Review of Philip Alexander Bruce’s Robert E. Lee

Note: The following is taken from the January 1908 issue of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (volume 15), p. 341.

ROBERT E. LEE, by Philip Alexander Bruce, LL.D. Author of “Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century,” “The Plantation Negro as a Freeman,” “Rise of the New South,” etc. American Crisis Biographies, Philadelphia. George C. Jacobs & Company, Publishers [1907], pp. 380.

Whatever Mr. Bruce does is evolved with historical accuracy and in his life of Robert E. Lee this historic nicety is mellowed and illuminated with a delicate tenderness which makes this new story of an old subject unique and interesting.

Mr. Bruce dwells with much feeling and enthusiasm upon General Lee’s heredity—his West Point life—his courtship and marriage, and his romantic military life even before 1861, giving much stress and detail to his brilliant Mexican exkperience.

The greatest effort and the minutest detail Mr. Bruce places upon the crucial years 1861–1865, when Lee’s achievement was greatest and the closing chapters, in a spirit of reverence and devotion, tell of the pathetic close of a splendid career.

The author, with much skill, and an evident knowledge of the much disputed questions, shows that the “Seceding States” were clearly within their constitutional and historic rights, when they withdrew from the Union in 1860–1861.

His precise and adroit handling of this interesting question would in itself make the book worth reading.

His reasons for the failure of the Confederacy are subtle and plausible—although all of his readers may not agree with him.

General Lee’s character from the pages of this book looms up with magnificent clarity, his splendid unselfishness joined to unusual judgment is the key-note of the book.

The literary force of this book corresponds to its historic value, and makes the reading of it a pleasure to the critic as well as the historian.

This latest work of a distinguished historian must distinctly add to his already well-earned reputation.