An Important Lee Exhibit

Many of my readers who find much of what I have to say about Robert E. Lee to be offensive may be surprised to learn that he is in my mind the second most interesting figure from the Civil War.  I’ve read at least 10 major biographies about Lee, including the 3-volume set by Douglas Southall Freeman.  It remains my favorite biography of Lee even thought it is dated in certain respects.  In the end, however, few know Lee better than Freeman.  Discerning readers are no doubt able to distinguish between my thoughts concerning how many have chosen to remember Lee as opposed to those who approach the subject with a sincere interest in analytical history.  The bicentennial of Lee’s birth has given us a great deal of fluff, but little serious public history. 

An exception to this is the work being done at Washington and Lee University which explores Lee’s role as educator.  There are a number of interesting exhibitions, lectures, and publications associated with this project that will surely enrich our understanding of this important period in Lee’s life as well as the life of the college.   

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3 thoughts on “An Important Lee Exhibit

  1. matthew mckeon

    I’ve never read the Freeman because they always described as “dated.” I recently finished Fellman’s “The Making of Robert E. Lee.” I confess I found his thesis about Lee’s psychology and motivations a little reductive, and his discussion of Lee’s generalship unsatisfying. The section of the book about Lee’s tenure as college president, and Lee’s thinking about his war and war in general, I found quite good. Is there a bio that analyzes Lee’s style of command and strategic choices?
    IMO, Lee’s biggest success was before he got to the battlefield: it was getting the trust and respect of Davis, and getting his team of prinna donnas pulling together. Maybe that will be the next book: The Management Secrets of Robert E. Lee.

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  2. Kevin Levin

    Matthew, — I have a couple of suggestions and they include the edited collection _Audacity Personified: The Generalship of Robert E. Lee_ by Peter Carmichael (LSU Press), Richard McClaslin’s _Lee in the Shadow of Washington_ (LSU Press) and Gary Gallagher’s edited collection _Lee: The Soldier_ (University of Nebraska Press). That should at least get you started if you aren’t already familiar with these titles.

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