Following the immediate critical success of Lee’s Dispatches, author Douglas Southall Freeman was approached by New York publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons and invited to write a biography of Robert E. Lee. He accepted, and his research of Lee was exhaustive: he evaluated and cataloged every item about Lee, and reviewed records at West Point, the War Department, and material in private collections. In narrating the general’s Civil War years, he used what came to be known as the “fog of war” technique—providing readers only the limited information that Lee himself had at a given moment. This helped convey the confusion of war that Lee experienced, as well as the processes by which Lee grappled with problems and made decisions.
R. E. Lee: A Biography was published in four volumes in 1934 and 1935. In its book review, The New York Times declared it “Lee complete for all time.” Historian Dumas Malone wrote, “Great as my personal expectations were, the realization far surpassed them.” In 1935, Freeman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his four-volume biography.
Freeman’s R. E. Lee: A Biography remains the authoritative study on the Confederate general.