Robert E. Lee Revisited, 150 Years After Civil War The Confederate general looms large in Southern history — and that history will get special attention in 2011, as the nation marks 150 years since the Civil War began.

Robert E. Lee Revisited, 150 Years After Civil War

Robert E. Lee Revisited, 150 Years After Civil War

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Palgrave Macmillan
Cover of &#039;Robert E. Lee&#039;
Palgrave Macmillan
Robert E. Lee: Lessons In Leadership
By Noah Andre Trudeau
Paperback, 256 pages
Palgrave Macmillan
List price: $16

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Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee still holds a distinct place in the history of the South -- a history that will be revisited many times in 2011, as the nation marks 150 years since the Civil War began.

That bloody conflict resonates in culture and politics to this day, as Americans continue to debate the legacy of slavery and states' rights and consider the extent of federal authority.

NPR's Neal Conan spoke with historian Noah Andre Trudeau, reporter Mary Hadar, and Joseph Riley, mayor of Charleston, S.C., about how and why we mark the anniversary of the Civil War.

Trudeau, author of Robert E. Lee, says Southern leaders turned Lee into an icon as a way to save face after the destructive war. "They came up with the lost cause," says Trudeau. That explanation reframed the war and their losses in terms of the South's pride and perceived moral high ground, and cast the North's win as simply about their greater numbers. "They needed that iconic leader at the top of the heap, and Lee was the one they chose."

Washington Post projects editor Hadar has been tweeting the events leading up to the secession of South Carolina. She's using original documents to compose her tweets, and has been struck by the emotional pull the material has on her. For example, Maj. Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter, was a "a heroic figure," she says, torn by the realities of fighting with the Union, against fellow Southerners fighting for the Confederacy.

Riley will observe the anniversary of the Civil War with his constituents at a concert at Charleston Harbor. The city gathered a biracial group of citizens who spent two years deciding how best to mark the anniversary. "We will, among other things, play Aaron Copland's very moving Lincoln Portrait, and that will be narrated," he says. Though it's a politically tricky occasion, Riley hopes it will give everyone "an opportunity to fully understand the tragedies involved, and what it meant to our country."

Robert E. Lee
Lessons in Leadership
By Noah Andre Trudeau, Wesley K. Clark

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Robert E. Lee
Noah Andre Trudeau, Wesley K. Clark

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