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Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee [Kindle Edition]

Michael Korda
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, Michael Korda, the New York Times bestselling biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and T. E. Lawrence, has written the first major biography of Lee in nearly twenty years, bringing to life America's greatest and most iconic hero. Korda paints a vivid and admiring portrait of Lee as a general and a devoted family man who, though he disliked slavery and was not in favor of secession, turned down command of the Union army in 1861 because he could not "draw his sword" against his own children, his neighbors, and his beloved Virginia. He was surely America's preeminent military leader, as calm, dignified, and commanding a presence in defeat as he was in victory. Lee's reputation has only grown in the 150 years since the Civil War, and Korda covers in groundbreaking detail all of Lee's battles and traces the making of a great man's undeniable reputation on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, positioning him finally as the symbolic martyr-hero of the Southern Cause.


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Review

“Korda clearly has command of his subject...[Clouds of Glory] is well-considered and amply documented. Military buffs will find much to feast on.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Masterful...Korda delivers the goods.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Superbly engaging.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Monumental.” (BookPage)

“Lively, approachable, and captivating…Llike Lee himself, everything about Clouds of Glory is on a grand scale.” (Boston Globe)

From the Back Cover

In Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, Michael Korda, the New York Times bestselling biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and T. E. Lawrence, has written the first major biography of Lee in nearly twenty years, bringing to life America's greatest and most iconic hero. Korda paints a vivid and admiring portrait of Lee as a general and a devoted family man who, though he disliked slavery and was not in favor of secession, turned down command of the Union army in 1861 because he could not "draw his sword" against his own children, his neighbors, and his beloved Virginia. He was surely America's preeminent military leader, as calm, dignified, and commanding a presence in defeat as he was in victory. Lee's reputation has only grown in the 150 years since the Civil War, and Korda covers in groundbreaking detail all of Lee's battles and traces the making of a great man's undeniable reputation on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, positioning him finally as the symbolic martyr-hero of the Southern Cause.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 11803 KB
  • Print Length: 1363 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (13 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FJ3142G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #300,141 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great life of a great general 23 Jun. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Korda shows why Robert E. Lee is rated alongside Caesar, Marlborough and Napoleon as a military genius. And he also shows how Lee inspired such loyalty, no love, from his soldiers. This is not, though, a hero-gram. Lee's biographer also examines the great general's weaknesses, especially his unwillingness or inability to confront subordinates. Lee exercised leadership through inspiration, consideration and example and this was not always enough.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended! 16 May 2015
By IDIC
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A good biography of Lee but does get bogged down with military movements and details in places. If you are not a "Civil War Buff" you may find yourself reading pages of battle detail where Lee is hardly mentioned at all. There has been a need for a good, modern, biography of Lee for some time and this book goes a long way to meeting that need. It is written in a very readable style and despite my earlier criticism I would recommend it to both Civil War Enthusiasts and anyone that just wants to know more about this major figure in American history who still has enormous influence 145 years after his death.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Robert E. Lee has always been a curious figure in American Civil War history. More than anyone else he represented the Confederacy, both during the war and after it. Lee became the Confederacy's secular saint, part of its central myth and legacy. Yet even whilst the Confederate States and all that they stood for are rightfully regarded by history as morally indefensible, Lee has somehow always avoided that opprobrium. Even during and immediately after the war, when one would have expected Northern resentment and anger to be at its height, there was immense respect for Lee, and that respect has remained through the years.

It is always hard to pin down something as intangible as charisma, appeal, personality - but Michael Korda attempts to in this ambitious biography of Lee. His conclusion is that the same qualities that led Lee to his enthronement as the Confederacy's secular saint were also the qualities that led to his failings as a general. Simply put, Lee was too much of a gentleman. He avoided confrontation with his officers; his orders were polite and veiled in conventional niceties that gave subordinates an out to avoid them; he requested instead of demanded; he was loved and admired instead of feared. That Lee was a military genius is not in question, and had the resources and manpower of the Conferacy been on level terms with that of the United States things may have different, but again, maybe not. Perhaps genius needed to be allied to the bulldog mentality of Grant, for example, in order to be truly effective.

