Brought to you by OBS reviewer JoAnne
In Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Michael Korda, the New York Times bestselling biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and T. E. Lawrence, has written the first major biography of Lee in nearly twenty years, bringing to life America’s greatest and most iconic hero. Korda paints a vivid and admiring portrait of Lee as a general and a devoted family man who, though he disliked slavery and was not in favor of secession, turned down command of the Union army in 1861 because he could not “draw his sword” against his own children, his neighbors, and his beloved Virginia. He was surely America’s preeminent military leader, as calm, dignified, and commanding a presence in defeat as he was in victory. Lee’s reputation has only grown in the 150 years since the Civil War, and Korda covers in groundbreaking detail all of Lee’s battles and traces the making of a great man’s undeniable reputation on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, positioning him finally as the symbiotic martyr-hero of the Southern cause. (from back of book).
First off, let me say that I love anything to do with The Civil War, and will read nearly any book regarding it. I have been highly anticipating this book, and dove into it with both feet. I must say that it is the most comprehensive account of Robert E. Lee that I have read to date.
The book begins with the Harper’s Ferry fiasco, wherein John Brown expected to cause a slave rebellion; but of course, it all ended quite differently, and John Brown lost his life and that of his sons. We are given the history of General Lee‘s upbringing; from birth on, and the type of father he had – a wastrel and scoundrel to be sure – and his mother, from whom he learned his frugality and nearly everything else, and they were very close throughout his life.
He was lucky enough to marry a woman he truly loved, even though her father, George Washington Custis, opposed the match. They had seven children and he completely doted on them, giving them everything he could while still being parsimonious about himself. He felt he could get by ‘on very little,’ but never refused a reasonable request from them. Indeed, we learn that General Lee was a wonderful, loving, and generous parent.
Mr. Korda deals extensively with General Lee‘s military career, from it’s early beginning to the end. It is a very detailed account, and he intersperses throughout the letters from Robert to Mary about his feelings regarding the situations he was thrust into.
Although I may not agree with everything that has been written about him, feeling personally that some of it may have been extraneous, I found this a fascinating biography of a great General who gave everything he had to the service of his country, and even more so, to the family he loved so well.
A highly recommended book.