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General Robert E. Lee is well known as a major figure in the Civil War. However, by removing Lee from the delimiting frame of the Civil War and placing him in the context of the Republic's total history, Dowdey shows the "eternal relevance" of this tragic figure to the American heritage. With access to hundreds of personal letters, Dowdey brings fresh insights into Lee's b General Robert E. Lee is well known as a major figure in the Civil War. However, by removing Lee from the delimiting frame of the Civil War and placing him in the context of the Republic's total history, Dowdey shows the "eternal relevance" of this tragic figure to the American heritage. With access to hundreds of personal letters, Dowdey brings fresh insights into Lee's background and personal relationships and examines the factors which made Lee that rare specimen, “a complete person.” In tracing Lee's reluctant involvement in the sectional conflict, Dowdey shows that he was essentially a peacemaker, very advanced in his disbelief in war as a resolution. Lee had never led troops in combat until suddenly given command of a demoralized, hodgepodge force under siege from McClellan in front of Richmond. In a detailed study of Lee's growth in the mastery of the techniques of war, he shows his early mistakes, the nature of his seemingly intuitive powers, the limitations imposed by his personal character and physical decline, and the effect of this character on the men with whom he created a legendary army. It was after the fighting was over that Dowdey believes Lee made his most significant and neglected achievement. As a symbol of the defeated people, he rose above all hostilities and, in the wreckage of his own fortunes, advocated rebuilding a New South, for which he set the example with his progressive program in education. The essence of Lee's tragedy was the futility of his efforts toward the harmonious restoration of the Republic with the dissensions of the past forgotten. Skyhorse Publishing, along with our Arcade, Good Books, Sports Publishing, and Yucca imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Our list includes biographies on well-known historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Nelson Mandela, and Alexander Graham Bell, as well as villains from history, such as Heinrich Himmler, John Wayne Gacy, and O. J. Simpson. We have also published survivor stories of World War II, memoirs about overcoming adversity, first-hand tales of adventure, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.


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General Robert E. Lee is well known as a major figure in the Civil War. However, by removing Lee from the delimiting frame of the Civil War and placing him in the context of the Republic's total history, Dowdey shows the "eternal relevance" of this tragic figure to the American heritage. With access to hundreds of personal letters, Dowdey brings fresh insights into Lee's b General Robert E. Lee is well known as a major figure in the Civil War. However, by removing Lee from the delimiting frame of the Civil War and placing him in the context of the Republic's total history, Dowdey shows the "eternal relevance" of this tragic figure to the American heritage. With access to hundreds of personal letters, Dowdey brings fresh insights into Lee's background and personal relationships and examines the factors which made Lee that rare specimen, “a complete person.” In tracing Lee's reluctant involvement in the sectional conflict, Dowdey shows that he was essentially a peacemaker, very advanced in his disbelief in war as a resolution. Lee had never led troops in combat until suddenly given command of a demoralized, hodgepodge force under siege from McClellan in front of Richmond. In a detailed study of Lee's growth in the mastery of the techniques of war, he shows his early mistakes, the nature of his seemingly intuitive powers, the limitations imposed by his personal character and physical decline, and the effect of this character on the men with whom he created a legendary army. It was after the fighting was over that Dowdey believes Lee made his most significant and neglected achievement. As a symbol of the defeated people, he rose above all hostilities and, in the wreckage of his own fortunes, advocated rebuilding a New South, for which he set the example with his progressive program in education. The essence of Lee's tragedy was the futility of his efforts toward the harmonious restoration of the Republic with the dissensions of the past forgotten. Skyhorse Publishing, along with our Arcade, Good Books, Sports Publishing, and Yucca imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Our list includes biographies on well-known historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Nelson Mandela, and Alexander Graham Bell, as well as villains from history, such as Heinrich Himmler, John Wayne Gacy, and O. J. Simpson. We have also published survivor stories of World War II, memoirs about overcoming adversity, first-hand tales of adventure, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

30 review for Lee: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Scholes

    A thorough review of Lee’s life I was more interested in finding out about Lee before and after the Civil War. This book did not disappoint. I did find it interesting that he thought the best Union general in the Civil War was McClellan.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    Clifford Dowdey’s 700+ page Lee is a truly hagiographic account of the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Dowdey notes that “Lee towered above all others as the single most perfected product. Indeed, it was the suggested of a total perfection that has tended to dim Lee with a certain remoteness.” It was clear from the forward that this was not going to be a critical view of the general. Dowdey was not a trained historian, and was a writer of novels of the South. At his death, he was eulo Clifford Dowdey’s 700+ page Lee is a truly hagiographic account of the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Dowdey notes that “Lee towered above all others as the single most perfected product. Indeed, it was the suggested of a total perfection that has tended to dim Lee with a certain remoteness.” It was clear from the forward that this was not going to be a critical view of the general. Dowdey was not a trained historian, and was a writer of novels of the South. At his death, he was eulogized as the “Last Confederate,” and it isn’t hard to see why. In the early part of the book, slaves are usually not referred to as slaves – instead he uses “servant” or “attendant.” In the later part of the book he consistently downplays the role of the Ku Klux Klan in Reconstruction, and only views Reconstruction in a negative light. He seems incapable of understanding why the North simply didn’t restore the South to the way it was before the war. The chapters on Reconstruction make clear that Dowdey was still of an Old South mindset. When writing about Reconstruction he always places “equality” in quotation marks. The abolitionists are always referred to as evil, always ready to use the newly freed blacks for their own political purposes. Dowdey’s writing is strongest during the war itself, his narrative flows from battle to battle. But again, when it comes to making judgement on the battles themselves, Lee is never to blame. At times Dowdey reaches for any excuse, including referring to the Battle of North Anna as a significant check to Grant, equal to Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg. There are balanced accounts of the life of General Lee, which at least attempt to critically analyze his actions. Dowdey’s is not one of these. I would suggest Emory Thomas’ Robert E. Lee.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    A Defense of Lee and of the South This book does provide a very interesting and detailed history of Civil war battles, worth reading except for the pervasive Southern bias that ranges from subtle to extreme. Overall, Lee is portrayed as a hero, a victim of other's incompetence. The South is portrayed as righteous, the victim of oppression. The South's cruel legacy towards blacks and abuse of Federal prisoners is ignored; the North's rough treatment of the South during and after the war -- especia A Defense of Lee and of the South This book does provide a very interesting and detailed history of Civil war battles, worth reading except for the pervasive Southern bias that ranges from subtle to extreme. Overall, Lee is portrayed as a hero, a victim of other's incompetence. The South is portrayed as righteous, the victim of oppression. The South's cruel legacy towards blacks and abuse of Federal prisoners is ignored; the North's rough treatment of the South during and after the war -- especially by Sheridan -- is emphasized. While viewing history from different perspectives can be interesting, in this case more objectivity would have been useful. Lee was a strong military strategist and a loving son, husband and father. He was also weak leader of people, ineffective at influening Confederate politics, and a poor judge of character. Within that context, he waged war against the United States and actively contributed to the killing of thousands of Americans -- an undeniable and inexcusable historical truth.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Simpson

