Top positive review
"Clouds of Glory:" one of the better biographies of any Civil War general I've ever read.
Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2016
I recently finished reading “Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee” by Michael Korda. This is the first modern, full-scale, one-volume biography of Lee that I’ve had the pleasure to read in many years.
Overall, I think “Clouds of Glory” is an excellent book. It tells the familiar story of Robert E. Lee’s life and career in a straightforward and compelling manner. Korda doesn’t offer any groundbreaking new revelations about Lee; what he does do very effectively is dispel the “marble man” known to history. According to Korda, Lee is an estimable yet deeply flawed figure. He is reserved and mild-mannered, yet sometimes displays strong passions and a harsh temper. (That temper may have led him to make rash decisions during key Civil War battles, which may have cost him victory.) Lee is a man of his times who owns (and possibly mistreats) his slaves. He held many of the same racist views common in his day, which we in the twenty-first century certainly find abhorrent.
Korda describes and analyzes most of the key Civil War battles in which Lee participated. He praises Lee for his many battlefield successes, such as the Seven Days campaign and the battles of Second Manassas and Chancellorsville. At the same time, Korda is not afraid to point the blame at Lee for his failures on the battlefield. He is unsparing in his criticism of Lee for his poor decisions that led to a draw at Sharpsburg and a defeat at Gettysburg. Ultimately, however, Michael Korda presents Robert E. Lee as an admirable figure who deserves his place among the great generals in history.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Clouds of Glory.” It’s a fascinating and informative book that really brings its subject to life. It is certainly very well researched. My only criticisms of it have to do with Korda’s writing style. He sometimes appears to fall in love with the sound of his own prose. He tends to repeat himself on occasion, and his prose is sometimes wordy and difficult to follow. (I actually found some single sentences that had 90 or more words in them… way too many!)
Despite these minor complaints, I think “Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee” is one of the better biographies of any Civil War general I’ve ever read. Highly recommended. (4½ Stars ^ 5)