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Publisher's Summary

General Robert E. Lee is well known as a major figure in the Civil War. However, by removing Lee from the delimiting frame of the Civil War and placing him in the context of the Republic's total history, Dowdey shows the "eternal relevance" of this tragic figure to the American heritage. With access to hundreds of personal letters, Dowdey brings fresh insights into Lee's background and personal relationships and examines the factors which made Lee that rare specimen, a "complete person." In tracing Lee's reluctant involvement in the sectional conflict, Dowdey shows that he was essentially a peacemaker, very advanced in his disbelief in war as a resolution.
Lee had never led troops in combat until suddenly given command of a demoralized, hodgepodge force under siege from McClellan in front of Richmond. In a detailed study of Lee's growth in the mastery of the techniques of war, he shows his early mistakes, the nature of his seemingly intuitive powers, the limitations imposed by his personal character and physical decline, and the effect of this character on the men with whom he created a legendary army. It was after the fighting was over that Dowdey believes Lee made his most significant and neglected achievement. As a symbol of the defeated people, he rose above all hostilities and, in the wreckage of his own fortunes, advocated rebuilding a New South, for which he set the example with his progressive program in education. The essence of Lee's tragedy was the futility of his efforts toward the harmonious restoration of the Republic with the dissensions of the past forgotten.
©1965 Clifford Dowdey (P)2017 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. First Skyhorse Publishing edition © 2015.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Rodney on 08-16-17


First let me say this is a very readable book, it's never really dry and it moves at a good pace. Unlike another reviewer I think the author does a decent job of capturing Lee, at least at times. Towards the end of the book the author starts to get into Lost Cause history - but, and it's a big but, in Lee's cause what sounds like Lost Cause is actual history. For example Lee 100% didn't go to war over slavery, he went to war with Virginia after Lincoln called on Virginia to supply troops to put down the rebellion - this forced Virginians in the most aggressive in your face way possible to have to pick a side and the rest is history. So for Lee, who was against secession and thought it was a huge mistake, it's actually accurate to say to him the war wasn't about slavery at any point. Lee said point blank he'd free every slave in the nation if it meant stopping the war before it began.

Anywho the book is a good read - but the author certainly has a pro-Lee and pro-south bias - which is OK, it doesn't mean it's a bad book, it just means know that when you're listening that there is some bias in there you should double check later. On Lee it's pretty impossible for people to write about him and to not end up being biased towards him, he's one of the great men our country has produced - so on that issue I have no issues with the author. But the overall pro-south message at times is a bit intense - nothing unlistenable - but time that could have been better spent.

Overall if you want a one volume (one credit) Lee biography that gets into a little depth on a lot of issues you can't go wrong here.

The reader does a good professional job.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By The Modest Scribbler on 07-29-17

Not Much Of An Intimate Portrait

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Thought a huge CW fan (I've bought dozens of volumes on the Civil War here and elsewhere, but this volume, while it may have been an attempt an intimate portrayal of Lee, it just didn't succeed. I didn't feel like the author had a handle on Lee.

What do you think your next listen will be?

I've be listening to more Civil War histories.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Malcolm Hillgartner?

That may be part of the presentation's problem but the material seemed weak.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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