The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History
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The “compelling…modern and readable perpective” (USA TODAY) of Robert E. Lee, the brilliant soldier bound by marriage to George Washington’s family but turned by war against Washington’s crowning achievement, the Union.
On the eve of the Civil War, one soldier embodied the legacy of George Washington and the hopes of leaders across a divided land. Both North and South knew Robert E. Lee as the son of Washington’s most famous eulogist and the son-in-law of Washington’s adopted child. Each side sought his service for high command. Lee could choose only one.
In The Man Who Would Not Be Washington, former White House speechwriter Jonathan Horn reveals how the officer most associated with Washington went to war against the union that Washington had forged. This extensively researched and gracefully written biography follows Lee through married life, military glory, and misfortune. The story that emerges is more complicated, more tragic, and more illuminating than the familiar tale. More complicated because the unresolved question of slavery—the driver of disunion—was among the personal legacies that Lee inherited from Washington. More tragic because the Civil War destroyed the people and places connecting Lee to Washington in agonizing and astonishing ways. More illuminating because the battle for Washington’s legacy shaped the nation that America is today. As Washington was the man who would not be king, Lee was the man who would not be Washington. The choice was Lee’s. The story is America’s.
A must-read for those passionate about history, The Man Who Would Not Be Washington introduces Jonathan Horn as a masterly voice in the field.
November 22, 1857, Robert E. Lee Papers, Duke University. end of 1858: Robert E. Lee to George Washington Custis Lee, Arlington, February 15, 1858, Robert E. Lee Papers, Duke University. “Since I first”: George Washington Custis Lee to Mary Custis Lee, Fort Point San Francisco, February 16, 1858, DeButts-Ely Collection of Lee Family Papers, Library of Congress. “Touched”: Robert E. Lee to George Washington Custis Lee, Arlington, March 17, 1858, Robert E. Lee Papers, Duke University. “If you
That offer, as far as is known, went unanswered. Lee’s loyalty was not for sale. It belonged to Virginia, and Virginia still belonged to the Union. So long as that remained the case, Lee could remain in Union blue. From the outset of the crisis, he had said, “I wish for no other flag than the ‘Star Spangled banner,’ & no other air than ‘Hail Columbia.’ ” Evidently, at this stage, he thought he still might get his way. Living at Arlington indulged this fantasy. “We were traditionally, my mother
there was much to defend. To the east along the Chesapeake, four parallel rivers—the Potomac on top, the Rappahannock and York in the middle, and the James on the bottom—divided the Virginia Tidewater into a series of peninsulas and provided pathways to the state’s interior for an enemy, like the Union, possessing unquestioned naval superiority. While Virginia had captured the Norfolk shipping yards, including a frigate named the USS Merrimack, federal troops had retained Lee’s first married
not suppress a feeling of jealousy.” Lee, meanwhile, could not suppress a feeling of disgust at the conditions in camp. “The soldiers everywhere are sick. The measles are prevalent throughout the whole army, & you know that disease leaves unpleasant results . . . especially in camp where accommodation for the sick is poor,” Lee wrote. Despite his concerns about the situation, Lee sidestepped a power struggle with his subordinate by moving his own tent north along the Huntersville road to Valley
that visited Harry in this second act, the cruelest was Washington’s unintentional role in the tragedy. The friendship that fueled Harry Lee’s rise during the Revolution now hastened his demise. The more closely he followed Washington, the more he courted misfortune. As with so much in Harry’s life, the trouble began on the Potomac. There was no greater apostle for the river’s possibilities than George Washington. The river had enchanted Washington since boyhood. At age sixteen, he joined a