Guide Robert E. Lee: A Biography

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  1. Robert E. Lee
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But he was producing no more than a stalemate on the Virginia front, while Federal forces won important victories in other parts of the Confederacy, and time was against him. Largely to resupply his troops and to draw the invading armies out of Virginia, Lee once more crossed the Potomac. Then, in May , Ulysses S. Grant , the newly appointed commanding general of all Union forces, drove at Lee with enormous superiority in numbers, armaments, and cavalry. The horses of the troopers of Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart were in poor condition, and Stuart was killed early in the campaign.

Grant could neither defeat nor outmaneuver Lee, however, and the superb army Grant had inherited sustained losses of 50, men in the May and early June battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna, and Cold Harbor. Grant, however, his losses replaced by fresh recruits, had advanced within seven miles of Richmond, while Lee, his soldiers too weakened physically and his officers too inexperienced to attempt countering maneuvers, had lost the initiative.

Lee himself was, moreover, physically declining and frequently incapacitated by illness. At Petersburg, Lee extended the field fortifications into permanent lines that presaged trench warfare. The time came on Sunday, April 2, when his defensive lines were stretched so thin that the far right broke under massive assaults, and Lee was forced to evacuate Petersburg and at last uncover Richmond.

When the survivors of his army pulled out of the trenches, an agonizing week of a forlorn retreat began for him; his men fell out from hunger, animals dropped in the traces, and units dissolved under demoralized officers. Lee spent several months recuperating from the physical and mental strain of retreat and surrender, but he never regained his health. Both to earn subsistence for his family and to set an example for his unemployed fellow officers, he accepted the post of president of Washington College later Washington and Lee University in Lexington , Virginia.

Lee was a surprisingly progressive educator; by employing his lifelong practices in economy, he placed the institution on a sound basis and awakened in his students—many of whom were veterans of the recent war—the desire to rebuild their state with the goal of good citizenship in a nation that in time would become reunited. He died in at his home at Washington College. He was, moreover, very advanced in his rejection of war as a resolution of political conflicts—a fact that has been almost entirely ignored by posterity.

In those years, he became an enduring symbol to the Southern people of what was best in their heritage. Some historians began to compare the popular perception of Lee and his legend with more nuanced considerations of his life and actions. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

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Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Lee , to demand the recruitment of blacks; finally, in March the Confederate congress authorized the raising of African American regiments.

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Though a few blacks were recruited for the Confederate armies, none actually served in battle because surrender was at hand. Lee to that position on February 6, , when the Confederacy was near collapse. In naval affairs—an area about which he knew little—the Confederate president seldom intervened directly, allowing the competent secretary of the navy, Stephen Mallory, to handle the Southern naval buildup…. Lee near the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, while Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman led the western Union army southward through Georgia.

See primary source document: Sherman Outlining Strategy for Spring By mid-June, Lee was pinned down at…. More About Robert E. Early Jackson In Stonewall Jackson: Command over Union armies View More. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback. You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered. Any text you add should be original, not copied from other sources. At the bottom of the article, feel free to list any sources that support your changes, so that we can fully understand their context.

Internet URLs are the best. Thank You for Your Contribution! There was a problem with your submission. Sep 11, Christopher Sturcke rated it really liked it. This might just be the best single volume R. Lee biography out there.

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Emory Thomas did a masterful job of compiling information from previously unused sources which included letters, diary entries, and other personal papers not only from Lee himself but also those around him. The author did allot of digging and what resulted is a biography that cuts Lee down to proportion by highlighting the General's humanness without tearing down Lee's legacy. Lee was a big man physically speaking as well , This might just be the best single volume R. Lee was a big man physically speaking as well , and despite his shortcomings and failures remains and deserves to remain as one of the great men in American history.

In all stations of life he served with hallmark honor. Emory does not simply gloss over Lee's not so positive character traits such as his racism as shown in Lee's own statements but points them out. Thomas was right in his final observations, Lee was hero, tainted as all heroes are since all are human, but a hero non the less. Yet Lee was a tragic hero: He died living a life which was a far cry from the grand life he may have lived if not for siding with the Confederacy but he chose honor and loyalty instead, living with the consequences and making the best of all situations in classic Lee fashion.

He died with respect and that is how he should be remembered. Thomas's biography will remain one of the best go to biographies on Lee for a long time coming, at least for those who care to regard the truth. View all 3 comments. Jun 02, Ty rated it really liked it. War as Murder" I read Emory Thomas's biography of Lee with high expectations, and wasn't disappointed. Originally published in , Thomas thoroughly engages critical source material left out of earlier Lee biographies, analytically revealing a man neither demigod nor devil.

Thomas declutters past Lee mythologies to present a man seemingly defined by paradoxes: On par with Elizabeth Brown Pryor's documentary Lee history, "Reading the Man" , readers of Thomas's fascinating tome will find an in-depth, nuanced treatment of Lee's life as a student, engineer, soldier, and educator. Thomas's book is still the best modern biography of Lee. Neither hostile nor hagiographic, Thomas has a remarkable gift for landing precisely on the most reasonable interpretation of controversial matters.

He is rarely eloquent, and I understand that his somewhat humdrum prose can make the book a slog for some readers. Personally, I find his plain, unpretentious style fits well with the good common sense and lack of agenda which make the book admirable. Apr 25, Jay Carper rated it really liked it Shelves: It's very difficult to get an unbiased opinion of Robert E. He's either a demigod or a demon, depending on who you ask. Emory's biography paints a picture of a good, but flawed, man who tried to make the best of a bad situation.

