This excellent book edited by Pete Carmichael contains six essays by leading historians considering various aspects of Robert E. Lee’s generalship. We’ve already considered the first essay in the collection.
The next essay, “The Siege of Richmond Was Raised,” by William J. Miller, considers Lee in the Seven Days Campaign. Following a close reading of Lee’s General Orders Number 75, Miller takes on some of Lee’s critics, especially concerning the confederate loss at Beaver Dam Creek. “In addressing the battle, John D. McKenzie writes, ‘Rather than calling a halt to the attack, Lee demonstrated his own tendency for direct assaults and supported Hill by ordering two other divisions to his aid in the attack.’ Edward Bonekemper thought Lee culpable on two points. After lambasting the general for making the bloody assault, he then faults him for not throwing more troops into the meat grinder, writing, ‘Lee had managed to get only 30 percent of his army involved in the assault.’ Bonekemper continues, ‘Mechanicsville provides a first opportunity to analyze the lethal effect of Lee upon the army of Northern Virginia.’ The ’30 percent’ of Lee’s army engaged in the assaults at Beaver Dam was perhaps about 30 percent more than the general wished engaged. If the plan for the day was to turn the enemy position and force the Federals to abandon their line, not by frontal assaults but by maneuver, then Lee would have hoped that a very small percentage of his troops–most of them Jackson’s–would be engaged in combat. Events did not proceed as he had hoped, however, and when Jackson was far behind schedule, Lee perhaps did give orders for his troops to attack.” [p. 39] Regarding the confederate victory in the Battle of Gaines’s Mill, Miller writes, “Despite the clear Confederate victory, Lee’s critics have focused instead on the cost: The Army of Northern Virginia lost more than nine thousand men killed, wounded, or missing. Gaines’s Mill was, at the time it was fought, the second-largest bloodletting in American history, and some writers place the blame for that on Lee’s shoulders. … A more reasonable explanation is the one Lee himself offered for the advance at Beaver Dam Creek to Major Brent a day earlier and to Colonel Allen six years later. With the element of surprise gone, the general was concerned that McClellan would discover and exploit the weaknesses in the Confederate deployment, specifically Magruder’s gossamer-thin lines south of the Chickahominy. This concern was no less acute on June 27 at Gaines’s Mill than it had been a day earlier, and in fact it might have conceivably been more so. He attacked with Hill to hold the enemy’s attention and obscure his own weakness until Jackson was in position. In 1868 Lee explained to Allan that ‘he was forced to push forward and attack at Gaine’s Mill with all his energy. Otherwise with a large part of his army really farther from Richd. than McClellan was, disaster was to be apprehended.’ Lee did not have the luxury at Gaines’s Mill of being extravagant with time and chary of lives.” [pp. 43-44] As to the defeat at Malvern Hill, Miller tells us, “What seems clear is that after preparing for action, deploying his infantry, and testing the Federal position with a converging artillery fire, Lee decided an attack was not feasible. Miscommunication and misunderstandings then intervened. Only when reports led him to believe that his artillery bombardment had been successful in weakening the Federal line, that probes by the infantry held promise, and that portions of the Federal line were retreating did he authorize an infantry assault. All this proved incorrect, however, and the Confederate troops marched into a slaughter rarely matched in the history of modern war.” [pp. 53-54] In summing up the campaign, we find, “Lee certainly did attempt to annihilate McClellan’s army during the Seven Days. He attempted to destroy a portion of it at Gaines’s Mill, and he attempted on three consecutive days–June 29, June 30, and July 1–to destroy the fleeing Federals south of the Chickahominy. But to say that Lee attempted this during the week-long operation is not to say that he set out with that goal in mind, nor is it to say that he was, from first to last, transfixed by the idea of destroying McClellan. A contemporaneous reading of General Orders No. 75–that is, a reading devoid of hindsight–reveals a plan for a turning movement, a maneuver designed primarily to move the enemy army rather than destroy it.” [pp. 54-55]
