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Editors’ Bookshelf

February 2024
1min read

Robert E. Lee is not only one of the most beloved and admired of all Americans but also one of the most elusive, far more idealized than known. One of his ex-generals, Jubal Early, wrote after his death, “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest, in grandeur, simple, pure and sublime.” In Robert E. Lee , a new addition to the Penguin Lives series of short biographies (210 pages), Roy Blount, Jr., approaches Lee from a number of angles, considering his humor and his attitude toward slavery, for instance, and triangulates to a portrait that is tough, fair, and unsentimental. “If in considering his sad life we strive for too consistent a tone,” he writes, “we miss some of its jangly resonance.”

In Baseball in Blue and Gray (Princeton University Press, 145 pages), George B. Kirsch tells how, during the Civil War, baseball moved ever farther from its gentlemanly amateur roots, with admission fees, professionalism, rowdy fans, and gambling becoming increasingly common. As happened in many other walks of life, the war severed ties. When A. T. Pearsall of Brooklyn’s elite Excelsior club became a surgeon in the Confederate Army, “he attended to a few Union prisoners, including some former fellow club members. … when word of his whereabouts reached Brooklyn, the Excelsior club expelled him.” After the war baseball aided in reconciliation, as occupying Northern troops spread the game across the South. In “the first game of baseball ever played in Fayetteville, Tennessee, in October 1868,” for example, ”… the KKK club defeated ‘nine Carpetbaggers.’”

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