Robert E. Lee

Lee became a man I could relate to, tragic and admirable, but, most of all, human. Jul 08, Chris rated it it was amazing Shelves: Well crafted biography designed to reveal the man behind the many myths. In addition, it serves as a corrective to the harsher critiques of Lee by Thomas Connelly and Alan Nolan.

Thomas is no Lee apologist and puts human clothes on the man. Points of Lee's wit shine especially in this regard - and serve both to let us know Lee better and to dispel those mythic trappings. General Lee As a Northerner always had a strange affinity for Lee after reading about his personal problems in this book it makes me want to learn more about the man not the myth. Feb 15, Michael Geiger rated it really liked it.

Biography for Kids: Robert E. Lee

Mar 16, Tom rated it liked it. Lee was a remarkable man, engineering degree from West Point, only later to discover that he was probably a better soldier than engineer. His tackling of the river problems near St. In the end a tragic figure. The author's style just turned me off a bit, the sort of thing that gives history a bad name. Jun 11, Shane rated it really liked it. Few events in the history of the United States have captured the same interest and emotion as the Civil War has. Due to the recent increased media focus on the war, its legacy, and those who fought in it, I picked up Emory M.

Lee published in , seeking a more scholarly view and it was satisfying. Thomas, Regents Professor of History at the University of Georgia and the author of a number of other books on the Confederacy and the American Civil War, describes Few events in the history of the United States have captured the same interest and emotion as the Civil War has.

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In these Lee appears either as a gentlemanly, hero-saint of the South Freeman , or as a man who despite his best efforts is constantly frustrated with failure Connelly. Taking a different turn, Thomas portrays an enigmatic Lee. Lee is portrayed as a man of seemingly endless contradictions.

A shy man, raised by the women in his household, Lee chose the path of rigorous military training. Upon marriage Lee was a loyal husband, and yet a shameless flirt with a series of young ladies throughout of his life. Lee was a man of simple pleasures, who desired the peace of farm life, and yet he continuously sought the rigors of army life and war. A reluctant rebel who questioned the legality of secession and desired the union between North and South, Lee nevertheless threw his best efforts into ensuring a Southern victory. Nevertheless I had several issues with this book.

It's like one moment you are reading some basic Civil War history, the next it feels like you are reading a purple passage from some Classical historian. There is also an innuendo on page His style shifts, the narrative becomes overwhelmed with quotes and action for a page and a half. Nov 01, Brian rated it really liked it Shelves: Emory Thomas gives a southerners perspective on the life of Robert E.

The preface of this book gives the reader a sense that they will be given a pro-southern view of the war and while that is true at times the biography is generally balanced well. Lee is portrayed as a hero which he was to the south and shown as a military genius which was mostly true. Lee accomplished amazing things by bold actions and the principles of movement and concentration. This book tracks his childhood where he l Emory Thomas gives a southerners perspective on the life of Robert E. This book tracks his childhood where he lived in the shadow of a father who was a failure.

It then moves to his years at West Point where he excelled and graduated at the top of his class. He was given several assignments across the country from building a fort in Savannah to defending the Mississippi near St. He even spent time in New York City rebuilding forts there before heading off to war in the Mexican American War. Lee served with distinction in the war and learned a great deal from Winfield Scott about fighting an offensive war with smaller numbers than the enemy.

He would take these lessons to heart against the north. Lee would refuse both the United States Army and the Confederacy when they offered him posts in their armies. It was only when his home state of Virginia left the union that he accepted command of all Virginia militias. As the militias were absorbed into the army Lee found himself without a command. Jefferson Davis would use Lee as a roving advisor helping to make overall strategic decisions, a sort of Halleck of the South initially.

Lee would eventually take command of the army once Johnston was sent out to command the Army of Tennessee. This would be a post that Lee kept throughout the entire war. Lee was able to achieve stunning victories by daring action but in the end resources were against him. Lee correctly believed that his army had to achieve victory very quickly because a war of attrition favored the north.

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  • Unfortunately for Lee he was at times too bold and all of the battles are categorized well here. For a book written in there is a good deal of attention paid to the west which is now considered a vital battlefield.

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    Lee was forced to surrender after a vicious battle near Appomattox courthouse where PA miners actually blew up a whole underneath his army. Lee won daring defensive victories but each time his army was smaller and his position more tenuous. It was a post he would excel at. Lee would not become a citizen of the union until historians discovered his petition in when Congress made him a citizen again. This biography provides an excellent and balanced look at Robert E. I would highly recommend for Civil War scholars who want an updated biography and one that is not too biased in one direction.

    Feb 13, Bill rated it really liked it Shelves: Surprisingly readable and reasonably insightful. Here and there the author strays into pontificating on his own ideas, which he sometimes does by "interpreting" what Robert E. Lee himself said on a particular topic. At one point, he freely substitute his words for Lee's and the assigns some different meaning to what Lee says. Troubling, but no so egregious that it ruins his work. Fascinating man, of course and this book seems to cover all you'd need to know.

    Where I found it slightly lacking was Surprisingly readable and reasonably insightful.

    Robert E. Lee in the Post-War Years (Lecture)

    Where I found it slightly lacking was that although it put forth the idea that Lee was a "god" and a towering figure, it didn't tell me why clearly enough to understand. So I see and accept that he was a great man in many ways and certainly far from great in others but I don't have a good sense of the reason for that universal acclaim like I do for, say, Washington or Lincoln.

    Sep 03, Pabgo rated it it was amazing. While on vacation, we visited Lexington, Virginia, where Lee's tomb is located. In the museum gift shop were arrayed any number of biographies of Gen.