Robert E Lee


Who: Robert Edward Lee

What: Commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Where: Born Stratford Hall, Virginia, died Lexington, Virginia.

Why: One of the most successful military commanders in history.

When: Born January 19, 1807; died October 12, 1870.

“It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” – Robert E Lee

Robert E Lee was born in Virginia in 1807, the son of a Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, and joined the military as a means of escaping the financial hardship that tarnished his early life. He graduated from West Point in 1829 second in his class of 45, without incurring any demerits in four years. Commissioned into the Corps of Engineers, he served with distinction in the Mexican War, and was summoned to put down John Brown’s insurrection at Harper’s Ferry in 1859. On the outbreak of war, Lincoln offered Lee command of the Union army, but Lee remained loyal to his state, taking control of the Army of Northern Virginia from the wounded Joseph E Johnston in 1862, driving the Union away from Richmond in the Seven Days’ Battles, and winning the battle of Second Manassas. Lee won most of his battles, all of them against far superior Union forces, most notably the Battle of Chancellorsville. However, after defeat at Gettysburg, and when Ulysses S Grant took control of the Union forces, Lee could not stem the relentless campaigns against Richmond, despite inflicting huge casualties on the Army of the Potomac. After Petersburg fell on April 2 after a ten-month siege, Lee abandoned Richmond, and surrendered to the pursuing Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the war. After the war he became president of the now-Washington and Lee University, and his pre-war home, the Custis-Lee Mansion, was seized by the Union and converted into Arlington National Cemetery, the final insult to the man both sides so revered and respected. Lee’s citizenship – stripped after the war – wasn’t restored until 1975, 105 years after his death from a stroke.

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