Help me learn more about Robert E. Lee...
August 16, 2017 11:33 AM   Subscribe

The recent controversies regarding the Confederate statues has caused me to re-examine what I know about the Civil War. What are the best books that critically examine Robert E. Lee's life (both good and bad), and specifically his life before he was the leader of the Confederate Army.

The recent controversies regarding the Confederate statues has caused me to re-examine what I know about the Civil War. I grew up in Texas, and while I feel that I learned why the civil war was fought, ( as a fight predominately for slavery, but also tariffs, states' rights, etc.), I'm trying to evaluate if the portrayal of Robert E. Lee was a little too "rosy".

General Lee was portrayed to us as the ideal representation of the Southern values - while he was a slave owner, he wasn't defined by it (more a result of the system), and he reluctantly took up his role of the Confederate General because he couldn't bear to fight his fellow Virginians. We were taught that he was also offered the role of Union General, decided that he could not fight against his fellow state. He held several high-level roles in the US military before the war, and after the war, he lived out his days as the President of what is now Washington and Lee University.While he did fight for the Confederacy, he did so with "honor" and "valor" and lived a life of public service, so was worthy of our veneration.

I want to re-examine this belief. I'm interested in books/scholarly resources that have studied his life before the Civil War. What was he like as a child, slave owner, and businessman? What were his thoughts and views on the buildup to the civil war?
posted by unexpected to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Reading Emory Thomas' and Michael Korda's biographies would be a good start. They both thoroughly cover the pre-war years.
posted by michaelh at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2017

OK, this isn't a book or a scholarly resource, but it's a good place to read an accessible overview: "The Myth of the Kindly General Lee", from the June 4, 2017 issue of The Atlantic.
posted by alex1965 at 12:20 PM on August 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Lee Considered by Alan Nolan? It's an examination of Lee's life as contrasted with the myths about him, and I found it illuminating.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:32 AM on August 17, 2017

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