The Secret Trial of Robert E. Lee

Written by Thomas Fleming
Review by Gerald T. Burke

In April 1865, Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. The South, after four bloody years, is in shambles. Still, a vindictive, influential sect of Northerners is bent on inflicting more humiliation. Led by the ruthless Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, they press for the trial of Lee on charges of treason, with the intention of executing him. A secret military tribunal is assembled, including John Singleton Mosby, William Farrar Smith, Oliver O. Howard, George Gordon Meade, and Ambrose Burnside. To add insult to injury, the trial is conducted in Lee’s former home in Appomattox which the United States Government confiscated during the war. As a protégé to Dana, a young Irish reporter, Jeremiah O’Brien, is allowed to attend and take notes so he can write a book about Lee’s treasonous behavior. To complicate the situation, Jeremiah has fallen in love with Sophia Carroll, a southern belle who was forced to spy for the North during the war, but is fiercely loyal to Lee. As the trial progress, relationships become strained, and duty and honor become the real characters that take center stage.

Eminent historian and novelist Thomas Fleming has crafted a compelling fictional account of “what if” history. Civil War fans will find this especially intriguing.