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

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Penguin, May 3, 2007 - History - 688 pages
“Pryor’s biography helps part with a lot of stupid out there about Lee – chiefly, that he was, somehow, ‘anti-slavery.’” – Ta-Nehisi Coates,

An “unorthodox, critical, and engaging biography” (Boston Globe) – Winner of The Lincoln Prize

Robert E. Lee is remembered by history as a tragic figure, stoic and brave but distant and enigmatic. Using dozens of previously unpublished letters as departure points, Pryor produces a stunning personal account of Lee's military ability, shedding new light on every aspect of the complex and contradictory general's life story. Explained for the first time in the context of the young United States's tumultuous societal developments, Lee's actions reveal a man forced to play a leading role in the formation of the nation at the cost of his private happiness.

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User Review  - greeniezona - LibraryThing

The third book for our Less Stupid Civil War Reading Group, and the one I looked forward to with the least pleasure -- though a fair amount of curiosity. What I knew about Lee before reading this book ... Read full review

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User Review  - ALincolnNut - LibraryThing

By the end of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee had become an iconic American figure, as much myth as mortal even before his death in 1870. Since then, few historians have attempted to dig very deeply into ... Read full review

Selected pages


Theory Meets Reality
Upon a Fearful Summons
Field of Honor
A GeneralIs a Rare Product
The Political Animal

The Family Circle
Humanity and the
BlackEyed Fancies
The Headache
Mutable Shield
Ragged Individualists 399
A Leap in the Dark
Blurred Vision
If Vanquished I Am Still Victorious
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (2007)

Elizabeth Brown Pryor (1951–2015) combined careers as an award-winning historian and a senior diplomat in the American Foreign Service. She was the author of the biography Clara Barton: Professional Angel, considered the authoritative work on the founder of the American Red Cross, and Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, which won the 2008 Lincoln Prize, the 2007 Jefferson Davis Award, the 2008 Richard B. Harwell Book Award, and the 2007 Richard S. Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography. Her final book, Six Encounters With Lincoln:  A President Confronts Democracy and Its Demons, was published posthumously in February 2017.

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