The key to this book is already knowing a lot about the Civil War. It is a bit of a vignette book, no really important battles are fought, so my lack of knowledge of the War Between the States was an impediment.
The writing was a bit choppy and there was an assumption that I knew a lot of the names, which I vaguely did. It was also a very Southern book. I am from the West, so I have always heard the Northern point of view. Winners do write the histories for the most part. There were no overtly Southern things, no evil Yankees, but a slight bias towards the South. This only stands to reason since the author wrote the book with the help of the South Carolina Historical Society.
Lee was a complex and fascinating man. I need to read more about him as this small book only whetted my appetite to learn more. His frustration with dealing with civilians who weren't taking the war seriously, officers who were incompetent and generals too busy building their own fiefdoms and building their egos to defend and territory is a story many leaders are familiar with. But a man who could write,
God alone can save us from our folly, selfishness & shortsightedness. The last accounts seem to show that we have barely escaped anarchy to be plunged into civil war. What will be the result I cannot conjecture. I only see that a fearful calamity is upon us & fear that the country will have to pass through for its sins a fiery ordeal.and still serve for his native Virginia is a complex study in loyalty. The country was still more loyal to states and regions than to the nation as a whole.
The book is also filled with anecdotes from the numerous people who wrote letters and journals detailing the war. A young man, never having held a shovel, tells of the embarrassment of failing at a job of loading sandbags, an officer describes the interior carnage in a fort that had been shelled and this note from Mary Boykin Chesnut, describing the Charleston fire, "Carolina institute, where secession was signed, burned down. From East Bay, along Broad St. down tot he river--Mr. Petigru's house. So being anti secession does not save. The fire, as the rain, falls on the just and the unjust."
The book is a nice addendum to any Civil War study, but does not cover the subject in enough detail or with the background a novice would need.
Lee in the Lowcountry: Defending Charleston & Savannah 1861-1862. Daniel J. Crooks Jr. The History Press. 2008