In Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, Michael Korda, the New York Times best-selling biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and T. E. Lawrence, has written the first major biography of Lee in nearly 20 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 symbolic martyr-hero of the Southern Cause.
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I am an avid eclectic reader.
It has been many years since I have read anything about Robert E. Lee. I saw this new biography by Michael Korda and grabbed it. Michael Korda is the son of English actress Gertrude Musgrove and film production designer Vincent Korda. His uncle was Sir Alexander Korda the famous British film producer and director. In 2004 he wrote “Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero” and in 2008 “Ike: An American Hero”.
In this exhaustive study Korda examines the life and times of Robert E. Lee from birth to death, illuminating not just the man, but his extended family and the society which produced him. The book traces Lee’s life from relationship with his father, the famous light cavalry leader light horse Harry Lee to his marriage to Mary Custis and his own relationships to his seven children. Lee’s mother was Ann Hill Carter; she was raised at the famous Shirley Plantation on the James River. Ann was from one of the wealthiest and oldest families of Virginia. Lee graduated second in his class at West Point. He was one of the rare cadets that graduated without a demerit. Lee was commissioned into the engineers and spent several years building coastal fortification. Lee became famous for diverting the course of the Mississippi river at St Louis, improving the port and allowing for river navigation from New Orleans to St Paul.
Korda provides a crisp and concise account of Lee’s major engagements. The author is good at explaining Lee’s strategic thinking, maneuvering of armies and the sometimes crippling limitations imposed by logistics, bad maps and worse roads. Korda has a knack for describing the complex unfolding of Civil War battles in lucid prose. Most of the book consist of gripping, if perhaps, excessively lengthy, accounts of Lee’s military campaigns. Korda clearly has command of the life and times of Lee. All three of Lee’s sons fought for the confederacy and General Lee would run into them periodically on an off the battlefield, including his son Rooney as he was being carried from the field with a serious leg wound. Michael Korda’s mastery of such details adds texture to his account. The reader learns that none of Lee’s four daughters married and his sister sided with the Union for which his nephew fought. Lee lost his two homes, Arlington the Union confiscated and the White House (Martha Curtis Washington home), the Union burned to the ground. Lee’s wife was Martha Washington granddaughter. The war’s devastation did not spare lee’s family.
“Clouds of Glory” is unfortunately marred by more than a few annoying errors of fact that should have been picked up in editing. For example, Northern politicians with Southern leaning were called “doughfaces” not “doughboys”. At the time of the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831, the enslaved population of the United States was two million not four million. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854 not 1845. This is a very long book and it suffers on occasion from redundancy and inadequate organization. The book suffers for the want of good editing.
As its subtitle suggest, one of Michael Korda’s aims in “Clouds of Glory” is disentangling Lee for his myth. In this he mostly succeeds. Although it appears Korda greatly admired Lee, he challenges the image of a man who could do no wrong. Jack Garrett did an excellent job narrating the book.
The reader should've familiarized himself with local pronunciations of towns, but otherwise enjoyable.
It's an interesting subject, and the story is reasonably well told.
The author seems to have a higher opinion of his writing skill than his talent warrants. It comes across as informative, but as if it were written by a precocious sophomore. The author takes certain liberties with his assertions from time to time, and clearly bungles his facts once or twice. The book would serve as a nice, if somewhat overwrought introduction to Robert E. Lee, but it produces no new scholarship or substance on the topic.
Most Lee biographies treat him like he's a god. This one doesn't gloss over his flaws which humanizes him in way other biographies I've read of Lee did not. I highly recommend it.
I will wait a couple of years and listen again.
Well known history but written in a way that it seemed like all new information. Classic biographical piece.
Garrett was the right choice for presenting this great historical figure.
I was sorry to have the book end.
ive always enjoyed learning about the civil war, but being from Illinois all that was ever taught was Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln. I learned a lot not only about Robert E Lee but the southern military experience during the war as well. the book is a great introduction to this topic which I am eager to explore more of.
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