Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Lettters

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For the 200th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birth, a new portrait drawing on previously unpublished correspondence

Robert E. Lee’s war correspondence is well known, and here and there personal letters have found their way into print, but the great majority of his most intimate messages have never been made public. These letters reveal a far more complex and contradictory man than the one who comes most readily to the imagination, for it is with his family and his friends that Lee is at his most candid, most engaging, and most vulnerable. Over the past several years historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor has uncovered a rich trove of unpublished Lee materials that had been held in both private and public collections.

Her new book, a unique blend of analysis, narrative, and historiography, presents dozens of these letters in their entirety, most by Lee but a few by family members. Each letter becomes a departure point for an essay that shows what the letter uniquely reveals about Lee’s time or character. The material covers all aspects of Lee’s life—his early years, West Point, his work as an engineer, his relationships with his children and his slaves, his decision to join the South, his thoughts on military strategy, and his disappointments after defeat in the Civil War. The result is perhaps the most intimate picture to date of Lee, one that deftly analyzes the meaning of his actions within the context of his personality, his relationships, and the social tenor of his times.

 

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User Review  - greeniezona - www.librarything.com

The third book for our Less Stupid Civil War Reading Group, and the one I looked forward to with the least pleasure -- though a fair amount of curiosity. What I knew about Lee before reading this book ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ALincolnNut - LibraryThing

By the end of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee had become an iconic American figure, as much myth as mortal even before his death in 1870. Since then, few historians have attempted to dig very deeply into ... Read full review

Contents

Perplexity
19
The Torchbearers
39
The Long Gray Line
55
Long to Be Remembered
70
Seven Arias
90
Pioneers
108
The Family Circle 223
123
Humanity and the Law 242
141
Upon a Fearful Summons
276
Field of Honor
298
A General Is a Rare Product
317
Apogee Perigee
338
Overwhelmed
361
The Political Animal
380
Ragged Individualists
399
A Leap in the Dark
426

Adrenaline 255
155
Crenellations 277
177
BlackEyed Fancies
196
The Headache Bag
209
Mutable Shield
223
Odyssey
241
Theory Meets Reality
260
Blurred Vision
442
If Vanquished I Am Still Victorious
460
Acknowledgments
475
Selected Bibliography
619
Index
641
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Elizabeth Brown Pryorhas combined careers as an award-winning historian and senior diplomat in the American Foreign Service, most recently as a senior adviser to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe of the U.S. Congress. Her 1987 biography of Clara Barton is considered the authoritative work on the subject.

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