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There is a terrible war coming, and these young men who have never seen war cannot wait for it to happen, but I tell you, I wish that I owned every slave in the South, for I would free them all to avoid this war.


Robert E. Lee

American general who led the Confederate Armies in the American Civil War (1807-1870)

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  • Finding nothing to support that he ever said this.
    LikeReplyReport6 months ago
  • Theory: The above quote is a reinterpretation of the following quote, which says the same thing in different words. "Mr. Blair, I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves in the South, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native State?" Life and Campaigns of General Robert E. Lee by James D. McCabe Jr. (1866) page 30. Responding after Francis Preston Blair relayed an offer to make him major-general to command the defense of Washington D.C. If this is the same quote, but simplified for some reason. David Like, in a comment below, found the quote here. https://books.google.com/books?id=6H25JxWVihsC&pg=PT70&lpg=PT70&dq=there+is+a+terrible+war+coming+and+these+young+men+who+have+never+seen+war+cannot+wait+for+it+to+happen&source=bl&ots=jBEIR8XpNk&sig=2KzGmEohx_aTtFu2qE6DKTtRwS0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjUqqH65oXWAhWK7YMKHTHIAzcQ6AEILjAF#v=onepage&q=there%20is%20a%20terrible%20war%20coming%20and%20these%20young%20men%20who%20have%20never%20seen%20war%20cannot%20wait%20for%20it%20to%20happen&f=false The above quote appears to be a text book full of quotes. There is no citation for the quote (or footnote suggesting a citation) but the whole book is not online via that link to check the back of the book for sources. My theory is the quote was reworked to simplify the meaning for children to understand. The new quote is in simple words: cessession is removed, anarchy is replaced with 'terrible war,' sacrifice them to the union changed to 'free them all,' and the whole reference to loyalty to a state rather than the union has been omitted entirely. The new quote is the 6th grader version of the original quote, which was spoken or written with a higher level vocabulary and grammar/style which sounds more like what I would expect from an old quote like this. Then again, the new quote adds the 'young men' who are itching for war. I could be wrong. The key is that the quote which I provided with DOES have a citation suggests that if it were up to Lee he would simply give over and/or free the slaves in order to avoid a war against Virginia. In any case, if the quote is indeed a rewording of the cited quote I found, it is a gross bastardization. It's not even a good paraphrase of Lee's words. I WOULD like to see someone give a citation for the source of this quote (where, when, to whom did he speak or write these words) before I believe them. The source I sited for the "Mr. Blair" quote is scanned in full here on page 30: https://books.google.com/books?id=BDkDAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false 
    LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
  • This very civil discussion on Quora cannot find any source for this quote: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-General-Robert-E-Lee%EF%BB%BF-said-I-wish-I-owned-every-slave-in-the-South-for-I-would-free-them-all-to-avoid-this-war
    LikeReplyReport3 years ago
    • One participant notes that the quote is similar to one that appears in in Doris Kearns Johnson's Team of Rivals and Michael Burlingame's Abraham Lincoln: A Life: Declining Lincoln’s offer to give him command of the Union forces, Lee said: "If I owned the four millions of slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?" https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-General-Robert-E-Lee%EF%BB%BF-said-I-wish-I-owned-every-slave-in-the-South-for-I-would-free-them-all-to-avoid-this-war/answer/Daniel-Baker-37 
      LikeReplyReport 13 years ago
  • The war was about the economy and 1 president's obsession to not let the economy be in control of a new nation borne of the confederacy. Lincoln admitted as much with many writings to back it up. Lee said this as well, because war was not the intent. The intent was to secede from the union, which was taxing the confederacy beyond what the Brits had ever dreamed of taxing the colonies. It was a disgusting situation that resulted in war, because of 1 evil man, Lincoln. A great man named Lee tried to stop it, and reluctantly led soldiers to stop the sickness when it came to that. If you believe otherwise, you were taught revisionist history, and still believe it, because you don't know the truth, and you never will, now that communists have taken control of the teaching of history. 
    LikeReplyReport 93 years ago
    • Slavery was, by a wide margin, the single most important cause of the Civil War -- for both sides. Before the presidential election of 1860, a South Carolina newspaper warned that the issue before the country was, "the extinction of slavery," and called on all who were not prepared to, "surrender the institution," to act. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln's victory, they did. The secession documents of every Southern state made clear, crystal clear, that they were leaving the Union in order to protect their "peculiar institution" of slavery -- a phrase that at the time meant "the thing special to them." The vote to secede was 169 to 0 in South Carolina, 166 to 7 in Texas, 84 to 15 in Mississippi. In no Southern state was the vote close. Alexander Stephens of Georgia, the Confederacy's Vice President clearly articulated the views of the South in March 1861. "Our new government," he said, was founded on slavery. "Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, submission to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition." Yet, despite the evidence, many continue to argue that other factors superseded slavery as the cause of the Civil War. Some argue that the South only wanted to protect states' rights. But this raises an obvious question: the states' rights to what? Wasn't it to maintain and spread slavery? Moreover, states' rights was not an exclusive Southern issue. All the states -- North and South --sought to protect their rights -- sometimes they petitioned the federal government, sometimes they quarreled with each other. In fact, Mississippians complained that New York had too strong a concept of states' rights because it would not allow Delta planters to bring their slaves to Manhattan. The South was preoccupied with states' rights because it was preoccupied first and foremost with retaining slavery. Some argue that the cause of the war was economic. The North was industrial and the South agrarian,and so, the two lived in such economically different societies that they could no longer stay together. Not true. In the middle of the 19th century, both North and South were agrarian societies. In fact, the North produced far more food crops than did the South. But Northern farmers had to pay their farmhands who were free to come and go as they pleased, while Southern plantation owners exploited slaves over whom they had total control. And it wasn't just plantation owners who supported slavery. The slave society was embraced by​ all classes in the South. The rich had multiple motivations for wanting to maintain slavery, but so did the poor, non-slave holding whites. The "peculiar institution" ensured that they did not fall to the bottom rung of the social ladder. That's why another argument​-- that the Civil War couldn't have been about slavery because so few people owned slaves -- has little merit. 
      LikeReplyReport 73 years ago
    • It was fought to save the union in Lincoln's own words.
      LikeReplyReport 43 years ago
    • Philip Fabiano Excellent! I quote the "Cornerstone Speech " whenever some lost causer starts spouting off too. What people continue to gloss over is that while The Union did not prosecute the war initially to end slavery , it was indeed the primary driver of the South's reasoning for secession. 
      LikeReplyReport 33 years ago
    • You, Mr. Dalton, are an idiot.
      LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
    • Philip Fabiano The seccession documents of 4 southern states made it clear, the other 9 don't get cited. Later on the federal government of the confederacy did enshrine slavery into the confederacyy, after Abraham Lincolns speech I believe. Someone said they did and referenced a document dated December 1864 signed by Jefferson Davis and several others but I was sure the confederacy had been all but beaten by then and General Lee had already surrendered the army of Northern Virginia, and whoever else was still with him, to General Hiram Ulysses Grant. General Grant always went by his middle name because he hated his real first name, which was Hiram, but later added a meaningless S as a middle initial so he could use the initials U.S. in front of his last name when running for president since he felt it sounded better and would help him win votes. 
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
    • Ray Frigerio please read the secession articles of each state - it is true that Slavery is mentioned in some as the the cotton crop took many workers and with out these workers the economic base that was paying for 80 precent of the US econmey would no be posisible - all of this money was going North, However read Virginias "THE SECESSION ORDINANCE. AN ORDINANCE TO REPEAL THE RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, AND TO RESUME ALL THE RIGHTS AND POWERS GRANTED UNDER SAID CONSTITUTION. The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States." Read Tennessee's = DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND ORDINANCE dissolving the federal relations between the State of Tennessee and the United States of America. First. We, the people of the State of Tennessee, waiving any expression of opinion as to the abstract doctrine of secession, but asserting the right, as a free and independent people, to alter, reform, or abolish our form of government in such manner as we think proper, do ordain and declare that all the laws and ordinances by which the State of Tennessee became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America are hereby abrogated and annulled, and that all the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the United States, and to absolve ourselves from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred thereto; and do Slavery is not mentioned Yes it is in some or maybe most of the original 7 states but 95 pecent of those that fought did not have slaves - The majority of slaves stayed at home, some fought the army or supported the plantations were they lived = You are applying current standards to events that happen 200 years ago - living in the North was hasrsh for African Americans they were not acceepted - Men from the mid west desearted after the emanicipation proclemaiton was announced because they would not fight and die for freeing the negro. . 
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
  • Never said it. Just looked it up.
    LikeReplyReport 13 years ago
    • you're an idiot. looked it up on PMSNBC or the Communist News Network? or was it Snopes, which is owned by those 2? shut the fuck up, cunt.
      LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
    • James Dalton dude. Chill.
      LikeReplyReport 83 years ago
