Magazine October 4, 2021, Issue

The Enigma of Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee Statue at Gettysburg (KenKPhoto/Getty Images)
Robert E. Lee: A Life, by Allen C. Guelzo (Knopf, 608 pp., $35)

Of all the American icons that have been pushed off their pedestals lately, none has fallen farther and harder than Robert E. Lee. Over the years, Lee was admired by even those who certainly had no sympathy for the cause for which he fought. Long viewed as an exemplar of soldierly virtue, integrity, magnanimity, and humanity, Lee has recently come under relentless attack and his alleged virtues have been called into question.

He was once regarded as not only a regional but even a national hero, a Christian gentleman as well as a magnificent commander who eventually succumbed only to an

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Mackubin Thomas Owens is senior national-security fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, editing its journal Orbis from 2008 to 2020. A Marine Corps infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, he was a professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College from 1987 to 2015. He is the author of US Civil–Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain.

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