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The Making of Robert E. Lee Paperback – April 7, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Johns Hopkins paperbacks ed edition (April 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801874114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801874116
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,422,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Civil War scholar Michael Fellman investigates the psychology and beliefs of that conflict's most admired general in an intriguing intellectual biography. From his days as a cadet at West Point, Robert E. Lee (1807-70) struck his companions and teachers as "a full-blown aristocratic beau ideal ... tall, stunningly handsome, bright, manly, commanding." His brilliant leadership of the Confederate army against daunting odds only increased Southerners' reverence, which came to be shared by many white Northerners after the partisan passions of the war had faded. Fellman probes behind the façade of the "Marble Man" to discover the conflicts and uncertainties that seethed there. Son of an American Revolutionary legend who ended his life in bankruptcy and disgrace, Lee felt that he must redeem his family name and become the perfect Southern gentleman; yet, he struggled to reconcile his ideals of Christian virtue, self-denial, humility, duty, and honor with his desire for fame and success. "In a very real sense," Fellman writes, "the Civil War rescued Robert E. Lee from marginality and obscurity. In it, he learned to focus his values, his talent, and his deepest feelings on the terrible martial problems at hand." Exploring those values, Fellman unsparingly reveals their roots in racism, repression, and hypocrisy; yet, he acknowledges and admires (with reservations) Lee's sincere adherence to them. "He walked not above but within all the contradictions of a specific society," Fellman writes. "This makes him far more interesting than some boring marble representation of the supposedly unitary and perfect saint." Some ardent worshippers of "Saint Robert" might disagree, but most students of American history will find this a stimulating reassessment. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Canadian historian Fellman's biography of Robert E. Lee is a more psychological appraisal than William J. Cooper's book on Davis. In general terms, Fellman (Citizen Sherman , 1995) tracks the life of the great Confederate general in a chronological fashion. But within that framework, his analysis of Lee is presented in thematic chapters, including discussions of Lee's ideas on race, slavery, marriage, fatherhood, and the "lost cause." Fellman argues that for Lee, "the struggle for self-mastery--the effort to repress every potentially disruptive impulse and emotion--was perpetual." Like Jefferson Davis, his commander-in-chief, Lee was highly principled, and readers follow the evolution and practical execution of his principles. But Fellman is careful to ensure that Lee is seen as a real person with complications and contradictions, a "far more interesting [individual] than some boring marble representation of [a] supposedly unitary and perfect saint." Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Fellman does not go on to explain that the maid who was a man (Valet) left Custis's employee to marry.
Annie Abbitt
Fellman somehow, through a mechanism he neglects to mention, has been able to discern that Lee's comment was untrue and a product of his racism, not his observation.
B. Washburn
The book reads as though author Fellman was hard-pressed to come up with any disparaging new information about Lee, so felt he had to insert his own judgements.
Florida Cracker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gary on June 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mr. Fellman has done a great injustice by his work already being quoted by the anti-southern (Lee) crowd as he incorporated myths and half truths. For example the highly quoted incident of Lee worshiping with a black, never happened, real historians are aware of this old myth. He is correct Lee did hold slaves and many were subject to the justice at the time, but the incidents about the two women slaves claimed by Mr. Feldman have been proven to been falsified. The exchange between Grant and Lee while somewhat accurately reported, was not the reason for the end of prisoner exchange, I refer you to Grants own biography, it was because it gave the South the power to continue fighting. This is an embarrassment and should be listed under fiction instead of reference.
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24 of 33 people found the following review helpful By B. Washburn on January 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In his effort to bring Lee to earth Fellman overreached to the point of intellectual dishonesty--see the previous comment about his anger. Here's my recommendation to anybody who wants to see this in action--read any two good balanced biographies of Lee--Thomas comes to mind, for example. Then read this book and you'll be easily able to see the extent to which evidence can be twisted and distorted to create a fantastic picture.

What's remarkable, though, is Fellman attempts to do this in broad daylight, insulting the intelligence of the reader.

