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Publisher's Summary

R. E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman was the recipient of the 1935 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It was a richly deserved honor, for Freeman's biography of the distinguished Virginian went on to become one of the most celebrated of all American biographies, a favorite of General George Marshall and President Dwight Eisenhower, among many others. Since his death, thousands of American soldiers have sought to emulate Lee's example of virtue, courage, and duty. This four-volume masterpiece traces Lee's life from his birth in 1807 at the ancestral Lee home of Stratford to his final years as the president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, where he was buried in 1870. Volume One carries us from Lee's childhood through his youth as a cadet at West Point, his slow but steady advance in the US Army Corps of Engineers, his spectacular record under General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War, his superintendency of West Point, and so on up to the point where Lee has made the difficult and painful decision to resign his commission in the US Army in order to remain with his beloved state of Virginia...for him, his "nation".

After organizing the state's defenses and attempting unsuccessfully to keep Western Virginia within the control of Virginia, Lee is sent southward to inspect and build up the coastal defenses all the way to Florida. The volume ends with Lee's recall to Richmond as the Federal army under McClellan mounts its first invasion of Virginia.

Freeman's writing style is termed "fog-of-war history". The listener knows only what Lee knows at the time he knows and understands events. We follow Lee's development of strategy in the environment into which he had been thrust. Listeners are urged to follow battles using the maps which Freeman himself drew, and which are included in the accompanying downloadable PDF document.

©1934 Charles Scribners Sons (P)2017 Audio Connoisseur

Critic Reviews

"Lee complete for all time." ( The New York Times)

What members say

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From The First Day To Just Before The Seven Days

A straightforward, workmanlike narrative that takes us through the first fifty-five years of Lee's life, ending with his recall to Richmond in 1862. We follow Lee throughout his prewar career, so we get some dull chapters about river engineering as well as more interesting adventures such as Harper's Ferry.

There was one close call in the Mexican War that I'm amazed he survived. It fascinates me, the little chance events that history is contingent on.

Freeman does seem to have had some bias in favor of his subject, especially noticable when discussing Lee's interaction with slavery, but not so bad that I doubt the general accuracy of what I'm listening to.

A solid biography book, solidly narrated.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Chuckster
  • Greensboro, NC United States
  • 12-29-17

Classic

If you study the Civil War or you’re curious about the man, Robert E Lee, this is vol 1 of the classic Pulitzer Prize winner by Douglas Southall Freeman. The discipline that shows through is amazing. Freeman spent over 20 years researching and writing the four volume set. Can’t wait for the other three volumes on audible. This is a must listen/read and a ready reference for the student of the Civil War.

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Wonderful look at the development of a man

This first volume is devoted to the development of Lee from his birth until the early phases of the War Between the States. The book is extraordinarily detailed and looks at everything that the author can get his hands on to try and open up the soul of the man. And by detail, I mean that Freeman looks at Lee's library records at West Point in order to gain insights into the way Lee thinks.

The narration is clear and well paced. It is a real pleasure to listen to. I'm of the impression that the calm and dignified manner of the subject of this text has had an influence on Freeman's words and Griffin's narration. It is without any violent and overly emotive expression.