Lee of Virginia Essay - Critical Essays

Douglas Southall Freeman


Freeman’s admiration, affection, and appreciation for his subject are obvious throughout his work. This opinion is to be expected because, as the book implies, most contemporary Southerners (and even some Northerners) who knew Lee came to respect him.

As a result of the author’s skill as a narrator and pedagogue, the reader quickly discovers that, indeed, there is much to be fond of in the person of Robert E. Lee. It is clearly Freeman’s intent to pass on the moral values and code of ethics by which Lee lived his life. Lee of Virginia emphasizes the lessons of prudent living and circumspect behavior, which account for Lee’s ability to perform deeds of physical and moral courage. Freeman provides the reader with concrete examples of his sub-ject’s virtues, which are often followed by pointed statements elucidating the moral of the story.

For example, at one point during the Mexican War, it became essential that Lee make contact with his superiors. The effort required endurance and caused young Captain Lee physical hardship. He finally succeeded, as Freeman notes, “thanks to his physical condition, which no fast living ever had weakened.” This, and other such episodes, eventually earned the praise of Winfield Scott, the General of the Army of the United States. Freeman helps the reader to understand that such an assessment of Lee by a man of the likes of Scott was an extraordinary thing indeed, and symbolic of the greatness of this hero of the South.


(The entire section is 614 words.)