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Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret…Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee’s biographers remind me of St. Augustine‘s prayer, Give me chastity and continence – but not yet. They can’t quite deal with the fact that even a Christian gentleman – and we can think of no better appellation for Lee – must still, being human, have frailties. It may be a uniquely American experience with its profoundly anti-Catholic traditions to dismiss the idea of sainthood but the human mind can not grasp the possibility that there are no saints to act as intercessors with a benevolent God so we have historically created secular saints. Out of the civil war we created Lincoln and Lee – polar opposites – and we can neither historically nor culturally reconcile them so we have our own little schism.

It is no secret which side of the debate I come down on and going back to St. Augustine, The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. And that, in essence, is what Robert E. Lee had – a deep foundation as a Christian that allowed him to temper both his shortcomings and his triumphs. Although Thomas does not adequately address this aspect of the man this book is at least head and shoulders above most of the psychological biographies of the man that are not worth reading.

Henry Lee III, an early American patriot who served as Governor of Virginia and as the Virginia Representative to the United States Congress. During the American Revolution, Lee served as a cavalry officer in the Continental Army and earned the nickname “Light-Horse Harry.” Lee was also the father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Robert E. Lee : a biography New York : W.W. Norton, c 1995 Emory M. Thomas Confederate States of America. Army Biography, Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 472 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [449]-457) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The life of Robert E. Lee is a story of triumph—triumph in clearing his family name, triumph in marrying properly, tri­umph over the mighty Mississippi in his work as an engineer, and triumph over all other military men to become the towering figure who commanded the Confederate army in the American Civil War.

Mary Anna Custis Lee was the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s step-grandson and adopted son and founder of Arlington House, and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis, daughter of William Fitzhugh and Ann Bolling Randolph Fitzhugh. Her godmother, Mary Randolph is the first person recorded buried at Arlington – the family home that would become the nation’s cemetary.

Late in life Lee wrote what may be his most reveal­ing phrase. He confessed that he “was always wanting something.” This from perhaps the South’s geatest hero, the man whose demeanor and presence in war were sufficient to inspire thousands to march to near-certain death. In this probing and personal biography, Emory Thomas’s thorough examination of Lee’s life reveals more than the man did himself, allowing us to find meaning in Lee’s successes and
failures.

From his struggles as a youth with his father’s humiliation, to his frustrating mar­riage into a proper and prominent family, and his lively relationships with young fe­male friends and relatives, Lee — the uncer­tain scion, skilled engineer, consummate warrior, and college president — was actu­ally an enigmatic person who lived in limbo between the self-control to which he aspired and the freedom for which he longed.

Lee has been and continues to be a sym­bol and hero in the American story. But re­duction to symbol is too simple, and Lee’s perceived heroism has been too often smaller than life. Here is Lee alive.

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