Lee: Goodness in Action
I was intrigued by this statement on the back cover: "Traitor. Divider. Defender of slavery. This damning portrayal of Robert E. Lee has persisted through 150 years of history books. And yet it has no basis in fact." Strong words, these. Yet I was puzzled as well, for this supposed pervasive portrayal of Lee was something I failed to identify with. To the contrary, every previous Civil War book I had read, both pro and anti-Southern, conveyed only admiration for General Lee. Had I somehow missed something? This could hardly be reason enough to write a new biography about a man who has already had numberless words written about his life. The editor's note helped me to understand the motivation for this new series about American Generals. Stephen Mansfield asserts that most that has been written about the lives of American military leaders falls into two opposing categories, hagiography and revisionist history (in which the subject is a "reviled symbol of societal ills"). He states that it is time for a balance portrayal of our leaders, one that gives honour where it is due, and yet does not gloss over human frailty. More than that, the intent of the series is to "help us learn the lessons they [these generals] have to teach". (p.x) In the author's introduction, Perry proposes to answer the questions "Who was the real Robert E. Lee, how did he become the man he was, and how is the genuine article different from the myth?"(p.xviii)
As I read the biography, I was most struck by the difficulty Lee faced in balancing his sense of duty to his country with his devotion to his family. During his more than 30 years of service in the U.S. Army, he experienced many lengthy separations from his wife and children. Some of the agony he felt comes out in some of the letters to his wife, Mary Anna Custis, which the author quotes at length. Perry also brings out the close connection that Mary Anna's family had to George Washington, whose memory was still fresh in many American minds during the early 1800's. Even at such an early date, there emerge strong hints of the popular mythology that was to grow around the first President of the United States.
Drawing heavily from personal letters and J.William Jones' biography of Lee, Perry concludes that "Lee was not an infallible commander. His recurring flaw was to assume his subordinates had the same energy, bravery, resolve, and sense of self-sacrifice he did and then plan accordingly. ... Yet, ... Lee was a great leader...because he never abandoned his personal standards, [and] never wavered from doing what he thought was right even in the face of inevitable, crushing, devastating consequences." (p. 226) I found the book easy to read, and think that Perry a fair job in accomplishing his stated goals in writing the book. However, I would have appreciated more detailed references, rather than the rather short bibliography given at the end.
January 10, 2011
Lee: A Life of Virtue (The Generals) by John Perry is a biography of Robert E. Lee that focuses Lee's character and personal philosophy. Perry delivers a good overview of Lee's entire life, not just the war years. It's not a very comprehensive biography, but an easy and enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about the life of Robert E. Lee or anyone interested in the Civil War and that time period.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com 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 CommissionÃ¢ÂÂs 16 CFR, Part 255 : Ã¢ÂÂGuides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.Ã¢ÂÂ
November 28, 2010
I like Robert E. Lee the Generals. I usually find biographies boring, i found this one boring too, it was a good book though. One good thing about it is the fact that John Perry showed Lee, not as most people see him, a villain, but as we should see him, in my opinion, an honest, hardworking, God-fearing, humble man. He tells how Lee was not against the Union, He was just devoted to his home state Of Virginia,and the he felt devoted to the Union. John Perry did well in the writing of this book. I liked how he went out and told about how Lee loved others and was willing to sacrifice for others. He was willing to let God take control and he also accepted God's will and took it as the best outcome. It was a little too long for me, I got tired of reading it. I also got kind of bored with it after awhile. If you like biographies or just want to know more about Lee and the Civil War I suggest you read this book. This book contains 221 pages, then the legacy and other miscellaneous info is from page 223-234. This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
October 23, 2010
A new release from Thomas Nelson's "The Generals" series, John Perry, author of the New York Times' bestseller, Letters to God, crafts a biography that highlights the virtues of Robert E. Lee. Drawing from his previous work on the life of Robert E. Lee's wife, Mary Custis Lee (Lady of Arlington), Perry sets about to defend the memory of the great Confederate general. For example, Perry notes on the back cover, "Lee considered slavery a moral outrage" and in the book's introduction, he notes that Lee "probably never owned a slave in his life". However, Perry also shares that Lee's wife (and Lee by marriage) inherited nearly 200 slaves from her father upon his death; there were always slaves serving in the Lee family home at Arlington; and a "servant" who had served the Lees at Arlington was alongside Lee throughout the Civil War. So while Lee may technically have never owned a slave, it is difficult to determine from the facts of his life that he considered slavery a "moral outrage".This work, as well as the George Patton book in the Generals series, attempts to characterize and highlight the nature of both men as deeply spiritual. Yet in each book, the information the authors share is not entirely convincing. It's as if the authors desire to present the men as without fault. Also, in several portions of the book, the author comes across as an apologist for the causes of the Confederacy. This, in addition to the lack of historical notes or a significant bibliography, make this short volume a disappointment.I reviewed this book in conjunction with Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program, was not compensated for this review and the opinions expressed are solely mine.
September 28, 2010