Robert E. Lee on PBS: How an Engineer Became a White-Haired General

Poor Robert E. Lee. All these years later he still can’t beat Ulysses S. Grant.

On Monday the PBS series “American Experience” offers its take on Lee, and the account is serviceable enough. But an earlier “American Experience” on Grant’s war years, scheduled for rebroadcast next Monday, is better.

There’s not much new to be learned about either of these men, of course, so the contest largely comes down to a matter of presentation. The Lee program favors lingering shots of fountain pens and drafting tools and, somewhat inexplicably, flowers in bloom, along with the usual still photographs of Lee, his family and his troops. The Grant program at least sprung for some live actors....

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