Lee the Soldier

Lee the Soldier

Lee the Soldier

Lee the Soldier

Synopsis

Lee the Soldier is a unique one-volume source of writing by and about Lee in which readers can explore all facets of the general's military leadership. Combining unpublished manuscript testimony from Lee about his campaigns, six new essays by leading historians in the field, more than a dozen important essays published previously, and an annotated bibliography of two hundred key titles, this book lays out the major debates and enables readers to explore fully Lee's contribution to the Confederate war effort.

Excerpt

R. E. Lee's Confederate military career has attracted intense scrutiny for more than a century and a quarter. Beginning with soldiers who fought both with and against him, writers have analyzed his strategic and tactical abilities, probed his character for traits that affected his performance as a field commander, and measured his impact on the fortunes of the Confederacy. The resulting literature, both vast and uneven, looms like Janus before readers who hope to understand Lee. The dominant strain of this historiography presents a soldier of almost preternatural gifts who compares favorably with the world's great captains. A smaller part of the literature, the influence of which may be found most often in the academic arena, casts Lee as a general whose weaknesses seriously compromised, and sometimes more than offset, his undeniable talents. Was Lee the mainstay of the South's military resistance, forging a record on the battlefield that enspirited Confederate citizens while stretching Northern resolve nearly to the breaking point? Or did each of his renowned victories lead to no deeper result, obscuring more important events elsewhere while inflating their architect's reputation?

Lee the Soldier originated from the belief that anyone hoping to answer such questions lacked a good place to begin their quest. Although entering a manifestly crowded—many would say saturated—field, the book seeks to serve both professional historians and lay readers by providing convenient access to assessments of Lee's generalship that reflect the interpretive sweep of the literature. A single volume admittedly cannot address every historiographical twist and turn, but it can set forth the major debates, identify the crucial figures who shaped those debates, and point readers toward other pertinent titles. To achieve these goals, Lee the Soldier combines the general's unvarnished postwar testimony about his campaigns, sixteen previously published selections by historians and American and British contemporaries of Lee, five new essays by specialists in Civil War military . . .

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