I'll give you some examples so you can see for yourself. On page 61 Fellman states of Lee on Indian duty that "often he welcomed the destruction of the savages." To justify this he uses this extract from a letter to his wife: "I hear that my young Lts have been active in their scouts during my absence. They have each intercepted marauding parties of Indians, chastised them severely. Upwards of a dozen were killed, more wounded, all their horses, animals, camp equipage captured. It is a distressing state of things that requires the the applications of such harsh treatments, but i is the only corrective they understand and the only way they can be kept within their limits."

This, to me, says he 'regrets the necessity,' not welcomes the destruction--but not to Fellman.

Here's another--page 66, Lee is sending female negro servants (Fellman calls them 'house slaves') to a relative but cautions "I can not recommend them for their honesty." Fellman characterizes this with "This sort of snide commentary about inherent slave dishonesty was the language with which Lee expressed his racism.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Annie Abbitt on August 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is revisionist tripe at its finest. The paragraphs that Fellman writes about the general's oldest son are typical of the rest of the claptrap in this book. Fellman blatently states that Custis Lee was probably a homosexual. What is this based on? He never married and had a man as a maid, a statement which Lee himself made. Fellman does not go on to explain that the maid who was a man (Valet) left Custis's employee to marry. And if Fellman had any idea what he was talking about he would know that William Price was a black servant who worked for Custis Lee in the President's house in Lexington. So not only does Fellman smear the illustrious father, he attacks the next generation as well. The best use for this book is at the bottom of the cat's litter tray.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Calvin Durham on January 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I must confess before proceeding that I am a southerner born and raised and have since my early youth been enamoured with the southern icon Robert E. Lee. It is to this confession that I will futher confess that perhaps this clouded my opinion of this book a bit.

In my opinion Fellman goes too far to try to break the myth that is Robert E. Lee and in this effort he becomes transparent and not objective. In reading this book I found myself scoffing numerous times, raising a perplxed eyebrow and even speaking out loud saying "Oh, come on now". Several of Mr. Fellman's conclusions and speculations simply were not borne out of the text or letter(s) he develops his view from (I actually researched a few of the referenced letters for the full context and still found myself disagreeing strongly with Mr. Fellman's reading of them and wondering how any sensible person could arrive at his conclusions).

I was originally sorry that I had purchased the book, but after concluding it and in reflection, am actually glad that I read the book...for at least I see how historical revisionist go about trying to rewrite public opion on favorable historical figures.

As for a much more enjoyable read in which Lee comes alive, you would be better severed with Douglas Southhall Freeman's "Lee"...even if (as Fellman contends) he is biased to paint a positive portrait of Lee.
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28 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A story Emory Thomas relates in his recent bio of General Lee shows the general, now a private citizen, in church after the war. At time to partake of the Eucharist, a black man comes into the church and kneels at the altar to take the Lord's Supper at the all-white church. No one knows what to do and the air is full of tension. The first person to rise, go to the altar, and kneel by the man to eat the Body of the Lord is Robert E. Lee.
Robert E. Lee was notable for freeing slaves left to him and his wife. His first impulse at the beginning of the war was to serve in the U.S. army -- in fact, Lincoln's administration offered him post as commander in chief of the U.S. forces. Does that mean he believed in equality of the races, as we do today? Of course not, it implies nothing of the kind.
This is the basic flaw with Mr. Fellman's book. Like most p.c. revisionists, he seems to demand that all the light of his subject be reflected through the prism of modern sensibilities. Most _modern_ people couldn't abide such scrutiny. The problem of p.c. revisionism of all kinds is that p.c. people see only one point of view and do not recognize any other as valid, and anyone who disagrees with them in a jot or tittle is "intolerant" (tolerance defined as being what they believe) and they destroy posthumously anyone in a past culture who does not reach their exalted level of "tolerance", despite the fact that they haven't had the advantages of a modern educative process where the mind is carefully groomed.
Lee was a model citizen for his time (perhaps for any time). Loyal to his family and friends. Second in his class at West Point, and he got through with no demerits.
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