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This book differs from the many, many biographies of Lee in that it focuses on his psyche rather than his experiences. The author attemps to analyze the character himself in his various roles as soldier, leader, husband, father, private citizen, university president, etc. The writing style did not please me as much as the content. It was interesting to see the different facets of the man presented separately and with supporting documentation from Lee's own recorded words and the anecdotes of others. For those who cannot get enough of Robert E. Lee, this a good addition to the bookshelf.
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Robert E. Lee remains one of the most well-studied men in the history of the world. This fine book was first published in 1912; it has, of course, been superseded by "R.E. Lee", Douglas Southall Freeman's definitive four volume work. Even when written, it was far from the first study of General Lee. But, this was the first biography by a Yankee, a highly distinguished author from Massachusetts. Dr. Bradford's people had fought against General Lee...removed from the veneration shown by some of our Southern authors, including Dr. Freeman, the respect of the author for his subject is all the more impressive.
The work is divided into sections, chronological, and by subject. Lee's early years, and service in Mexico, are well covered. The agony that General Lee faced when following Virginia out of the Union is poignant. Dr. Bradford earned my respect by stating that he hoped he would have the courage to follow Massachusetts if ever faced with the choice. Various aspects of Lee's relationships during the war are covered by section...his dealings with Jeff Davis, the civil government, the Army, his family, Stonewall Jackson. There is a superb chapter on just how the General approached a battle, though this is not a comprehensive military history. See "Lee's Lieutenants".
General Lee was a difficult man to know, which Dr. Bradford points out quite well. He suffered a miserable marriage, which the author is decent enough to keep quiet. A whole chapter is given to Lee's profound Christian faith, the real secret of how he kept going. His years at Washington College [now Washington and Lee] are impressively studied; he wanted to help young men be good citizens of one nation.
Bradford analyzes the mind and psychology of Robert E. Lee. Lee was perhaps one of the best known persons of the American Civil War, and both enemy and friend admired him. Bradford seeks an understanding of what made this man work. Why was he so loyal to Davis. What admirable qualities did he have? How did he treat his family? These are all answered in this book. The essentials of what made this old world man lead and fight in the biggest conflict of his time are all answered. He may have been on the losing side and fought for slavery, but there are great qualities about this man.
This is an OK read about a great man. I learned something of Robert E. Lee that I didn't know before.
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