"The Tycooon" was a pet name that his staff had for him.
I watched the PBS program on Lee last night. On the whole I thought it remarkably fair. The zeitgeist does not permit a truly objective consideration of the man but it was an attempt to do so. There was a certain amount of talk about; his ambition, his defense of chattel slavery, his insistence that his wife's slaves actually work at Arlington, his bad temper at times.
The production acknowledged that he resigned from the US Army in 1861 and that his resignation was accepted. The production implied that but for the generosity of the victors he would have been hanged fror treason. Rubbish. None of the Confederate leaders were tried for treason because it was clear that their defense would be on the basis of the legitimacy of secession. The victors did not want that.
In regard to the slaves, his father in law, Washington's grandson by adoption, ruined the family agribusiness financially and then promised the slaves at Arlington emancipation in his will. Lee was called home from the Army to save his wife's family business. He could not do that if he let the slaves depart. Needless to say they were unhappy with that and there was conflict. This was a lot like Jefferson's predicament when faced with his father in law's debts. Jefferson insisted on paying these off although not legally obligated to do so. "Planting" was not always a profitable business.
Lee's ambition? Would he not have accepted Lincon's offer of command of the US Army if that had been his main impetus in life?
His bad temper? Surely that is a joke! The man lived with stress that killed him. His cold rages were feared. A rebuke from him had the power to kill the soul because he was so revered by "his people." "Come now, General Hill, bury these poor men and let us speak no more of this," he said to AP Hill after Hill tried to explain the debacle at Bristoe Station.
He cared only for his own social class? If that is so, then the men who followed him to the bitter end were truly fools. Longstreet wrote in later life that early in 1863 he noticed that the men would fall silent, stand and remove their hats as Lee passed. Longstreet wrote that at that point he began to consider the Old Man to be a danger because these men would attempt anything for him. Anything.
Was he a Great Captain? That is debatable. He learned and improved steadily as the war progressed. Even near the end at the North Anna he was dangerous. If he had not gone down sick there, he and his scarecrows might have destroyed US 2nd Corps. pl