Significantly, politics permeated the childhood years of Elizabeth Blair Lee as her father plunged into the turbulent Kentucky fray, arguing the issue of tariff, national bank, land policy, taxes, nationalism, and state's rights, and she was closely associated with Washington's political circles, as her husband, third cousin to Robert E. Lee, was in command over the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War. Thus, the book offers Mrs. Lee's unique perspective on the political and military affairs of the nation's beleaguered capital and one of the most emphasized themes in the book with respect to the US history is slavery and emancipation of the Blacks. "Philips Lee returned from duty on the Mississippi River to assume a new rank and position: acting rear admiral commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron The frustration of a second Union defeat at the Bull Run in August was partially alleviated by the repulse of Robert E Lee's offensive at Antietam in mid-September. Lincoln's preliminary emancipation proclamation, issued shortly after that bloody battle, made the abolition of slavery a central Northern war aim." (Laas, 176) Therefore, Wartime Washington: The Civil War Letters of Elizabeth Blair Lee by Virginia Jeans Laas is an essential book offering a woman's perspective of important events in the history of the U.S. such as slavery and emancipation of the Blacks and, most essentially, it suggests how women adjusted to life without slaves after the abolition of slavery.
One of the underlying themes in Elizabeth Blair Lee's letters to her husband Samuel Phillips Lee has been slavery and emancipation of the Blacks and, in a reflective exploration of this theme as told by Lee, one recognizes that these topics suggest Mrs. Lee's unique perspective on the political and military affairs of the nation's besieged capital. Significantly, Mrs. Lee's unique perspective on slavery and the related issues offers one of the best illustrations of the workings of moderate minds and hearts in the country during the turbulent years of its history. It is evident from the letters of Elizabeth that emancipation of the slaves was one of the most important purposes of the Civil War and that the Blairs had requested to grant emancipation. "Elizabeth Lee's attitude toward slavery is an excellent example of the workings of moderate minds and hearts in America during this turbulent period. Preservation of the Union was the ultimate goal of the war; slavery was only significant in its relationship to that end For the Blair family, slavery was a political problem, albeit a knotty one, that called for practical national solution, and they clung to the chimerical idea of gradual emancipation and colonization. Sharing the attitudes of the vast majority of white Americans, Elizabeth Lee believed the black race to be inferior." (Laas, 5) However, at the same time, it is obvious from her letters that she loved individual blacks such as Blair's nurse Becky. Elizabeth Blair Lee also offers a very simple and pragmatic solution when the possibility of emancipation in Maryland became a reality. According to her, a large owner of property in Maryland should seek to put the former slaves on wages and take care of the crops. Thus, Elizabeth Blair Lee's letters to her husband provide an interesting perspective of a woman, closely associated with politics in the region, regarding vital topics such as slavery