‘Clouds of Glory,’ Michael Korda’s Robert E. Lee Biography

22BORDEWICH-master495Fergus M. Bordewich at The New York Times:

Robert E. Lee occupies a remarkable place in the pantheon of American history, combining in the minds of many, Michael Korda writes in this admiring and briskly written biography, “a strange combination of martyr, secular saint, Southern gentleman and perfect warrior.” Indeed, Korda aptly adds, “It is hard to think of any other general who had fought against his own country being so completely reintegrated into national life.”

Lee has been a popular subject of biography virtually from his death in 1870, at the age of 63, through the four magisterial volumes of Douglas Southall Freeman in the 1930s to Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s intimate 2007 study of Lee and his letters, “Reading the Man.” Korda, the author of earlier biographies of Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, aspires to pry the marble lid off the Lee legend to reveal the human being beneath.

He draws a generally sympathetic portrait of a master strategist who was as physically fearless on the battlefield as he was reserved in personal relations. He was, Korda writes, “a perfectionist, obsessed by duty,” but also “charming, funny and flirtatious,” an animal lover, a talented cartographer and a devoted parent, as well as “a noble, tragic figure, indeed one whose bearing and dignity conferred nobility on the cause for which he fought and still does confer it in the minds of many people.”

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