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Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate army,
was one of the most beloved men in the American South, the darling
of Virginia society. Lee is fifty-seven years old at the time of
the Battle of Gettysburg, and has less than a decade to live. He
is having heart trouble, which will one day kill him. Some historians
have speculated that Lee may have suffered a mild heart attack during
the Battle of Gettysburg, and Shaara works from that idea. Lee is
a brilliant tactician, but his traditional ideas frequently conflict
with the more visionary policies of Longstreet, a Confederate general
who constantly advises a defensive position.
Shaara characterizes Lee as a wise old man, a brilliant
commander who knows he is nearing the end of his career. Lee fervently holds
on to the traditional ways of combat even while recognizing the
importance of Longstreet’s newer ideas. Lee inspires his troops—even
as the wounded soldiers stagger back from Pickett’s Charge, they beg
him to let them attack again. Lee’s presence alone helps keep Confederate
morale high. But Lee’s confidence in his army leads him to overestimate
his men, causing the disaster of Pickett’s Charge.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Killer Angels!