In “Lee, Grant, and ‘Prescience’ in the Overland Campaign,” Gordon C. Rhea writes, “The idea that Lee possessed an uncanny ability to fathom the plans of his opponents–whether from divine inspiration or from the workings of a precise and logical mind–has become an accepted part of the Lee tradition.” [p. 58] He then tells us, “On at least six critical occasions, Lee was either puzzled over Grant’s intentions or altogether misread the Union general’s plans. His failure to grasp his opponent’s design led him to act in ways that placed his army in peril. Fumbling by Federal commanders sometimes saved Lee from his own mistakes; other times, good fortune intervened. The picture that emerges is not that of a general who ‘quickly fathomed’ his enemy. Rather, the Lee that comes into focus is a man who frequently misconceived his antagonist’s strategy. His strength–a trait often overlooked by his biographers–was his remarkable ability to rescue his army from seemingly irredeemable predicaments and to turn those unfavorable situations to his advantage.” [p. 59] Rhea discusses Lee’s actions when Grant crossed the Rapidan River. “If Lee wanted to ensure that he fought Grant in the Wilderness, he needed to take affirmative steps to hold him there. He had to place across Grant’s path a force sufficient to retard the Union army’s progress until he could bring up the rest of his troops. Surprisingly Lee did nothing to increase his chances of intercepting Grant in the Wilderness.” [p. 61] Rhea tells us why: “His concern about Richmond was part of the reason. Until he better understood the threat posed by Butler, he felt constrained to keep Longstreet near the rail line. But anxiety for Richmond’s safety does not completely explain Lee’s behavior. … Had he been truly convinced that the Wilderness was Grant’s destination, he would have taken every feasible step to ensure that the campaign’s opening–and perhaps final–encounter took place in that woodland. The fact that Lee did not do so suggests that he harbored serious doubts about the direction of Grant’s march, notwithstanding his prophecy on the mountaintop. The only reason that Lee would send half of Longstreet’s corps toward the left of his line was because he feared the Federals might attack that flank. And he did not forward troops from Ewell and Hill to the Wilderness because he was not persuaded they would need be needed there.” [p. 62] Lee was bailed out, though. “The windfall for the Confederates was the consequence, not of anything that Lee did but rather of temerity on Meade’s part. The Union army clearly had the capacity to pass through the Wilderness in a single day’s march. Meade, however, feared that his supply wagons could not keep up. Assuming that Lee could not reach the area before morning, Meade convinced Grant to overnight the army in the woods. By tarrying, Grant gave Lee the advantage that the Confederate commander had neglected to secure for himself.” [p. 62] Rhea goes through the rest of the campaign, showing where Lee was either fooled or was unable to determine what Grant was going to do. “By no stretch of the imagination was Lee able to ‘divine’ Grant’s intentions. On multiple occasions he was either unsure about Grant’s plans or plainly wrong. What saved Lee was his facility to respond to emergencies and turn bleak situations to his advantage. He was a master at improvising, and the pressure of a crisis only served to sharpen his wits. He took inadequate steps to catch Grant in the Wilderness but moved boldly once he recognized the opportunity offered by the Union commander’s decision to overnight in the dense woodland. Lee left his army vulnerable at Spotsylvania Court House by withdrawing artillery from the Mule Shoe but staved off defeat by waging a determined defense, deftly shuttling forces to endangered sectors until he could construct a new line. And at the North Anna he inadvertently permitted the Federals to breach the river but rebounded by devising the cleverest defensive configuration of his career. Luck was also in Lee’s corner. Each time he blundered and left his army vulnerable, the Federals blundered as well.” [p. 81]
Robert E. L. Krick contributes ” ‘The Great Tycoon’ Forges a Staff System.” In it, he says, “An examination of the relationship [between Lee and his army’s corps of staff officers] quickly divides into two connected lines of inquiry, each of which deserves separate attention before reuniting to form the whole. The first is Lee’s philosophy on the selection and employment of both his personal staff and the other staff at army headquarters. The second explores Lee’s move toward the development of a general staff for the entire army and how his ideas developed over the course of the war. Did he ever recognize that such a body of officers would bring a greater degree of training and professionalism to the daily duties of managing the Army of Northern Virginia?” [p. 82] He tells us, “Lee did in fact realize the inadequacy of his army’s staff system and took what steps he could to improve the utility and professionalism of the staff corps at every level. Nor did he ignore the qualifications of the immediate staff around him. Unlike many of his fellow generals, Lee did not make a habit of installing boyhood chums, men of the same religious faith, or his wife’s cousins into key staff positions.” [p. 82] While many writers identified the small size of Lee’s staff as contributing factors to many problems the ANV faced, Krick tells us, “Such a line of reasoning is too simplistic. Just because Lee kept a small supporting cast, one should not conclude that he did not value the role of staff or understand its importance. Many historians, however, have made such an argument