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30 review for R. E. Lee: A Biography Volume II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Stephenson

    Excelent book, I an not say enough good about it. Well researched and written!

  2. 4 out of 5

    John Vandike

    The four volumes of Freeman's RE Lee have been sitting on the bookshelves for a few years now. I wrapped up volume 1 a few months ago and it was admittedly a bit slow. But early parts of biographies, be they a single volume or four frequently suffer from this, so started up volume 2. The second volume benefits heavily from the time period it covers: from the start of the Seven Days Campaign to Lee's greatest victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. This means that the 550 pages of readin The four volumes of Freeman's RE Lee have been sitting on the bookshelves for a few years now. I wrapped up volume 1 a few months ago and it was admittedly a bit slow. But early parts of biographies, be they a single volume or four frequently suffer from this, so started up volume 2. The second volume benefits heavily from the time period it covers: from the start of the Seven Days Campaign to Lee's greatest victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. This means that the 550 pages of reading covers the compact time history between March 1862 to May 1863. And ending in May 1863 means the next volume will begin with Lee's final major offensive campaign north of the Potomac and his defeat at Gettysburg. I have previously read Freeman in his excellent three volume Lee's Lieutenants as well as an abridgement of his Life of Washington. I have thoroughly enjoyed his writing but I cannot say I had noticed that he was particularly penetrating in his insights, but I found this book to be a surprising exception. Freeman critically examines Lee's tendency to defer to his division/corps commanders, leaving several opportunities on the field because Longstreet is not in agreement with Lee's often aggressive plans. Additionally, Freeman (writing in the mid-1930s) identifies the Civil War generally and Lee specifically with pre-figuring the battlefields of western Europe in the 1910s. One passage, referring to the battle of Chancellorsville in the Spotsylvania wilderness: "The terrain resembled the Chickahominy Valley, where the Seven Days' Battles had been fought...Still more did it resemble, save in the absence of hills, a country that Lee never saw, but one that was to have a still more sinister name as the graveyard of tens of thousands-the Meuse-Argonne." A few pages earlier Freeman directly ties Lee to the earthworks that gave him one of his many nicknames (King of Spades) and to the type of warfare soldiers would suffer through in the First World War: "It was the first time, in open operations, that Lee had ordered the construction of field fortifications" in contrast with the temporary shelters that soldier have dug on the battlefield throughout history. Here he ordered soldiers to construct significant and well-planned earthworks, including trenches for communication, artillery emplacements and the like. (You'll find an excellent single volume on this specialized topic in Earl Hess's "Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864".) Given that he had also written Lee's Lieutenants, a study of Lee, his subordinates, and their relationship Freeman's command of the inner workings of the Army of Northern Virginia is masterful. But, in contrast with that work, sometimes RE Lee seems a bit claustrophobic. This is a work on Lee and the narrative thread never wanders from the subject in consideration. Freeman also frequently goes so far as to hide the Federal's so as to help the reader see the war from Lee's perspective, who lacking an effective intelligence apparatus other than his cavalry, was often in the dark about his opponents beyond his often surprising insight from his strategic instinct combined with a personal knowledge about McClellan, Pope, Burnside, and Hooker from his experience in the US Army, West Point, and the Mexican War a decade earlier. The good: Freeman's writing is clean, clear and really a delight to read. His language is sparse, with little ornamentation. He is a man on a mission: to tell the story of Lee from as close as he can get to Lee's perspective. Freeman's mastery of his subject is probably as complete as any biographer of a historic figure whom the author did not personally know, and this really shines through in the text. Finally, once the reader grows accustomed to living alongside Lee the authors narrative choice of never straying from Lee serves him very well. The not-so-good? Freeman's writing is not for everyone, this is volume 2 of a four volume series. At this zenith we have over a 1,000 pages behind us, and another 1,200 pages to go. Recall that what feels to me like fairly vigorous pacing volume 2 covers just a little over a year and a quarter in 550 pages. Finally, in these times where biographies are mostly about deconstructing the person under consideration and explaining the whys of their personality, sometimes highlighting the best and the worst; Freeman is often nearly fawning in his views on Lee. There are few criticisms for the great man, and perhaps from a military viewpoint at this point in Lee's career, that is fair; but the text can be a touch cloying to modern readers unfamiliar with the biographical style of the early 20th century. A highly recommended read if you are able to get your hands on a copy, mine is a 1936 hardcover print I ran across in Half Price Books. There are abridgements available, but having previously read that, I would highly recommend holding out for the full set if Robert E Lee is a subject of interest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Micah Douthit

    As expected, this volume dives deeper into Lee's military life and his military tactics during several of his campaigns in the Civil War. The amount of detail in this biography continues to impress me. Freeman not only provides an incredible amount of detail, but he again leans heavily on "fog of war history" to allow the reader to experience the war as Lee experienced it. As expected, this volume dives deeper into Lee's military life and his military tactics during several of his campaigns in the Civil War. The amount of detail in this biography continues to impress me. Freeman not only provides an incredible amount of detail, but he again leans heavily on "fog of war history" to allow the reader to experience the war as Lee experienced it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Austin Gisriel

    Volume 2 takes the reader essentially from the Seven Days battle through Chancellorsville and Stonewall Jackson's death. As with Volume 1, the story is fast-paced and incredibly well-researched. Freeman has gone to great lengths to paint an accurate picture as to where Lee was at any given time, and what he said. The reader becomes the proverbial fly on the tent flap. Volume 2 takes the reader essentially from the Seven Days battle through Chancellorsville and Stonewall Jackson's death. As with Volume 1, the story is fast-paced and incredibly well-researched. Freeman has gone to great lengths to paint an accurate picture as to where Lee was at any given time, and what he said. The reader becomes the proverbial fly on the tent flap.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    The second volume of the classic series by Douglas Southall Freeman. This is about the battles that were fought and where extraordinary leadership took place in the form of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Sadly Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville and were his left arm was amputated. He later died from pneumonia. The second volume of the classic series by Douglas Southall Freeman. This is about the battles that were fought and where extraordinary leadership took place in the form of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Sadly Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville and were his left arm was amputated. He later died from pneumonia.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  8. 4 out of 5

    Grover Cleveland

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

  10. 4 out of 5

    KSO

  11. 4 out of 5

    Peter Cohron

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter Van

  13. 5 out of 5

    W Charles

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jill

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris Scheer

  17. 4 out of 5

    LeBron Matthews

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris Clement

  19. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Dean

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bob Bingham

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eric Williams

  25. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eric Walters

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Brown

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Oliver

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donald

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barry Jacoby

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