    • @Dina Shipe Lee: I've been looking too and can't find any attribution.
      LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
    • James Dalton SMH You misunderstood dina's statement... She was saying he never said it, she looked it up... she didnt mean Lee looked it up. Now tell us whos the idiot ?
      LikeReplyReport 13 years ago
    • James Dalton your source besides your real history? there isn't one. oh.. do you eat with that mouth.. sure your mom would love it that you refer to women as cunts.. you are disgusting!
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
    • Randy Britt he deleted his comment. I reported him as spam. But thank you.
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
  • but did he really say this....... I have found nothing to support that he said this at all
    LikeReplyReport 13 years ago
  • Does anyone have a source for this quote?
    LikeReplyReport 13 years ago
    • the source is called true history, which is not taught anymore, now that communists have hijacked the education system for decades. I warned against this several decades ago. Nobody listened. Now people believe in this revisionist history where Lincoln was a god and Lee was the devil. The opposite of that is mostly true. 
      LikeReplyReport 33 years ago
    • James Dalton lincoln was a patriot. Lee was a traitor. Robert E. Lee betrayed his country in choosing to serve a rebellion. Lee was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. 
      LikeReplyReport 43 years ago
    • James Dalton : If you have access to this true history that the rest of us have not been able to find, please give us a citation to when and where he said this and how it has been preserved. Thanks.
      LikeReplyReport 73 years ago
    • Philip Fabiano Your outlook is very simplistic. Loyalty begins with those you are closest to -- family, community, and state -- long before considering the demands of some amorphous federation of states. Lee was no traitor, nor was any other southerner choosing to defend their home against Union attack. (And the Union did attack first.) Slavery was an issue (though it would have ended anyway) but the drive for northern aggression was clearly economic control, not slavery. 
      LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
    • https://books.google.com/books?id=6H25JxWVihsC&pg=PT70&lpg=PT70&dq=there+is+a+terrible+war+coming+and+these+young+men+who+have+never+seen+war+cannot+wait+for+it+to+happen&source=bl&ots=jBEIR8XpNk&sig=2KzGmEohx_aTtFu2qE6DKTtRwS0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjUqqH65oXWAhWK7YMKHTHIAzcQ6AEILjAF#v=onepage&q=there%20is%20a%20terrible%20war%20coming%20and%20these%20young%20men%20who%20have%20never%20seen%20war%20cannot%20wait%20for%20it%20to%20happen&f=false
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
    • James Dalton Strangely enough even the Lee family archives don't even claim this quote in "history". http://leefamilyarchive.org
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
    • Don Alexander, actually the first shots were fired by the South. On January 9, 1861, cadets from The Citadel fired upon an Union supply ship sent to Fort Sumter. Then on April 12, 1861, which is equated with the start of the warm, South Carolina forces sieged and took Fort Sumter. 
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
    • Philip Fabiano I would say in litral terms yes. What most over look is people of the time did not see themselves as Americans in the sense that we do now. The average person of the time traveled less than 20 or 30 miles from their place of birth. So they felt very strong ties to their state. Had Virginia stayed in the Union Lee would have eccepted the offer to Command the Union Army. Lee did say many things that acknowledged slavery was a imoral......."In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country".....another quote atributed to Lee and speaks to what I afore mentioned “I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty.”.....The direct or indirect cuase is irrelevant moving past slavery was necessary to forge a better America. 
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
  • I think the real point is that the bloodthirst lay with the people and not the situation.
    LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
  • SERIOUSLY? What the quote does is admit that the war was ONLY about slavery and if there WEREN'T slaves in the South, there would be NO REASON for a war. Your comment is dependent upon your geographical point of view but certainly NOT from an historical, factual position. 
    LikeReplyReport 43 years ago
    • I disagree with your reasoning in that slavery was not why the war was fought.. At least from Lincolns viewpoint.. It was about preserving the union.. This was his letter to Horace Greeley.. "I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free. Yours, A. Lincoln." 
      LikeReplyReport 23 years ago
  • To agree with this quote, would be the same as agreeing that the Civil war was fought entirely on the pretense of slavery, and that every slave was owned by a southerner.
    LikeReplyReport 23 years ago


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एक भयानक युद्ध आ रहा है, और इन नौजवानों ने, जिन्होंने कभी युद्ध नहीं देखा है, वे इसके होने की प्रतीक्षा नहीं कर सकते, लेकिन मैं आपको बताता हूं, कि काश मैं दक्षिण के हर गुलाम के स्वामित्व में होता, क्योंकि मैं उन सभी को इस युद्ध से बचने के लिए मुक्त कर देता।

szörnyű háború jön, és ezek a fiatal férfiak, akik még soha nem láttak háborút, nem tudják megvárni, hogy megtörténjen, de azt mondom nektek, szeretném, ha minden rabszolga lenne a déli részén, mert felszabadítanék őket, hogy elkerüljék ezt a háborút.

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