Douglass Southall Freeman and Lee

hanna260

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#1
Hi all!

It's been a while and I have a question! I have a copy of this abridged biography of Lee on my bookshelf and was wondering, being a busy college student and all, if you guys would recommend it! Embarrassing disclaimer: I love biographies, Civil War biographies, and Lee but actually don't think I've read too many about him! Humiliating, so if anyone has any suggestions for good books on just him I would love it!

Thanks!
 

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cash

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#2
I prefer the full 4-volume biography instead of the 1-volume abridgment. It's beautiful writing.

If you're looking for a good one-volume biography of Lee, then Elizabeth Brown Pryor's Reading the Man and Emory Thomas's Robert E. Lee: A Biography are both really good.
 
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#3
It's not uncommon or unexpected for a biographer to be biased in favor of his subject, but Freeman takes it to a level of absurdity that I can't tolerate, even though I'm a Lee fan. No human on earth has ever been as perfect as the Lee portrayed in the Freeman book.
 

hanna260

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#5
Thanks for the recommendations @cash!

It's not uncommon or unexpected for a biographer to be biased in favor of his subject, but Freeman takes it to a level of absurdity that I can't tolerate, even though I'm a Lee fan. No human on earth has ever been as perfect as the Lee portrayed in the Freeman book.
That's pretty disappointing- I do know Freeman is supposed to be a great writer. I haven't heard great things about the Korda book, @shermans_march, so you're not alone! I definitely agree that Lee seems to invite a lot of hagiographies which is why I started this thread, alongside my embarrassing gap in biography reading!
 
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#6
I second Cash's recommendations on the one-volume biographies of Lee.

Freeman's full-length, four-volume biography is a monumental work, and is still worthwhile for its depth. Freeman was almost sycophantic to Lee -- he saluted Lee's statue from the car as he drove past it on the way to the office -- but it's a landmark biography nevertheless. It's available online here:

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Robert_E_Lee/FREREL/home.html
 

hanna260

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#7
I second Cash's recommendations on the one-volume biographies of Lee.

Freeman's full-length, four-volume biography is a monumental work, and is still worthwhile for its depth. Freeman was almost sycophantic to Lee -- he saluted Lee's statue from the car as he drove past it on the way to the office -- but it's a landmark biography nevertheless. It's available online here:

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Robert_E_Lee/FREREL/home.html
Isn't it amazing that Lee could inspire that sort of devotion? Thanks for the link!
 

Bee

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#8
It's not uncommon or unexpected for a biographer to be biased in favor of his subject, but Freeman takes it to a level of absurdity that I can't tolerate, even though I'm a Lee fan. No human on earth has ever been as perfect as the Lee portrayed in the Freeman book.
I think of it much like Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogy: It is read and appreciated as writing elevated to fine art, but would not be my only source on the topic, but rather, a fine addition to a collection of sources. Both the Foote and Freeman books have become centre points to any Civil War discussion on those topics, so much so that they become required reading. Just my opinion.
 

shermans_march

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#10
I think of it much like Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogy: It is read and appreciated as writing elevated to fine art, but would not be my only source on the topic, but rather, a fine addition to a collection of sources. Both the Foote and Freeman books have become centre points to any Civil War discussion on those topics, so much so that they become required reading. Just my opinion.
Good way to think about it. Some things have to be taken with a huge grain of salt. I do enjoy Foote's trilogy quite a bit. Sad to say the hardcover box set is discontinued on Amazon as of now. Luckily I got my Modern Library set a few years back.

Must resist buying more books. The struggle is real.
 
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#12
Isn't it amazing that Lee could inspire that sort of devotion?
After decades of reading various things about Lee, and some of his own statements, I find the hardcore Lee worshipers to be about 95% right about him. And I've met some tourguides and museum staff members in Virginia who wouldn't hesitate to argue with me all day long about the other 5%.

He really did have a phenomenal amount of self-discipline, wisdom, and natural leadership ability. There are too many witnesses of this for all of them to be wrong. No need to embellish the truth about him.
 

shermans_march

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#14
I second Cash's recommendations on the one-volume biographies of Lee.

