08-06-1991 (Pp. 1)
General Robert E. Lee, probably the best strategist ever seen in any war, is a man of many faces. Lee lived a life at peace, at war, and as a Christian in an unsuitable world. Living at peace is hard enough in today’s society, let alone when a young nation is falling apart at its seams. In war, recognition is highly sought after for one’s courage of selflessness, but rarely for one’s ingenuity when it comes to strategy. Even though Lee didn’t become a devout Christian till later in his life, he saw all the bad in the world and then some, this in turn seems to be what motivated him to devote his life to a higher authority. Many people rarely see the softer side of Lee as they read about him, normally only just the fact that, militarily, he was a genius.
According to Elizabeth Pryor and page 658 of her engrossing book, Reading the Man, Robert E. Lee wrote hundreds of letters throughout his life, and an astounding number of them have survived. Pryor gained access to some Lee letters previously unavailable to scholars, but she also returns to familiar ones published and unpublished, as well as those penned by family, friends, comrades, even enemies, all with fresh eyes. Letters were extremely important to Lee, particularly as he embarked on his long career in the army, and Pryor opens each chapter by closely examining selected missives that pertained to a specific time or theme in his life. Much of Lee's story will be familiar to readers: his childhood marred by shocking family scandals; his demeritless West Point years; his successes in the Mexican War; his long devotion to the antebellum professional army; and of course, his momentous decision to join Virginia and thus the Confederacy to fight in the Civil War, as well as his final years as a college president. Pryor, though, digs deep, tracking
08-06-1991 (Pp. 2)
his evolution, not merely as a professional soldier, but also as a “son, husband, and father.” (Pryor 658). We see Lee...