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History Happy Hour

Episode 92: Robert E. Lee: A Life

Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, Michael Korda One of the more recent bios by a renowned practitioner of the art of biography. A good solid accounting of Lee’s life. The author is clearly an admirer of Lee. There has been some-justified-criticism that the book focuses a bit too much on battles and campaigns, but that is, perhaps understandable given why the general was so famous.  

The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee: The Forgotten Case Against an American Icon, John Reeves. A somewhat controversial look at Lee with a particular emphasis on how he had a hand in carefully crafting his image and avoiding prosecution after the war. Writing on the question of Lee’s “guilt” is bound to be controversial but Reeves combines solid research and clear writing to make a valid case. I’d normally have brushed this off but no less a historian than James McPherson called the book valuable.  

Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy 1861, Sounding the Shallows: A Confederate Companion for the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Campaign of 1862, Joseph L. Harsh This trilogy of books about the Maryland Campaign is outstanding and does a compelling deep dive on Lee’s generalship and method of waging war. Happy to give a shout out to Doctor Harsh, who was my Civil War lecturer in graduate school. I remember in one class Dr. Harsh went around a circle of students and asked, “who, in your opinion, was the greatest general of the Civil War?” As we were in Virginia, most of the students said Lee, or Jackson. When he got to me I said, “Ulysses S. Grant.” Doctor Harsh just harumphed and said, “Mr. Anderson, whether you know it or not, you’re a bit like General Lee-audacious!” Tremendous books by a memorable teacher.

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