New book on Lee. Would you read it?

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
But now the poor fellow is a provocation to almost everybody.
He didn‘t write those hagiographies, nor did he encourage them, he especially refrained from erecting memorials or statues remembering the war and as far as I can judge seemingly felt some guilt because of his decision to break loyality with the Union - at least he was everything but happy with it, he even wasn‘t a staunch supporter of slavery.

I deem it quite clear that he tried quite hard to NOT become the poster boy of the Lost Cause
and to NOT being misused to lend his morality to that Cause
(which of course most of the Southerners afterwards did as they significantly felt the need to get morale relief - which in itself is very telling....)

Well... that‘s a bit much to a confederate general to feel comfortable with the person nowadays, especially for people decidedly critical of the Confederacy....

I deem he is an excellent example how contradictory and complex people can be and how much of a simplification our judgements of people generally (and historic people especially) tend to be.
Who is blaming him for writing the hagiographies? Not sure how that comes out of criticizing folks like Early and Freeman for canonizing him.
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Who is blaming him for writing the hagiographies? Not sure how that comes out of criticizing folks like Early and Freeman for canonizing him.
A lot of people feel the need to be a bit overly critical towards him just to establish a balance against that perceived „marble man“-picture. As he did (as far as I can see) nothing to foster that picture I‘d say they throw their stones at the wrong target. He needn‘t to be degraded just to battle the Lost Cause.
 

CaptSpook

Private
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
Yes, I think that there is. About General Lee and all other historical figures. If you have followed the arguments in these threads, you'll see that there is no definitive view: a lot of controversy and (too) much passion. The General is as yet undefined and may remain so. But the more one reads, the fuller one is able to do an assessment of his/her own; reading Freeman or Guelzo and calling it quits isn't good enough
Very good point about historical figures.

I look at history and the characters within as though they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Some of the pieces are fairly easy to understand where they fit in the puzzle. Like the border and corner pieces, we have information that can be validated through reliable sources like birth and death, schools and military training, family ties, battles fought, and others.

But then, there are other pieces that are more difficult and there may be many pieces yet to be discovered.

What keeps me interested are all those odd pieces that don't quite fit -- yet -- and those still missing.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Preach on about that '73 NC, brother. And the Bear was 0-4 against a certain school. :cool:

Well, I was two years old in 1973, so I really don't know much about it. But I remember the Lou Holtz era and ND would play anyone, anywhere, any time and still be in the hunt for National Championship at the end of the year. Holtz had nothing but studs on that program. Nick Sabin never did what Holtz did. The only other program I seen that comes close to that program was USC when Pete Carroll was the coach. Sick...
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
A lot of people feel the need to be a bit overly critical towards him just to establish a balance against that perceived „marble man“-picture. As he did (as far as I can see) nothing to foster that picture I‘d say they throw their stones at the wrong target. He needn‘t to be degraded just to battle the Lost Cause.
This thread is about a specific book. Not every book that is objective about Lee or critical of him is "degrad[ing him] just to battle the Lost Cause." That's exactly the mindset of the hagiographies.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, I was two years old in 1973, so I really don't know much about it. But I remember the Lou Holtz era and ND would play anyone, anywhere, any time and still be in the hunt for National Championship at the end of the year. Holtz had nothing but studs on that program. Nick Sabin never did what Holtz did. The only other program I seen that comes close to that program was USC when Pete Carroll was the coach. Sick...
Good points. I will say that things started to change in the late '90's. Today, everybody is on tv and there are c. 120 "D 1"/"FBS" programs and all these crazy conference alignments. CU and Utah, for example, are 12-15 hours' drive from the "Pacific". Norman, Austin (both looking down the road), and College Station are nowhere near the "Southeast".
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Very good point about historical figures.

I look at history and the characters within as though they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Some of the pieces are fairly easy to understand where they fit in the puzzle. Like the border and corner pieces, we have information that can be validated through reliable sources like birth and death, schools and military training, family ties, battles fought, and others.

But then, there are other pieces that are more difficult and there may be many pieces yet to be discovered.

What keeps me interested are all those odd pieces that don't quite fit -- yet -- and those still missing.
One aspect of the Civil War that is especially interesting is that even after 150+ years new information is still being found. Guys like Catton and Freeman were plowing "new ground" using the Official Records and published memoirs. Since they wrote countless archives have become accessible digitally, we have the 100+ volumes of the Supp Official Records, and important stuff is still being found in attics or elsewhere. The extensive Willcox and Hood papers stumbled on in the last 20 years are just examples.
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
This thread is about a specific book. Not every book that is objective about Lee or critical of him is "degrad[ing him] just to battle the Lost Cause." That's exactly the mindset of the hagiographies.
As I haven´t read the book I can barely comment - with the exception that Guelzo´s view regarding the manumission seems a bit outbalanced to me (as compared to threads about that matter in this forum).

