New Robert E. Lee Biography by Allen Guelzo

Joshism

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Only problem is there's as many biographies out there about Lee as there is for Lincoln.

I don't think any Civil War figure, or pre-21st century president, has been the subject of as many books as Lincoln.

Lee hasn't been the focus of as many biographies as I would expect, and in the last 2-3 decades he's been surpassed in that regard by Grant and maybe even Meade.

The biggest issue is that there is no standout biography of Lee since Freeman's series in the 1930s. Nothing on the quality and evenhandedness of Simpson's Grant nor as prominent as Chernow's Grant.
 
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jcaesar

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Aug 28, 2020
I watched him speak a few months back and his view of Lee is faulty and highly injected with modern politics. First he focuses on Lee going to Washington College and spent half his speech arguing that he was hiding out from potential treason charges.

Lee was hiding out in a way, but it was from everyone and their brother wanting to come to see him and talk to him in Richmond. The last thing he wanted was to spend every half hour signing autographs, giving out buttons or talking about the war. If he cared all that much about treason charges he would have been outside the country like Early, Breckenridge, and others given he was no more protected in Lexington as he was in Richmond.

Second came the authors argument that Lee could have revolutionized southern politics and changed the course of history by coming out in favor of racial social and political equity. On that note he is wrong again as that would be such an out of the mainstream point of view (on either part of the Mason Dixon line) your average southerner would have just assumed he made a dirty deal with the Radical Republicans to save his skin and he would have lost all his credibility for promoting reconciliation.

Authors need to have historical objectivity and avoid presentism.
 

Kurt G

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May 23, 2018
I watched him speak a few months back and his view of Lee is faulty and highly injected with modern politics. First he focuses on Lee going to Washington College and spent half his speech arguing that he was hiding out from potential treason charges.

Lee was hiding out in a way, but it was from everyone and their brother wanting to come to see him and talk to him in Richmond. The last thing he wanted was to spend every half hour signing autographs, giving out buttons or talking about the war. If he cared all that much about treason charges he would have been outside the country like Early, Breckenridge, and others given he was no more protected in Lexington as he was in Richmond.

Second came the authors argument that Lee could have revolutionized southern politics and changed the course of history by coming out in favor of racial social and political equity. On that note he is wrong again as that would be such an out of the mainstream point of view (on either part of the Mason Dixon line) your average southerner would have just assumed he made a dirty deal with the Radical Republicans to save his skin and he would have lost all his credibility for promoting reconciliation.

Authors need to have historical objectivity and avoid presentism.
I think his historical objectivity and research were lacking in his treatment of Meade in his Gettysburg book.
 

Joshism

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Jupiter, FL
Second came the authors argument that Lee could have revolutionized southern politics and changed the course of history by coming out in favor of racial social and political equity.

Sounds like Guelzo has similar views as Korda, wherein they seem to think Lee more progressive on racial issues than most.

Lee freed slaves he was legally obligated to free. He was probably far less enamored with slavery than most of his Virginia peers, perhaps fairly said to be in the Washington-Jefferson school of soft anti-slavery.

But he wasn't ever going to endorse racial equality, and I find it incredulous to suggest he ever believed such a thing.
 
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Sounds like Guelzo has similar views as Korda, wherein they seem to think Lee more progressive on racial issues than most.

Lee freed slaves he was legally obligated to free. He was probably far less enamored with slavery than most of his Virginia peers, perhaps fairly said to be in the Washington-Jefferson school of soft anti-slavery.

But he wasn't ever going to endorse racial equality, and I find it incredulous to suggest he ever believed such a thing.
Very, very few people endorsed "racial equality" in the 19th century.
 

jcaesar

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Joined
Aug 28, 2020
Sounds like Guelzo has similar views as Korda, wherein they seem to think Lee more progressive on racial issues than most.

Lee freed slaves he was legally obligated to free. He was probably far less enamored with slavery than most of his Virginia peers, perhaps fairly said to be in the Washington-Jefferson school of soft anti-slavery.

But he wasn't ever going to endorse racial equality, and I find it incredulous to suggest he ever believed such a thing.

He might or might not believe he was somewhat more progressive then the average plantation owner of the time, but his argument was he could have revolutionized post war southern thinking on race, but did not. It was not necessarily that he believed in it and didn’t try.
 
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James N.

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... Second came the authors argument that Lee could have revolutionized southern politics and changed the course of history by coming out in favor of racial social and political equity. On that note he is wrong again as that would be such an out of the mainstream point of view (on either part of the Mason Dixon line) your average southerner would have just assumed he made a dirty deal with the Radical Republicans to save his skin and he would have lost all his credibility for promoting reconciliation.

Authors need to have historical objectivity and avoid presentism.
Exactly - by the end of the war there was no greater Southern hero to his own command and many others than John S. Mosby. Once he became a Republican supporting Grant for President he became the worst sort of pariah, receiving death threats and losing his once-lucrative law practice which effectively drove him from his native state. Indeed, he originally had a price on his head as a train robber and guerilla which had in fact been lifted at least in part through the good offices of Grant, a fact that likely didn't go unnoticed by his fellow Virginians.
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
I'm looking forward to reading Guelzo's upcoming book on Lee. His Gettysburg book was a welcome addition to that history.
Agree. He didn't just repeat Coddington, Sears, or Trudeau - he brought some new points into circulation. A lot of readers of a one volume history won't be as knowledgeable as most here and, among other things, Guelzo did a better job of explaining a nineteenth century battlefield in the black powder era and the impact of terrain.
 
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