From the author of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion comes a new biography of the Confederate general and his fateful decision to betray his nation in order to defend his home state and uphold the slave system he claimed to oppose.
... expertly scrubs off 150 years of political and cultural patina accumulated since the renowned general’s passing to reveal a tragic humanity ... Guelzo’s portrait of Lee in his 50s shows his ascension from worrywart to warrior to legend. Following the example of Lee’s early command method, his book surveys the battlegrounds as if through the general’s field glasses, sets the order of combat, then leaves the bloody details to the stacks of cap-and-ball tomes ... Guelzo’s formal yet enjoyable writing style evokes the period without getting lost in it. His presentation achieves relevance as America is once again riven with regional, cultural and political hostility. Is there a more appropriate time to consider Robert E. Lee’s fateful decision? ... After siding with the don’t-tread-on-me ethos of the South, Lee predicted and then witnessed how a resolute Union would defeat a fractious Confederacy. When modern disdain for the central government threatens to overwhelm the public trust in elections, vaccinations and even the concept of democracy itself, it is vital to remember that Lee’s choice of righteousness in his opinions over fidelity to his oath led himself and his homeland to ruin.
This is a deeply researched character study, and Guelzo finds Lee’s character problematic ... Guelzo’s analysis of Lee’s leadership during the Civil War is crisp and sound ... Allen C. Guelzo’s fine biography is an important contribution to reconciling the myths with the facts.
... an insightful portrait of Lee’s somewhat dysfunctional family ... Guelzo’s assessment of Lee as a military leader is convincing ... Guelzo’s evaluation of Lee’s military performance is more persuasive than his examination of Lee’s attitudes toward the South’s peculiar institution ... But it’s hard to believe that slavery was an 'abstraction' for Lee ... Lee may have professed a theoretical dislike of slavery on occasion, but his rhetoric frequently did not match his actions ... [a] mostly favorable appraisal of Lee ... I suspect many Americans are unwilling to offer 'mercy' to Lee, who fought so long and so effectively for a cause described by Ulysses S. Grant as 'one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.'