General Grant's opinion of General Lee is a matter of small moment.
General Scott pronounced him "the very best soldier I ever saw in the field." General George Meade said that he was "by far the ablest Confederate General which the war produced"—and the overwhelming testimony of the Northern press is in the same direction, while European critics concur in giving Lee a place second to none of the generals on the other side, not a few of them ranking him as the ablest general of all history.
Since such, then, is the opinion which the world holds of Robert E. Lee, his friends may well afford to pass by in silence the sneers of a man whom he out-generaled at every point and whipped, until at last "by mere attrition," his thin lines were worn away, and he was "compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources."
Nor would it seem necessary to notice the oft-refuted statement that "the South had as many men under arms as the North." General Grant's affirmation is but a bold repetition of what his Military Secretary, General Badeau, wrote in the London Standard several years ago, and to which General Early (see volume II, page 6, Southern Historical Papers) made so crushing a reply that we can account for its repetition only from our knowledge of the persistency with which Northern generals and Northern writers have endeavored to force this misrepresentation of facts into history.
The census of 1860 shows that the fourteen States from which the Confederacy drew any part of its forces had a white population of only 7,946,111, of which 2,498,891 belonged to Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, which three States furnished more men (because of force of surrounding circumstances) to the Federal than to the Confederate armies; so that the total population upon which the Confederacy could draw was really only 5,447,220, while the United States had (exclusive of Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri) a population of 19,011,360. Add to this the patent facts that we soon lost large portions of our territory—that the United States recruited very largely from our negro population, and that by means of large bounties and other inducements the Federal armies drew from the dense populations of Europe a very large proportion of their levies, and it will be seen that the odds against us must to have been enormous. As for General Grant's statement that our "4,000,000 of negroes were the same as soldiers because they did the work in the fields which white men would have to do," it is sufficient to reply that from the first the negroes were enticed into the Federal lines—that they were enlisted by thousands in the Federal armies, and that it was very common for the young negro men to run off, leaving only the old men, the women and the children as a burden on the plantations and a heavy tax on the planters.
Secretary Stanton (page 31 of his report for 1865) states that there were actually mustered into the service of the United States from the 15th of April, 1861, to the 14th of April, 1865, 2,656,553 men. Mr. Swinton, who had free access to the Confederate archives several years ago, states that 600,000 men in all were put into the Confederate service during the same period, and this estimate is very nearly correct; so that the official figures show that the United States had in service more than four times as many men as the Confederacy had.