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The Making of Robert E. Lee (original 2000; edition 2003)
The Making of Robert E. Lee by Michael Fellman (2000)
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679456503, Hardcover)Civil War scholar Michael Fellman investigates the psychology and beliefs of that conflict's most admired general in an intriguing intellectual biography. From his days as a cadet at West Point, Robert E. Lee (1807-70) struck his companions and teachers as "a full-blown aristocratic beau ideal ... tall, stunningly handsome, bright, manly, commanding." His brilliant leadership of the Confederate army against daunting odds only increased Southerners' reverence, which came to be shared by many white Northerners after the partisan passions of the war had faded. Fellman probes behind the façade of the "Marble Man" to discover the conflicts and uncertainties that seethed there. Son of an American Revolutionary legend who ended his life in bankruptcy and disgrace, Lee felt that he must redeem his family name and become the perfect Southern gentleman; yet, he struggled to reconcile his ideals of Christian virtue, self-denial, humility, duty, and honor with his desire for fame and success. "In a very real sense," Fellman writes, "the Civil War rescued Robert E. Lee from marginality and obscurity. In it, he learned to focus his values, his talent, and his deepest feelings on the terrible martial problems at hand." Exploring those values, Fellman unsparingly reveals their roots in racism, repression, and hypocrisy; yet, he acknowledges and admires (with reservations) Lee's sincere adherence to them. "He walked not above but within all the contradictions of a specific society," Fellman writes. "This makes him far more interesting than some boring marble representation of the supposedly unitary and perfect saint." Some ardent worshippers of "Saint Robert" might disagree, but most students of American history will find this a stimulating reassessment. --Wendy Smith
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:20 -0400)
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