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Douglas Southall Freeman, (May 16, 1886 – June 13, 1953), was an American journalist and historian. He was the author of definitive biographies of George Washington and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.


Early years[]

Freeman was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of a Confederate soldier during the American Civil War. His father was Walker Garland Freeman and his mother was Bettie Hamner. He did his undergraduate work at Richmond College where he joined the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. He received his Ph.D. in history from Johns Hopkins University at the age of 22.


A long-time resident of Richmond, Virginia, Freeman served as editor of The Richmond News Leader from 1915 to 1949. However, it was his work as a historian and biographer that earned greatest recognition.

He won Pulitzer Prizes for two of his books, his four-volume biography of Robert E. Lee, and his seven-volume biography of George Washington (a seventh volume First in Peace was written after Freeman's death by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth, two of his historical associates). He was also the author of the three-volume Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command.

Freeman's treatments of the American Civil War are often cited as examples of the Lost Cause movement, emphasizing the glory and nobility of the Southern generals and the futility of their fight against the power of the North. While Freeman certainly does emphasize the nobility of Lee's character, he does not say that Lee made no mistakes, nor does he say that the North only won because of superior numbers. For instance, this passage shows Lee misjudging his real opponent, and also expresses admiration for Abraham Lincoln's character:[1]

Lee's balancing of the ponderables on the military scales was accurate. He could not realize, and few even in Washington could see, that an imponderable was tipping the beam. That imponderable was the influence of President Lincoln. ... References to Lincoln in Lee's correspondence and conversation were rare. He was much more interested in the Federal field-commanders than in the commander-in-chief. After the late winter of 1863-64, had Lee known all the facts, he would have given as much care to the study of the mind of the Federal President as to the analysis of the strategical methods of his immediate adversaries. For that remarkable man, who had never wavered in his purpose to preserve the Union, had now mustered all his resources of patience and of determination. Those who had sought cunningly to lead him, slowly found that he was leading them. His unconquerable spirit, in some mysterious manner, was being infused into the North as spring approached.

Freeman, R. E. Lee, Volume III.


  • Douglas S. Freeman High School in Henrico County, Virginia, in Richmond's West End, was named in his honor, as is Freeman Hall at the University of Richmond.
  • Freeman is commemorated by Virginia Historical Highway Marker Q6 17, which is located in the independent city of Lynchburg, Virginia, near his place of birth.


  1. Freeman, R.E. Lee, volume III, p. 264

Further reading[]

  • Cheek, Mary Tyler Freeman. "Reflections," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 1986 94(1): 25-39. ISSN 0042-6636. Freeman's daughter reflects on his career as a writer, college professor, and radio personality in Virginia. Describes Freeman's research and writing methods and his politics, religion, and ethics.
  • David E. Johnson. Douglas Southall Freeman (2002). 480 ISBN 1-58980-021-4 full-scale biography
  • Smith, Stuart W. Douglas Southall Freeman on Leadership. White Mane, 1993. 262 pp.
  • Freeman, Douglas S., R. E. Lee, A Biography (4 volumes), Scribners, 1934.

External links[]

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