Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In America’s Robert E. Lee, Henry Steele Commager presents a brief but extremely exciting sketch of the life of one of the United States’ outstanding figures. The author focuses on the conflict that Robert E. Lee had to resolve in his own heart between his loyalty to the United States and his loyalty to his native state of Virginia. Lynd Ward provides an abundance of illustrations, both in color and in black and white, to depict important episodes in the life of Lee. These drawings and paintings begin with Lee as a boy at Stratford, the family plantation in Virginia, and end with his tragic surrender at Appomattox Court House in April, 1865.

America’s Robert E. Lee follows an entirely chronological narrative, omitting chapter divisions, to cover the life of the subject. This style creates a fast-moving account that will hold the interest of a young reader. The early pages of the book are used by the author to emphasize the importance of the Lee family in American history. Included is the paradoxical life of Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Robert’s father, who was a military hero in the American Revolution and later a governor and congressperson. From his father, young Robert heard firsthand accounts about the Amer-ican Revolution and about another famous Virginian, George Washington. Commager traces the indirect influence of Washington on the life of Robert E. Lee, from these stories to his marriage to the granddaughter of...

(The entire section is 423 words.)