September 06, 2017 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian
Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman. New York: Touchstone, 1997. (Abridged version. Originally published in 1935 as a four-volume set.)

If you want a single-volume biography on Robert E. Lee, Richard Harwell's abridgment of William Southall Freeman's four-volume Pulitzer-prize-winning biography is a good place to start. It is an extremely readable and solid history that covers the significant events in Lee's life, and more importantly delves into some of the thinking of the reserved General as he made critical decisions as a commander.

The biography was greeted with critical acclaim when it was first published in 1935. This reissue chronicles all the major aspects and highlights of Lee’s military career, from his stunning accomplishments in the Mexican War to the humbling surrender at Appomattox. The book also includes a passage about Lee’s work with the Corps of Engineers in St. Louis in the mid-1830s.

Lee was the son of a Revolutionary War hero and was related to George Washington by marriage. When Lincoln offered him command of the United States Army, he chose to lead the confederate ranks, convinced that his loyalty lay with his native Virginia. Lee was a member of the planter class, but he felt that slavery was a “moral and political evil.” Freeman describes Lee as an aloof and somber man, but one who continually inspired his men by his deep concern for their personal welfare.

This volume includes a new introduction by James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom. Distinguished, scholarly and readable, Lee will fascinate not only Civil War enthusiasts but also anyone interested in this crucial period of American history.


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Last updated: September 6, 2017

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