Friday, February 17, 2012

Lady of Arlington - John Perry

This is a book I had read before, years ago, but had a hankering to read again. This is a biography about the wife of General Robert E. Lee.

Before I tell you about the book, I need to say that if you go searching for this book, as I did, there is some confusion. I can't find it under this exact title, or with this jacket cover. However, there is a very similar title by the same author, and I'm going to assume that it was re-published under the new, but very similar name of Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington.

Many of us have heard of Robert E. Lee, the great leader of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. If your from the southern states, I'll pretty much guarantee you've heard of him! But few of us know much about his wife, which is why I encourage history buffs, especially southern history buffs, to read this biography.

For over a century, Mary Anna Custis Lee has stood in the shadow of her husband, the great General Robert E. Lee. Many who did know of her, believed her to be a lazy, whining, difficult woman who was her husband's constant bother. These beliefs were based on snippets from letters exchanged between husband and wife, comments made by Robert to Mary and others about his wife's poor house keeping and such. What was overlooked in all these assumptions, was that Robert often used a tone of humor in his writing and was a known tease.

The truth about Mary Custis Lee is revealed in this book. The author, John Perry, did extensive research, digging up letters exchanged between Mary and Robert and their friends and family, as well as other documents in order to share with us the beautiful spirit of the woman, and the love shared between these two individuals.

Some know that Mary Lee was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, and that our Arlington National Cemetery spreads across the beautiful acreage of her family plantation, Arlington. (As a point of interest for those who don't know (and you will if you read the book), the Union government, after illegally seizing the property from Mary, began burying the soldiers there meaning to insult her and her husband.)

Mary was so much more than Robert Lee's wife. She was an artist
She was a strong Christian who leaned on her faith to carry her and her family through the long seperations from her husband during his military career and on through the Civil War. Plagued by illness and extremly painful and dibilitating arthritis, she very nearly singlehandedly raised seven children, while her husband was off building a great military career. She witnessed to Robert faithfully for years before his conversion, and played an active roll in erging their children towards the faith as well. During the War Between the States, she encouraged others who lost hope, held her family together as they were forced to move from place to place, and knitted socks and mittens constantly for her husband's men, even as her hands fought against her in their pain.

Far from being the thorn in Robert's side, as she's been portrayed in the past, Mary Custis Lee was his love and his strength, and eventually, the one to lead him to his salvation.

This is a great biography, really easy to read, captivating story, inspriring!

1 comment:

  1. Valerie recommended this one years ago and I really enjoyed it. I love learning about history but hate reading history books. The historical facts about George Washington and Washington City were fascinating to me and one of the reasons I liked it.