Freeman's full-length, four-volume biography is a monumental work, and is still worthwhile for its depth. Freeman was almost sycophantic to Lee -- he saluted Lee's statue from the car as he drove past it on the way to the office -- but it's a landmark biography nevertheless. It's available online here:

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Robert_E_Lee/FREREL/home.html
I don't like how Freeman includes that Longstreet was suppose to have a early morning attack and that they could have taken Little Round Top. This order never happened and it is sad that Longstreet is made into a Scapegoat to absolve Lee of his mistakes.
 
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#15
I don't like how Freeman includes that Longstreet was suppose to have a early morning attack and that they could have taken Little Round Top. This order never happened and it is sad that Longstreet is made into a Scapegoat to absolve Lee of his mistakes.
Freeman fell into the tangle set a generation or two before by people who wanted to discredit Old Pete. They put a lot of effort into that, and it worked.
 

shermans_march

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#16
After decades of reading various things about Lee, and some of his own statements, I find the hardcore Lee worshipers to be about 95% right about him. And I've met some tourguides and museum staff members in Virginia who wouldn't hesitate to argue with me all day long about the other 5%.

He really did have a phenomenal amount of self-discipline, wisdom, and natural leadership ability. There are too many witnesses of this for all of them to be wrong. No need to embellish the truth about him.
I agree with the second paragraph, but not the first. Some of those Lee worshipers pretty much consider him a deity. While a great general, he fell into some bad tendencies and made mistakes. Also you won't get much criticism of Lee if you ask people in Virginia. There is a built in bias in that state :smile:
 
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brass napoleon

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#17
Hi all!

It's been a while and I have a question! I have a copy of this abridged biography of Lee on my bookshelf and was wondering, being a busy college student and all, if you guys would recommend it! Embarrassing disclaimer: I love biographies, Civil War biographies, and Lee but actually don't think I've read too many about him! Humiliating, so if anyone has any suggestions for good books on just him I would love it!

Thanks!
I think it's a decent book and I recommend it. And I agree with others that to really understand Lee you'll need to read more. But this is a good starting place.
 

PatW

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#18
It is well written. Because Freeman makes for easy reading because of his facility of expression, it is worth while to read the four volume version. You will be exposed to much about Lee and I great detail. If you pay attention to foot notes, you will get a decent over view of the primary sources.

Freeman has major issues in his treatment. Freeman finds Lee to be virtually without flaw. Freeman is unable to assess Lee's decisions and procedures in as an objective manner as one would want.
 

Saruman

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#19
Hi all!

It's been a while and I have a question! I have a copy of this abridged biography of Lee on my bookshelf and was wondering, being a busy college student and all, if you guys would recommend it! Embarrassing disclaimer: I love biographies, Civil War biographies, and Lee but actually don't think I've read too many about him! Humiliating, so if anyone has any suggestions for good books on just him I would love it!

Thanks!
I liked "Lee: The Last Years" by Charles B. Flood.

"After his surrender at Appomattox, Robert E. Lee lived only another five years - the forgotten chapter of an extraordinary life. These were his finest hours, when he did more than any other American to heal the wounds between North and South. Flood draws on new research to create an intensely human and a "wonderful, tragic, and powerful . . . story for which we have been waiting over a century" (Theodore H. White).
 
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#20
Robert E. Lee lived only another five years - the forgotten chapter of an extraordinary life.
By all means, visit Washington and Lee University, if you ever get the chance. His office is still the way he left it, full of his personal items. His favorite seat in the chapel is marked, and the nearby church where he was a member is unlocked all day. You can walk around the yard where Traveler used to graze and get apples from students. Of course, both are buried at the chapel. As you might expect, the museum's gift shop is the ultimate place to find all things Lee, including hard to find books.

And while you're in town, you can cover a good bit of Stonewall's life too. VMI is right next door, and his grave is in the city cemetery.
 



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