From: LAS VEGAS TAKE A CHANCE
Well as someone who knows little of that period (other than high level) but always keen to learn, I thought this okay - but a little disappointing.
I got from this that Lee seemed keen to move on once the war was lost, and to accept the defeat (he signed the oath). But got no real feel for his innermost thoughts, how he saw the United States - and particularly the south - moving forward, how he felt about his part in the Civil War, his motivations for the action he took and - in the aftermath of defeat - whether he believed he was right. Did he take the action he did subsequently to save his own skin and (perhaps) that of his family, or did he do it because he thought it best for the southern states, or because it was best for the United States? This just left me with a load of questions to be honest.
I heard a few stories - at least one apocryphal? - that showed him as a kindly man but ultimately after one hour and ten minutes I don't feel I know much, if anything, more about the man that I did at the start.
Another bone of contention; as a speaker, if you are going to use the "Sword of Damocles" in a speech it's perhaps a good idea to actually know what it is and how to pronounce it!
Yes, if only we had the journalist with todays insights asking those questions of him. I think the state of reporting was only interested in bare facts in 1865. And there weren't as many reporters/journalist as we have today. Your point brings out the state of american journalism in 1865. Little to none, also reporters suffered from the 1865 american culture its "state of mind", so to speak. I mean, you have a lot of great questions that were not asked of him. How deeply did Robert E. Lee reflect after the war. That will go unanswered.
But at least the attempt by the presenter to bring some humanity to the figure of Robert E. Lee was made. The questions you raised, I would have liked to see asked of many a Confederate general.
As it is we can only piece "as best we can" the material we have and conjecture. What is important to me is we see him as a man not a saint nor great sinner but an honorable general. Worthy of having a statue put up of him as a honorable but not torn down because he was a racist.
So he didn't commit his thoughts to paper either - correspondence or diary perhaps? That is a shame - but then he didn't live long after the end of the war.
He did commit some thoughts to paper and before congress after the war. Which might shed some light on who he was and why he did what he did. But he did not address slavery in this following article piece.
"In a letter written a few months before Virginia became a member of the Confederacy, Colonel Lee expressed doubt as to the consitutional right of secession; but during his examination by a Congressional committee in 1866, when asked whether he looked on himself as having been guilty of treason, he replied that “the act of Virginia in withdrawing herself from the Union” carried him along as a citizen of Virginia, and her laws and acts were binding on him. “I and my people,” be added, “considered the act of the state legitimate, and the seceding states were merely using their reserved rights, which they had a legal right to do.” “Let each man,” be urged in an order to his soldiers issued in September, 1861, “resolve to be victorious and that the right of self-government, liberty, and peace shall in him find a defender.” And near the end of the war, when his army was retreating from Petersburg, he said, in dwelling on the causes of secession: “We had, I was satisfied, sacred principles to maintain, and rights to defend, for which we were in duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor.” Long after hostilities had closed, and he had had an opportunity to weigh the past with calmness, he exclaimed: “I fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the people of the South their dearest rights."