This is the only biography of Lee I've read so it's difficult to draw comparisons, but I have to confess I was disappointed. I've read many books on the Civil War, many biographies of the major players, but this was one of the few I found a slog.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 16 Jan. 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Another excellent biography by Michael Korda.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  188 reviews
93 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars General Robert Edward Lee who led the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War is well served in this superb biography 20 May 2014
By C. M Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) was one of the great military captains of all times. Lee was a man of honor whose eventful life is well served by Michael Korda in this excellent new biography. Korda is the author of such biographies as those dealing with U.S.
Grant'; T.E. Lawrence of Arabia and Dwight D. Eisenhower Michael Korda is not a trained Civil War historian so he adds a fresh look at Lee from the perspective of an author who has done his research to produce the best Lee biography in years.
Robert E. Lee was the son of Light Horse Harry Lee the American Revolutionary War hero, Governor of Virginia and scion of old Virginia. Light Horse Harry was also a man burdened by scandal who became bankrupt dying in disgrace. R. E. Lee cared for his invalid mother. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829 graduating second in his class. He wed a wealthy woman and was enabled to live at Arlington. Lee was in awe of George Washington his beau ideal of a soldier and leader. Lee and Mary had seven children. Three of them were boys'; all served in the Confederate Army.
Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862. In short order Lee led his outnumbered troops in battle winning victory at the Seven Days near Richmond'; Second Manassas, Antietam (a draw against the Army of the Potomac under the sluggish leadership of George B. McClellan) Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville (it was at this battle that Lee lost Stonewall Jackson who died on May 10, 1863 after he had been wounded by his own men). Lee and his troops met defeat at Gettysburg but continued to fight to the bitter end against Grant in the Overland Campaign which ended with surrender on April 9, 1865.
All of these facts are well know to historians. What makes Korda's book stand out for this reviewer who is a longtime Civil War buff are the following points:"
1. While Korda has a deep admiration for Lee as a man and soldier he does not make him into a god. Lee owned slaves and believed that African-Americans were inferior to whites. He was a man of his day in these beliefs.
2. Lee was not forceful enough to his subordinates not wanting to hurt their feelings.
3.Lee';s admirable role as father to his children and as loving spouse to his invalid wife is well covered in this book. These pages give Lee a human dimension sometimes absent in accounts of the great Virginian.
4. Lee did not like slavery and thought the Confederacy was doomed. He could not abandon Virginia by fighting against her so became a Confederate general.
5. Lee was an outstanding professional engineer who did much good work on dams and river navigation especially in the St. Louis area prior to the Civil War.
6. Lee loved animals and treated them well.
7. Lee loved to laugh and carry on mild but platonic flirtations with his many lady friends.
8. Korda disagrees with Lost Cause historians who portray General James Longstreet as the Judas to Lee's Christ.
If you want to read one book dealing with Lee or the Civil War this year then this book is ideal! It is an outstanding biography which lacks a dull page. Excellent . Robert E. Lee was a great American and Michael Korda is a great historian. Excellent!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent book with minor flaws 11 Jun. 2014
By Henry Spencer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very enjoyable book on a fascinating man, respected and admired even by his opponents. I learned quite a bit from it (with the caveat that I'm not really a serious student of the US Civil War in general or Lee in particular, so I might not catch factual errors). The author has some minor quirks but nothing too objectionable, and his ideas about why Lee failed at crucial points are plausible.

My one serious complaint is that the book shares a problem that seems to plague Civil War books: the maps are lousy. It's not clear just where they are from -- each one is accompanied by a credit to the Freeman biography, even one or two which clearly didn't come from there (!), and there is no further explanation (at least not in the Kindle edition) -- but they don't fit this book well. In particular, they frequently violate the basic rule that any place or feature which is mentioned in the text *should be on the map*, so the reader is often left guessing about the details of the action. Not as bad as some I've seen, but not great. The limitations of the Kindle format don't help, either: some of the maps and images are too small, and enlarging them doesn't help because they were digitized at too low a resolution.

(And speaking of limitations of the Kindle, endnotes that aren't properly linked to the text are a tremendous pain to use, given that the page numbers are meaningless and it's difficult to quickly flip back and forth between text and notes. Including an apology for this isn't a substitute for fixing it.)
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly disappointing, yet a pleasant read. 28 July 2014
By Jeffrey N. Lutz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Touted as "the first major biography of Lee in over 20 years", I was hoping for into a summer of delight and great insights as I read new material on one of the great 19th Century Americans (even though many disagree that he was a great American). What I got was a poorly written, poorly edited rehash of what others have written, full of duplication and inconsistency. A major biography of a military figure without one original map? You have to be kidding.

The reader that is unfamiliar with Lee and/or the Civil War will have a pleasant read, but will come away confused by the high degree of admiration constantly expressed by Korda -- he claims Lee to be a great battlefield genius, but then points out mistake after mistake that he made.

It was refreshing that Korda spends 20+% of the book pre-Civil War to examine Lee's character and characteristics so to allow deeper examination of his acts during the Civil War, but this is definitely the highlight of the book. Descriptions of the action and troop movements during both the Mexican and Civil Wars seemed repetitive (especially as the maps, most copies of 1930's era maps and nearly unreadable on a Kindle) all followed by the same arguments that Longstreet always argued with Lee, and that Lee didn't have to spell out what he was thinking to Stonewall Jackson because Jackson always knew what Lee wanted.

I read a lot of histories and biographies. Good biography uses original sources to come up with new points of view on well-known subjects. Korda rehashes what other authors have said on key topics -- he even uses Wikepdia as a source several times! Save your money and read about the Civil War on-line!
40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining 22 May 2014
By A. Hill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I love Michael Korda's books for their lucid language and entertaining prose, no matter what his subject may be. Great story-telling. With obvious pleasure in his subject, he explores Lee, the man, with a depth of research to support his instincts. Lee's colorful contemporaries play supporting roles. Battles and horses, too! All against the background of a very very interesting era. Maps in the text are a really nice bonus. A long book, yes, but never, ever tedious. Loved it.
51 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Quite Hit the Mark 21 Jun. 2014
By Eric C. Evans - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
CLOUDS OF GLORY: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF ROBERT E LEE, by Michael Korda is a good biography and worth the read, but it does not quite hit the mark.

