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Lee (original 1932; edition 1997)
by Douglas Southall Freeman (Author)
Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman (Author) (1932)
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This one volume abridgment is horrible and hopefully will not discourage other readers (unlike me) from reading the original multi-volume work!
This is an abridgment of Freeman's original four-volume biography of Lee. It is little surpassed in the erudition of the author. On the other hand, it is something of a hagiography. I was particularly struck by Freeman's distress that anyone would consider Lee to have been a traitor. This is not to take away from the argument that Lee contributed to the stability of the reunited United States of America be discouraging further rebellion, but if Lee wasn't a traitor, what is treason?
Recommended as an authoritative work, but the reader might want to balance this with The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society by Thomas Lawrence Connelly and Lee Considered by Alan Nolan
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R. E. Lee: A Biography (Abridgement)
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Douglas Southall Freeman's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Robert E. Lee was greeted with critical acclaim when it was first published in 1935. This reissue chronicles all the major aspects and highlights of the general's military career, from his stunning accomplishments in the Mexican War to the humbling surrender at Appomattox. More than just a military leader, Lee embodied all the conflicts of his time. The son of a Revolutionary War hero and related by marriage to George Washington, he was the product of young America's elite. When Abraham Lincoln offered him command of the United States Army, however, he choose to lead the confederate ranks, convinced that his first loyalty lay with his native Virginia. Although a member of the planter class, he felt that slavery was "a moral and political evil." Aloof and somber, he nevertheless continually inspired his men by his deep concern for their personal welfare. Freeman's biography is the full portrait of a great American--a distinguished, scholarly, yet eminently readable classic that has linked Freeman to Lee as irrevocably as Boswell to Dr. Johnson.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)973.73092 — History and Geography North America United States Administration of Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 Civil War Operations
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First, from a full disclosure standpoint, it should be noted that I attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia for my undergraduate degree, so I was somewhat familiar with the subject and favorably inclined as well. I have read dozens of books on the Civil War and the major participants, having recently read biographies of U. S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
The author of this biography was certainly a Lee fan, and regardless of your views on the causes and the justifications for the American Civil War, there is much about the character of Robert E. Lee to admire and emulate. Certainly, prior to the War, Lee was one of, if not the most highly regarded and accomplished soldiers in the American Army.
As you might imagine, over two-thirds of the book cover the period of time between 1860 and 1865. It goes into great detail regarding the strategy and tactics of each troop movement over which Lee had authority. It does this through reference to small towns, names of roads, crossings and fords, yet the book contains only the most basic and rudimentary maps, infrequently situated and very scantily notated; in other words, of virtually no help whatsoever in visualizing or making sense of the pages and pages of descriptive text. These textual sections, of which there are dozens, which sometimes stretch for pages, are therefore rendered largely meaningless. In my case, this was not fatal, since I was largely familiar with most of the major battles and their development, but a Civil War novice would be largely handicapped by this absence of maps.
Of particular interest to me were the early and late sections of the book, dealing with Lee’s years at West Point and in the Mexican-American War and then his years as President of what was then Washington College.
While largely hagiographic, the author does point out a number of strategic and tactical errors made by Lee during his generalship of the Army of Northern Virginia and makes reference to criticism by others, though largely holding these to be poorly supported. All in all, a good, comprehensive biography of the life of Robert E. Lee, the only major complaint being the paucity of descriptive maps to support the referenced troop movements in the text. ( )