But please excuse, I was replying to some posts where the idea was fostered that a decidedly critical book (as Guelzo´s was interpreted by some) was needed to offset the hagiography.

Hence my argumentation which tried to show that I deem such unnecessary.
Generally my impression was also that the thread had somehow evolved into a general discussion.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
As I haven´t read the book I can barely comment - with the exception that Guelzo´s view regarding the manumission seems a bit outbalanced to me (as compared to threads about that matter in this forum).

But please excuse, I was replying to some posts where the idea was fostered that a decidedly critical book (as Guelzo´s was interpreted as by some) was needed to offset the hagiography.

Hence my argumentation which tried to show that I deem such unnecessary.
Generally my impression was also that the thread had somehow evolved into a general discussion.
No problem. There seems to have been an assumption by some based on reviews or hearsay that the book is a hit piece and i was giving my counter impression - based on a limited sampling - that it actually strikes me so far as pretty balanced - whether a reader might agree with this area of criticism or that area of praise. As I keep saying, if it's a hit piece against anybody, it might be Meade - following on Guelzo's strong criticism of him in the Gettysburg book.

And the best way to assess what I'm saying is to actually read the material - I've just tried to paraphrase a few items where Guelzo struck me as being objective on Lee. If you think you've read enough on Lee or have too many other priorities or just aren't interested in Lee, those are all good reasons not to read the book. If you decide not to read it because somebody else who hasn't read it says it's a hit piece, that's a bad reason IMHO based on what I've read.
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
No problem. There seems to have been an assumption by some based on reviews or hearsay that the book is a hit piece and i was giving my counter impression - based on a limited sampling - that it actually strikes me so far as pretty balanced - whether a reader might agree with this area of criticism or that area of praise. As I keep saying, if it's a hit piece against anybody, it might be Meade - following on Guelzo's strong criticism of him in the Gettysburg book.

And the best way to assess what I'm saying is to actually read the material - I've just tried to paraphrase a few items where Guelzo struck me as being objective on Lee. If you think you've read enough on Lee or have too many other priorities or just aren't interested in Lee, those are all good reasons not to read the book. If you decide not to read it because somebody else who hasn't read it says it's a hit piece, that's a bad reason IMHO based on what I've read.
Alright. I am currently waiting for another book about honour and violence in the Southern culture and got to read it first (boy...this forum is getting costly...never buyed and read that many books in so short a time...) then I might very well give it a try. And I do thank you for your informative representation of the book.
 

jcaesar

Corporal
Joined
Aug 28, 2020
Until anyone here has read the book one cannot comment on the content, but one can comment on the authors interviews.

I would say ten years ago there was a popular move to what some would call right size history with Lee, that moved into an effort of something much more radical, then he became the epicenter of the culture wars. Talk about Lee in popular discourse on TV today isn’t even about Lee himself anymore it’s a proxy for modern political fights.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Until anyone here has read the book one cannot comment on the content, but one can comment on the authors interviews.

I would say ten years ago there was a popular move to what some would call right size history with Lee, that moved into an effort of something much more radical, then he became the epicenter of the culture wars. Talk about Lee in popular discourse on TV today isn’t even about Lee himself anymore it’s a proxy for modern political fights.
"Until anyone here has read the book one cannot comment on the content, but one can comment on the authors interviews."

Sure. And as you know, author interviews are frequently not a great portrait of the actual book. They're marketing tools and they're also usually shortened, focused on pretty limited topics, and subject to being edited down. It's up to each person, but I rarely bother with them for those reasons. If I'm interested in the subject, I'll read the book.

The Connelly and Nolan books that were strongly critical of Lee were written in 1977 and 1991, so they weren't part of the current "culture wars". They have their own issues but the impetus was the canonization of Lee that dominated his coverage for a long time, starting with Early and propagated by Freeman.
 

Ct Yank

Cadet
Joined
Jan 20, 2021
Location
Marlborough, CT
Lee is entirely too politized a historical figure at the moment and by moment I really mean the past decade or so to have a well done history told of him that is able to be promoted by the mass media gatekeepers.

As for this author his history in regards to Lee isn't all bad, but he builds sand castles out of things with weak and non-existent evidence because they make sense to him and ends up fixated on it. I watched a video last year where he spent 40 minutes talking about how Lee took the job at Washington College to hide out from treason charges. I agree with his core idea he was hiding out, but more from the general attention of everyone post war.

If he was half as terrified of treason charges as the author sold him in that speech he would have been out of the country like Early.

