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A Measure of the Marble Man
on December 23, 2004
Robert E. Lee never had the chance to pen his own autobiography as U.S. Grant did. He meant to, but kept holding it off until heart disease claimed his life five years after the surrender of Appomattox.
Many of those who served under him during the Civil War wrote biographies of the great Confederate General, claiming to know how he felt, and what he thought. But only two of them really came close. The ponderous but solidly written "Memoirs of Robert E. Lee" by his Aide, Colonel Long, and this volume, comprised of letters actually written by Lee, and the remembrances of those who knew him well, and none more so than the author of the book, his own son, Captain Robert E.Lee, Jr.
Captain Lee describes his childhood in the Lee household, of General Lee's love of animals, especially horses. He describes a man who smiled, was warm, as compared to the austere, solemn descriptions and illustrations of him once the Civil War commenced. He writes how Lee agonized within his own family of the decision to leave the U.S. Army, and then join the Confederacy, even though wishing for a quiet, neutral life, and of Lee's personal losses during the war - a daughter who passed on, a son wounded and captured, the son's frail wife also passing on, and the known loss of their dearly beloved home in Arlington, which was turned into the national cemetery of the same name.
Captain Lee studiously avoids the controversial sides of Lee, his stand on slavery or the rights of the South, concentrating mainly on the personality of man and how he dealt with others.
This is a volume that belongs on the shelf of any Civil War buff, especially those interested in the life of Robert E. Lee.
I recommend this book, and Burke Davis' "Gray Fox" be purchased together.