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'The Making Of Robert E. Lee' by Michael Fellman

In new look at Gen. Lee he becomes mere mortal

Thursday, December 07, 2000

By Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Book Editor


The Making Of Robert E. Lee

By Michael Fellman

Random House


Called before a congressional committee on rebuilding the country after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee both defended the creation of the Confederate States and said he continued to view black Americans as inferior to whites.

Consequently, he believed blacks should not be allowed to vote and, in the case of his home state of Virginia, should be encouraged to move elsewhere.

Knowing all sides of the Southern military hero is essential to understanding the man, not the legend, argues Canadian historian Michael Fellman. Thanks to the work of white supremacists, Lee was elevated to a “marble saint” after his death in 1870 and his mythical character was used as justification for the South’s racial policies for years.

Portrayed as a paragon of Southern honor as well as a brilliant military leader, the general represented all that was “right” about the Confederacy’s lost cause, says Fellman. In truth, Lee took a distinctly anti-military stance after the war, even suggesting that battlefields should be plowed under rather than preserved as monuments to war.

Revising history is really what historians do and work such as Fellman’s is important in forming a rounded view of America’s past. Like his toughest opponent, Ulysses S. Grant, Lee was really a human-sized figure, as this biography shows.

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