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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lee's Life of Virtue. (Lee, A Life of Virtue by John Perry)

My knowledge of the battles of the Civil War came mostly from Gone With The Wind and movies like Shenandoah before I read this book, I'm sorry to say. I certainly didn't know much about Robert E. Lee! Lee by John Perry is an excellent summary of the great man's life.

Well-written and engaging, it is enjoyable but sad reading. Lee's reputation apparently suffered a lot during his lifetime and afterwards. He was accused of being a traitor to his own country and fighting in defence of slavery. Neither of these myths is true and Perry certainly manages to restore the heroic general's reputation.

Robert E. Lee came from a distinguished Virginian family that arrived 200 years before America was established. He had a hard childhood because his father, also a war hero, left when he was only young and his mother was ill. The young boy used to have to carry her to and from his carriage.

Lee was an excellent student at Westpoint and soon got promoted. However, as he was an engineer his work often involved hard labour such as fixing up forts. He distinguished himself in the war against Mexico. When the Civil War finally came, Lee joined the Virginian side because he didn't want to fight against men from his own state. (Unfortunately, half of the State joined the Union side to his great sorrow). He also believed that the abolition of slavery should be gradual.

The great general almost did the impossible in the Civil War even though the Confederacy was out-numbered and out-gunned by the Union side. They had more modern weapons and more money as well as more people. Unfortunately, Lee made the mistake of deferring to his commanders instead of trusting his own judgement. If he had trusted his own plans, the South may have won.

Perry's analysis of Lee's character is excellent and moving. He uses extracts from Lee's letters and diaries to good effect in the book. He also writes just as much about Lee's personal life - his marriage to a great-granddaughter of Washington - as he does about his heroism. Perry emphasizes the important role of faith in Lee's life and how this helped him in his many dark moments.

The only problem with Lee, A Life of Virtue is that it seems a little bit too admiring. However, there is certainly much to admire in the life of this great general of the Confederacy.

I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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