without ever looking behind the numbers and evaluating Lee’s own ideas about the role of a general staff and his relationship with the men who served him.” [p. 83] According to Krick, “Lee’s unswerving adherence to a Spartan lifestyle and modest public comportment clearly helped shape his preference for a small personal staff. During the war’s early years, he frequently came in close contact with generals who rode about the lines accompanied by enormous parties of aides. Many of the latter were short-term volunteer staff officers–often men with political or business connections to their patron general. Their presence cluttered the battlefield without noticeably improving operations. The most astonishing case is that of Maj. Gen. John Bankhead Magruder, whose entourage might have reminded some observers of a wedding party, so vast and wasteful was his collection of assistants. Ostentatious excess always annoyed Lee, and the examples of Magruder, J.E.B. Stuart, and other generals inordinately fond of martial display perhaps reinforced his insistence on maintaining a painfully thin staff.” [p. 84] Krick tells us about how Lee’s staff operated. “Each staff officer had a specific rank and assignment under Lee, but in practice they all seem to have been nearly interchangeable off the battlefield as well. They frequently shared duties and performed each other’s tasks instead of adhering only to the specific requirements of their offices. This stemmed in part from the imbalance between the workload and the number of staff officers on hand and in part from Lee’s somewhat helter-skelter system. Early in his tenure at the army’s head, he customarily met with his entire staff every morning and assigned chores to them after breakfast, much the way a schoolteacher would pass around random projects to a room of students. In a sense this system mirrored Lee’s laissez-faire style on the battlefield, in which he would assemble the parts and let his generals build the final product. In his desire to improve efficiency, Lee began in late summer of 1862 to overhaul his relatively open system of governing staff officers into one that gave him more control and forced his subordinates to be more accountable.” [p. 88] He took steps to further define the roles each officer played, but they still shared duties as before. Lee generally accepted the staff officers assigned to him, and Krick uses Robert H. Chilton as exhibit number one in the view that this sometimes was not beneficial, either to the army or to the rest of the staff. “Instead of acting as they keystone, however, Chilton seems to have become the weakest link in the chain. In Douglas Southall Freeman’s delicate phrasing, Chilton ‘was not a man who gave himself with special cooperative spirit to his duties.’ His awkwardly written order at Malvern Hill apparently played some role in flogging the army into an attack it did not wish to make and should not have attempted. Worse still, Chilton exceeded the boundaries of propriety and launched a witch hunt after that battle, eventually forcing General Magruder into court on grounds of incompetence. … Chilton’s mangling of an oral message from Lee to Maj. Gen. Jubal Early at Second Fredericksburg in May 1863 stands as the army’s greatest known piece of specific incompetence by a staff officer (except perhaps Special Orders No. 191 during the Maryland Campaign, the precise culprit remaining unidentified in that case).” [p. 90] In his evaluation of Lee’s use of his staff, Krick tells us, “It is no exaggeration to assert that improving the army’s efficiency stood at the top of R. E. Lee’s perpetual list of chores. In winter quarters or in the field, he regularly issued directives to the army and wrote gently wheedling dispatches to the authorities in Richmond, all designed to improve the organizational integrity of the Army of Northern Virginia. His concerns ranged from excessive baggage in the wagon train to straggling on the march, from batteries with mismatched ordnance to cavalry regiments with sore-backed horses. To enforce and regulate the issues he found so crucial, Lee took pains to install a staff system that could achieve the results he wanted. In this he must be judged almost completely successful. His scorecard is less positive in matters of battlefield staff work. Lee’s compulsive economizing and pervasive conservatism injured the army’s performance on some battlefields. Communication among the three primary branches of the army never could be called good, and liaison between Lee and his subordinates often was worse. … By every account, his personal staff was underdeveloped and overused during his entire three years in command of the army.” [pp. 104-105] In summing up, we learn, “R. E. Lee cannot be judged to be an innovator in matters of staff work. He introduced nothing in his army that carried over into the postwar military establishment. Lee does, however, deserve more credit than he usually gets for having an understanding of what was needed to manage a modern army. If he mistakenly took too much responsibility upon himself, it was because he felt, more keenly than most, the importance of setting the tone for his subordinate generals. In an armywide sense he knew what should be done, yet it proved beyond his powers to establish a system to achieve it thoroughly.” [p. 106]