    Pretty mixed at best, fatally compromised by bias at worst. First, while it's a given that any bio of Lee is going to focus a great deal on the Civil War, this one really "yadda yadda's" over much of his life from West Point to the Civil War. So much so that, if this were the only book on Lee you ever read, you wouldn't really get any sense of why this man was picked for such a prominent position in the CSA army. The book's treatment of Lee is quite gentle. It's entirely true and worth mentionin Pretty mixed at best, fatally compromised by bias at worst. First, while it's a given that any bio of Lee is going to focus a great deal on the Civil War, this one really "yadda yadda's" over much of his life from West Point to the Civil War. So much so that, if this were the only book on Lee you ever read, you wouldn't really get any sense of why this man was picked for such a prominent position in the CSA army. The book's treatment of Lee is quite gentle. It's entirely true and worth mentioning that he was badly let down by other generals (Longstreet in particular), but Lee's own shortcomings were glossed over and spun in the best light possible. The author likewise has, at best, a romantic view of the South and downplays the South's role in its own destruction - glossing over slavery and so on. Granted, the Radical approach to Reconstruction was extreme, but portraying the South as pitiful victims was a bit "much".

  5. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    This book was interesting and informative. It has a fair amount of military maneuvers, which I didn't follow well, but it was interesting to learn about the people, personalities, and events. One aspect that I particularly found interesting was the point of view from Lee, and probably the author, that Lincoln, Grant, and the Northern Cause were no angels. It didn't demonize them, but it pointed out perceived faults and errors. Also showed the character of Lee and the good that he tried to do. So This book was interesting and informative. It has a fair amount of military maneuvers, which I didn't follow well, but it was interesting to learn about the people, personalities, and events. One aspect that I particularly found interesting was the point of view from Lee, and probably the author, that Lincoln, Grant, and the Northern Cause were no angels. It didn't demonize them, but it pointed out perceived faults and errors. Also showed the character of Lee and the good that he tried to do. So much of our history of this era is very black and white, with the South and Lee particularly demonized right now, that it was interesting to see goodness on both sides and errors on both sides.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Reynolds S

    An excellent biography of General Robert E. Lee written at a time when biographies did not expose every wart or failing of the subject. You learn how Lee's life molded him into the man that was loved, adored, and respected by many people. The research needed for this book is astounding and it does not create a dull and dry read. Fortunately the author had access to people that had first hand or second hand knowledge of Lee, his family, and his life. This makes the book even more interesting. I h An excellent biography of General Robert E. Lee written at a time when biographies did not expose every wart or failing of the subject. You learn how Lee's life molded him into the man that was loved, adored, and respected by many people. The research needed for this book is astounding and it does not create a dull and dry read. Fortunately the author had access to people that had first hand or second hand knowledge of Lee, his family, and his life. This makes the book even more interesting. I highly recommend this biography for your library.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Micah Douthit

    If you're going to read a biography on Lee, read Douglas Southall Freeman's 4 volume biography, R.E. Lee (or an abridged version). Dowdey's work is impressive and captures the political landscape of the time period (although his bias is rather obvious). It focuses less on the battle strategy than Freeman's biography. Although not a bad biography, it pales in comparison with Freeman's incredible work on the life of Robert E. Lee.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Navin

    Author didn't stick to the plot and deviated a lot and at some point i felt like i am reading about civil war than Lee's Biography. I would have loved it more if it has more details about Lee than the war.

  9. 5 out of 5

    A.D. Hopkins

    Well researched, insightful, and the version I believe.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Reggiefras

    Probably the best biography of Lee I have ever read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steven Piet

    Super info and insights I learned as much about the civil war from this book than countless previous books and movies. So well researched. Highly recommend

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edward Laufer

  13. 5 out of 5

    Charles F. Bullington

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rosina D'Acci

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fred Liebmann

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sally J. Lambert

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Keyes

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mildred Pascucci

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Bagwell

  20. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  21. 5 out of 5

    David C. Thomas

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann Feldhaus

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Leslie B Mink

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mgant

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine Lucille

  27. 4 out of 5

    Molly Lane

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barb Duggin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hans Haenchen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Neville

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