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07.03.01 Lee, Robert E., a biography in 4 volumes by Douglas Southall Freeman, titled: R. E. Lee: A Biography, published in 1934-35.

Notes Concerning the Author

Douglas Southall Freeman (1886 – 1953) was a Southern historian, biographer, newspaper editor, and author.  Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Walker Burford Freeman, who fought for 4 years in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, he is best known for his multi-volume biographies of Robert E. Lee (1934-1935) and George Washington (1948-1957), for which he was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes.  The Society is also eager to recommend Freeman’s 1939 one-volume work The South to Prosperity, which is reviewed  at 02.08.09, and his Lee’s Lieutenants, which is reviewed at 07.03.07.

Freeman received an AB degree from Richmond College in 1904 and a PhD in history at John Hopkins University in 1908.  He then entered newspaper work and became editor of “The Richmond New Leader,” a position he held for 34 years.  During these years he produced outstanding histories and biographies, many the best on the subject.  Here the Society again sees evidence of outstanding work in history and biography from a person who was beyond the influences of the academic community. 


Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) of Virginia needs no introduction.  The 4-volume biography by Douglas Southall Freeman is the most important biography of this, the most capable military leader ever to lead armies in North America, but it is lengthy and perhaps more than most can take time to read.  Abridged versions have been produced since 1935 and may be of more practical interest.  But seek a biography that relies on Freeman’s work.

Availability of these Books

The original 4-volume set is expensive as a set of used books, but can be obtained.  Look for a paperback reprint.  Also a 1977 abridgement by Freeman and a 1997 cooperative work by Harwell, Freeman and McPherson is available.  A digital book is available of the original 1934-1935 set.  There is a Kindle edition of the 1997 cooperative work.