[Robert E. Lee]. An Act to
provide the appointment of a General in Chief of the Armies of
the Confederate States. General Orders No. 3; Richmond, February
6, 1865. Housed in custom half-leather box. $8000.
Official broadside Confederate
printing with seal on top left corner appointing Robert E. Lee
"General in Chief" of the Confederate forces:
Congress of the Confederate States of America do
enact, That there shall be appointed by the President,
by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, an
office, who shall be known and designated as 'General
in Chief,' who shall be ranking officer of the army,
and as such, shall have command of the military forces
of the Confederate States... General Robert E. Lee
having been duly appointed General in Chief of the
Armies of the Confederate States, will assume the
duties thereof and will be obeyed and respected
By 1865 Jefferson Davis had
lost widespread support throughout the South. As the
Confederacy’s fortunes worsened, there was a growing sense
that Davis lacked the political and, in his capacity as
Commander-in-Chief, the military skills needed to deliver
victory and independence from the Union.
Davis’s increasingly restive detractors began looking
for ways to diminish the president’s role and expand that of
their great general, Robert E. Lee, who enjoyed nearly god-like
stature throughout the South.
Early proposals for expanding Lee’s authority included
the idea of simply making him Commander-in-Chief and thus de
facto leader of the Confederacy.
This never came to pass, in large part because Lee
himself made it clear that he had no wish to encroach upon
Davis’s authority. Despite
this there was a widespread desire among the public, as
reflected in this Act of the Confederate Congress, for Lee’s
role to be expanded and Davis’s diminished.
This Act gave formal expression to this important shift
in the Confederate South.
it was Lee’s great adversary, Ulysses S. Grant, who understood
far better than Lee himself that, for all practical purposes,
Lee already was the de facto leader of the South.
This is why Grant was so disappointed when, after
Appomattox, Lee refused to use his influence to encourage his
subordinates to do as he had done and surrender.
As he wrote in his Memoirs, Grant “suggested to
General Lee that there was not a man in the Confederacy whose
influence with the soldiery and the whole people was as great as
his, and that if we would now advise the surrender of all the
armies [he] had no doubt [Lee’s] advice would be followed with
on April 10, 1865, just days after Lee’s surrender, Grant went
so far as to suggest that Lee bypass Davis’s authority
altogether and speak directly with Lincoln to negotiate terms of
surrender for the whole Confederacy
(McCaslin, 190). Lee
refused. In Lee’s
view only Davis, as president of the Confederacy, could
negotiate with Lincoln toward a general surrender.
Just as Lee underestimated – or refused to acknowledge
– his great influence among Southerners, so too did President
Davis. As McCaslin
and many others initially refused to accept that Lee’s
surrender brought the end of the Confederacy…. British
journalists agreed that the war did not end with Lee. Instead,
they expected guerilla warfare. Lee’s refusal to participate
made such a shift difficult, if not impossible” (pp. 191).
Despite both Lee’s and Davis’ insistence on Davis’s
preeminence, as Grant observed, as a practical matter “The
Confederacy had gone a long way beyond the reach of President
Davis, and that there was nothing that could be done except what
Lee could do to benefit the Southern people.”
This Act of February 6, 1865 reflects the Confederate
Congress’s understanding of this fact.
A highly important piece of
Confederate legislation, these orders not only represent the
culmination of Robert E. Lee's career, but had significant
effects on the outcome of the war. After Lee was appointed
"General in Chief" he became, like Washington for the
North, the central figure in which the Confederates placed their
hopes. Consequently, when Lee surrendered to Grant, the
implications were profound. "Without
their Washington, Southerner’s realized their revolution was
over" (McCaslin, 191).
In remarkable condition for
such a fragile item, with small tear visible on verso and only
very light browning. Scarce: Printed for and distributed to
members of the Confederate Congress and military officers and
officials, it can be assumed that only a handful of copies have
survived; we can locate only one other copy having been offered