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BOOK REVIEWS Lincoln's Lee The Life of Samuel Phillips Lee, United States Navy, 1812-1897. By Dudley Taylor Cornish and Virginia Jeans Laas. (Lawrence : The University Press of Kansas, 1986. Pp. xv, 245. $29.95.) Lincoln's Lee is a welcome addition to the still small lexicon of historical biography of the early years of the United States Navy. This wellwritten book is a first-rate study of S. P. Lee, an important but longneglected figure whose career spanned forty-six years, including constant and invaluable service during the Civil War. One wonders why no one had written a biography of Admiral Lee before now? It is this mystery that the authors unravel so successfully. They have mined the rich collection of thousands of personal papers and primary documents in the Blair-Lee collection at Princeton, the National Archives , and the Library of Congress. Cornish and Laas have immersed themselves in this material, as well as in major secondary sources, and they thoroughly know their subject. As a result of this exemplary scholarship S. Phillips Lee emerges as an excellent example of the pre-Civil War naval officer. The poor son of a prominent Virginia family, his grandfather was Richard Henry Lee. Young Phillips Lee obtained a midshipman's appointment at age fourteen through family connections. For the next thirty-five years he served aboard various vessels, learning his profession. In a small navy with a large officer corps where advancement was by seniority only, promotion came slowly. But there were many opportunities for a young officer to experience all his profession had to offer. While still a young man, Lee had already sailed around the world, served in the Wilkes Exploring Expedition and in the Coast Survey, and served with distinction in the Mexican war. Yet with all these accomplishments and a thirty-five year career, Lee was just a naval commander when the Civil War broke out. One advantage Lee did have during those years was his family, namely his inlaws the Blairs, a powerful political family in Washington. In 1843, after a long and stormy courtship, of which her father particularly disapproved, Lee married Elizabeth Blair. Lee soon won over the elder Blair, and for the rest of his life he was a persuasive advoate for his son-in-law at the Navy Department. Blair's lobbying coincided very nicely with Lee's predilection, throughout his career, to ignore proper channels and go over the heads of his superiors to get orders changed. 174CIVIL WAR HISTORY During the early days of the Civil War, Lee came to the favorable attention of Navy Secretary Welles. However, Lee was surprised when Welles chose him, over many other available officers, to command the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron in September, 1862, with the rank of acting rear admiral. For the next two years, Lee's squadron did its job with deliberate efficiency. At its height, Lee commanded over one hundred ships which patrolled the thousands of miles of coast, rivers, sounds, and inlets on the Atlantic Coast between southeastern Virginia and the southern boundry of North Carolina. Lee's knowledge of the coast, from his early days with the Coast Survey, along with his good business qualities and untiring appetite for precise and detailed work, made his blockade effective and profitable. Lincoln's Lee is a valuable addition to the scholarship of Civil War naval history, particularly in its rich and detailed work on the longneglected naval blockade, an area whose standard work is still the century -old study by James R. Soley. It is unfortunate that the authors could not have spent more time on the pre-Civil War navy, whose history has been neglected, especially on its struggle to reform and humanize as well as modernize itself. The authors with their focus too firmly set upon Lee, omit or barely mention such important early naval issues as the campaigns to end the practices of flogging and issuing grog, the battle to make officer promotions based on merit rather than seniority, and the rapidly evolving military technology and steam engineering of this era. Some attention to these topics and perhaps less detail on Lee's numerous business and real...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 173-174
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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