Wartime Washington: The Civil War Letters of Elizabeth Blair Lee

Virginia J. Laas, Editor, Elizabeth Blair Lee, Author University of Illinois Press $39.95 (552p) ISBN 978-0-252-01802-2
Daughter of presidential adviser Francis Preston Blair and wife of naval Commander Samuel Phillips Lee (a third cousin of Robert E. Lee), Elizabeth Blair Lee was a conventional 19th-century wife and mother. During the Civil War, while her husband was at sea, she wrote him faithfully, documenting her observations on the turmoil overtaking this country. Mrs. Lee's political contacts and residence in Washington, D.C., gave her a superior vantage point on the war, but her letters also include personal news of friends and family, particularly of her son Francis Preston Blair Lee, who comforted her in her husband's absence. Laas (coauthor of Lincoln's Lee: The Life of Samuel Phillips Lee) has culled 368 from 930 existing letters, leaving them nearly intact--even down to minor spelling and grammatical errors--and arranging them into 21 chronological periods, each with an introductory paragraph covering milestones in the family and nation. Although sometimes rambling, Mrs. Lee's letters reflect her compassion and intelligence and witness an era much less rushed than ours. Illustrations not seen by PW . (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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