Writing a joint biography of the two outstanding commanders of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, is of course attractive. Southern gentleman Lee and drunken maverick Grant were such contrasting characters that examining their lives side by side can only amaze the Civil War novice. The only potential difficulty is in arranging the story so that it functions as a complete narrative -- a tricky feat considering that Lee's and Grant's lives only intersected briefly in 1846, during the Mexican War, before they clashed decisively on the battlefield in 1864. But Archer (Rage in the Streets, p. 626, etc.) pulls off a comprehensive history of these two men, while at the same time presenting a clear account of the Civil War. He follows Lee, from his poor but aristocratic upbringing and spectacular West Point years through his fine military career, simultaneously tracking Grant's vastly different childhood, his near failure at West Point, and his forced resignation from the army after the Mexican War as the result of alcoholism. Throughout his life, Lee distinguished himself as a man of honor, a gentleman, and a scholar, while Grant failed in everything he attempted except warfare. At Appomattox, however, Lee surrendered his army to his scruffy little opponent. Grant had won. A superb story well told.