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Lee’s Heart Trouble

There is historical evidence that Robert E. Lee may have suffered from heart trouble during the Battle of Gettysburg and that he may even have had a mild heart attack. Shaara uses this fact to develop a minor, but powerful theme: Lee’s heart has been broken by the war. Longstreet at one point reminds Lee that when they became officers in the United States army, they swore to defend all of the United States. They have even led many of the Union soldiers. Now, they are killing them. Lee has been forced to choose between his beloved Virginia and his country, and to him that is no real choice: his first duty is always to Virginia. But the decision has left him heartbroken, and as the war drags on his heartbreak only becomes worse. At one point in the novel, Lee tells Longstreet that the true sadness of the career soldier is the obligation to order men to their deaths. The war has taken a heavy toll on Lee, both physically and mentally, and both are a part of the pain Lee constantly feels in his chest.