He also took on the idea that Lee was heavily motivated by the love of his native state with the argument on how much time he spent outside Virginia as a military officer. He just did a podcast for anyone interested.
Thanks for the link to Gingrich's interview of Guelzo about his new Lee book. The interview just enforces my disdain for that author, as he just amazes me with his 'spin' or interpretation of what transpired. Case in point: near the end of the podcast (at 1:06:45), Guelzo states that at Gettysburg, Meade established his headquarters on Powers Hill on Day 3 because he fully expected to be overrun by Lee's assault, and he was setting up batteries of artillery to cover his retreat up the Baltimore Pike! What!?! Okay, maybe I missed that in my readings about the battle, so let me check Coddington. Here's what "The Gettysburg Campaign" says on Pg 496:

"Despite suggestions that he move his headquarters [at the Leister house], Meade at first refused to budge because he felt it imperative for him to be where his subordinates would expect to find him. Toward the end of the cannonade he consented to go to Slocum's headquarters on Power's Hill, but only after he heard that a signal officer stationed there could communicate with the one located at the Leister house. No sooner had he made the change than he discovered that his man had left his post, so he started back to the old headquarters."

How on earth does Guelzo interpret Meade's movements as preparing for a retreat? He just has a strange take on things. A couple of minutes later (about 1:09), he states that if the ANV had won the battle of Gettysburg, the AoP would have disintegrated, the New York City riots would have happened, and the mayor of New York would have had to call on Lee's army to quell the riots!!! Guelzo is just a strange man with maddening takes on history. Let me reiterate my refusal to buy anything that this man writes.
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Thanks for the link to Gingrich's interview of Guelzo about his new Lee book. The interview just enforces my disdain for that author, as he just amazes me with his 'spin' or interpretation of what transpired. Case in point: near the end of the podcast (at 1:06:45), Guelzo states that at Gettysburg, Meade established his headquarters on Powers Hill on Day 3 because he fully expected to be overrun by Lee's assault, and he was setting up batteries of artillery to cover his retreat up the Baltimore Pike! What!?! Okay, maybe I missed that in my readings about the battle, so let me check Coddington. Here's what "The Gettysburg Campaign" says on Pg 496:

"Despite suggestions that he move his headquarters [at the Leister house], Meade at first refused to budge because he felt it imperative for him to be where his subordinates would expect to find him. Toward the end of the cannonade he consented to go to Slocum's headquarters on Power's Hill, but only after he heard that a signal officer stationed there could communicate with the one located at the Leister house. No sooner had he made the change than he discovered that his man had left his post, so he started back to the old headquarters."

How on earth does Guelzo interpret Meade's movements as preparing for a retreat? He just has a strange take on things. A couple of minutes later (about 1:09), he states that if the ANV had won the battle of Gettysburg, the AoP would have disintegrated, the New York City riots would have happened, and the mayor of New York would have had to call on Lee's army to quell the riots!!! Guelzo is just a strange man with maddening takes on history. Let me reiterate my refusal to buy anything that this man writes.
I think of Guelzo as less of a historian and more of a story teller who loves to be a media personality. He does come to a lot of obscure conclusions that no one else seems to arrive at, and I think he does so in order to make his stories more "interesting" (in his mind) to a broader audience. He certainly does not have my respect as a historian. He reminds me of the old Irish saying of never letting the truth get in the way of a good story.
 

Florida Rebel

Corporal
Joined
May 31, 2019
I too will abstain from reading Guelzo's book. What's to gain? Because I have seen some of his interviews, read his thoughts and generally know what he thinks, why would I want to read him now? I'll pass. This is the problem with studying the Civil War today, 2021. Too many NEW and "progressive people" want to make a name for themselves and most always choose to be "anti Lost Cause" and anti South. The best historians and authors, with rare exception, the ones who had excellent resources, conducted extensive interviews with people from that era, have already died.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
The best historians and authors, with rare exception, the ones who had excellent resources, conducted extensive interviews with people from that era, have already died.
What about histories written about Tacitus? Alexander the Great? Genghis Khan? Ivan the Terrible? etc. Don't you believe that a historian is more than a chronicler? You don't really believe that a primary source is necessarily an accurate source, do you? 🤨
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
I too will abstain from reading Guelzo's book. What's to gain? Because I have seen some of his interviews, read his thoughts and generally know what he thinks, why would I want to read him now? I'll pass. This is the problem with studying the Civil War today, 2021. Too many NEW and "progressive people" want to make a name for themselves and most always choose to be "anti Lost Cause" and anti South. The best historians and authors, with rare exception, the ones who had excellent resources, conducted extensive interviews with people from that era, have already died.
Except that people, being people, are very inaccurate for many reasons. Flawed memories when interviewed years after the fact, reputations to protect, personality clashes with other officers, bitter feelings about the war, and political considerations, to name a few. And we know that Civil War history has been poisoned for the first 100 years by the Lost Cause myth which still is present today.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Except that people, being people, are very inaccurate for many reasons. Flawed memories when interviewed years after the fact, reputations to protect, personality clashes with other officers, bitter feelings about the war, and political considerations, to name a few. And we know that Civil War history has been poisoned for the first 100 years by the Lost Cause myth which still is present today.
At bottom, a lot of folks only want to read what confirms their long-held beliefs - without looking into where those came from in the first place.
 
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