Cover image for The man who would not be Washington : Robert E. Lee's Civil War and his decision that changed American history
Title:
The man who would not be Washington : Robert E. Lee's Civil War and his decision that changed American history
Author:
Horn, Jonathan, 1982- , author.
Edition:
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, 2015.
Physical Description:
xi, 369 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Summary:
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 George 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. Here, 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. 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.--From publisher description.
Language:
English
Contents:
Part I: Antebellum. Foundering father ; A Potomac son ; Lee's union -- Part II: Casus belli. Half slave, half free ; Washington's sword ; The decision -- Part III: Bellum. The battle for Arlington ; The last heir ; White House burning ; Emancipation ; The indispensable man ; The cemetery -- Part IV: Postbellum. Washington and Lee ; The bridge.
ISBN:
9781476748566
Format :
Book

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E467.1.L4 H749 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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Summary

Summary

The riveting true story 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.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Robert E. Lee was frequently compared to George Washington, not only because of his personality and "military genius" but also because he married Washington's granddaughter, and his father had a close relationship with the Founding Father. But at the start of the Civil War, Lee made a decision that made such a comparison highly controversial: Lee rejected the Union and loyally followed Virginia into the Confederacy, despite his personal opposition to secession. Horn, a former White House speechwriter, puts a captivating spin on Lee's story by comparing and contrasting the two great men. Detailed yet accessible descriptions of battles are coupled with stories of Lee's personal life, revealing a man as complex as the war he reluctantly joined. Horn also points out the reverence for Washington during this time, and the way each side claimed him as their own. In the book's oddly underdeveloped final strides, Horn condemns Lee for not following his initial opposition to rebellion, for "not being Washington." That flaw aside, Horn takes a fair and equitable approach to Lee, his life, and his struggle over participation in a war that tore apart the nation. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Horn's (former White House presidential speechwriter) thematic biography captures the many facets of Robert E. Lee's crowded life (1807-70). In it, the author covers Lee's constricted childhood caused by his father's abandonment of the family; his brilliant record at West Point; his protracted courtship with Mary Custis, the daughter of G.W.P. Custis, George Washington's adopted son; his marriage and numerous postings around the country as military engineer; his roles in the war with Mexico and as superintendent of West Point. Horn further delves into the man's refusal of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott's pleas to remain with the Union; his rise up the rebel chain of command from early victories to the Gettysburg defeat and subsequent military disasters; and his surrender at Appomattox together with his later career as a college president. Embedded throughout this fine work are adroit comparisons between George Washington and Lee. The author's superb epilog traces the subsequent unsuccessful attempts to tie Lee to the Washington legacy and memorialize his life in stone, concluding: "Because Lee was the man who would not be Washington-every child born as lowly as Lincoln can dream of being a Washington. Because Lee could not have his own way, we might all have ours." VERDICT A seminal contribution of significant historiographical value. Recommended for Old South and Civil War scholars, Lee biography enthusiasts, a lay audience, and all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.] John Carver Edwards, formerly with Univ. of Georgia Libs. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

In his well-researched book, Horn, a former White House presidential speechwriter, revisits the dog-eared question of the degree to which during the 1861 secession crisis, George Washington's eminence, legacy, and reputation influenced Robert E. Lee's decision to side with the Confederate States of America, not the US. Historians from Douglas Southern Freeman to Thomas L. Connelly have investigated the personal and historical connections between the two Virginians: Washington, the nation's most famous "founder," and Lee, the most famous icon of the "Lost Cause." Lee, of course, was the son of Washington's most eloquent eulogist, "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, and the son-in-law of Washington's adopted child. In April 1861, as the nation that Washington had helped create teetered on destruction, circumstances forced Lee to choose between his commitment to the nation and his military career versus his loyalty to his beloved state. In tracing Lee's biography, Horn establishes the powerful connection that both Lee and Washington had to slavery and the complex meaning of both states' rights and the Founding Fathers to white Southerners of Lee's generation. Historians will find little that is new, but undergraduates will consider it informative. Summing Up: Recommended. Public and undergraduate libraries. --John David Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte


Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. xi
Prologue: The Viewp. 1
Part I Antebellum
Chapter 1 Foundering Fatherp. 11
Chapter 2 A Potomac Sonp. 26
Chapter 3 Lee's Unionp. 41
Part II Casus Belli
Chapter 4 Half Slave, Half Freep. 59
Chapter 5 Washington's Swordp. 79
Chapter 6 The Decisionp. 93
Part III Bellum
Chapter 7 The Battle for Arlingtonp. 115
Chapter 8 The Last Heirp. 130
Chapter 9 White House Burningp. 145
Chapter 10 Emancipationp. 169
Chapter 11 The Indispensable Manp. 184
Chapter 12 The Cemeteryp. 204
Part IV Postbellum
Chapter 13 Washington and Leep. 225
Epilogue: The Bridgep. 245
Acknowledgmentsp. 251
Appendix: Custis-Lee Family Treep. 253
Notesp. 257
Selected Bibliographyp. 333
Map and Illustration Creditp. 347
Indexp. 349