Recollections of General Robert E. Lee Review

I recently downloaded the Kindle book Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, written by his son Captain Robert E. Lee. The Kindle edition is free and readers can start reading the 504 page book a minute, after it is purchased for free. The book is in the public domain, which is why it is free at Amazon.com.

General Lee was born on January 19, 1807 in Stratford Hall, Virginia. He graduated second in his class from West Point in 1829. He married Mary Custis the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington in 1831. He later would be he appointed Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1852.

General Robert E. Lee 1807-1870

Lee loved to communicate through letters and this book includes the text of many letters, that he wrote to his wife, sons and daughters and others he had contact with during his life. He wrote often even during the Civil War years of 1861-1865. When he wrote home he would ask his relatives to send socks for the Confederate troops, many of whom had neither shoes or socks. It had to be a real hardship for Confederate troops, to not have shoes and socks and even blankets during the winter months of the Civil War. He writes in 1862 about the death of his daughter, Anne Carter Lee who died of typhoid fever at the age of 23.

You could feel the compassion for his troops as he pleaded in his letters, for his relatives to send socks for the troops. He wrote about the death of General Stonewall Jackson and how he would be missed by the Confederate Army. He writes in one letter about how outnumbered the Confederate troops were before surrendering to General Ulyssses Grant at Appomatox.  By surrendering Lee prevented the deaths of thousands of Confederate troops, who would have surely died at the hands of the Federal Army, who vastly outnumbered them.

His letters after the war relate how he was offered the presidency of Washington University, which was named Washington and Lee University in later years. His leadership was instrumental in making Washington University, one of the leading collegiate institutions of the south. His wife Mary who suffered from rheumatism often went to places with healing springs and these trips separated her from General Lee, who was living in Lexington, Virginia as the president of Washington University.

He often wrote his sons  after the war and gave them advice, about how to be a successful farmer. He gave them money to help them acquire what they needed for their farms. He even told his son Robert Jr. that Robert needed to find a wife so he could settle down on a farm.

After reading these letters, a reader can tell how much family meant to General Lee and his concern for the welfare of his wife, sons and daughters and the confederate troops, who had served in the Confederate Army under his leadership.  It is evident too how much his faith in God mattered to him.

Sadly, Lee only lived five years after the Civil War ended and died on October 12, 1870 in Lexington, Virginia at the age of 63 of heart disease.  He is buried at Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

General Lee may have been a great general for the Confederate Army, but this book, doesn’t dwell on that as much, as it does on his character which is exemplified in his letters. Numerous books have been written about Lee, but due to his untimely death he was unable to write the memoirs of his life.

The entire book can be heard since there is an option to hear a reader read the book aloud. This book may not be a book Civil War buffs may want to read, since it is more about Robert E. Lee the person, rather than being about Robert E. Lee the Confederate general, but it is still a book worth reading.

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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