Robert E. Lee is a difficult subject for any biographer committed to being objective. Where does the man end and the legend begin? Perhaps no American has been mythologized to the degree Lee has. Perhaps no American has had such an effective and dedicated group of partisans creating, protecting and defending his legend as does Lee. As Mr. Korda writes in a chapter with the apropos title "Apotheosis" there is an, "...increasing and systemized transformation of Lee into a flawless, faultless symbol, in which the real man was rapidly overshadowed by the gleaming marble image." This apotheosis started well before Lee's death and has continued to this day.

Mr. Korda does make an attempt to present to his reader with an objective view point, and he succeeds to a greater degree than many of Lee's other biographers. But there are also large swaths of CLOUDS OF GLORY where objectivity seems lacking.

The narrative around Harper's Ferry and Lee's role in subduing John Brown was one of the strongest portions of the book. However it was plucked form the middle of Lee's life and made into a preface. After finishing the Preface I wondered what would be left to tell about Harper's Ferry and, indeed there was nothing, Mr. Korda never addresses it within the context of Lee's life. The reader is deprived of seeing in close proximity Lee the suppressor of rebellion and Lee the leader of rebellion.

The strongest part of the book is the chapter which deals with Gettysburg and not coincidentally it is the chapter that is most objective. Gettysburg seems to be the fulcrum of the book (and why not?). Because of the way Mr. Korda foreshadows Gettysburg in the narrative the reader can sense him steeling himself for the unpleasant task of explaining Lee's great failure. And to his credit he does.

The objective historian must, in my opinion, concede two things about Gettysburg: 1) Lee's mistakes on the third day of the battle sealed the fate of the Confederacy and 2) Lee's lieutenant, General James (Pete) Longstreet's account of the battle is more accurate than that of the Lee partisans. Mr. Korda not only concedes both points but makes a convincing case for each.

Unfortunately, Mr. Korda does not maintain that same standard throughout. Robert E. Lee was a great general, there can be very little argument about that. His greatness as a general came from his ability to read his opponents and having the audacity to act and commit his army to daring and unconventional tactics based on what he read in the Generals he faced.

He had taken George McClellan's measure long before either man commanded an army and he read like a book, in succession, each Union general he faced right up to the time Grant took command of the Union Armies. When that happened the roles were somewhat reversed, Lee never demonstrated that he understood Grant like he did his other opponents, while Grant seemed to understand Lee from the very beginning.

There is a discordant tinge of pettiness in Lee's postwar claims that McClellan was the best General he had faced. That claim cannot, on any level, be taken seriously. It is not a stretch to say that until Grant took command of the Union Armies, every general Lee faced in a battle was subpar, at least as a battle field commander.

Grant suffers by comparison to Lee in this book and since this is a biography of Lee, that is probably to be expected. But objectivity requires some acknowledgment that in Grant, Lee for the first and only time in the Civil War, faced a general who had claim to being a great general and battlefield commander.

Lee proved on the battlefield that he was a great general, but he never proved that he was a better general than Grant. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign was as bold and audacious as anything Lee did and in the end, because it caused the surrender of an army, divided the Confederacy into two unconnected pieces and gave the Union "unvexed" control of the Mississippi, it was more successful than any of Lee's campaigns.

Mr. Korda never acknowledges that in Grant, Lee met his match.

Another flaw in this biography is also a flaw common to every Lee biography I have read. Each author, including Mr. Korda, goes to great lengths to explain that Lee's resignation from the U.S. Army and his accepting of a commission in the rebel armies was a matter of honor. This point is the bedrock upon which the entire edifice of the Lee Legend rests. Mr. Korda uses one of Lee's most famous quotes to make the point, he writes, "To Custis, he wrote almost in despair: `I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union. . . . I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its [the Union's] preservation...'"

The unacknowledged problem with Lee accepting a commission in the rebel armies is that Lee as a member of the U.S. Army took an oath to defined the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Wasn't he honor bound, apart from any personal feeling or allegiances, to keep that oath? Is it not the purpose of that oath to protect the United State and the constitution from exactly the thing that Lee did? Can an oath be resigned as easily as a commission? If so, why even have an oath?

I have always seen this as the tragic flaw in Lee's honor narrative. Yet Mr. Korda and every other Lee biographer, of which I am aware, ignore it as though Lee did not swear the oath or that it was of no consequence.

Finally, Mr. Korda seems at certain points to turn the narrative over to Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee's most famous biographer, who was indeed a magisterial writer. However, if I had wanted Mr. Freeman's take on Lee I would have simply reread his biography on the man. In places it feels like Mr. Korda does not trust his own historical judgments and in other places it is as though he does not trust his ability to match Mr. Freeman's eloquence (which indeed, is hard to match). For me it lessened Mr. Korda's credibility both as a writer and a historian.

I opened CLOUDS OF GLORY: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF ROBERT E LEE with high hopes and closed it somewhat disappointed. Nevertheless it is a good book and will be enjoyed by Civil War buffs and Lee aficionados alike.
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