Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters

By Elizabeth Brown Pryor

For the two hundredth anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s beginning, a brand new portrait drawing on formerly unpublished correspondence

Robert E. Lee’s battle correspondence is widely known, and right here and there own letters have stumbled on their manner into print, however the nice majority of his so much intimate messages have by no means been made public. those letters demonstrate a much more advanced and contradictory guy than the one that comes so much easily to the mind's eye, for it truly is along with his kinfolk and his acquaintances that Lee is at his such a lot candid, most tasty, and such a lot weak. over the last a number of years historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor has exposed a wealthy trove of unpublished Lee fabrics that have been held in either deepest and public collections.

Her new ebook, a different mix of research, narrative, and historiography, provides dozens of those letters of their entirety, so much through Lee yet a couple of by means of kinfolk. each one letter turns into a departure aspect for an essay that exhibits what the letter uniquely finds approximately Lee’s time or personality. the cloth covers all points of Lee’s life—his early years, West element, his paintings as an engineer, his relationships along with his little ones and his slaves, his determination to hitch the South, his options on army method, and his disappointments after defeat within the Civil warfare. the result's possibly the main intimate photograph up to now of Lee, person who deftly analyzes the that means of his activities in the context of his character, his relationships, and the social tenor of his times.

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Nor used to be Henry Lee domestic for the beginning. by the point he arrived a couple of weeks later, he was once thoroughly distracted—enmeshed in a dispute with Thomas Jefferson over even if he had ever supported the renegade Aaron Burr. fifty nine Stratford, birthplace of Robert E. Lee. JESSIE BALL DUPONT MEMORIAL LIBRARY, STRATFORD Lee’s political squabble with Jefferson used to be the least of his problems, for by way of now his collectors have been taking critical criminal activities opposed to him. He attempted to ward off them, relocating from position to put and hiding in the back of his barricaded door. Fifteen months after Robert’s start, in spite of the fact that, he was once pressured to give up to the sheriff of Westmoreland County. stored in a twelve-by-fifteen-foot telephone, within the similar courthouse the place George Washington had as soon as solid a poll electing him to Congress, Lee was once sunk right into a slough of depression. as soon as he had written of a chum who was once constrained for debt that it “would were comparative humanity to have positioned him to demise instead of hence detained. ” one other warrant was once served opposed to him on April 24, 1809, and Lee was once moved to the Spotsylvania County jail—“this depot of misery,” as he known as it. He were arrested opposed to a small writ for $425, plus damages, however the collective embarrassment of his affairs used to be huge and complicated, or even Lee admitted “the factor is so obscured & so mixed…that i can't converse with any precision thereon. ”60 He was once in debt to 20 collectors, his brothers, and either one of his fathers-in-law, in addition to the estates of Patrick Henry and George Washington. He had even borrowed funds for the 2 quires of paper he bought to jot down a diatribe opposed to Jefferson. Lee had inspiration all will be righted if purely he may gather from Robert Morris, however it looks that Morris had at the very least in part compensated him already, throughout the move of a few 90,000 acres of land within the Allegheny mountains. sixty one to procure liberate from felony, Lee paid so much of his money owed in land. A sampling of those conveyances indicates the extravagance of his hypothesis: 40,000 acres in Hampshire and Hardy counties to erase one debt; 28,300 acres in Westmoreland to safe one other; 50,000 acres in tub County to 1 creditor; and the deeds to 2 espresso estates in Santo Domingo to offset different liabilities. In 1810 he surrendered his lifestyles curiosity in Stratford to his eldest son Henry, and wrote up a last “schedule” of his beneficial funds. On March 20, he used to be ultimately “discharged from the custody of the Sheriff…having complied with the act…for aid of bancrupt borrowers. ”62 to beat his terror and humiliation in criminal, Lee launched into a writing undertaking that fastened his brain at the wonderful days of the Continental military. at first he was hoping to put in writing a biography of his esteemed commander, Nathanael Greene, who had died in 1786. After Lee appealed to his previous comrades for his or her reminiscences, although, the venture broadened right into a historical past of the warfare within the southern colonies, with Lee’s Legion enjoying a starring position. in the course of these dismal days, Light-Horse Harry sat writing at the courthouse garden, the place he were allowed to enterprise, his vast daring script slashing around the pages, a lot as he had as soon as dashed around the nation-state.

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