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Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Hardcover – May 13, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 232 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Our Civil War anointed at least one secular saint in Abraham Lincoln. Another strong candidate, despite fighting for the losing and morally questionable cause, is Robert E. Lee. One hundred and forty-four years after his death, Lee is still widely revered in both North and South for his tactical military brilliance and his personal qualities of courage, honor, and kindness. Korda, the former editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster and an acclaimed biographer, has no intention of knocking Lee off his pedestal in this excellent and generally laudatory biography. Korda stresses Lee’s accomplishments even before the Civil War as a brilliant, visionary engineer and an expert at military maneuvers. His personal characteristics endeared him to his subordinates, both officers and those of lesser ranks. Despite a hot temper, he exercised patience, courtesy, and honesty. Yet Korda does not shrink from noting Lee’s flaws and failures. His orders to his officers during the Civil War were often vague and open to misinterpretation, especially during the Gettysburg campaign. Despite his tactical brilliance, he lacked an overall, effective strategic vision for victory once he faced a relentless opponent in Grant. Still, this masterful and comprehensive single-volume biography is a worthy tribute to an icon whose greatness still shines brightly. --Jay Freeman

Review

“Korda clearly has command of his subject...[Clouds of Glory] is well-considered and amply documented. Military buffs will find much to feast on.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Masterful...Korda delivers the goods.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Superbly engaging.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Monumental.” (BookPage)

“Lively, approachable, and captivating…Llike Lee himself, everything about Clouds of Glory is on a grand scale.” (Boston Globe)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062116290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062116291
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) was one of the great military captains of all times. Lee was a man of honor whose eventful life is well served by Michael Korda in this excellent new biography. Korda is the author of such biographies as those dealing with U.S.
Grant'; T.E. Lawrence of Arabia and Dwight D. Eisenhower Michael Korda is not a trained Civil War historian so he adds a fresh look at Lee from the perspective of an author who has done his research to produce the best Lee biography in years.
Robert E. Lee was the son of Light Horse Harry Lee the American Revolutionary War hero, Governor of Virginia and scion of old Virginia. Light Horse Harry was also a man burdened by scandal who became bankrupt dying in disgrace. R. E. Lee cared for his invalid mother. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829 graduating second in his class. He wed a wealthy woman and was enabled to live at Arlington. Lee was in awe of George Washington his beau ideal of a soldier and leader. Lee and Mary had seven children. Three of them were boys'; all served in the Confederate Army.
Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862. In short order Lee led his outnumbered troops in battle winning victory at the Seven Days near Richmond'; Second Manassas, Antietam (a draw against the Army of the Potomac under the sluggish leadership of George B. McClellan) Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville (it was at this battle that Lee lost Stonewall Jackson who died on May 10, 1863 after he had been wounded by his own men). Lee and his troops met defeat at Gettysburg but continued to fight to the bitter end against Grant in the Overland Campaign which ended with surrender on April 9, 1865.
All of these facts are well know to historians.
Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very enjoyable book on a fascinating man, respected and admired even by his opponents. I learned quite a bit from it (with the caveat that I'm not really a serious student of the US Civil War in general or Lee in particular, so I might not catch factual errors). The author has some minor quirks but nothing too objectionable, and his ideas about why Lee failed at crucial points are plausible.

My one serious complaint is that the book shares a problem that seems to plague Civil War books: the maps are lousy. It's not clear just where they are from -- each one is accompanied by a credit to the Freeman biography, even one or two which clearly didn't come from there (!), and there is no further explanation (at least not in the Kindle edition) -- but they don't fit this book well. In particular, they frequently violate the basic rule that any place or feature which is mentioned in the text *should be on the map*, so the reader is often left guessing about the details of the action. Not as bad as some I've seen, but not great. The limitations of the Kindle format don't help, either: some of the maps and images are too small, and enlarging them doesn't help because they were digitized at too low a resolution.

(And speaking of limitations of the Kindle, endnotes that aren't properly linked to the text are a tremendous pain to use, given that the page numbers are meaningless and it's difficult to quickly flip back and forth between text and notes. Including an apology for this isn't a substitute for fixing it.)
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Format: Hardcover
Touted as "the first major biography of Lee in over 20 years", I was hoping for into a summer of delight and great insights as I read new material on one of the great 19th Century Americans (even though many disagree that he was a great American). What I got was a poorly written, poorly edited rehash of what others have written, full of duplication and inconsistency. A major biography of a military figure without one original map? You have to be kidding.

The reader that is unfamiliar with Lee and/or the Civil War will have a pleasant read, but will come away confused by the high degree of admiration constantly expressed by Korda -- he claims Lee to be a great battlefield genius, but then points out mistake after mistake that he made.

It was refreshing that Korda spends 20+% of the book pre-Civil War to examine Lee's character and characteristics so to allow deeper examination of his acts during the Civil War, but this is definitely the highlight of the book. Descriptions of the action and troop movements during both the Mexican and Civil Wars seemed repetitive (especially as the maps, most copies of 1930's era maps and nearly unreadable on a Kindle) all followed by the same arguments that Longstreet always argued with Lee, and that Lee didn't have to spell out what he was thinking to Stonewall Jackson because Jackson always knew what Lee wanted.

I read a lot of histories and biographies. Good biography uses original sources to come up with new points of view on well-known subjects. Korda rehashes what other authors have said on key topics -- he even uses Wikepdia as a source several times! Save your money and read about the Civil War on-line!
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Format: Hardcover
I love Michael Korda's books for their lucid language and entertaining prose, no matter what his subject may be. Great story-telling. With obvious pleasure in his subject, he explores Lee, the man, with a depth of research to support his instincts. Lee's colorful contemporaries play supporting roles. Battles and horses, too! All against the background of a very very interesting era. Maps in the text are a really nice bonus. A long book, yes, but never, ever tedious. Loved it.
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