Review of the “Gray Fox” by Burke Davis
by Richard Mansel
Few people in American history are more fascinating that Robert E. Lee. Burke Davis’ portrayal of him in The Gray Fox: Robert E. Lee and the Civil War will interest any Civil War student. Since Lee’s army lost the war, it’s easy to discount his abilities. However, that would be a great injustice.
Burke Davis paints Lee as a humble, passionate man who loved his soldiers. He agonized over which side to fight for in the beginning before deciding to stand with his state. He said that he could never fight against his own people, so he donned the Gray. Soon he became the commander of the Confederate Army.
His soldiers loved him dearly and their undaunted devotion led them to fight despite horrific conditions. When they lacked food, clothes, shoes or socks, they kept returning to battle for their nation and their commander.
Lee was remarkable in his demeanor and compassion. Davis shows Lee’s preternatural calmness, which helped him deal with the arrogant Longstreet and the emotional disintegration of his army.
Lee’s compassion motivated him to sleep in the field with his soldiers, and to forward shoes, socks and food to his troops instead of enjoying them himself.
Once, General Lee was going to lead some troops in battle, and General Gordon and his exhausted soldiers refused to move forward until Lee went to the rear. They loved him too much to see him lead the charge. They cheered for their hero as he left.
Lee’s agonizing over the surrender screams from the page as his world crumbles around him. Davis’ portrayal of Lee and his emotional generals is as powerful as any fiction.
When the painful decision was made, and the documents were signed, Lee’s bedraggled men cried and cheered for the great General as he passed them on the way to his tent. Even in defeat and the destruction of his forces, the walking skeletons were ready to die for this great man.
I recommend this brilliant book to every student of this great conflict.