Max R. Williams, professor of history emeritus at Western Carolina University, explores the relationship between R. E. Lee and North Carolina Governor Zebulon B. Vance in “The General and the Governor.” He tells us, “A close inspection of the wartime relationship between the general and the governor suggests that the characterizations of Lee as the American military model of submission to civilian authority and of Vance as a narrow champion of states’ rights is far too simplistic.” [p. 107] We learn, “Elected in 1862, Governor Vance, formerly a staunch Unionist, had sought to uphold North Carolina’s rights against perceived encroachments by the administration of Jefferson Davis while supporting Confederate military efforts. But events in the South and in North Carolina had resulted in a substantial peace sentiment in the state. Erstwhile Vance ally William W. Holden, longtime influential editor of the North Carolina Standard, had decided to contest Vance in the August 1864 gubernatorial election as a peace candidate, claiming that the army favored peace overwhelmingly. Since North Carolina soldiers in the field could vote, the colorful young Vance came to ‘review’ his troops and to campaign, an activity at which he excelled.” [p. 107] There were 35 North Carolina regiments in the ANV. They were in 8 brigades. “Most were encamped near Orange County Court House. In the absence of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s corps, which had two artillery batteries from the state but no regiments, North Carolina men composed more than half Lee’s numbers. Even when Longstreet returned from Tennessee, approximately one-fifth of the Army of Northern Virginia came from the Old North State.” [p. 108] Vance spent his visit giving speeches to the North Carolina troops. Not only did it have an effect on Vance’s reelection chances, but it also had a positive effect on the ANV’s morale. “Apparently Vance’s visit revivified much of the Army of Northern Virginia. Dr. Edward Warren, a member of the governor’s staff with him in Virginia, reportedly ‘heard General Lee remark that Governor Vance’s visit to the army has been the equivalent to its reinforcement by fifty thousand men.’ This hyperbolic statement was extravagant for the reserved Lee, he was surely impressed with Zeb Vance, as were his ‘lieutenants.’ ” [p. 112] Vance and Lee established a personal relationship during that visit. “Following the Overland Campaign, at which time the Army of Northern Virginia was fixed in trench warfare before Petersburg, desertion increased apace with boredom, war-weariness, poignant entreaties from home, and a growing realization that Southern independence was illusory. In the case of North Carolina troops, the peace movement of 1863-64, and Chief Justice R. M. Pearson’s rulings suggesting that conscription was illegal combined to exacerbate the problem. The proximity of North Carolina and Virginia made going home easier for those from the Old North State. Going home to help with the spring planting sometimes stretched into several months, even among those soldiers who planned to return to their army duties. The North Carolinians who chose this course were branded ‘deserters,’ while Virginians, whose return was typically swifter, were listed as ‘absent without leave.’ But regardless of the precise status of those absent, Lee’s army was dangerously depopulated. On August 10, 1864, General Lee issued General Orders No. 54 in an attempt to increase his numbers. The message was clear: those who returned voluntarily would ‘palliate their offense’ and could expect clemency; those arrested for return ‘shall suffer the extreme penalty of the law.’ Soldiers were urged to do their duty, civilians to encourage their return, and civil authorities to prosecute those who assisted deserters. Vance issued a proclamation on August 24 that included a guarantee of clemency for thirty days from that date. This promise led to delay by some North Carolinians and occasioned misunderstandings. Otherwise Vance’s proclamation was a powerful response to Lee’s general order. He urged ‘most earnestly’ that those absent from the army return ‘to wipe out from their once respected names the foul stain of desertion.’ He called upon the militia, civilians, and magistrates to assist in returning ‘misguided men’ to their units. To deserters, Vance promised to harry them from the state or to capture and subject them to the full force of the law. He challenged North Carolinians thus: ‘If every good and loyal citizen would set about to reclaim or capture one deserter by any means in his power, … he will have rendered a most valuable and patriotic service to his State and Country’ It is apparent that Vance used his authority to support national policy. Instead of acting like a states’ rights obstructionist, he exerted his power and prestige as governor to strengthen Confederate armies. Both he and Lee united their efforts to maximize the South’s resources in fighting the war.” [pp. 115-117] Lee and Vance exchanged several letters during this time. “One requirement for getting along with President Davis that Lee would have easily met was that he ‘avoid politicians’ and ‘eschew public controversy.’ Freeman notes that, though he often ‘captivated politicians,’ Lee had little to do with the Confederate Congress and in fact had ‘an ineradicable distrust of politicians.’ This assessment is substantiated by Maj. Gen. G. W. Custis Lee, who reported his father’s frustration in dealing with politicians. Early in 1865 the elder soldier went to Congress seeking support for his desperate army. Afterward a deeply perturbed Lee complained, ‘I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.’ What then is the accepted interpretation of lee’s attitudes toward civil authority, relationship to others, and political involvement? His correspondence with Governor Vance raises serious doubts about the contention that the general always accepted the supremacy of civil authority, deferred to others, and eschewed politics. Prior to their meeting in 1864, Lee had punctiliously involved the secretary of war as intermediary in important communications with Vance. The fact that he subsequently engaged in frequent correspondence with the governor without reference to civil authority is significant. This is at odds with the traditional Lee posture regarding his obligations to civil authority; the extent of the correspondence makes it so. Likewise the usual deference of Lee to Davis is brought into question. the very fact that he bypassed official channels in dealing with Vance suggests that his ‘deference’ to the president was not complete. It should be noted, however, that Lee’s letters to Vance do confirm his tactics in dealing with potentially troublesome individuals. He was respectful and professional in his correspondence with the governor. The last contention suggested above, that Lee eschewed politics, is even more interesting. It would appear that the general was a masterful politician from the way he appealed to Vance for support. He played upon Vance’s own military background in seeking to offset the governor’s opposition to conscription, impressment, and Confederate affronts to civil rights. He sought to placate North Carolina’s disgruntlement at having Virginia officers command North Carolina units, and he tried to redress Tar Heel grievances about the failure of North Carolina troops to get the recognition their services deserved. Lee injected himself into state affairs when he requested that the governor prevent state newspapers from reporting trade across military lines in eastern North Carolina. He also act politically when he urged Vance to encourage the better class of North Carolinians to rally popular support for the Confederacy.” [pp. 126-127]
The final essay is from Mark L. Bradley, titled ” ‘I Rely Upon Your Good Judgment and Skill’: The Command Partnership of Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston in 1865.” This concerns Lee, in his role as general-in-chief, and his relationship to Joseph E. Johnston. In 1865, Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s march north from Savannah posed a threat that had to be met. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard requested reinforcements to deal with Sherman, and Lee sent troops from Virginia to help. “The troops Lee had transferred tot he Carolinas were veterans who would be missed in Virginia. In December 1864 he sent Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke’s division to North Carolina to bolster the defense of Wilmington. The next month Davis yielded to the entreaties of Gov. Andrew G. Magrath of South Carolina and ordered Lee to transfer Conner’s Brigade to the Palmetto State. Under its former commander, Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, this brigade of South Carolinians had earned a reputation as one of the finest in the Army of Northern Virginia. A few weeks later Lee sent Maj. Gen. Matthew Butler’s division of cavalry to South Carolina along with the army’s cavalry commander, the newly promoted Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton. Both Hampton and Butler were native sons, and one of Butler’s two brigades consisted of South Carolina regiments. Lee hoped that the infusion of veteran troops fighting to defend their homeland would improve Bragg and Beauregard’s prospects. Although Lee regarded the troop transfers as loans, he would not see these units again. From the start, Beauregard made poor use of the troops at his disposal, thereby dooming his strategy for the defense of South Carolina. Believing that ‘the pending negotiations for peace’ impelled him to hold the cities of Augusta, Georgia, and Charleston ‘for as long as it was humanly possible,’ Beauregard divided his meager force to defend the two distant points. He thus rendered himself vulnerable to defeat in detail, for Sherman effectively isolated Beauregard’s forces by advancing through the heart of the Palmetto State. … By