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R. E. Lee: A Biography, Vol. 1 Paperback – January 1, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: R.E. Lee (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Publications (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931313369
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931313360
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am not familiar with the one-volume abridgement of this magisterial biography, but having read all four volumes I would be hard pressed to identify any area to be omitted in order to shorten this narrative.

The four volumes cover the following:

I. Family history, Light Horse Harry and birth through western Virginia campaign and Atlantic coast at the beginning of the war.

II. Assignment to Richmond, and Peninsula campaign through Chancellorsville.

III. Gettysburg, Overland campaign, Petersburg and loss of the railroads.

IV. Collapse of Petersburg lines, Appomattox, life in Lexington, and death.

Through his proximity in time and space to Lee, Freeman was able to gather a wealth of primary sources, such as letters and journals that were in the private hands of different families, and use them to flesh out the narrative of better known sources. It is unlikely that a more comprehensive account of Lee will ever be accomplished, regardless of what sources pop up or academic trends arise.

Freeman deftly employs the "fog of war" narration technique throughout the battle sequences. In other words, the narrative, instead of being omniscient, is told from Lee's perspective, and details of enemy movements and other developments are revealed to the reader only when Lee himself becomes aware of them.

The most common objection to Freeman's Lee is that it is hagiographic. It may be, but it would be impossible for a biographer to complete a work of this scope unless he actually admired his subject. Freeman is not without criticism of Lee, especially in the area of being too sensitive with the feelings of subordinates, for example, Loring in western Virginia and Longstreet at Second Manassas and Gettysburg.
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Format: Hardcover
As anther reviewer stated, this is by far the best biography of R.E. Lee. Still, after all these years, no one has been able to top it. The four volumes cover the life and career of Robert E. Lee and do it in a manner that you simply do not want to stop. I enjoyed each and ever page of each volume. Freeman's research is almost beyond question and of course he had the advantage of being much closer to Lee (time wise) that other, more recent biographers. Freeman's style is extremely readable, particularly when you consider the era in which it was written. Yes, the four volumes are a bit intimidating when you look at them on the shelf, but is is quiet surprising how fast they read and how much important, interesting and useful information the author has packed into them. Strange as it may sound, these volumes are real page turners. Anyone interested in the Civil War and R.E. Lee in particular should indeed read this work. I highly recommend.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This version of a very commendable biography is full of typos and misspellings that interfere with the enjoyment of reading the book. In some cases names are misspelt but the larger issue is dates throughout the book are written as "2i st" or something similar. To my mind this version of this book should be removed from sale until it has been corrected.
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Format: Hardcover
There is a reason why this book is often cited as a reference regarding the events of the life of Robert. E. Lee.

It is absolutely the best biography of Lee in existence.

Freeman writes in a style that is easily read in spite of it taking four volumes to tell the tale. The detail is extraordinary, his citations sound, and his conclusions insightful.

Freeman is, in many ways, an apologist for Lee, but that does not stop him from being measured and thorough in how he presents his material. He tends not to see the conflicts that Lee's "honor" brought into his actions, preferring to slide over with the apology that Lee was a general not a politician the fact that Lee knew as early as the beginning of 1863 that the South could not win the war.

For those trying to build a collection of definitive books on the Civil War, these four volumes should be part of the core.
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This is not history, it is hagiography. According to Freeman the only real error Lee made at Gettysburg was overestimating the the fighting value of the cavalry he did have. That said, the work is important from an historiography perspective as so many historians that followed refer to Freeman and buy into his arguments. His argument however are those of Jubal Early's 1866 work. Early condemns Longstreet and so many have followed that silly path. Had lee paid attention to Longstreet he might have won the battle; Longstreet wanted a a battle that was fought defensively, which is what the North did.
The failure at Gettysburg was Lee's:
Time, distance, a lack of partisanship on the part of historians that are not married to either the Myth of the Lost Cause or the Myth of Robert E. Lee show a different picture than what is too often shown. Lee believed he could allow his commanders a level of discretion that worked when those commanders were, as mentioned, Longstreet and Jackson. With Jackson’s firm hand lost in the Pyrrhic victory at Chancellorsville, Lee was forced to reorganize his army. He is cited by Shelby Foote as understanding that he would have to do more, that he would need to be in firmer control. Saying so however does not make it so. He failed to give clear written orders, everything was oral. He failed to make clear to Ewell on day one that taking the heights was critical and instead told him to take the heights “if practicable.” He failed to tell Stuart exactly what was expected of him. He failed to use the cavalry at hand when Stuart failed to keep him informed. He failed to be available on day two to take control of the right flank of his army when that flank failed in its’ objective of turning the Union left.
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