforts to provide decent burials, care for families left without a breadwinner, and aid the indigent frequently evolved into group projects. Lee lent support to some of these, the first being a music festival in 1871 sponsored by the ladies of...

  22. 15 In Pursuit of Clio
    (pp. 206-223)

    Lee showed little concern for the study or production of historical writing during his early years, but after his interest kindled he became more and more serious in the pursuit of Clio. “A people who do not cherish their past,” he said in 1904, “will never have a future worth recording.” By the standards of his day, he established a solid scholarly reputation, not only as an educator but also as an historian. Someone once introduced Lee by saying that “the true soldier must have the virtues of the true scholar, and the true scholar must have the virtues of...

  23. 16 To Preserve for Posterity
    (pp. 224-234)

    In January 1908, the last year of his life, Lee wrote to a friend that “while I will remain forever loyal to the tender memories of the past, I hope I will continue to be loyal also to our great country.” He had continued steadfastly to display that apparently divided mind and sentiment so characteristic of many leaders in the post-Appomattox South. He never wavered from the New South doctrine which he had embraced, and he always was unswervingly patriotic toward the United States government. Yet he also revered the South of the past and urged Southerners to preserve and...

  24. Notes
    (pp. 235-258)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-270)
  26. Index
    (pp. 271-283)