dividing his force at the outset of the Carolinas Campaign, Beauregard squandered his best opportunity to block Sherman’s northward march. Had the Confederate general concentrated his available force on one isolated Federal column–particularly along the Salkehatchie River line–he would have enjoyed respectable numerical odds and the advantage of defending swampy terrain strewn with natural and manmade obstructions. The defeat or even delay of one Union column in the South Carolina lowlands might have compelled Sherman to withdraw to the coast. Despite Lee’s opinion to the contrary, Beauregard decided that such a concentration was impractical.” [pp. 137-138] Beauregard’s continued ineffectiveness and unrealistic plans led to his relief. “Lee in fact had already decided to replace Beauregard with Johnston, citing Beauregard’s rumored ill health as the reason. Only the week before, Lee had refused to accede to a petition from Vice Pres. Alexander H. Stephens and seventeen Confederate senators urging him to restore Johnston to the command of the Army of Tennessee.” [p. 140] Johnston assumed command on February 25, and Lee sent him a number of messages to bolster his confidence. Johnston had come to the command in the belief that he had been set up to fail. On March 14, though, “Johnston received heartening news from his friend and political ally Sen. Louis T. Wigfall of Texas. ‘You are mistaken as to the motive which induced your being ordered to command,’ Wigfall wrote from Richmond. ‘It was out of confidence & kindness & a real desire to obtain the benefit of your ability in this crisis.’ Wigfall then named the man responsible for Johnston’s reinstatement: ‘It was Lee & not Davis. … For God’s sake communicate with Lee fully & freely & with kindness & confidence & give him the full benefit of your judgment in this hour of peril.’ ‘What you write me of Lee gratifies me beyond measure,’ Johnston replied. ‘In youth & early manhood I loved and admired him more than any man in the world,’ the general confessed, recalling his friendship with Lee at West Point. ‘I have long thought that he had forgotten our early friendship. To be mistaken in so thinking would give me inexpressible pleasure. Be assured, however, that knight of old never fought under his King more loyally than I’ll serve under General Lee.’ Thanks to Wigfall’s letter, Johnston redoubled his efforts to assist Lee. His renewed commitment was all the more remarkable in light of his belief that his reinstatement had come too late to offer any hope of stopping Sherman. On the heels of the Wigfall letter came a dispatch from Lee that Johnston regarded as a vote of confidence.” [p. 155] Johnston would decide to attack Sherman at Bentonville, North Carolina, going against his trend of retreating and fighting one of the last battles of the war there. “Johnston decided to attack Sherman at Bentonville for three reasons: First, he wanted to strike Sherman before any junction with Schofield; once that occurred, Johnston believed, the Confederates would be overwhelmingly outnumbered. Second, he hoped that a stunning blow to Sherman’s army would ensure the South leverage at the bargaining table by demonstrating the still-dangerous offensive power of the Confederate army. Third, Lee had urged him ‘to neglect no opportunity of delivering the enemy a successful blow,’ and this, Johnston realized, might well be his last chance to do so. In truth the battle of Bentonville merely proved that Johnston lacked the manpower to defeat even one wing of Sherman’s army.” [p. 157] In concluding the article, Bradley writes, “as general in chief, Lee succeeded where Davis utterly failed: he motivated Johnston to fight. Lee managed this by handling the hypersensitive general with the same consummate diplomacy that he had employed in his dealings with the equally touchy president. As a result, in March 1865, Johnston and his subordinates conducted an aggressive campaign in North Carolina that included assaults at Wise’s Forks, Monroe’s Crossroads, and Bentonville as well as a skillful delaying action at Averasboro. Contrary to the inveterate micromanager Davis, Lee allowed Johnston to conduct operations as he saw fit, and no other Confederate could have accomplished more in the Old North State in such a short span and with so few resources. Although it is tempting to dismiss Johnston’s achievement as a dubious success at the close of a lost war, it is also indicative of how Johnston might have conducted operations had he served under Lee a year or two earlier. The Joe Johnston of March 1865 was neither timid nor indecisive but was prudently aggressive in the face of overwhelming odds. Lee’s role in Johnston’s improbable transformation was his outstanding contribution as the Confederacy’s general in chief.” [p. 166]
The insightful essays in this book provide us a better understanding of the talents Robert E. Lee possessed, as well as some of his drawbacks. They dispel myths and let us have a more accurate view of what happened during the war. I can highly recommend this book for those looking to understand R. E. Lee.